By Roger Costa
A renowned theater artist is diagnosed with a terminal cancer in this heartbreaking drama from director Maria Sødahl. Shortlisted for the 2021 Oscars for Best International Film, it brings an astonishing performance by its leading actress, Andrea Bræin Hovig, multiple awarded for this role (including the Amanda Awards in Norway) and also the always great Stellan Skarsgård as her husband.
As her world starts falling apart due to the tremendously traumatic news, she seeks help in many doctors and counselors in order to prepare for the departure, which involves preparing her children to live on their own. Her friends and collaborators also give her support, demonstrating the human capability of solidarity and compassion.
Subtly addressing the health dangers of smoking and the importance of loyalty among family members and community, Sødahl (who won the coveted Label Europa Award at last year’s Berlin Film Festival) conceives a powerfully raw and honest portrait of family strength and resilience, and the needed courage to face the emotionally frailty of such crisis. Profound and engaging, it is an intense look into a woman’s journey for restoration.
(KimStim. 4/16. Film Forum NYC and Virtual Cinemas.)
Liz has an enigmatic effect over everyone surrounding her, due to her gentle manners, physical attributes and athletic skills. The 15-year-old girl is a promising ski prodigy participating in a highly prestigious camp, where she’s instructed by the impulsive coach, an ex-champion who sees no boundaries or limits for his intense and rigid rules of winning. Venturing through the hallways of the training camp, Lyz is seeking for an identity herself, a motivational push for a romantic experience, especially as she is aware of the effects she causes over everyone: she is the center of attention for both boys and girls.
Betting all his efforts on Liz, the coach focuses his energy on her, developing a close, dangerous and vulnerable attachment. When the teen is accepted to enter a national tournament, circumstances put them even closer, leading to an act of sexual abuse. Selected for last year’s Cannes, Charlène Favier’s directorial debut is a taut, provocative and timely psychological thriller, a relevant #metoo movement drama discussing the associations between sports and sexual harassment.
Wondrously and hauntingly shot with enhanced images of the icy mountains, creating an oddly claustrophobic atmosphere and neon-infused interior lights reflecting the sexual tensions consummating its lonely characters, the director masterly extracts vividly convincing performances from the cast, especially the star-on-the-making Noée Abita (“Ava”, “Geneses”) as Liz and the always fabulous Jérémie Renier as Fred, her instructor.
Deeply involving and suspenseful, it raises the bar for such polemic themes as moral/sexual/social behaviors to be redefined by the system and society with powerful cinematic aesthetic.
(Kino Lorber. Now Playing at Quad Cinemas NYC and On Demand.)
An irreverent take on women’s empowerment, this genuinely funny feminist comedy unites nuns and lingerie factory workers to comment on the inequality of classes and genders. The great Donatella Finocchiaro (“Terraferma”) leads a fantastic cast as the head of designer production who gathers her co-workers to protest the factory’s suspicious closing forcing them out of their jobs. When she visits her aunt at the convent, she has an idea to borrow the factory’s equipment and start manual production with her colleagues.
In the meantime, the nuns are fighting a city inspection targeting to close the convent and build a luxury resort. With the intervention of their Beloved Saint, a mummified devotee-turned-saint, they might be able to pull off an escape and solution for both their troubles.
Utterly charming, affecting and fabulously entertaining, director Samad Zarmandili crafts a and uplifting comedy about the power to overcome economic challenges, the results of honest collaborative work and the importance of humanitarian values. It also subtly addresses the disability condition with a magical or faith-infused intervention all over it.
(Corinth Films. 4/16. Virtual Cinemas and On Demand.)