Ten New Must-Sees You Can Watch on Melbourne's Big Screens Now That Indoor Cinemas Have Reopened
Head to the flicks to watch an eerie Icelandic thriller, a bold take on the western genre and fascinating documentaries about famous figures.
October 29, 2021
If you're a Melbourne movie lover who's been hanging out for a night — or several — staring at the big screen, you've had to take your trips to the flicks in stages. First, when the city's lockdown ended, outdoor cinemas were permitted to reopen. Now, with the next set of eased restrictions kicking in at 6pm on Friday, October 29, indoor picture palaces can get their projectors whirring again as well.
Under stay-at-home restrictions, no one is ever short on things to watch, of course. In fact, you probably feel like you've streamed every movie ever made over by now, including new releases, comedies, music documentaries, Studio Ghibli's animated fare and Nicolas Cage-starring flicks. But, even if you've spent more time than usual over the past 18 months 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 films are hitting indoor cinemas so that you can do just that — and we've picked ten must-see flicks that've only reached big screens from Friday, October 29 that you can now head to.
Just over a decade ago, Noomi Rapace was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, too. After starring in the first film adaptations of Steig Larsson's best-selling Millennium books, the Swedish actor then brought her penchant for simmering ferocity to Alien prequel Prometheus, and to movies as varied as erotic thriller Passion, crime drama The Drop and Australian-shot thriller Angel of Mine. But Lamb might be her best role yet, and best performance. A picture that puts her silent film era-esque features to stunning use, it stares into the soul of a woman not just yearning for her own modest slice of happiness, but willing to do whatever it takes to get it. It also places Rapace opposite a flock of sheep, and has her cradle a baby that straddles both species; however, this Icelandic blend of folk-horror thrills, relationship dramas and even deadpan comedy is as human as it is ovine.
At first, Lamb is all animal. Something rumbles in the movie's misty, mountainside farm setting, spooking the horses. In the sheep barn, where cinematographer Eli Arenson (Hospitality) swaps arresting landscape for a ewe's-eye view, the mood is tense and restless as well. Making his feature debut, filmmaker Valdimar Jóhannsson doesn't overplay his hand early. As entrancing as the movie's visuals prove in all their disquieting stillness, he keeps the film cautious about what's scaring the livestock. But Lamb's expert sound design offers a masterclass in evoking unease from its very first noise, and makes it plain that all that eeriness, anxiety and dripping distress has an unnerving — and tangible — source.
The farm belongs to Rapace's Maria and her partner Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason, A White, White Day), who've thrown themselves into its routines after losing a child. They're a couple that let their taciturn faces do the talking, including with each other, but neither hides their delight when one ewe gives birth to a hybrid they name Ada. Doting and beaming, they take the sheep-child into their home as their own. Its woolly mother stands staring and baa-ing outside their kitchen window, but they're both content in and fiercely protective of their newfound domestic happiness. When Ingvar's ex-pop star brother Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga) arrives unexpectedly, they don't even dream of hiding their new family idyll — even as he's initially shocked and hardly approving.
Enticing, surreal and starkly unsettling all at once, Lamb also benefits from exceptional animal performances — it won the Cannes Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize for Palm Dog, the prestigious event's awards for best canine acting — and its own savvy. It nabbed Un Certain Regard Prize of Originality at Cannes as well, but the movie's shrewdness isn't limited to its standout concept. Each patient shot that roves over the hillside, peeks through the fog, and soaks in the strain and pressure is just as astute. Each rustle, huff and jangle in the film's soundscape proves the same. Every aesthetic decision paints Lamb in unease and uncertainty, in fact, and lets its lingering gaze towards the steely Rapace, affecting Guðnason and their four-legged co-stars unleash an intense and absurdist pastoral symphony of dread and hope, bleakness and sweetness, and terror and love.
Read our full review.
RIDERS OF JUSTICE
Few things will ever be better than seeing Mads Mikkelsen get day drunk and dance around while swigging champagne in an Oscar-winning movie, which is one fantastic film experience that 2021 has already delivered. But the always-watchable actor is equally magnetic and exceptional in Riders of Justice, a revenge-driven comedy that's all about tackling your problems in a different and far less boozy fashion. In both features, he plays the type of man unlikely to express his feelings. Instead of Another Round's mild-mannered teacher who's so comfortably settled into his adult life that his family barely acknowledges he's there, here he's a dedicated solider who's more often away than home. Beneath his close-cropped hair and steely, bristly beard, he's stern, sullen and stoic, not to mention hot-tempered when he does betray what's bubbling inside, and he outwardly expects the same of everyone around him.
