Six of the best movies to see in the cinema this week

New films released this weekend include Jojo Rabbit, Amanda, and Aquarela

The official trailer for JoJo Rabbit, written and directed by Taika Waititi. Video: FOX Searchlight

 

JOJO RABBIT ★★★★☆
Directed by Taika Waititi. Starring Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen. 12A cert, gen release, 108 min
Set in Germany during the closing days of the second World War, Waititi’s tricky comedy hangs around a deluded young man named Jojo Betzler (Davis). Like many others of his generation, Jojo has swallowed the Nazi ideology whole – so much so that he has taken Hitler as an imaginary friend. Not everything works here (mawkishness is an occasional danger) but we are never in any doubt that Waititi’s sympathies are in the right place. Johansson is strong as the boy’s mum. DC

AMANDA ★★★★☆
Directed by Mikhaël Hers. Starring Vincent Lacoste, Stacy Martin, Isaure Multrier, Greta Scacchi. Lim release, 107 min

Isaure Multrier and Vincent Lacoste in Amanda
Isaure Multrier and Vincent Lacoste in Amanda

The pitch for this thoughtful French drama might make one think, not unreasonably, of such 1980s comedies as Three Men and a Little Lady, in which hapless men struggle to cope with new charges. David (Lacoste) is just such a specimen: an aimless twenty-something Parisian whose life turns upside down when he suddenly becomes the primary caregiver to his young niece (newcomer Multrier). So far, so Instant Family. But the film evolves into a fictionalised and pleasingly unsentimental variation of a traumatic 2015 news story. TB

AQUARELA ★★★★☆
Directed by Viktor Kossakovsky. 12A cert, Triskel, Cork, 89 min

Aquarela
Aquarela

At its most beautiful and serene, Aquarela is the Koyaanisqatsi of water documentaries, an epic tale on the majesty of H2-Whoa (sorry). But as the metallic introductory music (by Finnish violinist Eicca Toppinen) indicates, this is not a tranquil nature documentary, but a warzone in which water is the primary antagonist. The film-makers often improvised locations in order to simulate the water’s POV. That makes for nerve-wrecking viewing; at least the Free Solo crew knew what to expect from El Capitan. Shot in 96 frames-per-second, this is a stunning, thrilling chronicle of nature at its angriest. TB

LITTLE WOMEN ★★★☆☆
Directed by Greta Gerwig. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Bob Odenkirk. PG cert, gen release, 135 min

Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Eliza Scanlen in Little Women
Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Eliza Scanlen in Little Women

Taking this glossy, flighty film on its own over-styled, over-wigged terms, it’s a fun, frolicsome affair. As Amy, the youngest and brattiest March, Pugh makes her character lovable and steals every scene she’s in, even going toe-to-toe with Streep (who brings a riff on her Florence Foster Jenkins). Ronan is a terrific, perennially breathless Jo. Chalamet’s Laurie bounces well off Ronan and Pugh (a blazing break-up row with the former is a highlight) but he fizzles with lesser screen partners. Dern is better than saintly Marmie deserves. Gerwig’s lightly metatextual script cleverly plays with chronology and Louisa May Alcott’s biography in ways that will require close attention from those unfamiliar with the literary source. This is a pleasing fairytale. But we’ve been prouder of our Little Women. Full review/trailer TB

LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT ★★★★☆
Directed by Bi Gan. Starring Tang Wei, Huang Jue. QFT, Belfast; IFI, Dublin, 138 min

Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Long Day’s Journey Into Night

“Anytime I saw her I knew I was in a dream again,” says the enigmatic hero of Bi Gan’s hypnotic, Delphian epic. The words are spoken over a fragmented lightshow and are as much as we can say for certain about this obtuse, spectacular drama. There’s more than a touch of mid-’90s Wong Kar-Wai dreaminess – so much green, so much neon – in the saturated colours and voiceover-driven story. Hongwu Luo is returning to rural Kaili for the funeral of his father. At home, he recalls the death of a childhood friend, Wildcat, and Wan Qiwen, a great lost love. She may be someone “who disappeared”. We’re told she shares her name with a movie star, but she may also be called Kaizhen. And suddenly it’s not that film at all, but a virtuoso imagined reboot of Luo’s past that unfolds as a continuous 59-minute shot. Forget the big brand space opera: here’s the season’s pre-eminent work of event cinema. Full review TB

CITIZEN K ★★★★☆
Directed by Alex Gibney. 15A cert, QFT, Belfast, 128 min

Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Citizen K
Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Citizen K

Gibney’s documentary about post-Soviet Russia is a compelling if disconcerting experience. Mikhail Khodorkovsky recounts several compelling twists of fate as he journeys from Glasnost hustler to oligarch to dissident. Gibney, working with BBC archival footage, thrillingly relates the Wild West capitalism of the Yeltsin years, as predatory nascent capitalists swooped in to buy up the stock vouchers given out to every citizen. This sickening spectacle is made worse by the subject’s gleeful account and his subsequent acquisition of a sizeable chunk of Siberia’s oilfields and a personal fortune of some $15 billion. It’s only when Khodorkovsky challenges Vladimir Putin’s authority that he finds himself convicted of tax evasion, money-laundering, and embezzlement. He insists that the years he spent in prison between 2005 and 2013 have made him a more thoughtful person. The jury is out. Full review TB

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