Fall is a grand time to be a cinephile. Studios release their “important films”; the ones they hope the Oscar voters will remember. There are independent films that have landed distribution deals at film festivals and these gems are making their way to local art-house cinemas. A few films with festival buzz are about to hit a theater near you. Often these films don’t stick around long if they don’t find their audience…so here’s what I’d recommend.
Moonlight: Barry Jenkins has created a film of exceptional power. A slow-burning film essay on growing up poor, black and feeling hopeless…facing bullies, family addiction and a daily trail just to make it to school. Using three different talented young actors, the story feels both personal and universal and there’s not a false note or preachy moment. Great support from Naomie Harris as the mother helpless in her addiction spiral and Janelle Monáe as the mother figure who nurtures the boy. An amazing look at one boy’s arduous journey to manhood. I’d rate this film 4 shots of spiced rum for it’s Florida setting.
Eagle Huntress: We need stories of female empowerment now more than ever, and Otto Bell’s documentary of the first girl to become an eagle hunter in the Mongolian Steppes is both beautiful and exciting. Otto Bell’s note about filming This is a film to take your daughters and sons to and I hope that it gets the wide release it deserves. 4 shots of whiskey to drive away the winter chill.
Lion: A Hollywood film that certainly doesn’t need my endorsement, it’s the amazing true story that makes this film stand out. Directed by Garth Davis and heralded by the Weinstein Company, Lion will have enjoy wide release. Dev Patel is gorgeous in this film even if his character is a moody, restless young man. Nicole Kidman adds considerable warmth as the caring adoptive mother…but it’s the young actor, Sunny Pawar, who steals your heart and the film! As the 5 year old Indian boy who is lost and then rescued into a new life, Saroo is torn from his home and his land. Sunny plays Saroo as a determined young man; full of hope and not looking for pity. I liked that the film doesn’t sugar coat the life of an orphan and the conditions in the orphanage. 4 cups of good Indian tea served with an Aussie biscuit.
My other favorite films: Una, a grueling, mesmerizing film with Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn playing broken individuals trying to regain their lives after an underage affair. L’Avenir, a very French film starring Isabelle Huppert as a woman who’s life is unraveling but she keeps her cool and creates herself anew.