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Director: Phil Sheerin Starring: Emma Mackey, Anson Boon, Charlie Murphy, Michael McElhatton Running Time: 92 minutes


An Irish-Canadian co-production, director Phil Sheerin’s The Winter Lake intertwines two family stories in the chilly backdrop of rural Ireland. Tom is a troubled and broody adolescent, who arrives in what appears to be an inherited old farm with his equally troubled young mother Elaine. Both Tom and Elaine seem to be running away from something, although details of their past are sketchy. At the outset, Tom is meandering around the outskirts of the farmland, and ends up digging something out of a lake. This “something” is what sets in motion the rest of events that unfold. The moody teenager meets Holly, a charismatic but distant woman who takes an interest in Tom. At the same time, Holly’s father Ward and Tom’s mothers Elaine develop what appears to be a burgeoning fling. As secrets about Holly’s past and Ward’s true character are gradually exposed, both Tom and his mother find themselves implicated.

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Director: Kevin MacDonald Starring: Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Levi Running Time: 129 minutes


With apologies for beginning a review on such a cynical foot, there’s something almost quaint these days in the kind of procedural drama that relies on shock and indignance at injustice for its narrative thrust. The ‘This Is America Dammit’ legal flick has always been a Hollywood staple, with layers of presentation, slicker, smarter versions like Erin Brockovich or Dark Waters do exist, but there’s usually the foundational principle of ‘This Isn’t Who We Are’ involved somewhere, which is harder for audiences to latch onto after so many years of exposure to the idea that injustice is exactly who people in power are, and they’ll just say it isn’t, and even when it’s exposed that it is, they just get away with it anyway.

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Directed by:  Mike P. Nelson Starring:  Charlotte Vega, Adain Bradley, Matthew Modine, Bill Sage Runtime: 109 mins

*TW: Rape, section clearly marked below*

For a long time now I’ve had a fascination I couldn’t shake with the Wrong Turn franchise, and even though our relationship status has never shifted from ‘It’s Complicated’ because of their ableist portrayals of deformed cannibalistic hillpeople, multiple cast injuries and the unauthorised use of an image of a missing woman from Wexford which the family had to fight against in the Irish High Courts, when I saw the announcement that the series would be rebooted, I wanted to give it a chance. It seemed like they were going in a fresh and inoffensive direction. Baby, we’ve changed!

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In our latest Review Round-Up, we’re looking back at a pair of homegrown comedies that caught our eye at the 2021 Dublin International Film Festival. These Irish comedy films both have a dark sense of humour and a heartening sense of ingenuity, highlighting some of the best in filmmaking on our island.

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Director: Lee Isaac Chung  Starring: Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung  Run Time: 115 minutes


 

The story of the immigrant experience is one that is very familiar to Irish audiences, all of whom know someone who has taken up and gone away, or who they themselves have been and gone, maybe coming back, maybe not. It’s challenging enough even when, very often for our own diaspora, you’re arriving in a place where a large amount of people are still like you, culturally speaking. To move from Korean to the United States, as the central Yi family has done in the events preceding Minari, is a significant shift itself. But to move from the city, with young kids and a tense marriage, all to try to make it on temperamental Arkansas farmland is an even tricker business altogether.

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Director: Thomas Vinterberg Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang Running Time: 115 minutes


Thomas Vinterberg has a curious habit of going to the very darkest corners of humanity and somehow using these dark corners to showcase the most enduring aspects of humanity. A decade ago, Submarino explored the lives of drug addicted and prison bound brothers at the bottom of the Danish socio-economic ladder. More recently, The Hunt took a look at how horrifying but false allegations could implode the lives of even the most innocent of protagonists. What these two films in particular had in common is the desire of the human spirit to survive in the direst of circumstances. Arguably, it could be said that Vinterberg’s films are as much about the power of lasting human connection as the drudgery of human suffering. With Another Round, he again focuses on problematic and dark aspects of Danish society, while injecting a refreshing sense of humor that gives an otherwise gut wrenching story a surprisingly positive hoppy lift.

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Director: Francis Lee Starring: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan Runtime: 120 mins
Francis Lee has a deep understanding of how to use harsh landscapes and natural sound in a beautiful way. Fans of Lee’s debut God’s Own Country will recognise his interest and talent in portraying working class queer stories in this new film. With Ammonite, Lee has created a relationship between palaeontologist Mary Anning (played by Kate Winslet) and Charlotte (played by Saoirse Ronan), a young woman whose husband has asked Mary to look after while he is travelling as they recently lost a baby and she is struggling. 

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Gazing up at the stars, a man shares his expertise in finding constellations with his partner, one of a lifetime of small moments as bright and dazzling as anything in the night sky. Unfortunately, he for all his intelligence, he cannot recall the word ‘triangle’, and as time goes on, his memory of more and more things, big and small, fades into the void. Supernova is a story built around early onset dementia, but more than a shallow wallow in the sad nature of the disease, Harry Macqueen’s sensitive and measured approach uses the condition to explore the difficulty in saying goodbye, both to those you love and to yourself.

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Director: Shaka King Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons Running Time: 126 minutes


One of many things that the last year has highlighted is that stories of authorities’ violent treatment of marginalised races are as relevant now as they have ever been.  Productions like Mangrove of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series, popular television series like Watchmen and Lovecraft County and now Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah, were all in production long before the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery in the US further revealed the dangers of state sponsored brutality and injustice. Each production resonates louder in the midst of these stories, but the creators behind them are motivated by something that has spread longer and deeper than our current moment. King looks back to the 60s, and the FBI’s campaign against Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, to communicate ideas that have been current, vibrant and essential for decades. If the system endures, so too must the revolution, and King aims to inspire and enrage in his depiction of the fate of this revolutionary.

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Director: Clea DuVall Starring: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Aubrey Plaza, Dan Levy Runtime: 102 minutes

It’s always nice to get fresh blood at the holidays. Before you finish dialling 999, what I mean by that is that because we tend to listen to the same Christmas songs and watch the same Christmas movies every year once the evenings get longer, it’s always special when something new comes along to join the rotation. So when I first heard about Happiest Season, I was really looking forward to seeing if it would be one of those worthy additions. I love Kristen Stewart. I really do, I think she’s a great talent and she picks interesting, challenging projects. Sadly K Stew let me down for the second time in 2020 (looking at you Underwater!)

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