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The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From March 10

Head to the flicks to see a playful drama starring Mia Wasikowska, a moving documentary about First Nations music icons Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach, or astonishing slab surfing footage.
By Sarah Ward
March 10, 2022
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By Sarah Ward
March 10, 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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BERGMAN ISLAND

Each filmmaker sits in the shadows of all who came before them — and as cinema's history lengthens, so will those penumbras. With Bergman Island, French writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve doesn't merely ponder that idea; she makes it the foundation of her narrative, as well a launching pad for a playful and resonant look at love, work and the creative wonders our minds conjure up. Her central duo, two filmmakers who share a daughter, literally tread where the great Ingmar Bergman did. Visiting Fårö, the island off Sweden's southeastern coast that he called home and made his base, Chris (Vicky Krieps, Old) and Tony Sanders (Tim Roth, The Misfits) couldn't escape his imprint if they wanted to. They don't dream of trying, as they're each searching for as much inspiration as they can find; however, the idea of being haunted by people and their creations soon spills over to Chris' work.

Bergman's Scenes From a Marriage has already been remade, albeit in a miniseries that arrived on the small screen a couple of months after Bergman Island premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival — but across one half of Hansen-Løve's feature, that title would fit here as well. Her resume has long been filled with intimate looks at complicated relationships, including in 2009's Father of My Children and 2011's Goodbye First Love, with her movies both peering deeply and cutting deep as they unfurl the thorny intricacies of romance. Accordingly, when Chris and Tony find themselves sleeping in the bedroom where Bergman shot the original Scenes From a Marriage, it's a loaded and layered moment several times over. That said, the thing about willingly walking in someone else's footsteps is that you're not bound to taking the exact same path — as Bergman Island's characters learn, and as the filmmaker that's brought them to the screen clearly already knows.

Turning in finessed and thoughtful performances, Krieps and Roth bring a lived-in dynamic to the film's first key couple, with the chaos that swirls from being in the same line of work but chasing disparate aims not just flowing but bubbling in their paired scenes. He's the kind of Bergman fan that's adamant about going on the Bergman safari, a real-life thing that all visitors can do, for instance, while she prefers being shown around informally by young film student Hampus (acting debutant Hampus Nordenson). But their Fårö escapades only fill half of Bergman Island, because the movie also brings Chris' budding script to life. She tells Tony the tale, seeking his assistance in working out an ending, but he's too immersed in Bergman worship to truly pay attention. The feature itself, Hansen-Løve and the audience all savour the details, though — eagerly so.

There, in this film-within-a-film, 28-year-old director Amy (Mia Wasikowska, Blackbird) visits an island, too —  "a place like this," Chris advises, and one that visibly resembles Fårö. She dances to ABBA to cement the Swedish ties, and also spends her time on the locale's shores wading through matters of art and the heart. The catalyst for the latter: her ex Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie, The Worst Person in the World). They're both attending a wedding of mutual friends, and their lengthy, passionate and volatile history quickly pushes to the fore. While they've each moved on, they're also forever connected, especially when placed in such close quarters. Accordingly, that tumultuous relationship is as bedevilled by other creative endeavours, and also by the thrall of history, as Chris' quest to put pen to paper. And, via the movie-inside-a-movie concept, there's an evocative sense of mirroring that couldn't spring any firmer from Bergman himself.

Read our full review.

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WASH MY SOUL IN THE RIVER'S FLOW

A silent hero and a rowdy troublemaker. That's what Ruby Hunter calls Archie Roach, her partner in life and sometimes music, then characterises herself. She offers those words casually, as if she's merely breathing, with an accompanying smile and a glint in her eyes as she talks. They aren't the only thoughts uttered in Wash My Soul in the River's Flow, which intersperses concert and rehearsal clips with chats with Hunter and Roach, plus snippets of biographical details from and recollections about their lives as intertitles, and then majestic footage of the winding Murray River in Ngarrindjeri Country, where Hunter was born, too. Still, even before those two-word descriptions are mentioned, the film shows how they resonate within couple's relationship. Watching their dynamic, which had ebbed and flowed over three-plus decades when the movie's footage was shot in 2004, it's plain to see how these two icons of Australian music are dissimilar in personality and yet intertwine harmoniously.

