Four new films to see in cinemas this week

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, EO, Saint Omer, The Whale

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish ★★★★☆

Directed by Joel Crawford. Voices of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek Pinault, Harvey Guillén, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo, John Mulaney, Wagner Moura. PG cert, gen release, 102 min

It’s a pleasant surprise when the film that isn’t quite Shrek 5 turns out to be the best of that sequence. It’s an even bigger surprise to discover that Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is a compelling companion piece to Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory, in which a declining film practitioner (Banderas), ponders his mortality. The nicest-looking animation to emerge from the Dreamworks imprint takes cues from The Treasure of Sierra Madre and spaghetti westerns – notably The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – as Puss takes up with his scorned old flame, Kitty Softpaws (Hayek). Who would have guessed? TB

EO ★★★★☆

Directed by Jerzy Skolimowski. Starring Sandra Drzymalska, Lorenzo Zurzolo, Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Isabelle Huppert. 15A cert, limited release, 88 min

Skolimowski has pondered Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar, which followed the picaresque adventures of a doomed donkey, and set his own beast loose on an odyssey that takes us from a circus in Poland to folk horrors in a haunted forest to encounters with boisterous football supporters to uneasy friendship with a metal-fancying trucker and, most surprising of all, adjacency (no more than that) to Huppert as a grandly agitated contessa. It is a playful film, but one with deeply serious things to say about out treatment of animals and our growing indifference to each other. DC


Saint Omer ★★★★★

Directed by Alice Diop. Starring Kayije Kagame, Guslagie Malanda, Valérie Dréville, Aurélia Petit, Xavier Maly, Robert Canterella, Salimata Kamate, Thomas de Pourquery. 12A cert, gen release, 123 min

In 2016, lauded documentarian Alice Diop attended the trial of Fabienne Kabou, a Senegalese woman who admitted to leaving her daughter to drown on a beach at Saint-Omer near the English Channel. Kabou claimed she was under the influence of sorcery. The director’s fiction debut sticks to the facts but changes the names. Despite the claustrophobic setting, this is an evocative modern retelling of Medea, with detailed notes on femininity, immigration and race. Cinematographer Claire Mathon ensures that the viewer, like Rama (Kagame), cannot look away. Runner up at Venice. Unlucky to miss out on an Oscar nomination. TB

The Whale ★☆☆☆☆

Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Starring Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins, Hong Chau, Samantha Morton, Sathya Sridharan. 16 cert, gen release, 116 min

A 43-stone teacher eats himself to death in Aronofsky’s largely terrible adaptation of a play by Samuel D Hunter. The film deals in the worst, most jaded conventions of bourgeois middle-brow dinner theatre from the 1950s. In moments of introspection, characters actually walk “downstage” to puzzle at an imagined dress circle. And so on. None of that would much matter if the script were not draped in such mawkish sentiment and cheap gotcha reveals. Even Fraser’s delicate mellifluous central performance can’t save a vessel holed beneath the waterline before leaving port. Aronofsky’s worst film. DC

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic