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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 17.Oct.21

A Hero  
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5   MUST must see SEE

A Hero
dir-scr Asghar Farhadi
prd Asghar Farhadi, Alexandre Mallet-Guy
with Amir Jadidi, Sahar Goldust, Mohsen Tanabandeh, Maryam Shahdaei, Alireza Jahandideh, Sarina Farhadi, Fereshteh Sadrorafaii, Ehsan Goodarzi
release UK Oct.21 lff,
US Oct.21 ciff
21/Iran 2h07

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goldust and hadidi
Iranian master Asghar Farhadi continues to take a nuanced approach toward morality with this striking drama about justice. It's a hugely involving story that quickly gets under the skin, then takes a series of twists and turns that challenge perceptions of the characters and situations. In his usual earthy, unflashy style, Farhadi makes bold comments about how difficult it is to do the right thing in an unfair society.
Serving a prison sentence for a debt, Rahim (Jadidi) is on a two-day release when his secret girlfriend Farkhondeh (Goldust) finds a lost handbag containing a number of gold coins. While they could help him pay his harshly unforgiving loan shark Bahram (Tanabandeh), Rahim decides to instead place an ad in the paper to return it to its owner. Seeing a PR opportunity, the prison gets a TV crew to report Rahim's heroic action, and he becomes a local celebrity, feted by a charity. But rumours begin to circle that he made up the story.
Everyone around Rahim gets pulled into these events, including his sister Mali and brother-in-law Hossein (Shahdaei and Jahandideh), who care for his young son, whose stutter increases media interest in the story. But Bahram's harshly unbending attitude, fuelled by his angry daughter (Farhadi), sparks counter-narratives that cause rippling problems for several more people. Farhadi shoots this in a naturalistic way, as relaxed conversations spiral into horrible arguments, with added suspense in Rahim's detective work to track down the mystery woman who claimed the bag.

Performances are openly emotive, making these people easy to identify with as they grapple with the ramifications, threats to their reputations and deeper personal issues. At the centre, the smiley Jadidi is hugely likeable, always trying to do the right thing but getting caught out at every step. We long for him to return to a productive life, but the obstacles are enormous. And everyone around him has his or her own vivid experience within this series of events, played with remarkable authenticity.

The increasingly knotted moral dilemma in the plot is cleverly crafted to continually undermine the idea that it's easy to know who the good guys are. As we learn more about his past and present, we never doubt Rahim, but many people do. So it's clear that, while the concept of mercy is present, few are willing to go there when money is involved. And it's also an unnerving depiction of how, once life takes an unfair turn, very few people will step up to help you get back on track.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 11.Oct.21 lff

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5
dir Fabrice du Welz
prd Jean-Yves Roubin, Cassandre Warnauts
scr Josephine Hopkins, Aurelien Molas, Fabrice du Welz
with Benoit Poelvoorde, Melanie Doutey, Alba Gaia Bellugi, Janaina Halloy, Jackie Berroyer, Catherine Salee, Anael Snoek
release UK Oct.21 lff,
Bel Oct.21 ffg
21/Belgium 1h38

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halloy and poelvoorde
There's quietly gnawing suspense from the opening shots of this Belgian drama, which slides from earthy realism into full-on horror before its time is up. Director Fabrice du Welz creates a superbly queasy atmosphere, drawing us in with likeable characters and hints of mystery long before revealing any secrets. So even if it feels superficial, the film is a skilful merging of revenge fantasy with haunted house nastiness.
In the Belgian countryside, people are buzzing with the news that publishing heiress Jeanne (Doutey) has moved back into her family's chateau with her famed novelist husband Marcel (Poelvoorde) and their preteen daughter Lucie (Halloy). Then the 20-ish Gloria (Bellugi) turns up, recounting her orphan past and offering to help Lucie train her new dog Ulysse. She also lies to get the housemaid (Snoek) sacked, then begins to carefully worm her way into the affections of each member of the family, causing fractures between them. And her main target seems to be Marcel.
Details are deliberately blurred in the script, which adds intrigue to each scene, forcing the audience to lean in to discover motivations and reactions. Clues eventually emerge, and they aren't as outrageous as perhaps we thought they'd be, but by then the story has twisted into something properly nightmarish, and du Welz has a great time layering in grisly insinuation about where things might be headed, then pivoting in even darker directions. So the events are far more involving than the narrative turns out to be.