Mikkelson excels at transformational performances, however. He's also an exquisite anchor in films that dare to take risks. No matter what part he's playing, the Danish star is gifted at conveying subtlety, too, which is ideal for a character, Markus, who slowly realises that he needs to be more open with his emotions. And, while Mikkelson is usually expertly cast in most entries on his resume — the misfire that is Chaos Walking being one rare outlier — he's especially in his element in this genre-defying, trope-unpacking, constantly complex and unpredictable film. With a name that sounds like one of the many by-the-numbers action flicks Liam Neeson has starred in since Taken, Riders of Justice initially appears as if it'll take its no-nonsense central figure to an obvious place, and yet this ambitious, astute and entertaining movie both does and doesn't.
After a train explosion taints his life with tragedy and leaves him the sole parent to traumatised teenager Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Pagten), Markus returns home from Afghanistan. Talking is her method of coping, or would be if he'd let her; he refuses counselling for them both, and opts not to discuss the incident in general, because clamming up has always been his PTSD-afflicted modus operandi. Then Riders of Justice's writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen (Men & Chicken) and screenwriter Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) send statistician Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas, The Keeper of Lost Causes), his colleague Lennart (Lars Brygmann, The Professor and the Madman) and the computer-savvy Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro, The Kingdom) knocking at the grieving family's door.
They're a trio of stereotypically studious outsiders to his stony-faced military man, but they come uttering a theory. Mathematically, they don't think that the events surrounding the accident add up, so they're convinced it wasn't just a case of pure misfortune — because it's just so unlikely to have occurred otherwise. The nervy Otto, who was on the train with Mathilde and her mother Emma (Anne Birgitte Lind, The Protector), has even started to narrow down possible culprits with his pals. Markus, with his action-not-words mindset, is swiftly eager for retribution, but again, this isn't like most films of its ilk. Narratives about seeking justice often ride the expected rails on autopilot, getting from start to finish on the standard vengeance template's inherent momentum; this attentive and layered gem questions and subverts every usual cliche, convention and motif along the way, including by putting its characters first.
Read our full review.
THE HARDER THEY FALL
Idris Elba. A piercing gaze. One helluva red velvet suit. A film can't coast by on such a combination alone, and The Harder They Fall doesn't try to — but when it splashes that vivid vision across the screen, it's nothing short of magnificent. The moment arrives well into Jeymes Samuel's revisionist western, so plenty of stylishness has already graced its frames before then. Think: Old West saloons in brilliant yellows, greens and blues; the collective strut of a cast that includes Da 5 Bloods' Delroy Lindo and Jonathan Majors, Atlanta's Zazie Beetz and LaKeith Stanfield, and If Beale Street Could Talk Oscar-winner Regina King; and an aesthetic approach that blasts together the cool, the slick and the operatic. Still, Elba and his crimson attire — and the black vest and hat that tops it off — is the exclamation mark capping one flamboyant and vibrant movie.
Imaginative is another appropriate word to describe The Harder They Fall, especially its loose and creative take on American history. Where some features based on the past take a faithful but massaged route — fellow recent release The Last Duel, for example — this one happily recognises what's fact and what's fantasy. Its main players all existed centuries ago, but Samuel and co-screenwriter Boaz Yakin (Now You See Me) meld them into the same narrative. That's an act of complete fiction, as is virtually everything except their names. The feature freely admits this on-screen before proceedings begin, though, and wouldn't dream of hiding from it. Team-up movies aren't rare, whether corralling superheroes or movie monsters, but there's a particular thrill and power to bringing together these fictionalised Black figures in such an ambitious and memorable, smart and suave, and all-round swaggering film.
