Film reviews and more

Sundance 2021: Hive review

★★★★☆ At key moments in Hive, windows, mason jars and a picture frame are all broken. Marking significant flashpoints in a simmering narrative, these incidents propel the film towards its smashing of an overbearing glass ceiling. First-time writer-director Blerta Basholli’s feature is an expertly crafted, compassionate testament to the perseverance and defiance of its courageous female collective. More than […]

Sundance 2021: Wild Indian review

★★★☆☆ The past cannot and will not stay buried in Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.’s Wild Indian. A tale of generational violence passed down from fathers to sons, it features two young men who share a despicable secret, scarring them for life in ways both struggle to reconcile. Corbine Jr.’s feature debut as both writer and director is a sinister, […]

Sundance 2021: Mass review

★★★★☆ There are no easy answers in Fran Kranz’s Mass; and perhaps no answers at all. One of the strongest debut features to have premiered at Sundance, it exhibits all of the signs of a very promising career behind the camera lie ahead for the first-time writer-director. Taking place a number of years after a school shooting, Mass brings […]

Sundance 2021: In the Same Breath review

★★★★★ In the Same Breath, Nanfu Wang’s searing expose of the origins of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its pursuant handling by the Chinese and U.S. governments, is a film of contradictions, conflict and cover-ups. A galling, distressing but enthralling documentary, it opens and closes with New Year’s Eve celebrations in Wuhan, the epicentre of the disease’s outbreak. Between […]

Sundance 2021: Flee review

★★★★★ “Who do I save first if the boat goes down?” On a clandestine trawler taking on water as it traverses the Baltic Sea between Estonia and Sweden, a young man asks himself an impossible question under desperate circumstances. Not acknowledging the fact that he himself cannot swim, would he attempt to save his brother or mother from an […]

Sundance 2021: Captains of Zaatari review

★★★★☆ Tell any football fan that ‘It’s just a game’ and they are likely to give you very short shrift. But for close friends Mahmoud Dagher and Fawzi Qatleesh the stakes are considerably higher. For in Ali El Arabi’s stirring documentary Captains of Zaatari their love for the beautiful game offers purpose, opportunity and a much-needed sense of hope […]

Sundance 2021: Passing review

★★★★☆ The directorial debut of Rebecca Hall, Passing is an intoxicating, dreamlike adaptation of Nella Larsen’s novella of the same name. A deeply personal endeavour for the first-time writer-filmmaker, this tale of race, gender and social mobility in late 1920s New York is told with poise and a softly-spoken fervour. Stunning monochrome photography, striking visual metaphors and exquisite framing […]

Sundance 2021: At the Ready review

★★★★☆ Building bridges between the past, present and future of three Latinx teens in El Paso, Texas, Maisie Crow’s At the Ready investigates one of the US’s most contentious domestic issues – immigration across its southern border – from an unorthodox angle. Cristina, César and Mason (who came out as transgender after filming and is referred to in the […]

Sundance 2021: Prime Time review

★★☆☆☆ Jakub Piątek’s Prime Time is a claustrophobic chamber piece set in Warsaw on New Year’s Eve, 1999. Bringing his narrative feature debut to Sundance in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, the Polish writer-director harks back twenty years to an age of VHS tapes, analogue television and robotic Nokia ringtones. Co-written with Łukasz Czapski, the script pits lone gunman Sebastian (Bartosz Bielenia) against an unnamed […]

Sundance 2021: President review

★★★★☆ “This is a war room. I am here for a fight.” Under no illusion as to the scale of the task at hand, the deck is stacked against leader of the Movement for Democratic Change party and presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa. A follow-up to her 2014 film Democrats, Camilla Nielsson’s President tracks the rocky road to and from […]

Sundance 2021: Luzzu review

★★★★☆ Alex Camilleri’s Luzzu charts a course between the dispassionate neo-realism of the Dardenne brothers and Gianfranco Rosi’s keen but objective documentarian eye. It is a touching parable of fathers and sons, tradition and modernity, principles versus practicality. Set in Malta, this is one of very few films to have ever been made on and about the people of […]

Sundance 2021: Playing with Sharks review

★★★☆☆ A daredevil activity that for most would be considered the stuff of nightmares has, for diver and marine conservationist Valerie Taylor, been a lifelong passion. Dispelling myths and challenging preconceptions that humankind has of the ocean’s ancient selachian inhabitants, Sally Aitken’s Playing with Sharks is a loving biography of an indomitable, fearless pioneer and activist. “Maybe I’m a […]