Every relationship is perched upon interlocking personalities: how well they complement each other, where their differences blend seamlessly and how their opposing traits spark challenges in the best possible ways. Every song, too, is a balance of disparate but coordinated pieces. And, every ecosystem on the planet also fits the bill. With Hunter and Roach as its focus, Wash My Soul in the River's Flow contemplates all three — love, music and Country — all through 2004 concert Kura Tungar — Songs from the River. Recorded for the documentary at Melbourne's Hamer Hall, that gig series interlaced additional parts, thanks to a collaboration with Paul Grabowsky's 22-piece Australian Art Orchestra — and the movie that producer-turned-writer/director Philippa Bateman makes of it, and about two Indigenous stars, their experience as members of Australia's Stolen Generations, their ties to Country and their love, is equally, gloriously and mesmerisingly multifaceted.

When is a concert film more than a concert film? When it's Wash My Soul in the River's Flow, clearly, which is named for one of Kura Tungar's tracks. Bateman could've just used her recordings of the legendary show, which won the 2005 Helpmann Award for Best Australian Contemporary Concert, and given everyone who wasn't there the chance to enjoy an historic event — and to bask in the now-late Hunter's on-stage glories more than a decade after her 2010 passing — but that was clearly just the starting point for her movie. With Roach as a producer, the documentary presents each of its songs as a combination of five key elements, all weaved together like the feather flower-dotted, brightly coloured headpiece that Hunter wears during the performance. With each tune, the film repeats the pattern but the emotion that comes with it inherently evolves, with the result akin to cycling through the earth's four seasons.

First, a title appears on-screen, overlaid across breathtakingly beautiful images of the Murray and its surroundings, and instantly steeping every song in a spectacular place. From there, the Kura Tungar rendition of each tune segues into practice sessions with Grabowsky and the AAO of the same track, plus both text and on-the-couch chatter between Hunter and Roach that speaks to the context of, meaning behind and memories tied to each piece. Hunter's 'Daisy Chains, String Games and Knuckle Bones', which springs from her childhood, gets that treatment. Roach's unforgettable 'Took the Children Away' does, too. 'Down City Streets', as written by Hunter and recorded by Roach, also joins the lineup. The list goes on, and the power that each song possesses alone — which, given the talent and topics involved, is immense — only grows when packaged in such a layered manner.

Read our full review.

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THE SOUVENIR: PART II

In showbusiness, nepotism is as inescapable as movies about movies. Both are accounted for in The Souvenir: Part II. But when talents as transcendent as Honor Swinton Byrne, her mother Tilda Swinton and writer/director Joanna Hogg are involved — with the latter working with the elder Swinton since her first short, her graduation piece Caprice, back in 1986 before Honor was even born — neither family ties nor filmmaking navel-gazing feel like something routine. Why this isn't a surprise with this trio is right there in the movie's name, after the initial The Souvenir proved such a devastatingly astute gem in 2019. It was also simply devastating, following an aspiring director's romance with a charismatic older man through to its traumatic end. Both in its masterful narrative and its profound impact, Part II firmly picks up where its predecessor left off.

In just her third film role — first working with her mum in 2009's I Am Love before The Souvenir and now this — Swinton Byrne again plays 80s-era filmmaking student Julie Harte. But there's now a numbness to the wannabe helmer after her boyfriend Anthony's (Tom Burke, Mank) death, plus soul-wearying shock after discovering the double life he'd been living that her comfortable and cosy worldview hadn't conditioned her to ever expect. Decamping to the Norfolk countryside, to her family home and to the warm but entirely upper-middle-class, stiff-upper-lip embrace of her well-to-do parents Rosalind (Swinton, The French Dispatch) and William (James Spencer Ashworth) is only a short-term solution, however. Julie's thesis film still needs to be made — yearns to pour onto celluloid, in fact — but that's hardly a straightforward task.

