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The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From November 3

Head to the flicks to see an Australian horror-comedy gem, an 80s-set coming-of-age tale and Florence Pugh's latest phenomenal performance.
By Sarah Ward
November 03, 2022
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By Sarah Ward
November 03, 2022
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Something delightful has been happening in cinemas in some parts of the country. After numerous periods spent empty during the pandemic, with projectors silent, theatres bare and the smell of popcorn fading, picture palaces in many Australian regions are back in business — including both big chains and smaller independent sites in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

During COVID-19 lockdowns, no one was short on things to watch, of course. In fact, you probably feel like you've streamed every movie ever made, including new releasesStudio Ghibli's animated fare and Nicolas Cage-starring flicks. But, even if you've spent all your time of late glued to your small screen, we're betting you just can't wait to sit in a darkened room and soak up the splendour of the bigger version. Thankfully, plenty of new films are hitting cinemas so that you can do just that — and we've rounded up, watched and reviewed everything on offer this week.

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SISSY

Scroll, swipe, like, subscribe: this is the rhythm of social media. We look, watch and trawl; we try to find a sense of self in the online world; and when something strikes a chord, we smudge our fingers onto our phones to show our appreciation. If wellness influencers are to be believed, we should feel seen by this now-everyday process. We should feel better, too. We're meant to glean helpful tips about how to live our best lives, aspire to be like the immaculately styled folks dispensing the advice and be struck by how relatable it all is. "You saved my life!", we're supposed to comment, and we're meant to be genuine about it. The one catch, and one that we shouldn't think about, though: when it comes to seeking validation via social media, this setup really does go both ways. As savvy new Australian horror film Sissy shows, the beaming faces spruiking easy wisdom and products alike to hundreds, thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of followers — 200,000-plus for this flick's namesake — are also basking in the glory of all that digital attention, and getting a self-esteem boost back in the process.

Sissy starts with @SincerelyCecilia, an Instagram hit, doing what she does best. As played by Gold Coast-born Australian actor Aisha Dee of The Bold Type in an astute and knowing stroke of casting, she's a natural in front of the camera. Indeed, thanks to everything from The Saddle Club and I Hate My Teenage Daughter to Sweet/Vicious and The Nowhere Inn as well, the film's star knows what it's like to live life through screens out of character. She's been acting since she was a teenager, and she's charted the highs of her chosen profession, all in front of a lens. So, it's no wonder that Dee conveys Cecilia's comfort recording her videos with ease. The actor hops into the spotlight not only once but twice here, but she's just as perceptive at showing how the world crumbles, shakes and shrinks whenever there's no ring light glowing, smile stretched a mile wide and Pinterest-board background framing her guru-like guidance.

"I am loved. I am special. I am enough," is Cecilia's kind of mantra. Through her carefully poised and curated videos, such words have sparked a soaring follower count, a non-stop flow of likes and adoring comments. But she's so tied to all that virtual worship that her off-camera existence — when she's not plugging an 'Elon mask', for instance — is perhaps even more mundane than everyone else's. It's also isolated, so when she reconnects with her childhood best friend Emma (co-director/co-writer Hannah Barlow) during a chance run-in at a pharmacy, it's a rare IRL link to the tangible world. Cecilia is awkward about it, though, including when Emma invites her to her out-of-town bachelorette party that very weekend. Buoyed by memories of pledging to be BFFs forever, singing Aussie pop track 'Sister' by Sister2Sister and obsessing over movie stars, she still agrees to go.

Sissy's first act is a Rorschach test: if you're already cynical about the wellness industry and social media, unsurprisingly so, then you'll know that nothing dreamy is bound to follow; if you're not, perhaps the blood and guts to come will feel like a twist. Either way, there will be blood thanks to Barlow and fellow co-helmer/co-scribe Kane Senes' game efforts, reteaming for their second feature after 2017's For Now. There will be chaos as well, and bad signs aplenty, and a rousing body count. Hitting a kangaroo en route to their remote destination clearly doesn't bode well, and also kicks off casualty tally. Then the old schoolyard dynamics bubble up, especially when Cecilia's playground tormentor Alex (Emily De Margheriti, Ladies in Black) is among the fellow guests. Pre-teen taunts resurface — "Sissy's a sissy" was the juvenile and obvious jeer spat her way back in the day, and repeated now — and the @SincerelyCecilia facade starts to shatter.