After proving such a commanding lead in HBO series Lovecraft Country, Majors takes centre stage here, too, as gunslinger Nat Love. First, however, the character is initially introduced as a child (Anthony Naylor Jr, The Mindy Project), watching his parents get murdered by the infamous Rufus Buck (Elba, The Suicide Squad). A quest for revenge ensues — and yes, Nat shares an origin story with Batman. Samuel definitely isn't afraid to get stylised and cartoonish, or melodramatic, or playful for that matter. One of the keys to The Harder They Fall is that it's so many things all at once, and rarely is it any one thing for too long. This is a brash and bold western from its first vividly shot frame till its last, of course, and yet it's also a film about the tragedies that infect families, the violence that infects societies, and the hate, abuse, prejudice, discrimination and bloodshed that can flow from both. It's a romance, too, and it nails its action scenes like it's part of a big blockbuster franchise.
As an adult, Nat still has Rufus in his sights. It'll take a few twists of fate — including a great train robbery to free Rufus en route from one prison to the next — to bring them face to face again. The sequence where the outlaw's righthand woman Trudy (King) and quick-drawing fellow gang member Cherokee Bill (Stanfield) take on the law is sleek heist delight, and the saloon clash with marshal Bass Reeves (Lindo) that gets Nat back on Rufus' trail is just as dextrously handled. Nat also has bar proprietor and his on-again, off-again ex Stagecoach Mary (Beetz) on his side, plus the boastful Beckwourth (RJ Cyler, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), sharp-shooting Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi, Briarpatch) and diminutive Cuffee (Danielle Deadwyler, P-Valley). Everyone gets their moments, and every one of those moments sashays towards a blood-spattered showdown.
Read our full review.
Standing atop Yosemite National Park's El Capitan after scaling it alone and without ropes, harnesses or any other safety equipment, Alex Honnold cut a surprisingly subdued figure. As the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo captured, he was obviously ecstatic, but he isn't the type to leap and scream with excitement. So, he smiled blissfully. He also advised the cameras that he was "so delighted". In the opening moments of new doco The Alpinist, however, he is effusive — as enthusiastic as the no-nonsense climbing superstar gets, that is. In a historical clip, he's asked who he's excited about in his very specific extreme sports world. His answer: "this kid Marc-André Leclerc."
Zipping from the Canadian Rockies to Patagonia, with ample craggy pitstops in-between, The Alpinist tells Leclerc's tale, explaining why someone of Honnold's fame and acclaim sings his praises. Using the Free Solo subject as an entry point is a smart choice by filmmakers Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen — industry veterans themselves, with 2014's Valley Uprising on their shared resume and 2017's The Dawn Wall on Mortimer's — but their climber of focus here would demand attention even without the high-profile endorsement. Indeed, dizzying early shots of him in action almost say all that's needed about his approach to great heights, and his near-preternatural skill in the field. Scaling hard, immovable rock faces is one thing, but Leclerc is seen here clambering up alpine surfaces, conquering glistening yet precarious sheets of ice and snow.
Any shot that features the Canadian twenty-something mountaineering is nothing short of breathtaking. Describing it as 'clambering up' does him a disservice, actually, and downplays The Alpinist's stunning footage as well. Leclerc is just that graceful and intuitive as he reaches higher, seemingly always knowing exactly where to place his hands, feet and axe, all while heading upwards in frighteningly dangerous situations. As Mortimer notes, narrating the documentary and almost-indulgently inserting himself into the story, alpine free soloing is another level of climbing. No shortage of talking-head interviewees also stress this reality. Protective equipment is still absent, but all that ice and snow could melt or fall at any second. In fact, the routes that the obsessive Leclerc finds in his climbs will no longer exist again, and mightn't just moments after he's made his ascent.
Simply charting Leclerc's impressive feats could've been The Alpinist sole remit; Mortimer and Rosen certainly wanted that and, again, the film's hypnotic, vertigo-inducing imagery is just that extraordinary. Some shots peer at the mountains in all their towering glory, letting viewers spot the tiny speck moving amid their majesty in their own time, before zooming in to get a closer look at Leclerc. Other nerve-shattering scenes intimately capture every careful choice, every movement of his limbs and every decision about what to hold on to, inescapably aware that these are sheer life-or-death moments. But The Alpinist isn't the movie its makers initially dreamed of, because Leclerc isn't Honnold or The Dawn Wall's Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson. While affable when posed in front of the camera, he's also silently begrudging, because he'd visibly rather just be doing what he loves in total anonymity instead of talking about it, having it filmed and earning the world's eyes.
Read our full review.
