SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Mike McCahill

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April 12, 2018
The exceptional French film Custody (★★★★, 12A, 93 mins) opens with a moment of peace and quiet: a county court judge sipping coffee in the dawn before a working day. Savour it, because this is the last respite anybody gets for 90 minutes. The coffee finished, the judge must leave her office and go downstairs
April 12, 2018
The title of German director Valeria Grisebach’s Western (★★★, 12A, 121 mins) sets up certain expectations: big-sky panoramas of the Old Country, adventures in the great outdoors (almost certainly involving horses) and most likely men doing whatever men have traditionally gotta do. Grisebach delivers on some of these elements – a white stallion features prominently
March 15, 2018
You can tell an actor is on a roll when he is cast as Christ and a merciless killer in the course of a single season. After his idiosyncratic Jesus in Mary Magdalene (see review below), Joaquin Phoenix rises again as Joe, the world-weary assassin of You Were Never Really Here (★★, 15, 85 mins),
March 01, 2018
The rapid change the movie business is presently undergoing is such that some believed 2018 might have witnessed the Academy Awards embracing their first transgender acting nominee. The performer in question was Daniela Vega, for the Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman (15 cert, 104 mins,★★★), and that Vega eventually missed out should imply no failure
February 15, 2018
Writer-director Andrey Zvyagintsev has emerged over the past decade as the agonised conscience of Putin’s Russia, uniquely attuned to the state’s hypocrisies and the follies of his fellow man. After a run of critically admired yet underseen dramas – 2003’s The Return, 2007’s The Banishment and 2011’s Elena – Zvyagintsev made a major advance in
January 11, 2018
Mention Churchill to movie execs, and they respond like his namesake nodding dog: “Oh, yes.” As the debate over national identity rages on, it is perhaps inevitable that we should rally round the totemic Briton, and see what wisdom he might still impart to us. Last summer’s Churchill adopted a detailed biographical line; now there’s
November 23, 2017
Suburbicon (★★), 15, 105 mins) entered the autumn release schedule with the hottest roster of talent around – Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, as directed by George Clooney from a Coen brothers script – and it is likely to emerge with the most lukewarm reviews of the year. Clooney’s directorial reputation has been a source
November 23, 2017
Writer-director Eliza Hittman had a minor breakthrough in 2013 with It Felt Like Love, an authentic, confrontational drama about a dreamy teenage girl falling in among a pack of older, macho Brooklyn boys. Hittman, it has become clear, is a film-maker fascinated by adolescence’s trickier aspects: the confusion, the violence and the lust. Her second
September 28, 2017
The Dutch western Brimstone (★, cert 18, 148 mins) prompts many queries – several of the “why am I watching this?” variety – but foremost among them is the question of labelling. If Italy gave us the spaghetti western and Spain the paella western, what do we call a Dutch western? A stroopwafel western? A
September 07, 2017
The American writer-director Dan Bush enjoyed cult success 10 years ago with The Signal, a clever media-studies-age fable about a mysterious transmission that converted suggestible viewers into bloodthirsty killers. It’s just possible he hit upon the idea for his latest while standing in line with that movie’s residual cheques. Why not do a film set
August 31, 2017
One upside of the recent Downton-isation of British cinema and television – lacing up history in pretty bows for easy export – has been the rediscovery of a counter-strain of period horror. The Awakening, The Woman in Black and small-screen scream Penny Dreadful all cut a swathe through Empire’s underbelly, exposing the rot that lurked
August 10, 2017
A Ghost Story (★★★, cert 12A, 92 mins) could well lay claim to being the most quietly transcendental film ever made about the benefits of moving on – but it has a funny way of showing them. That writer-director David Lavery is up to something extraordinary becomes apparent from his hushed prologue, juxtaposing visions of