Read our full review.

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ARMAGEDDON TIME

What's more difficult a feat: to ponder everything that the universe might hold, as writer/director James Gray did in 2019's sublime Ad Astra, or to peer back at your own childhood, as he now does with Armageddon Time? Both films focus on their own worlds, just of different sizes and scales. Both feature realms that loom over everyone, but we all experience in their own ways. In the two movies, the bonds and echoes between parents and children also earn the filmmaker's attention. Soaring into the sky and reaching beyond your assigned patch is a focus in one fashion or another, too. In both cases, thoughtful, complex and affecting movies result. And, as shared with everything he's made over the past three decades — such as The Yards, The Immigrant and The Lost City of Z as well — fantastic performances glide across the screen in unwaveringly emotionally honest pictures.

In Armageddon Time, Gray returns to a favourite subject: the experience of immigrants to New York. With a surname barely removed from his own, the Graff family share his own Jewish American heritage — and anchor a portrait of a pre-teen's growing awareness of his privilege, the world's prejudices, the devastating history of his ancestors, and how tentative a place people can hold due to race, religion, money, politics and more. The year is 1980, and the end of times isn't genuinely upon anyone. Even the sixth-grader at its centre knows that. Still, that doesn't stop former Californian governor-turned-US presidential candidate Ronald Reagan from talking up existential threats using inflammatory language, as the Graffs spot on TV. Armageddon Time also takes its moniker from a 1977 The Clash B-side and cover; despite the film's stately approach, the punk feeling of wanting to tear apart the status quo — Gray's own adolescent status quo — dwells in its frames.

Banks Repeta (The Black Phone) plays Paul Graff, Gray's on-screen surrogate, and Armageddon Time's curious and confident protagonist. At his public school in Queens, he's happy standing out alongside his new friend Johnny (Jaylin Webb, The Wonder Years), and disrupting class however and whenever he can — much to the dismay of his mother Esther (Anne Hathaway, Locked Down), a home economics teacher and school board member. He dreams of being an artist, despite his plumber dad Irving's (Jeremy Strong, Succession) stern disapproval, because the elder Graff would prefer the boy use computing as a path to a life better than his own. In his spare time, Paul is happiest with his doting, advice-dispensing, gift-bearing grandfather Aaron (Anthony Hopkins, The Father), who's considered the only person on the pre-teen's wavelength.

Gray fleshes out Paul's personality and the Graffs' dynamic with candour as well as affection, as seen at an early home dinner. There, Paul criticises Esther's cooking, orders dumplings even after expressly being forbidden and incites Irving's explosive anger — and the establishing scene also starts laying bare attitudes that keep being probed and unpacked throughout Armageddon Time. Indeed, Paul will begin to glean the place he navigates in the world. Even while hearing about the past atrocities that brought his grandfather's mother to America, and the discrimination that still lingers, he'll learn that he's fortunate to hail from a middle-class Jewish family. Even if his own comfort is tenuous, Paul will see how different his life is to his black, bused-in friend, with Johnny living with his ailing grandmother, always skirting social services and constantly having condemning fingers waggling his way. And, Paul will keep spying how Johnny is at a disadvantage in every manner possible, including from their instantly scornful teacher and via Paul's own parents' quick judgement.

Read our full review.

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THE WONDER

"We are nothing without stories, so we invite you to believe in this one." So goes The Wonder's opening narration, as voiced by Niamh Algar (Wrath of Man) and aimed by filmmaker Sebastián Lelio in two directions. For the Chilean writer/director's latest rich and resonant feature about his favourite topic, aka formidable women — see also: Gloria, its English-language remake Gloria Bell, Oscar-winner A Fantastic Woman and Disobedience — he asks his audience to buy into a tale that genuinely is a tale. In bringing Emma Donoghue's (Room) book to the screen, he even shows the thoroughly modern-day studio and its sets where the movie was shot. But trusting in a story is also a task that's given The Wonder's protagonist, Florence Pugh's nurse Lib Wright, who is en route via ship to an Irish Midlands village when this magnetic, haunting and captivating 19th century-set picture initially sees her.