Locking gazes across the room, staring intently with a deep fascination that feels fated, seeing oneself in the sparkle of another's eyes: when these moments happen in a movie, it's typically to fuel the first flushes of romance. When they occur early in Passing, however, it's because former childhood friends Irene (Tessa Thompson, Westworld) and Clare (Ruth Negga, Ad Astra) have spied each other in a swanky Manhattan hotel. The pair peer back and forth, intrigued and attentive. That said, it isn't until Clare approaches Irene — and calls her Reenie, a nickname she hasn't heard in years — that the latter realises who she's been looking at. It's the immaculately styled blonde bob that fools Irene, as it's meant to fool the world. As becomes clear in a politely toned but horrendously blunt conversation with Clare's racist husband John (Alexander Skarsgård, Godzilla vs Kong) shortly afterwards, Irene's long-lost pal has built an entire life and marriage around being seen as white.
Passing's eponymous term comes loaded not just with meaning, but with history; adapted from Nella Larsen's 1929 novel of the same name, it's set in America's Jim Crow era. This introductory scene between Irene and Clare comes layered with multiple sources of tension, too, with Irene only in the hotel because she's decided to flirt with visiting a white establishment. Still, she's shocked by her pal's subterfuge. When she initially spots Clare, the film adopts Irene's perspective — and its frames bristle with a mix of nervousness, uncertainty and familiarity. Irene rediscovers an old friend in a new guise, and also comes face to face with the lengths some are willing to go to in the name of survival and an easier life.
Friendships can be rewarding and challenging, fraught and nourishing, and demanding and essential, including all at once, as Passing repeatedly demonstrates from this point onwards. Irene can't completely move past Clare's choices and can't shake her fears about what'd happen if the vile John ever learned Clare's secret; however, she's also quick to defend her to others — to her doctor husband Brian (André Holland, The Eddy), who swiftly warms to Clare anyway; and to acclaimed white novelist Hugh Wentworth (Bill Camp, News of the World), who's her own entry point into an artier realm. Indeed, in household where talk of lynchings is common dinner conversation, Irene recognises far more in Clare's decision than she'll vocally admit. Almost everyone she knows is pretending to be something else as well, after all, including Irene in her own ways.
Largely confined to Irene and Brian's well-appointed Harlem home and other parties in the neighbourhood — after that first hotel rendezvous, that is — Passing is an economical yet complicated film. It may seem straightforward in charting Irene and Clare's rekindled acquaintance, but it's exacting and precise as it interrogates both societally enforced and self-inflicted pain. Its Black characters live in a world that pushes them aside and worse merely for existing, with its central pair each internalising that reality. Their every careful move reacts to it, in fact, a bleak truth that actor-turned-filmmaker Rebecca Hall (The Night House) never allows to fade. That's one of the reasons she's chosen to shoot this striking directorial debut in elegant, crisp and devastatingly telling monochrome hues: both everything and nothing here is black and white.
Read our full review.
ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN
When Anthony Bourdain strode around the world, and across our screens, in food-meets-travel series A Cook's Tour, No Reservations, The Layover and Parts Unknown, he was as animated as he was acerbic and enigmatic. Beneath his shock of greying hair, the lanky New Yorker was relatable, engaging to a seemingly effortless degree and radiated a larger-than-life air, too. The latter didn't just apply because he was a face on TV, where plenty gets that bigger-than-reality sheen, but because he appeared to truly embrace all that life entailed in that hectic whirlwind of travelling, eating and waxing lyrical about both. Arriving three years after his suicide in 2018, documentary Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain captures that. It's so filled with Bourdain thanks to all that time he'd spent in front of the camera, it'd be near-impossible for it not to. But it also lurks under a shadow due to its now-infamous choice to use artificial intelligence to add dialogue that its subject didn't speak.
Watching the film, there's no way of knowing which words Bourdain merely penned but didn't utter; the technology truly is that seamless. It still resounds as an unnecessary move, though, especially when such lines might've been incorporated in ways that wouldn't sit at stark odds with his visible liveliness. Roadrunner delves behind the facade that Bourdain presented to the world, of course. It notes his death immediately and goes in search of the sorrow and pain that might've led to it, as mulled over by friends such fellow chefs David Chang and Éric Ripert, and artist David Choe; crew members on his shows; and his second wife Ottavia Busia. Still, once you know about the AI, there's a sense of disconnection that echoes through the doco — because it surveys all that Bourdain was, compiles all of this stellar material and still resorted to digital resurrection.