As the initial movie was, The Souvenir: Part II is another semi-autobiographical affair from Hogg, with Swinton Byrne slipping back into her on-screen shoes. This time, the director doesn't just dive into her formative years four decades back, but also excavates what it means to mine your own life for cinematic inspiration — aka the very thing she's been doing with this superb duo of features. That's what Julie does as well as she works on the film's film-within-a-film, sections of which play out during The Souvenir: Part II's running time and are basically The Souvenir. Accordingly, viewers have now spent two pictures watching Hogg's protagonist lives the experiences she'll then find a way to face through her art, all while Hogg moulds her two exceptional — and exceptionally intimate and thoughtful — movies out of that exact process.

Julie's graduation project is also an escape, given it's patently obvious that the kindly, well-meaning but somehow both doting and reserved Rosalind and William have been pushed out of their comfort zone by her current crisis. Helping their daughter cope with her heroin-addicted lover's passing isn't something either would've considered might occur, so they natter away about Rosalind's new penchant for crafting Etruscan-style pottery instead — using small talk to connect without addressing the obvious, as all families lean on at some point or another. They provide financing for Julie's film, too, in what proves the easiest part of her concerted efforts to hop back behind the lens and lose herself in her work. Elsewhere, an array of doubt and questions spring from her all-male film-school professors, and the assistance she receives from her classmates is quickly steeped in rivalries, envy and second-guessing.

Read our full review.

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FACING MONSTERS

"If you want the ultimate, you've got to be willing to pay the ultimate price." Uttered by Patrick Swayze in 90s surfing action flick Point Break, that statement isn't directly quoted in Facing Monsters. Still, when it comes to the underlying idea behind those words — that anything at its absolute pinnacle comes at a cost, especially seeking bliss hanging ten on giant swells — this new Australian documentary unquestionably rides the same wave. Directed by Bentley Dean, and marking his first movie in cinemas since 2015 Oscar-nominee Tanna, the film focuses on Kerby Brown, the Aussie slab surfer who is at his happiest atop the biggest breakers possible. He's turned hunting them into his life's mission — think Point Break's 50-year storm, also set in Australia, but every time that Kerby hops on a board — and Facing Monsters commits that pursuit to celluloid.

Helming solo unlike on Tanna — which he co-directed with Martin Butler, as he did on prior documentaries Contact, First Footprints and A Sense of Self as well — Dean understands three key aspects to Kerby's story. The thrills, the spectacle and the calm: they're all accounted for here, including simply in the astonishing imagery that fills the film. There's no shortage of talk in Facing Monsters; Kerby himself, his brother and frequent partner-in-surf Cortney, his partner Nicole Jardine, and his parents Glenn and Nola all chat happily. But this movie makes much of its impact, and captures plenty that's pivotal, all via its visuals alone. Cinematographer Rick Rifici has long shot the sea as if it's an otherworldly space, including while working as a camera operator on Storm Surfers, as a water cinematographer on Breath, and as the underwater camera operator on Dirt Music, and he's as as crucial here as Kerby.

The long, wide, lingering image that begins the film is one such unforgettable moment — essential and exceptional, too. Kerby floats in a sea of lush but rippling pink, face to the sky, his board strapped to his leg. It's a near-supernatural sight, and a transcendent one, but amid the unshakeably striking beauty of the shot, uncertainty also loiters. An unspoken query, too: is this a picture of bliss or bleakness? Next comes a quick cut, letting Kerby's bloody face and bandaged head fill the the screen instead, and making it instantly clear that his love of riding big waves has physical and severe consequences. The gorgeous visions return from there, and the intimacy as well — the latter largely flowing from talk from this point forward — but Facing Monsters' first frames truly do say it all. Indeed, it's noticeable that the remainder of the movie feels like it's paddling after this opening sensation and atmosphere.

