Just Booked @ The Nightlight // The Breadwinner // Opens 12/1/17

Set in war-torn Afghanistan under Taliban rule, Nora Twomey’s film is a beautiful but troubling look at a people’s fight to survive.

The Breadwinner (2017), Opens December 1st

The Breadwinner which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, may well turn out to be the movie to test whether the Oscars’ new rules for voting in the Best Animated Feature category are truly biased in favor of major studios over indies. A beautifully rendered work of animation that tells a powerful story, it is a standout in the field and would certainly have been a favorite to land a nomination at any point over the last decade.

And it’s safe to say that The Breadwinner will be hard to ignore regardless of the rules. Set in Kabul under Taliban rule, the film paints a powerful picture of a vibrant culture and people under stifling repression; it has monsters and plucky kids and colorful adventures like other animated films, but at heart it is a beautiful but troubling look at a people’s fight to survive.

The lead character is Parvana (Saara Chaudry), a preteen girl who accompanies her father to the market in an attempt to make enough money to feed the family. She draws the attention of a Taliban soldier because she’s approaching the age when women should be completely covered (or should preferably stay indoors), while her father (Ali Badshah) is suspect because he’s a former teacher who still respects literature. Crucially for the story and the film, Parvana is also a storyteller, weaving a tale to keep her little brother happy and to help herself and her friend through a series of dangerous encounters.

These sequences bring a deliberately subdued film to life, and pay tribute to the force of storytelling and of tradition that can be outlawed but can’t be quashed. And in the film’s spectacular final sequences, when the story Parvana is telling meshes with the one she is living, The Breadwinner is a glorious demonstration of the power of myth to deal with brutal reality, and the power of truth to animate myth.

~~ Steve Pond, thewrap.com

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // The Unknown Girl // Opens 10/13/17

The Dardennes brothers’ latest tale from the grim streets of the industrial suburb of Liège in Belgium is another quietly powerful masterpiece; it’s perhaps their best film since The Child.

The Unknown Girl (2016), Opens October 13th

A young African woman with no ID, has been found dead on the bank of the river nearby. Adèle Haenel as a doctor turns detective. The Unknown Girl fuses elements from social realist cinema, morality play and a whodunit murder mystery. The result is a wholly gripping narrative told with understated eloquence.

The Dardennes brothers are minimalists using naturalistic lighting and no score – the only soundtrack is industrial noises or the swish of heavy traffic on the ring road outside the surgery. Philosophical questions about our responsibility towards others, particularly those living in poverty, run through the film and are left open-ended. The social realism will be familiar to Dardennes’ fans, but the addition of the detective element brings a new narrative energy to their work. The Unknown Girl confronts moral dilemmas worthy of Hitchcock, in particular difficult questions around the code of doctor-patient confidentiality. There’s a rare excursion to the countryside for a re-encounter with Julien, but otherwise this is a relentless and impressive slice of urban noir.

~~ Saskia Baron, theartdesk.com

Presented in original French language with English subtitles.

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Loving Vincent // Opens 10/27/17

Eye-boggling Loving Vincent is the world’s first fully painted film and it’s coming to the Nightlight Cinema!

Loving Vincent (2017), Opens October 27th

In 1956’s Lust For Life, artist Paul Gauguin (Anthony Quinn) screams at his friend Vincent van Gogh (Kirk Douglas), “All I see when I look at your paintings is that you paint too fast!” Van Gogh shouts back, “You look too fast!” That confrontational ethos and van Gogh’s 800 oil paintings were the bedrock of the modern art movement, and the Dutch master’s sense of impossible daring is alive in a massively ambitious new animated film.

Loving Vincent begins a year after van Gogh died by suicide in 1890 at the age of 37. In an effort to understand his death, an amateur sleuth (Douglas Booth) seeks out several of van Gogh’s painting subjects, including ­Marguerite Gachet (Saoirse Ronan). Wistful grace notes about life and loss are touched upon and composer Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream) provides another alternately spooky and beautiful musical score.

But the real reason to see the film is this: Every single one of its 65,000 frames were hand-painted in van Gogh’s style, making Loving Vincent the world’s first fully painted feature film. Those sensual, hallucinogenic yellow and blue brush smears from “The Starry Night” and “Starry Night Over the Rhône” literally come alive before your eyes, and that’s just one of 130 van Gogh masterpieces woven into the plot. Loving Vincent is one of the most lunatic labors of love to appear on movie screens this year. And in that sense, a fitting, miraculous tribute to its subject.

~~ Joe McGovern , ew.com

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Mother! // Opens 10/13/17

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a husband and wife whose isolated house is invaded by another married couple in Darren Aronofsky’s black-comic nightmare.

Mother! (2017), Opens October 13th

It’s a powerful enough word at the best of times, but the exclamation mark gives it that edge of delirium and melodrama and despair – just the way Norman Bates yells it at the end of Psycho. Or maybe we’re supposed to hear a second, brutal two-syllable word immediately afterwards. Darren Aronofsky’s toweringly outrageous film leaves no gob unsmacked. It is an event-movie detonation, a phantasmagorical horror and black-comic nightmare that jams the narcosis needle right into your abdomen. Mother! escalates the anxiety and ups the ante of dismay with every scene, every act, every trimester, taking us in short order from WTF to WTAF to SWTAF and beyond.

