Film Review: ‘We Are Monster’

★★☆☆☆ The murder of Zahid Mubarek at Feltham Young Offenders’ Institution in 2000 is the harrowing subject of British director Antony Petrou’s We Are Monster (2014), a clumsy and facile character study into his killer, Robert Stewart; an apparently well-researched drama that feels more like a hopeless shot in the dark at reaching the inner…

Film Review: ‘Hyena’

★★★☆☆ Opening films at festivals are often easygoing curtain-raisers that provide a bit of glamour before guests scatter into all manner of inevitable industry after-parties. But guests at last year’s 68th Edinburgh International Film Festival stumbled out of a violent, cerebral, police noir. It was a brave choice, that never quite convinced as the right…

Film Review: ‘Stray Dogs’

★★★★★ A meditative, often gruelling slowburner which explores concepts of ‘home’, Tsai Ming-liang’s remarkable Stray Dogs (2013) seeks to investigate the poor’s right to their own city within a phantasmagorical urban landscape. An immensely bittersweet work, Tsai evokes the poetry and tragedy of life lived on the margins of society. A father and his two…

Edinburgh 2014: ‘What Now? Remind Me’ review

★★★★☆ Winner of the Locarno Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize last year (amongst a host of other accolades), 2013’s What Now? Remind Me (E Agora? Lembra-me) is a revealing self-portrait and memoir by Portuguese filmmaker Joaquim Pinto that emerges as a moving examination of an important subject – how to live your life well. With…

Edinburgh 2014: ‘We’ll Never Have Paris’ review

★★☆☆☆ Best known as the one of the lovable nerds around which CBS’s world-dominating The Big Bang Theory revolves, Simon Helberg has now moved behind the camera for his cinematic directorial debut alongside his wife Jocelyn Towne. Inspired by their own romantic history, We’ll Never Have Paris (2014) – which he also wrote – stars…

Edinburgh 2014: Shorts strand review

★★★★★ Edinburgh Film Festival is renowned for showcasing the best new feature filmmaking talent and hosting premieres of new work by established directors, but what’s less well known is the outstanding shorts programmes, curated by Lydia Beilby and her team of programmers. Though the Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival is frequently referenced as the…

Edinburgh 2014: ‘The Owners’ review

★★★☆☆ To watch Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s The Owners (2014) is to be struck by confusion. A seemingly tragic premise – three siblings (including an epileptic child) inherit their mother’s home only to be thrown out by the aggressive and/or indifferent locals – is interspersed with frivolous singing and dancing. The incongruity of pink vest wearing musical…

Edinburgh 2014: ‘To Kill a Man’ review

★★★★☆ The fourth feature from director Alejandro Fernández Almendras, To Kill a Man (2014) opens with a wide shot of a dense forest, the trees cut by light forcing its way through the canopy. We see a man in the right of the frame walking slowly yet purposefully through the foliage and then disappear from…

Edinburgh 2014: ‘Stations of the Cross’ review

★★★★☆ Winner of the Student Critics Jury Award at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, German director Dietrich Brüggemann’s Stations of the Cross (Kreuzweg, 2014) takes on as its burden the wry dissection of hardline Catholicism in fourteen supremely crafted long takes. Dividing each of his film’s chapters according to the traditionally depicted stages of Christ’s…

Edinburgh 2014: ‘Uncertain Terms’ review

★★★★☆ Nathan Silver has been gradually nurturing a reputation as a director with a deft eye for detail and an astonishing ability for documenting the seemingly insignificant anxieties of modern life. Edinburgh Film Festival select Uncertain Terms (2014) is his most compelling and accomplished film to date, a small but deceptively complex character-driven drama set…

Edinburgh 2014: ‘Snowpiercer’ review

★★★★★ A stunning, visionary example of dystopian science fiction cinema at its very best, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (2013) – based in the French graphic novel – is a blockbuster of gargantuan proportions. Starring a cavalcade of well-known faces including Tilda Swinton, Chris Evans and Song Kang-ho, this futuristic allegory beautifully imbues radical…

Edinburgh 2014: ‘Letters from the South’ review

★★★★☆ Six directors presenting six separate encounters from four Southeast Asian countries, Letters from the South (2013) explores the fluid relationship between the Chinese diaspora and their homeland. Shot across Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Myanmar, this fascinating anthology depicts the crisis of identity that accompanies international migration. China has a long history of migration across…