Hao Wu’s documentary is a glimpse into our planet as it changed, filmed in secrecy during the 76-day lockdown in Wuhan, China during the initial outbreak of the coronavirus.
76 Days focuses on the frontline medical workers during the lockdown and their frantic struggle to keep up with a new virus. The film grips you immediately with its opening, as a frontline professional begs to say goodbye to her deceased father whilst other workers hold her back, needing her to remain composed so she can continue to work with them.
The Father is the gripping, heartbreaking debut feature from Florian Zeller about a man’s battle with dementia and the loss of identity. Anthony Hopkins stars in a performance that will surely earn him an Oscar nomination, as both he and the audience are consistently forced to question what is real and what is not.
Framed from the perspective of Anthony (Hopkins) as he struggles with his mental state and refuses to lose his independence, Zeller disorients viewers through repeating conversations, shifting surroundings, and even having multiple characters play the same role. By the time the credits roll, you can piece together what really happened and when – if you aren’t too busy crying / scared of getting dementia yourself, obviously.
J Blakeson’s I Care A Lot is a stylish, gripping thriller that is thoroughly entertaining throughout – pitting a conwoman against her toughest mark yet and letting the audience watch as each side continuously one-ups the other.
Rosamund Pike stars as Marla Grayson, a self-confessed lion amongst the sheep who cons her way into becoming the legal guardian of vulnerable isolated elderly people, helping herself to their estates while she cares for them in corrupt facilities. Her perfect scheme runs into trouble when she aims her sights at the wrong target – Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest). It sounds awfully dark, but I Care A Lot is so, so much fun to watch – it is, at its core, a game of cat and mouse; the tone is kept relatively light despite the subject matter, with fun dialogue, stylish direction, and an incredible wardrobe department.
François Ozon’s Summer of 85 is a French LGBTQ+ coming-of-age movie that chooses to gloss over the ‘coming out’ phase of the characters and instead focus on their relationships themselves, irrespective of sexuality. It’s refreshing to see LGBT features like this, that don’t dwell on the characters orientation – even more refreshing that this feature is set in the 80s and still doesn’t feature excessive homophobia or acceptance issues.
Penguin Bloom is Glendyn Ivin’s dramatization of the surreal true story of Australian Sam Bloom, who was left paralyzed and unable to walk after falling off a balcony during a vacation in Thailand. After her family take in a stray injured magpie that is unable to fly, she learns to adjust to her new disability through caring for the intelligent wild bird. It’s a heartwarming tale, with messages that are a little too on the nose and a script that is a bit too sickly-sweet – but an overall uplifting movie that will most certainly make you want a pet magpie of your own.
Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland is generating a lot of hype right now, having just won the top Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival. It’s a fascinating insight into the nomad lifestyle, and a showcase of Frances McDormand’s talent – the best performance I’ve seen during TIFF so far. Treading the line consistently between bleak and optimistic, loneliness and community, Nomadland kept me engaged and invested throughout, despite not a whole lot actually happening.
If you’ve always been itching to see a Taiwanese political zomromcom with slapstick humour and over-the-top visual effects, well, Get The Hell Out is what you’ve been waiting for. Director I-Fan Wang’s feature debut plays like a heartfelt tribute to director Edgar Wright’s stylish blockbusters (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim) and is a mostly fun watch that occasionally leans too heavily into the silliness.