Facing Monsters is a documentary about chasing, of course — waves, obsessions, addictions, demons, solace and happiness alike. The dangerous nature of slab surfing plays out like a quest as much as an adventure, driving Kerby ever since he and Cortney got bored with the swells at Kalbarri in Western Australia, where they grew up, then starting seeking out bigger and bigger possibilities. That's there in the chatter as well as the imagery, in a film that aims to convey the what and why behind its subject's choices through immersion first and foremost. It's fitting, then, that watching Facing Monsters sometimes resembles riding high — when its visuals express everything they need to — and sometimes floats in shallower waters. Ensuring that audiences share the awe and wonder that Kerby experiences on his board is easy with Rifici's astounding help; diving deeper into exactly what else makes its point of focus tick, and has through swirls of drugs and booze, life-threatening incidents in the surf, and becoming a father, is a far more evasive task.

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BOOK OF LOVE

In 2018's The Nightingale, Sam Claflin gave the performance of his career so far while playing thoroughly against type. As a British lieutenant in colonial-era Tasmania, he terrorised the film's female protagonist to a nerve-rattlingly distressing degree — and his work, just like the phenomenal feature he's in, isn't easy to watch. Book of Love, his latest movie, couldn't be more different; however, Claflin's portrayal could use even a sliver of the commitment he demonstrated four years back. The film around him could, too. Here, he plays a floundering novelist who doesn't want to do a very long list of things, so it makes sense that he takes to the part with a dissatisfied attitude that drips with not only unhappiness, but pouting petulance. He's meant to be one of this dire rom-com's romantic leads, however, and he constantly looks like he'd rather be doing anything else.

Author of The Sensible Heart, Claflin's Henry Copper is instantly as dour as his book sounds. It too is a romance, but he's proud of its sexlessness — to the point of boasting about it to bored would-be readers who definitely don't make a purchase afterwards. He's also seen using his novel as a pick-up line early in the movie, and that goes just as badly. In fact, his whole career seems to be a shambles, and the prim-and-proper Brit can't understand why. But he's also surprised when he's told that his latest has become a bestseller in Mexico, and he's hardly thrilled about the whirlwind promotional tour his brassy agent (Lucy Punch, The Prince) swiftly books him on. Upon arrival, where his local translator Maria Rodríguez (My Heart Goes Boom!) doubles as his minder, he's visibly displeased about everything he's asked to do — more so when he  discovers that she's taken the liberty to spice up his work.

Of course, Maria's revisions — a wholesale rewrite that plunges The Sensible Heart into erotic page-turner territory — are the sole reason that Mexican women are lining up at Henry's events to throw themselves at him. And with both his British-based and Mexican agents adamant that his publicity tour must go on, he's forced to grin and bear that truth as they take a road trip across the country. Henry and Maria are a chalk-and-cheese pair in a host of other ways, naturally, but apparently sparks can't help igniting in this contrived scenario. It's telling that BuzzFeed Studios is behind the film, the site earns a mention in the movie and its plot feels like a gif-heavy listicle from the outset. Indeed, based on how slight and stereotypical every aspect of Book of Love proves, writer/director Analeine Cal y Mayor (La Voz de un Sueño) and co-writer David Quantick (Veep) don't appear to have spent much time fleshing anything out beyond that potential starting point.

Tired, not wired: that's the end result, including Book of Love's place in the current literary-focused subgenre of romantic flicks that's also spawned the 50 Shades movies, the After films and fellow forgettable 2022 release The Hating Game. Claflin's patent disinterest is the least of the feature's troubles given that its storyline is nonsensical, there's no sign of chemistry between its leads, the dialogue couldn't be flatter and the travelogue setup has already been overdone. The charismatic Rodríguez certainly deserves better, even if no one else involved inspires the same description solely based on their efforts here. She's stuck playing a character that's been given as much depth and texture as a full stop — the archetype: feisty put-upon single mother with big dreams but crushing responsibilities — but she's also the only part of the movie that feels remotely real.

