Six of the best films to see in cinemas this weekend

New: Eighth Grade, The Dig, Styxx, Ash Is Purest White, Avengers: Endgame, Donbass

The official trailer for Eighth Grade, written and directed by Bo Burnham. Video: A24

 

EIGHTH GRADE ★★★★★
Directed by Bo Burnham. Starring Elsie Fisher, Emily Robinson, Daniel Zolghadri, Fred Hechinger, Imani Lewis, Luke Prael, Catherine Oliviere, Josh Hamilton
Enormously engaging study of a young girl (Fisher, brilliant) preparing for the jump into the US high school system. There isn’t an enormous amount of plot. Kayla finds herself at a birthday party for one of the cool girls and ends up slinking away in appalled shame. She makes friends with a nice older girl (yes, they do exist in this world) when visiting her new high school. And so on. There is much awkwardness here, but also a great deal of hope and warmth. Essential. 15A cert, gen release, 93 min. Full review DC

THE DIG ★★★★☆
Directed by Andy Tohill, Ryan Tohill. Starring Moe Dunford, Emily Taaffe, Francis Magee, Lorcan Cranitch, Katherine Devlin, Aimee Brett

Moe Dunford: killing in the field

Following a spell in jail for his involvement with the killing of a young woman, Ronan Callahan (Dunford) rides into town to encounter near-complete hostility. Sean McKenna (Cranitch), the victim’s brother, has taken to digging up the bog in search of the still-missing body. This being an Ulster western, the searchers stay in pretty much one place and pursue their hunt through a Sisyphean process that, involving piles of earth, would suit the characters in a Samuel Beckett play. Powerful, rough, odd. 15A cert, gen release, 97 min Full review DC

STYX ★★★★☆
Directed by Wolfgang Fischer. Starring Susanne Wolff, Gedion Oduor Wekesa, Felicity Babao, Alexander Beyer, Inga Birkenfeld

Susanne Wolff adrift

Rike (Susanne Wolff), a German doctor, sets sail alone on a 11-metre yacht. She is headed to Ascension Island, a mid-Atlantic paradise between Africa and Brazil, when she encounters a sinking boatload of desperate African migrants. The medic radios for help and is instructed to keep her distance. But one refugee, a young boy (Gedion Oduor Wekesa), floats over to her vessel in need of medical attention. The moral dilemma at the centre of Styx works both literally and figuratively. Fischer’s second feature is so minimalist it makes All Is Lost look like Waterworld. The film ends unsatisfactorily – because it has to. “I have no answers for you,” Rike tells the boy. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do.” Club, lim release, 94 min. Full review TB

ASH IS PUREST WHITE ★★★★★
Directed by Zhangke Jia. Starring Zhao Tao, Liao Fan, Xiaogang Feng

China, 2001: Qiao (played by the director’s partner and longtime lead Zhao Tao) is a young woman who lives in a shabby coal-mining town where the pit faces closure. Her boyfriend Bin (Liao Fan) is a dashing young jianghu who runs a local seedy nightclub. When Bin’s supremacy is challenged by younger wannabe mobsters, Qiao fires the shots that disperse them and goes down for Bin’s unregistered gun, serving five years in his stead. Their relationship – a series of abandonment – mirrors seismic societal shifts. Zhangke’s longform drama maintains an intriguing relationship with social realism., as the film throws a weird, extraterrestrial curveball before returning to interpersonal pyrotechnics and rich allegory. Club, lim release, 138 min. Full review TB

AVENGERS: ENDGAME ★★★☆☆
Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Starring Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Dave Bautista, Chadwick Boseman, Josh Brolin, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Winston Duke, Karen Gillan, Dana Gurira, Tom Holland, Scarlett Johansson, Brie Larson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Redford, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Rene Russo, Tilda Swinton, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Wong, Laetitia Wright

All your favourite Marvel superheroes are back to raise half the universe from the dead. Avengers: Endgame is the same length as Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev and that director didn’t expect you to sit through the end credits in the hope of seeing Nick Fury. Fair enough. Marvel has been churning out these vehicles since 2008 and even the unconvinced must admit that they are masterpieces in the art of logistics. Everyone gets a crack at the zippy dialogue. Surprises. Twists. (And some tedium.) 12 cert, gen release, 181 min Full review/trailer DC

DONBASS ★★★★☆
Directed by Sergei Loznitsa. Starring Tamara Yatsenko, Liudmila Smorodina, Olesya Zhurakovskaya, Boris Kamorzin, Sergei Russkin, Petro Panchuk

A film-maker of no little ambition, Loznitsa constructs his film in form of 13 equally cynical, comparably despairing vignettes. The unavoidable topic is the conflict between Ukrainian nationalists and Russia’s proxy Donetsk “People’s Republic”. As is the way of anthology films, some segments work more effectively than others. But the desire to spread plague about both houses is maintained with impressive rigour throughout. This remains a very dark comedy that groans under the grim detritus of a still intractable conflict. Club, lim release, 121 min DC

Other ★★★★☆ films out and about: At Eternity’s Gate, Greta, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, The Man Who Wanted to Fly, mid90s, Missing Link, Pet Sematary, Us, The White Crow, Wild Rose

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