The Ritual (2017)

The Ritual
Director: David Bruckner
Writer: Joe Barton
Based on: Adam Nevill‘s novel
Cast: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton, Paul Reid
Seen on: 3.9.2022

Plot:
After their friend Rob (Paul Reid) is killed during a robbery, Hutch (Robert James-Collier), Luke (Rafe Spall), Phil (Arsher Ali) and Dom (Sam Troughton) go to Sweden together to go on the hiking trip that Rob suggested just before he died. Despite not being very experienced hikers, everything goes well until Dom falls and twists his ankle. They decide to deviate from the original plan and go through the forest instead of around it. But there is something in the forest. Something that is hunting them.

The Ritual starts off well enough when establishing its characters and their situation. But once it would have been time to really dig in to that, it turns to scariness instead and loses its grip on the story and the audience watching.

The film poster showing the central four walking towards a forest, a car wreck next to them.
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Ava (2017)

Ava
Director: Léa Mysius
Writer: Léa Mysius, Paul Guilhaume
Cast: Noée Abita, Laure Calamy, Juan Cano, Tamara Cano
Seen on: 24.5.2022

Plot:
Ava (Noée Abita) has a rare eye condition that makes her go blind bit by bit. She just heard that this will happen sooner than expected, and her summer in the touristy town in which she lives with her mother Maud (Laure Calamy) and a baby sister is suddenly the last she might ever see. In trying to cope with that, Ava makes some very questionable decisions, starting with stealing Juan’s (Juan Cano) dog. Older, pretty and quite possibly criminal Juan intrigues Ava in general, and he becomes her path away from everything.

Ava is a challenging film, often a little surreal and ambiguous in its meaning. Your mileage may vary regarding how much you like it, but it is definitely a film that grabs attention.

The film poster showing Ava (Noée Abita) covered in mud aiming a gun at the viewer.
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Al Berto (2017)

Al Berto
Director: Vicente Alves do Ó
Writer: Vicente Alves do Ó
Cast: Ricardo Teixeira, José Pimentão, Raquel Rocha Vieira, José Leite, Joana Almeida, João Villas-Boas, Gabriela Barros, Ana Vilela da Costa, Duarte Grilo
Part of: Transition International Queer Minority Film Festival
Seen on: 5.2.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Plot:
Al Berto (Ricardo Teixeira) left Portugal some time ago, but after the Carnation Revolution, he dares to return to Sines, where he takes up residence in his family’s now empty estate and utterly commits to the Bohemian lifestyle, surrounded by artists, partying a lot and falling in love with João Maria (José Pimentão). But with or without the revolution, Portugal may not be quite ready for Al Berto’s way of doing things and resentment starts growing.

Al Berto is an interesting biopic that captures the spirit of the time, at least as I imagine it. It does get distracted a little too much by the sex and romance things, though.

The film poster showing a large close-up of Al Berto (Ricardo Teixeira). Below that we see him partying with João Maria (José Pimentão), at the beach with friends and João Maria holding Sara (Raquel Rocha Vieira) naked.
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Cargo (2017)

Cargo
Director: Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke
Writer: Yolanda Ramke
Cast: Martin Freeman, Simone Landers, Susie Porter, Bruce R. Carter, Kris McQuade, Natasha Wanganeen, David Gulpilil, Anthony Hayes, Caren Pistorius
Seen on: 4.12.2021

Content Note: (mention of) rape, (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Andy (Martin Freeman), his wife Kay (Susie Porter) and their baby Rosie are one of the few unaffected survivors of a pandemic that turned most of humanity into zombies. They survived by staying on their houseboat and far away from others. But then the rest of the world catches up to them and Andy finds himself alone with Rosie – and infected. Now he is on a tight deadline. If he doesn’t find somebody to take care of Rosie within 48 hours, she is doomed. In his search, he crosses path with teenager Thoomi (Simone Landers) who is trying to protect her family in her own way.

Cargo is an entertaining zombie movie that sticks more with the drama than with the horror. It does have a couple of pacing issues, but overall it’s a good watch.

The film poster showing Andy (Martin Freeman) walking through the outback with a baby on his back. He is holding a machete and behind him are three zombies in the distance.
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Una mujer fantástica [A Fantastic Woman] (2017)

Una mujer fantástica
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Writer: Sebastián Lelio, Gonzalo Maza
Cast: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Küppenheim, Nicolás Saavedra, Amparo Noguera, Trinidad González, Néstor Cantillana
Seen on: 20.9.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) transmisia

Plot:
Marina (Daniela Vega) and Orlando (Francisco Reyes) have been dating for a while, and despite their considerable age difference, they are very happy. In fact, Marina is just moving in with Orlando. When Orlando suddenly dies, Marina’s world suddenly shatters. On top of her lover dying, she has to also deal with Orlando’s family who can’t accept Marina and the fact that she is trans.

Una mujer fantástica is an intense film about transmisia and the resilience that trans people have to develop in the face of it. Except survival, it has not much space for positivity though.