For the second time in as many movies — and in as many months Down Under as well — Pugh's gotta have faith. Playing George Michael would be anachronistic in The Wonder, just as it would've been in Don't Worry Darling's gleaming 1950s-esque supposed suburban dream, but that sentiment is what keeps being asked of the British actor, including in what's also her second fearless performance in consecutive flicks. Here, it's 1862, and 11-year-old Anna O'Donnell (Kíla Lord Cassidy, Viewpoint) has seemingly subsisted for four months now without eating. Ireland's 1840s famine still casts shadows across the land and its survivors, but this beatific child says she's simply feeding on manna from heaven. Lib's well-paid job is to watch the healthy-seeming girl in her family home, where her mother (A Discovery of Witches' Elaine Cassidy, Kila's actual mum) and father (Caolan Byrne, Nowhere Special) dote, to confirm that she isn't secretly sneaking bites to eat.

Lib is to keep look on in shifts, sharing the gig with a nun (Josie Walker, This Is Going to Hurt). She's also expected to verify a perspective that's already beaming around town, including among the men who hired her, such as the village doctor (Toby Jones, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain) and resident priest (Ciarán Hinds, Belfast). The prevailing notion: that Anna is a miracle, with religious tourism already starting to swell around that idea, and anyone doubting the claim — or pointing out that it could threaten the girl's life and end in tragedy — deemed blasphemous. But arriving with experience with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War behind her, the level-leaded, no-nonsense and also in-mourning Lib isn't one for automatic piety. A local-turned-London journalist (Tom Burke, The Souvenir) keeps asking her for inside information, sharing her determination to eschew unthinking devotion and discover the truth, but the nurse's duty is to Anna's wellbeing no matter the personal cost.

Lelio's opening gambit, the filmmaking version of showing how the sausage is made, isn't merely a piece of gimmickry. It stresses the power of storytelling and the bargain anyone strikes, The Wonder's viewers alike, when we agree to let tales sweep us away — and it couldn't better set the mood for a movie that ruminates thoughtfully and with complexity on the subject. Is life cheapened, threatened or diminished by losing yourself to fiction over fact? In an age of fake news, as Lelio's movie screens in, clearly it can be. Is there far too much at stake when faith and opinion is allowed to trump science, as the world has seen in these pandemic-affected, climate change-ravaged times? The answer there is yes again. Can spinning a narrative be a coping mechanism, a mask for dark woes, and a way to make trauma more bearable and existence itself more hopeful, though? That's another query at the heart of Alice Birch's (Mothering Sunday) script. And, is there a place for genuine make-believe to entertain, sooth and make our days brighter, as literature and cinema endeavours? Naturally, there is.

Read our full review.

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If you're wondering what else is currently screening in Australian cinemas — or has been lately — check out our rundown of new films released in Australia on August 4, August 11, August 18 and August 25; September 1, September 8, September 15, September 22 and September 29; and October 6, October 13, October 20 and October 27.

You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as Bullet Train, Nope, The Princess, 6 Festivals, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, Crimes of the Future, Bosch & Rockit, Fire of Love, Beast, Blaze, Hit the Road, Three Thousand Years of Longing, Orphan: First Kill, The Quiet Girl, Flux Gourmet, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Moonage Daydream, Ticket to Paradise, Clean, You Won't Be Alone, See How They Run, Smile, On the Count of Three, The Humans, Don't Worry Darling, Amsterdam, The Stranger, Halloween Ends, The Night of the 12th, Muru, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, Black Adam, Barbarian, Decision to Leave, The Good Nurse, Bros and The Woman King.

Published on November 03, 2022 by Sarah Ward
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