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Film Review: Esme, My Love

★★★☆☆ As she drives down a narrow, poorly lit road through a forest, a woman is momentarily distracted and veers into the path of an oncoming lorry. Swerving, she avoids catastrophe and stops the car to check on the child on the back seat, still blissfully sleeping. Death is always close in producer-turned-director Cory Choy’s debut feature Esme, My Love, a magical-realist drama that is consistently intriguing but never quite fulsome enough to become compelling.

Film Review: The Son

★★★★☆ “Love is not enough,” is the advice given to the parents in French playwright Florian Zeller’s sophomore feature film The Son, which closes the diptych begun by The Father. It is wise advice and goes against so much that we instinctively feel about parenting and childcare. All we need is love, surely? Unconditional love.

Film Review: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

★★★★☆ Bite-sized pearls of wisdom and wonderment from everyone’s favourite YouTube crustacean sensation make an elegant shuffle, frequent leaps and occasional tumbles from the internet to the big screen in Dean Fleischer Camp’s marvellous Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.

The Last of Us and five other much-watch series

One of the best ways to enjoy television is when your heart is racing and adrenaline is pumping. And nothing gets this feeling going more than a fantastic suspense or mystery show. With so many shows available on many streaming platforms and cable channels, knowing what to watch to get the best intensity may be difficult.

Film Review: Women Talking

★★★★☆ Based on Miriam Toews 2018 novel of the same name, itself inspired by a series of crimes committed against the women of a Mennonite community between 2005 and 2009, Canadian actor-turned-director Sarah Polley’s latest is described as a ‘work of female imagination’ but is about very real experience.

Film Review: Blue Jean

★★★★★ It is 1988 and Section 28 – the notorious legislative clause that banned teachers from discussing homosexual relationships with students – has just come into effect. Lesbian Tyneside PE teacher Jean (Rosy McEwen) lives in fear of being discovered by her colleagues in Georgia Oakley’s astonishing feature debut.

Film Review: The Whale

★★★★☆ American director Darren Aronofsky has made a career out of exploring individuals who are physically and psychologically self-destructing in the throes of obsession. It could be the relationship between the diameter and circumference of a circle; building a boat to avoid a genocidal flood; ballet or wrestling; drugs or food.

Film Review: EO

★★★★☆ Inspired by Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar, veteran Polish filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski’s latest is a darkly comic and moving fable about a wayward donkey living through fate’s tender mercies. EO is at once a cinematic curiosity, a compelling drama and a harrowing portrait of cruel whimsy.

Film Review: Saint Omer

★★★★★ Documentary filmmaker Alice Diop’s (We, La Permanence) first narrative feature Saint Omer is a major achievement and an investigation into motherhood, judgment and the other. Kayije Kagame plays Rama, a university professor and writer who is working on a new book.

Film Review: Shadowplay

★★☆☆☆ After his girlfriend is killed in a brutal attack, former boxer and paramedic Jan (Milan Ondrík) falls into profound despair. Exploring themes of guilt, masculinity and justice, boxing-inflect crime film from Slovakian director Peter Bebjak shows much promise, but fails to coalesce into a coherent vision.

Film Review: January

★★★☆☆ Bulgarian documentarian Andrey Paounov turns his hand to fiction in this adaptation of Yordan Radichkov’s 1974 play. January is an intriguing, eerie, ponderous narrative set entirely within the confines of a forest cabin. Religious allegories, monochrome photography and folk horror trappings ensue.

Film Review: The Fabelmans

★★☆☆☆ Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans had all the ingredients to ascend as cinema’s new darling. Yet, as this semi-autobiographical film plods on, there is an unshakeable sense that in reaching for the stars, The Fabelmans instead lands somewhere more mediocre and disappointing.

Film Review: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

★★★★☆ Academy Award winner Laura Poitras has become one of the keenest and most perceptive chroniclers of our times. From torture in Iraq to Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks, her documentaries feel like they aren’t just recording history as it is made but are directly participating in it.