★★★★☆ Does a filmmaker use cinema as his or her own confessional booth or a darkened space in which to escape the harsh realities of the outside world? When the curtain closes and the lights go down on Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, it’s clear that this deeply autobiographical project is a vessel for both.
★★★★☆ 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 last year’s Sundance, it exhibits all of the signs of a very promising career behind the camera lie ahead for the first-time writer-director.
★★★★☆ Background noise cannot be ignored in Matt Fifer and Kieran Mulcare’s exceptional debut feature Cicada. Aural triggers that recall repressed traumas are as vivid and immediate as smells or visual memories for Ben (Fifer) and Sam (Sheldon D. Brown).
★★★★☆ British director Andrea Arnold follows up 2016’s American Honey and a sojourn in television with her first documentary, Cow. A near-wordless study of dairy cow Luma’s life and shot from a bovine-eye view, Cow resists the urge to anthropomorphise Luma while eliciting deep empathy for this non-human animal.
★★★★☆ Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the acclaimed director of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, makes his return to UK screens this week – a full six years after his last feature – with the Tilda Swinton-starring Memoria.
★★★★★ Paul Thomas Anderson returns to the director’s chair with Licorice Pizza, a joyous, hazy and nostalgia-inflected romantic drama set in California’s San Fernando Valley of the 1970s, featuring knockout debut performances from Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman.
★★★★☆ With A Hero, Asghar Farhadi is back in his cinematic wheelhouse, dissecting the emotional cost of social expectations, delivering a tightly-wound drama of debt, obligation and the difficult question of what one person’s reputation is really worth.
★★★★☆ Titane may only be her second feature, but French director Julia Ducournau has already asserted herself as among the strangest and most exciting filmmakers working in genre cinema. Her follow up to 2016’s Raw exceeds even that film in its unhinged capacity to disturb and enthral. In short, Titane is a triumph.
★★★★☆ The franchise reboot we never knew we needed, Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix Resurrections is a wonderfully strange and baffling film, less of a fourth entry in an ongoing saga and more a personal reflection on the original trilogy.
★★★★☆ While not quite hitting the highs of the similarly-themed animated offering Into the Spider-Verse, Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: No Way Home is still a thoroughly entertaining, web-slinging adventure.
★★★★☆ Though it is inhabited by folkloric creatures, Lamb ultimately reveals itself as a human drama that uses generic conventions as a way of examining the destructive nature of trauma.
★★★★★ Winner of the Golden Bear at last year’s Berlin Film Festival and banned in its home country of Iran, Mohammad Rasoulof’s eighth film as director intensely scrutinises Iran’s use of the death penalty through the lens of four separate episodes.