Performances are relaxed and naturalistic, revealing the connections between this loving family in contrast to this enigmatic interloper. Poelvoorde gives Marcel an easy demeanour, loving with his wife and daughter then increasingly freaked out by Gloria and what she represents. Doutey navigates a delicate balance as the successful publisher who has a happy life but is aware of potential dangers that lurk everywhere. This makes her more vulnerable to Gloria's manipulations, and Bellugi adeptly evolves from mildly suspicious into a proper bunny-boiler by the end.

Yes, there are echoes of quite a few classic thrillers woven in here, including a smattering of Hitchcock references, and the message is the usual: your past will find you out, paired with the idea that seeking revenge is likely to destroy you too. Nothing new or particularly deep there, but du Welz assembles it skilfully to create a churning unease in the pit of the stomach, with some gleefully gruesome touches along the way that will keep genre fans delighted.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 12.Oct.21 lff

Money Has Four Legs  
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
Money Has Four Legs
dir Maung Sun
prd Ma Aeint
scr Ma Aeint, Maung Sun
with Okkar (Dat Khe), Ko Thu, Khin Khin Hsu, Hein Thiri San, Phay Thadi, Hane Latt, Mie, Yarzar Yaung Ni, Kyaw Zeya, Khin Hlwan, Aye Min Hein, Lone Lone Kavan, Htet Myat Myat Htay
release US Aug.21 nyff,
UK Oct.21 lff
20/Myanmar 1h38

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Not only is this a rare film out of Myanmar, it's also a knowing comedy about Myanmar's movie industry. With a low-key pace, it gently pokes fun at the absurdities of filmmaking in general, but also specific issues in nations with their own challenges. And the earthy, realistic approach takes the audience into the messy life of a young filmmaker battling obstacles to make his first real movie.
As he starts shooting, Wai Bhone (Okkar) relies on help from family and friends, while his producer wants to cut the budget, and his drunken brother-in-law Zaw Myint (Thu) wants a role. And Wai Bhone's home life with wife Seazir (Hsu) and their young daughter is also under stress due to a lack of money. Then his expensive camera is broken while shooting an action sequence. Zaw Myint suggests robbing a bank to pay for the repairs, and this isn't exactly a best-laid plan. So saving his movie will take even more extreme action.
Cleverly, the story opens with a censor (Latt) removing all smoking, drinking, swearing and sex from the script, then changing the ending to be more pro-police, offering a preview of what's to come. Meanwhile, Wai Bhone and Seazir's landlady shows their flat to potential tenants as a threat if they don't pay increased rent. The short scenes are only loosely connected, and the shooting and editing style might challenge audiences accustomed to Western moviemaking. But it's a refreshing blast for those seeking something new.

Natural performances add a documentary tone. Okkar has a likably easy-going demeanour as Wai Bhone, knowing exactly what he wants, even though he backs down in clashes with his producer, cinematographer and actors. His greatest friend and foe is Zaw Myint, played by Thu as an endearing loser. And Hsu brings a steely energy to her role as Wai Bhone's patient wife, just trying to hold the family together and sick of his corny cliche excuses.

The film is a witty satire about everyday distractions and obstructions in both normal life and artistic ambition. It highlights the tenacity required not just to survive but to achieve big dreams. So when officials and businesses are corrupt, how are you expected to survive while keeping your hands clean? Filmmakers Sun and Aeint cleverly circle around these issues, playfully touching on the nature of art and storytelling traditions, while Wai Bhone maintains hope for his own happy ending.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 15.Oct.21

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