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OFF THE RAILS

In need of a bland and derivative friends-on-holidays flick that's painted with the broadest of strokes? Keen to dive once more into the pool of movies about pals heading abroad to scatter ashes and simultaneously reflect upon their current lot in life? Fancy yet another supposedly feel-good film that endeavours to wring humour out of culture clashes between English-speaking protagonists and the places they visit? Yearning for more glimpses of thinly written women getting their grooves back and realising what's important on a wild Eurotrip? Call Off the Rails, not that anyone should. Coloured with every cliche that all of the above scenarios always throw up, and also covered from start to finish in schmaltz, it's a travel-themed slog that no one could want to remember. A grab bag of overdone tropes and treacly sentiment, it also doubles as an ode to the songs of Blondie, which fill its soundtrack — but even the vocal stylings of the great Debbie Harry can't breathe vibrancy into this trainwreck.

Alongside its woeful been-there-done-that plot, its lack of personality, its yearning to be the next Mamma Mia! and all those Blondie tracks — the prominence of which makes zero sense given how briefly and haphazardly each song, hits and deeper cuts alike from a lengthy list, are deployed — Off the Rails does have another claim to fame to its name. The British film also marks the last on-screen appearance of Kelly Preston, who passed away in mid-2020; however, it isn't the swansong that any actor would want. Her involvement does give the movie's messages about making the most of one's time, embracing what you love and keeping in touch with the people who matter while you can a bittersweet tone, but not enough to wash away its mix of dullness and overdone mawkishness. Or, to invest depth into what's largely 94 minutes of middle-aged travellers arguing about anything and everything.

Once close, Kate (Jenny Seagrove, Peripheral), Liz (Sally Phillips, Blinded by the Light) and Cassie (Preston, Gotti) now just call on big occasions — and even then, they're barely there for each other. But when fellow pal Anna dies, they reunite at her funeral, and are asked to carry out her final wish by her mother (Belfast's Judi Dench, in a thankless cameo). The task: catching a train across Europe, through Paris to Girona, Barcelona and Palma in Spain, to recreate a backpacking jaunt the four took decades earlier. Specifically, they're headed to La Seu, a cathedral with  stained-glass windows that look particularly spectacular when the sun hits at the right time (the film calls it "god's disco ball"). Anna already bought their Interrail passes, and her 18-year-old daughter Maddie (Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips, Fortitude) decides she'll join the voyage, too.

Amid the bickering, which fills most of debut feature director Jules Williamson's scenes and screenwriter Jordan Waller's dialogue, the usual antics all roll out. Old feuds are unearthed, transport often goes awry every which way it can and the main middle-aged trio cause middle-aged women problems (getting drunk, getting lost, causing a scene in a boutique, delivering a baby and the like). Menopause earns some discussion, romance also springs — which is where the always-welcome but underused Franco Nero, aka cinema's original Django, comes in — and life lessons are ultimately learned. If that sounds tediously stock-standard on paper, it certainly plays out that way in a sunnily shot but always plodding ostensible comedy. Few performances could improve this plight, and Off the Rails' happily one-note efforts can't either, especially when its most interesting character and corresponding portrayal — courtesy of Dormer-Phillips as Maddie — keeps being pushed aside.

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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 November 4, November 11, November 18 and November 25; December 2, December 9December 16 and December 26; January 1, January 6, January 13, January 20 and January 27; February 3, February 10, February 17 and February 24; and March 3.

You can also read our full reviews of a heap of recent movies, such as Eternals, The Many Saints of Newark, Julia, No Time to Die, The Power of the Dog, Tick, Tick... Boom!, Zola, Last Night in Soho, Blue Bayou, The Rescue, Titane, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, Dune, Encanto, The Card Counter, The Lost Leonardo, The French Dispatch, Don't Look Up, Dear Evan Hansen, Spider-Man: No Way Home, The Lost Daughter, The Scary of Sixty-First, West Side Story, Licorice Pizza, The Matrix Resurrections, The Tragedy of Macbeth, The Worst Person in the World, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, House of Gucci, The King's Man, Red Rocket, Scream, The 355, Gold, King Richard, Limbo, Spencer, Nightmare Alley, Belle, Parallel Mothers, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Belfast, Here Out West, Jackass Forever, Benedetta, Drive My Car, Death on the Nile, C'mon C'mon, Flee, Uncharted, Quo Vadis, Aida?, Cyrano, Hive, Studio 666, The Batman and Blind Ambition.

Published on March 10, 2022 by Sarah Ward
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