It’s a very bad dream of very bad things: influenced perhaps by Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby or Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel and I suspect that Aronofsky has fallen under the spell of the dark master of offensive mischief himself, Lars Von Trier and his horror film Antichrist. But it is as deadpan comedy that this film can be understood: a macabre spectacle of revulsion, a veritable agape of chaos. The opening act gives us a view of a human heart being flushed down the lavatory – as good an image as any for the film’s mysterious, hallucinatory callousness. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem are tremendously operatic as the leads and it is great to welcome Michelle Pfeiffer back to the big screen in a pleasingly cruel supporting role.

Mother! in its way reminded me of the musical The Book of Mormon: it could be about the birth of a new religion with all the irrational absurdity, vanity and celebrity worship that this entails. Or it could be a satirical portrait of a marriage and the humiliation involved in catering for a sleekly pompous man old enough to be your father. But maybe it is just about the gleeful anarchy involved in destruction, in simply taking the audience on a series of stomach-turning quantum leaps into madness. As horror it is ridiculous, as comedy it is startling and hilarious, and as a machine for freaking you out it is a thing of wonder.

~~ Peter Bradshaw, theguardian.com

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // My Friend Dahmer // Opens 11/17/17

My Friend Dahmer is a humanizing dissection of teen psychosis.

My Friend Dahmer (2017), Opens November 17th

A year in the life of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer back when he was a misunderstood high school kid. To be sure, the dementia the movie shows us is totally in its embryonic form. Jeffrey, at 17, likes to take roadkill and dissolve it in jars of acid he gets from his chemist father, and his surly blank stare gives new meaning to the term “teenage outcast.” Yet My Friend Dahmer, adapted from a true-life graphic novel by John Backderf (who based it on his own high-school experiences with Dahmer), is more than a twisted Afterschool Special. It’s a serious and audacious attempt to dramatize the inner life of a sick puppy when he wasn’t quite so sick.

As you watch the movie, its central idea, that Jeffrey Dahmer wasn’t just born, he was made; that he started off as an actual human being, has a shocking validity that never undercuts the extremity of his crimes. My Friend Dahmer is disturbingly compelling and original, and with the right handling it could prove a specialty-market sensation. After Bates Motel and Hannibal, mainstream audiences are edgier now, and they’re more than ready for a movie that looks into the dark heart of the adolescent abyss.

The casting of Disney star Ross Lynch as Dahmer sounds like a stunt, but it works for several reasons. Lynch, in aviator frames, with a shaggy coif, actually looks remarkably the way Dahmer did in 1978, and he acts with a spooked gravity — his face frozen, as if he were literally afraid to smile — that’s highly suggestive of unformed inner demons. Lynch, as surely as Jeremy Renner 15 years ago in Dahmer (the movie that put him on the map), has fearlessly thought and felt his way into this role.

~~ Owen Gleiberman, variety.com

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Paris, Texas // Opens 10/21/17

A place for dreams, a place for heartbreak, a place to pick up the pieces.

Paris, Texas (1984), Opens October 21st

The man comes walking out of the desert like a Biblical figure, a penitent who has renounced the world. He wears jeans and a baseball cap, the universal costume of America, but the scraggly beard, the deep eye sockets and the tireless lope of his walk tell a story of wandering in the wilderness. What is he looking for? Does he remember?

Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas (1984) is the story of loss upon loss. This man, whose name is Travis, was once married and had a little boy. Then that all went wrong, and he lost his wife and child, and for years he wandered. Now he will find his family and lose it again, this time not through madness but through sacrifice. He will give them up out of his love for them.

Harry Dean Stanton has long inhabited the darker corners of American noir, with his lean face and hungry eyes, and here he creates a sad poetry.

Wenders uses the materials of realism but this is a fable, as much as his great Wings of Desire. It’s about archetypal longings, set in American myth. The name Travis reminds us of Travis McGee, the private investigator who rescued lost souls and sometimes fell in love with them but always ended up alone on his boat. The Texas setting evokes thoughts of the Western, but this movie is not for the desert and against the city; it is about a journey which leads from one to the other and ends in a form of happiness.

~~ Roger Ebert, rogerebert.com

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // The Killing of a Sacred Deer // Opens 9/10/17

A man who plays God for a living meets a boy who chooses to play Devil in Yorgos Lanthimos’ chilling and breathtaking The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), Opens November 10th

Once again, as he did with The Lobster, Lanthimos is working in a deeply metaphorical register, using an impossible situation to illuminate relatable human fears. The result is a mesmerizing thriller, a movie that asks questions with no good answers and traps us within its terrifying and bizarre situation with little hope for a happy ending. With uniformly great performances throughout the cast and Lanthimos’ stunning eye for detail and composition, this is one of the most unforgettable films of the year.

Colin Farrell, reuniting with Lanthimos and a bit bushier and grayer than before, plays Dr. Steven Murphy, a noted and respected surgeon. Externally, he would seem to have it all. He’s powerful and successful with a gorgeous wife named Anna (Nicole Kidman), who happens to be an ophthalmologist. They have two children—15-year-old Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and younger Bob (Sunny Suljic). Steven has befriended a 16-year-old named Martin (Barry Keoghan of “Dunkirk”), the son of a man who died on his operating table a few years ago. Exactly what happened in that room, and how and why Steven has tried to stay close with Martin is unclear at the beginning of the film. Lanthimos often keeps histories and motivations vague, allowing us to fill in the blanks as the film progresses.

Colin Ferrell is phenomenal here, finding the shades of a man whose greatest sin may be his refusal to admit he’s only human. In the end, that may be the message of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, when you play God, you must deal with the consequences. The Lanthimos-Farrell dynamic is one of those relationships in which the creator and actor are so clearly on the same page that it’s invigorating.

That’s a good word for The Killing of a Sacred Deer. It’s a film that challenges viewers in such fascinating ways and feels so refined in its filmmaking that it’s invigorating to watch. It’s a rare movie indeed that can be this alternately terrifying, hysterical, strange, and heartbreaking, often in the same scene. Like the Greek myth that inspired the film, it feels powerful enough to be timeless.

~~ Brian Tallerico, rogerebert.com

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // The Florida Project // Opens 11/24/17

Poverty and joy in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom. This is The Florida Project.

The Florida Project (2017), Opens November 24th

Following his much lauded iPhone-shot Tangerine, director Sean Baker, has lost none of his fire and exuberance working with a larger budget and some well-known cast members. Indeed, Willem Dafoe, as the reluctant father-figure manager at the Orlando motel where this movie is set, gives one of the best film performances of his entire career. Baker, who has a number of microbudget features under his belt, has catapulted himself into a whole new league now.

The first third of The Florida Project blazes forward at high-speed, in a stylised blur, with some of the best kid acting this side of Truffaut’s Pocket Money. In very small increments things slow down and take a more documentary-style approach. A storm is coming (as it often does in Florida), and all of it is depressingly predictable. Just what exactly is a woman like Halley supposed to do to make money when there are no jobs?

While minimal on plot, the film digs in its nails on the day-to-day struggles of poor people in America. Even those with jobs are a little skittish, like the cab driver eyeing every minute not making a fare, or the commanding and level-headed Bobby, who changes his demeanour when the motel owner is on premises. That this all takes place in the Magic Kingdom’s shadow is a metaphor upon which lesser film-makers would lean more heavily.

But look out for Bria Vinaite, who Baker discovered on social media, and especially young Brooklynn Prince. This movie could never work without a performers of their calibre. Things look grim for Halley and Moonee, but we can expect a lot from the people who brought their marvellous story to light.

~~ Jordan Hoffman, theguardian.com

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Lucky // Opens 10/20/17

Everything Harry Dean Stanton has done in his career, and his life, has brought him to his moment of triumph in Lucky, an unassumingly wonderful little film about nothing in particular and everything that’s important.

Lucky (2017), Opens October 20th

Lucky is something a good deal more substantial than the cinematic equivalent of a lifetime achievement award. It’s also a stealthily affecting and unpretentiously thoughtful meditation on community and mortality, and existential dread and transcendence, in the form of a richly amusing shaggy-dog story that features Stanton’s finest performance since Paris, Texas.

By turns taciturn and loquacious, Lucky is an insistently self-sufficient loner who nonetheless seems to enjoy, or at least not resent, his interactions with other residents in an off-the-grid desert town. As he goes about his daily regimen both at home (yoga in the morning, TV game shows in the afternoon) and outside of it (breakfast at the local diner, evening drinks at his customary watering hole), his stride is brisk and purposeful in the manner of a man who believes unwavering adherence to routine is the secret to a long life.

The best way to appreciate Lucky is to take a deep breath, free your mind, and go with the unhurried flow for 88 minutes. Take time to savor all of its disparate elements — including, on the pitch-perfect soundtrack, a harmonica rendition of “Red River Valley” performed by Stanton — and ponder its teasing ambiguities. More important, relish every detail of Stanton’s matter-of-factly fearless portrayal of a man who ran out of damns to give a long time ago, but still wants to make a graceful exit. It is, quite simply, the performance of a lifetime.

~~ Joe Leydon, variety.com

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Woodshock // Opens 10/6/17

Haunting and hallucinatory, Woodshock comes to the Nightlight Cinema as the chilly fall season descends upon us…

Woodshock (2017), Opens October 6th

The exquisite feature film debut of visionary fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavey, Woodshock is a hypnotic exploration of isolation, paranoia, and grief that exists in a dream-world all its own. Kirsten Dunst stars as Theresa, a haunted young woman spiraling in the wake of profound loss, torn between her fractured emotional state and the reality-altering effects of a potent cannabinoid drug. Immersive, spellbinding, and sublime, Woodshock transcends genre to become a singularly thrilling cinematic experience that marks the arrival of the Mulleavy siblings as a major new voice in film.