Thankfully, the passion and curiosity that always made Bourdain appear so spirited — yes, so alive, as compared to being vocally recreated by AI after his death — still makes Roadrunner worth watching. That's true for Bourdain fans and newcomers alike, although director Morgan Neville (Oscar-winner 20 Feet From Stardom) doesn't use his two-hour-long film as a birth-to-life primer for the uninitiated. Crucially, as also proved the case with his 2018 Mr Rogers documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor?, Neville jumps through the details of Bourdain's life in a way that also muses on what his success and popularity said about the world. Why he struck such a chord is as essential an ingredient in Roadrunner as how he went from cook to celebrity chef, TV host, best-selling author and travel documentarian.
The footage of Bourdain — from his shows, obviously, as well as from a plethora of TV interviews, behind-the-scenes clips and home videos — is edited together with the same restlessness that the man himself always exuded. You don't spend most of your year travelling if you can be easily pinned down, after all. It's a wise choice on Neville and editors Eileen Meyer (Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution) and Aaron Wickenden's (Feels Good Man) parts, but Neville has long had a knack for making his films feel like his subjects. Talking-head chats are spliced throughout, offering further details and grappling with how Bourdain's story ends; however, Roadrunner is repeatedly at its finest when it's peering at him and showing how his work encouraged us all not just to watch, but to eat, travel, think, talk and live.
Read our full review.
He's been parodied in a Wes Anderson film and mentioned in a Flight of the Conchords song. His red beanie, and those worn by his fellow crew members on his research ship Calypso, are an enduring fashion symbol. He won the second-ever Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or — becoming not only the first filmmaker to receive the prestigious prize for a documentary, but the only one to do so for almost half a century afterwards. When he started making television in the 60s, he turned his underwater-shot docos about the sea into truly must-see TV. He helped create undersea diving as we know it, and he's the most famous oceanographer that's ever lived. He was also one of the early voices who spoke out about climate change and humanity's impact upon the oceans. He's a rockstar in every field he dived into — and he's Jacques Cousteau, obviously.
Becoming Cousteau touches on all of the above — except The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Flight of the Conchords' 'Fou de Fafa', of course — and makes for a a riveting splash into its namesake's life and career. There's just so much to tell, to the point that it frequently feels as if director Liz Garbus (an Oscar-nominee for What Happened, Miss Simone?) could've filled an entire series instead. Her big-screen tribute to Cousteau doesn't suffer from packing so much into its slice of celluloid, however. It simply makes the most of its time, leaving viewers wanting more because they've loved what they've just experienced. Becoming Cousteau is the cinematic equivalent of having a splash, gazing fondly at the sea's blue expanse, or peering deeply at the ocean's underwater wonders, all activities that beg for as much of your attention as possible.
This isn't just an affectionate ode, though, even with ample praise floated Cousteau's way. When Garbus includes vision of wide-eyed children beaming up at her subject with wonder splashed across their faces, you could call it a case of a director telling audiences how they should feel — or signalling how she's looking his way, or both. But she knows that Cousteau's achievements, and the glorious archival footage that comes with it, elicits that reaction anyway. She also doesn't shy away from the thornier aspects of his personal and professional lives, tragedies and struggles among them. This is a film about a man who lived a life like no one else's, especially when he kept plunging beneath the sea, but it's also a movie about a man first and foremost.
That's why Garbus sticks to a familiar biographical documentary format, as tempting as it might've been to take a more playful route. By chronicling Cousteau's existence in a chronological fashion — from naval officer to icon, with help from his own words as read by French actor Vincent Cassel (The World Is Yours) where footage doesn't exist — she emphasises who he becomes as he spends more and more time in, atop and contemplating the ocean. Yes, her title is that straightforward; however, neither the simplicity of Becoming Cousteau's structure nor the descriptiveness of its moniker can sum up this fascinating and thoughtful documentary. There's nothing standard about the way it charts his evolution or examines how he used his fame, either, or about the glorious way it selects, curates and compiles its wealth of clips — or about the movie's transfixing ebb and flow.
