Five of the best films to see at the cinema this weekend

New this week: Mary Shelley, Whitney plus a reissue of Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter

The original bride of Frankenstein: Elle Fanning in Mary Shelley

The original bride of Frankenstein: Elle Fanning in Mary Shelley

 

MARY SHELLEY ★★★★
Directed by Haifaa al-Mansour. Starring Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth, Bel Powley, Tom Sturridge, Stephen Dillane, Maisie Williams, Joanne Froggatt, Ben Hardy. 12A cert, limited release, 120 min
Biopic of the woman who conceived Frankenstein. Shooting largely in Ireland, Haifaa al-Mansour, the talented Saudi director of Wadjda, has delivered a sumptuous period drama that teases out important issues about gender imbalances in the arts. Fanning, though a martyr to Californian vowels at times of high emotion, has the charisma to convince us that such a young person really could wield genius for the ages. Sadly, the script lacks a bit of energy. DC

WHITNEY ★★★
Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Featuring Whitney Houston. 15A cert, limited release, 120 min

Moving documentary on Whitney Houston by the talented film-maker behind Marley and Touching the Void. The talking heads are all shot in clean, pretty light. The film moves smoothly and chronologically through the life. It ends with a belter from the star. New revelations about sexual abuse add some shock value. For all that, Whitney does feel like a very conventional biographical doc. There is barely a whisper on what made Houston so popular. DC

THE DEER HUNTER ★★★★
Directed by Michael Cimino. Starring Robert De Niro, John Cazale, John Savage, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken. 18 cert, limited release, 183 min

Jane Fonda, in her post-Hanoi Jane heyday, denounced the picture as racist, even though she admitted to not having seen it. Izvestia, the paper of record in the Soviet Union, denounced the film as “an attempt at arousing compassion for the invaders” in which “the aggressors and the victims changed places”. LA Weekly called the film “a criminal violation of the truth” in which “all non-Americans are sweaty, crazy, vicious and debauched”. A handsome, powerful piece of propaganda, nonetheless.  TB

LEAVE NO TRACE ★★★★
Directed by Debra Granik. Starring Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie, Jeff Kober, Dale Dickey. PG cert, limited release, 109 min

Teenager Tom (McKenzie) and her war veteran father, Will (Foster), live off the grid in a public park in Portland, Oregon. This small survivalist family subsides on foraged mushrooms and the money Will makes from selling his PTSD medication to other tent dwellers. They’re technically homeless, but only so they can stay away from “them”. When social services intervene, father and daughter are transferred to a northwestern logging community where Will finds work at a Christmas tree farm while Tom makes friends with a local rabbit-fancier. But settled life is anything but for Will. Granik’s atmospheric follow-up to Winter’s Bone is as thoughtful and well-observed as its predecessor/ Full review/trailer TB

SICARIO 2: SOLDADO ★★★
Directed by Stefano Sollima. Starring Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Catherine Keener, Christopher Heyerdahl, Matthew Modine, Isabela Moner. 15A cert, general release, 122 min

Murderous Mexican drug cartels have nothing on marauding US security forces in a film that could be called Team America: World Police. Trumpian images abound in an overture that begins with Isis terrorists mixing with migrants crossing the Texas border in order to blow up a Kansas superstore – helped by Somali pirates! So the black ops whizzes from the original Sicario (Del Toro and Brolin) are brought back into action. Italian director Sollima specialises in sleek, pacey entertainments (Suburra, Gomorrah) in which the bad guys are the good guys. Though politically we’re in murky territory, Soldado is as exciting as expected, if not nearly as heart-pounding as its predecessor. Full review TB

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