• Happening

    Happening

    ★★★★

    Diwan frames illegal abortion as a painful contradiction: physically horrific yet life-saving. The whispers floating through the film tell us that abortion conducted outside of a doctor’s office is wildly dangerous in more ways than one, yet we lean on the edge of our seats as we hope our young protagonist can find someone to perform one. There is no ideal situation in sight; all the options are bad because the good have been forbidden. There is some truly gruesome,…

  • Love, Simon

    Love, Simon

    ★★★★★

    Once again, Love, Simon is a fun, charming, unabashedly-sweet depiction of coming out. It lives in the area of young gay fantasy-fulfillment rather than grounded reality, but that's precisely why it always works so well for me. Rewatching this now no longer acts as a needed comfort on a bad day but instead is a warm reminder to appreciate the support that surrounds me. It's so nice to be loved.

  • Split Ends

    Split Ends

    ★★★★½

    It's often hard to decipher why we make the decisions we do. In moments of regret, we look back and wonder what we were thinking -- how we possibly could've let ourselves get to this point. In most of these situations, the reason is obvious: we just wanted to do something. It's not a satisfactory answer, but it's true nevertheless. When we're forced to bear witness to the difficult circumstances that worsen around us, we make whatever decisions we can…

  • The Bad Guys

    The Bad Guys

    ★★★

    Stories told to us about who we are can shape our identities more than our own behavior. At an extreme, the carceral system labels people as criminals for the rest of their lives, warping how others view them as they move through the world in addition to how they view themselves. A similar consequence is present within more foundational settings, as misbehaving children are labeled “problems” and treated as burdens because of it. Even if the behavior is indeed inappropriate…

  • Paris, 13th District

    Paris, 13th District

    ★★½

    The attempt at a sprawling, patchwork narrative results in a lack of focus. After an intriguing first act, the film nearly resets entirely by abandoning its previous perspectives. The characters are still present, but they’re demoted to supporting players in favor of a character without anywhere near as compelling of a personal life. Merlant performs well, but the character’s backstory is far more silly than somber, and the way her life progresses lacks the feeling of truth the first act…

  • Nitram

    Nitram

    ★★★★

    Violent tendencies can exist in a vacuum, but the greater harm lays in the conditions that allow those tendencies to flourish. A child may want to blow dirt up with fireworks, but who gives the child access to those explosives? Who lets the young man stay on medication that fails to help him? Who sells a gun to an unlicensed, angry customer? The answer to all of these questions speaks to a sense of complacency and shifted responsibility; people would…

  • Gagarine

    Gagarine

    ★★★★

    Yuri wants to escape into outer space and nowhere else. His family's apartment is the only home he's known since their tumultuous arrival in Paris, and its sentimental value has grown greater in their absence. If the building itself crumbles, so may the relationships that have been built inside it. Yuri's sense of ambition is nearly as impressive as his love for his community; it's compelling to see a teenage boy so wholeheartedly committed to the preservation and celebration of…

  • Everything Everywhere All at Once

    Everything Everywhere All at Once

    ★★★★½

    “You’re thinking too much.”

    When the present situation becomes too much to bear, it’s tempting to imagine how much better things could be had different choices been made. If only you hadn’t done this, or if only you hadn’t pursued that, perhaps it all wouldn’t be so hard now. Daydreaming in this case offers as much self-imposed shame as it does relief, for missed opportunities hang over you in judgement of what you couldn’t achieve. While Everything Everywhere All at…

  • UMMA

    UMMA

    ★½

    Rage is passed down from mother to daughter along with the rest of the family heirlooms, but the dull-edged depiction of that inheritance is too weak to make an impact. Umma takes a compelling set of ideas and fails to meaningfully put them together, with unspecific questions about mother-daughter relationships and Korean values flying aimlessly without a place to land. The dynamics of an abusive household are awkwardly conflated with general parental obligations, which makes for a thematically muddled statement. While…

  • Great Freedom

    Great Freedom

    ★★½

    While the recontextualization of freedom is compelling, so much of what happens here feels redundant. The timeline of the film is perhaps where this issue stems from, being that it has an inherently cyclical nature and similar types of characters will continue to inhabit the setting. A version of this film that focuses on Hans’ final stay in prison exclusively would perhaps be more effective, as by the time we get to this episode in his life, it feels like…

  • Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

    Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

    ★★★★★

    An unexpected invitation from Jeanne’s sister evolves from a pleasant change of pace in Jeanne’s daily routine to an identity-challenging fracture. While written from a place of love, the letter directly threatens the life Jeanne has led in the years since her husband’s passing. Her days are full of mundanity, but they are indeed full, as the tasks of cooking, cleaning and finances are essential and time consuming. Jeanne finds little pleasure in her days, but what she has found…

  • Dog

    Dog

    ★★

    This wholesome idea of a man and a dog healing one another is used as a vehicle for the denouncement of military criticism. Depictions of conservative, masculine men are presented in stark contrast to the inauthentic, obnoxious liberals who lack any understanding of how the real world works. It can be argued that the humor here comes from how out of place our protagonist is in these situations, rather than the outspoken feminist or otherwise progressive characters themselves being the…