THE NIGHT HOUSE
The history of cinema is haunted by oh-so-many movies about oh-so-many ghost-riddled abodes, and the often-troubled and bereaved folks dwelling within them. The first clever move The Night House makes is recognising it's floating into busy spectral waters, then ensuring its tension stems from its living, breathing protagonist as much as the frights and fears she's forced to face. The film's second stellar step: casting Rebecca Hall (Godzilla vs Kong) as that central figure. An always-welcome addition to anything she's in — see also: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Christine and Tales From the Loop in just the past few years — she plays her tormented part here with brooding sorrow, reluctant vulnerability and a sharp, smart edge. She knows that grappling with loss involves being jolted in many different directions, and being subjected to bumps and jumps of the emotional kind, and that it's never easy to surrender to.
Indeed, many of The Night House's surprises come from Hall as Beth, a schoolteacher whose life has been turned upside down by her husband Owen's (Evan Jonigkeit, The Empty Man) unexpected suicide. Clearly normally a no-nonsense type whether she's guiding pupils, dealing with their parents or navigating her personal life, she probes and questions everything that comes her way. As a result, her reactions — including just to herself — are constantly complex, thorny and compelling.
Also among The Night House's savvy moves: understanding that grief really does change everything. Not only has Beth's life lost one of its brightest lights, but everything Owen once illuminated now keeps being cloaked in shadows he's not there to extinguish. Since his passing, she's cycled through the familiar stages of mourning. When she returns to work to her colleagues' astonishment, including her close friend Claire's (Sarah Goldberg, Barry), Beth shocks her co-workers by discussing Owen's suicide note, admitting her home now seems different and obsessing over how much she really knew her husband. That last written missive ties back into one of her past traumas, as well as her own dealings with the end that awaits us all.
When she's alone at night, she's not sure that she can trust what she sees and hears, or tell whether she's awake or dreaming. Filling her time by sorting through Owen's things, she's also unsure what to make of the eerie sketches and books about the occult that sit among his possessions. And, Beth's thrown even further askew when she finds photos of brunette women that could be her doppelgängers; plans for a home just like hers, but mirrored; and a cascade of tidbits that cast her memories of her marriage into disarray. The Night House has a strong sense of terror about the the fact that life doesn't extended forever, and it's a movie made with meticulous horror style as well as smarts. When it comes to plot twists, though, director David Bruckner (The Ritual) and screenwriting duo Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski (Super Dark Times) are alittle less careful about becoming prey to indulgence.
Read our full review.
A FIRE INSIDE
Some colours only exist in nature, as much as paints, dyes and pixels attempt to pretend otherwise. The raging reds, blazing oranges and burning yellows seen in A Fire Inside's bushfire footage are some such hues — and, away from the safety of a cinema screen, no one should ever want to spy these specific searing tones. They're haunting enough as it is to look at in a movie. Taking up entire frames of on-the-ground footage shot during the summer of 2019–20, they're scorching in their brightness and intensity. This documentary about the national natural disaster just two years ago, when swathes of Australia burned for months, deploys those apocalyptic colours and the imagery containing them sparingly, notably; however, even when they only flicker briefly, those shades aren't easily forgotten.
After everything the pandemic has delivered since the beginning of 2020, just as the 'Black Summer' bushfires were cooling, that chapter of history might seem far longer ago than just a couple of years. A Fire Inside is also an act of remembrance, though. Directors Justin Krook (Machine, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead) and Luke Mazzaferro (a producer on Girls Can't Surf and The Meddler) firmly look backwards, pushing these events back to the top of viewers' memories. That said, they also survey the situation since, as the rebuilding effort has been complicated and elongated by COVID-19. This approach also enables them to survey the lingering aftermath, including the homes that still haven't been rebuilt, the people still residing in makeshift setups, and the emotional and mental toll that's set to dwell for much longer still. Accordingly, what could've merely been a record of a catastrophe becomes a portrait of both survival and resilience.
Unsurprisingly, interviews drive this Australian doco, focusing on the afflicted and the volunteers. Folks in each group chat about their experiences, and the lines between them frequently blur. Firefighter Nathan Barnden provides the first and clearest instance; the film's key early subject, he saved seven strangers and retained his own life in an inferno on the very first night that the fires reached New South Wales' far south coast, but also lost his cousin and uncle to the blazes the same evening. Barnden claims Krook and Mazzaferro's attention for multiple reasons, including his initial youthful eagerness to pick up a hose — following his father, who had done the same — as well as his candour about his distress in the months and now years afterwards. Often overlooked in tales of such events, that kind of emotion sears itself onto the screen with unshakeable power, too.