The film poster showing Marina (Daniela Vega) in a prism of colorful light.
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Little Evil (2017)

Little Evil
Director: Eli Craig
Writer: Eli Craig
Cast: Adam Scott, Evangeline Lilly, Owen Atlas, Bridget Everett, Clancy Brown, Chris D’Elia, Kyle Bornheimer, Donald Faison, Tyler Labine, Brad Williams
Seen on: 27.8.2021

Plot:
Gary (Adam Scott) and Samantha (Evangeline Lilly) just got married and are ready to move in together – and with Samantha’s son Lucas (Owen Atlas), of course. Gary is excited about becoming a stepdad, but Lucas isn’t easily charmed. In fact, the more time Gary spends with him, the more he is convinced that there might be something actually evil about Lucas. Not in some figure-of-speech way, but in a literal antichrist way. But what can Gary do about that?

Little Evil is fine. It’s not awesomely great, but it has some decent laughs and was entertaining enough.

The film poster showing Gary (Adam Scott) and Samantha (Evangeline Lilly) with Lucas (Owen Atlas) standing behind them. Lucas looks creepy, Samantha smiles up at him and Gary looks uncomfortable.
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I Am Not a Witch (2017)

I Am Not a Witch
Director: Rungano Nyoni
Writer: Rungano Nyoni
Cast: Maggie Mulubwa, Henry B.J. Phiri, Nancy Murilo, Margaret Spinella, Nellie Munamonga
Seen on: 20.7.2021

Plot:
Shula (Maggie Mulubwa) is only 8 years old when she is accused of witchcraft. Without any family to stand up for her, it doesn’t take long for her to be found guilty. She is sent to a camp where witches are held as laborers and as tourist attractions. But even as the other witches show her the ropes, local politician Mr Banda (Henry B.J. Phiri) sees potential in a child witch and finds ways to use her outside of the camp as well.

I Am Not a Witch draws a striking pucture of the way (the accusation of) witchcraft is used to control women in an almost documentarian fashion. With a great performance by Mulubwa, it is a fascinating glimpse into a subculture that intrigues.

The film poster showing Shula (Maggie Mulubwa) in front of a colorful, collage-like background.
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Tigermilch [Tiger Milk] (2017)

Tigermilch
Director: Ute Wieland
Writer: Ute Wieland
Based on: Stefanie de Velasco‘s novel
Cast: Flora Thiemann, Emily Kusche, David Ali Rashed, Narges Rashidi, Emil Belton, August Carter, Eva Löbau, Thorsten Merten
Seen on: 14.7.2021

Content Note: racism

Plot:
14-year-old Jameelah (Emily Kusche) and Nini (Flora Thiemann) are best friends, spending every available minute with each other. Now the summer holidays are looming and they both decided to lose their virginity. Jameelah is hoping for Lukas (August Carter) and Nini for Nico (Emil Belton). But another thing is looming over both of them: Jameelah and her mother Noura (Narges Rashidi) are immigrants from Iraq, desperately waiting for their German citizenship. When the two girls become witnesses to a crime, it throws them and their friendship off balance, though.

Tigermilch gets a lot of things right, but it also tries to take on a little too much and doesn’t do everything justice.

The film poster showing Jameelah (Emily Kusche) and Nini (Flora Thiemann) with their arms around each other. Nini is showing her middle finger.
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To the Bone (2017)

To the Bone
Director: Marti Noxon
Writer: Marti Noxon
Cast: Lily Collins, Alex Sharp, Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston, Liana Liberato, Retta, Leslie Bibb, Lili Taylor
Seen on: 7.7.2021

Content Note: eating disorders, ableism

Plot:
Ellen (Lily Collins) has been struggling with anorexia for a while now, but she hasn’t made much headway. Only her sister Kelly (Liana Liberato) and her stepmother Susan (Carrie Preston) seem to have some hope left that Ellen might make it after all. When Susan drags her to yet another doctor, Ellen isn’t particularly interested. But Dr Beckham (Keanu Reeves) takes a more unusual approach and Ellen agrees to another rehab. One last attempt to get her weight up and her eating under control.

To the Bone gets some things very right, others not so much. I enjoyed it for the most part, but it doesn’t develop enough power to really work.

The film poster showing Ellen (Lily Collins) in profile. Her face is a photo, but the rest of her is a pencil sketch.
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I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. (2017)

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore.
Director: Macon Blair
Writer: Macon Blair
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, Devon Graye, David Yow, Jane Levy, Myron Natwick, Gary Anthony Williams, Lee Eddy, Macon Blair, Christine Woods, Robert Longstreet
Seen on: 30.5.2021

Plot:
Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) is a nursing assistant. Meek and quiet, she has a hard time standing up for herself. But when she finds her house robbed one day and the police absolutely unhelpful, she decides to embark on her own investigation. She asks the neighborhood weirdo Tony (Elijah Wood) for help, and they try to figure out who took Ruth’s things.

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. is a quirky film that doesn’t forget that quirkiness isn’t a substitute for actual characterization. It could have profited from a little more tonal consistency, but I did enjoy it for the most part.

The film poster showing Tony (Elijah Wood) and Ruth (Melanie Linskey) standing with very serious looks in front of a garden fence.
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