A Fire Inside spends time with others affected, residents and volunteers alike. RFS captain Brendan O'Connor saved his community, alongside his crew, but suffered in his personal life — and his is just one of the film's stories. Krook and Mazzaferro don't loiter on the same kinds of details over and over again, but whether talking to food bank staff, backpackers helping with re-fencing damaged farms or locals who saw everything they belonged succumb to the flames, the duelling sensations of both endurance and loss remain throughout their doco. The mood: careful, caring, sensitive and poignant. This is a movie that conjures up every sentiment expected, but also one that earns every reaction. Heartbreak and hope seesaw, and recognising that back-and-forth ride is one of the film's canny touches.
Read our full review.
THE KILLING OF TWO LOVERS
If you stare at something long enough, you don't just see the obvious. You notice everything, from the details that fail to immediately catch your attention to the way things can change instantly right in front of your eyes. The Killing of Two Lovers is all about this idea, and on two fronts. It puts a fractured marriage before its lens, ensuring its struggles and troubles can't be ignored. It also takes its time to peer at its protagonist, the separated-and-unhappy-about-it David (Clayne Crawford, Rectify), and at all that his new life now entails.
In a sparse small town — with the film shot in Kanosh, Utah — its central figure attempts to adjust to living with his ailing widower father (Bruce Graham, Forty Years From Yesterday). His wife Niki (Sepideh Moafi, The L Word: Generation Q) remains in their home with their four children, as they've agreed while they take a break to work through their problems. David isn't coping, though, a fact that's apparent long before his teenage daughter Jess (Avery Pizzuto, We Fall Down) gets angry because she thinks he isn't fighting hard enough to save their family. He's trying, but as Crawford conveys in a brooding but nervy performance — and as writer/director/editor Robert Machoian (When She Runs) and cinematographer Oscar Ignacio Jiménez (Immanence) can't stop looking at in lengthy and patient takes — he can't quite adapt to the idea of losing everything he knows.
There's an element of Scenes From a Marriage at play here, although The Killing of Two Lovers pre-dates the new remake — and so much of the feeling in this gorgeously shot movie comes from its imagery. When it's hard to look away from such rich and enticing visuals, it's impossible not to spot and soak in everything they depict. Each frame is postcard-perfect, not that those pieces of cardboard ever capture such everyday sights, but wide vistas and the snowy mountains hovering in the background are just the beginning. With its long takes, The Killing of Two Lovers forces its audience to glean the naturalistic lighting that never casts David and Niki's hometown in either a warm glow or grim glower. Repeated images of David alone, especially in his car, also leave a firm impression of a man moving and solo.
And, presenting most of its frames in the 4:3 aspect ratio, the film also possesses an astonishing and telling sense of space. Nothing is bluntly boxed in here, but everyone is trying to roam within the claustrophobic patch of turf they've scratched out. And, within the feature's square-shaped visuals springs an added fountain of intimacy that cuts to the heart of such close relationships, such as when David and the kids all pile into his truck, or during one of David and Niki's car-bound dates.
Read our full review.
Melbourne cinephiles are currently being spoiled for choice — and while we've outlined ten must-see options newly hitting the big screen when indoor cinemas reopen on Friday, October 29, there are plenty more flicks now gracing the city's silver screens.
Also opening in Melbourne cinemas on Friday, October 29 — and also only available to watch in cinemas — are Halloween Kills, Antlers, Ron's Gone Wrong, Respect, Eiffel, Ride the Eagle, Joe Bell and Don't Breathe 2.
And, a number of movies that've been fast-tracked to digital in recent months are also hitting the big screen in Melbourne now that cinemas have reopened. So, you can also head out to see Pig, Free Guy, Annette and Summer of Soul Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).
Plus, after showing on Melbourne's silver screens for short spells before lockdown, Nine Days, Perfumes, Shiva Baby, Some Kind of Heaven, The Sparks Brothers, Fanny Lye Deliver'd, The Toll, Rosa's Wedding, Dating Amber, Three Summers, Little Joe, Black Widow, Jungle Cruise, The Suicide Squad, Space Jam: A New Legacy and In the Heights have returned to cinemas as well.
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