ALISTAIR Harkness casts his eye over the latest cinematic releases.
Your Sister’s Sister (15)
Directed by: Lynn Shelton
Starring: Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass, RosemarIE DeWitt
UNLIKE Friends with Kids, Your Sister’s Sister is an American indie comedy that actually does offer some astute observations on the way sex can impact in confusing ways on a good friendship. That friendship exists between the endearingly shambolic and swoopy haired Jack (Mark Duplass) and the bright, vivacious Iris (Emily Blunt), whose previous relationship with Jack’s recently deceased brother has already complicated a platonic friendship destined for further travails. With Jack still on a bit of a grief-fuelled downward spiral, the film kicks into gear when Iris stages a mock intervention and sends him to stay in her father’s idyllic holiday home, little realising that her older sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) has shacked up there for reasons of her own. Upon arrival, initial misunderstandings swiftly turn into a tequila-tinged, hilariously frantic, and mutually unsatisfying one-night stand as Hannah takes Jack up on a drunken offer of sex. But it’s when Iris turns up unannounced the next day that Humpday director Lynn Shelton’s film starts to reveal itself as an incredibly skilled piece of work, with Jack and Hannah’s attempts to work out how best to confess their shared mistake to Iris leading to lots of wry, knuckle-gnawing tension and skin-crawling laughter.
Lovely Molly (15)
Directed by: Eduardo SÁnchez
Starring: Gretchen Lodge, Johnny Lewis, Alexandra Holden
HAVING helped lay the groundwork for the current boom in found-footage thrillers with his debut effort The Blair Witch Project, director Eduardo Sánchez’s first major film since then (he’s made two straight-to-DVD efforts in between) is an honourable attempt to mix the home movie aesthetic of that subgenre with a more thoughtful and meditative style to tell a tale of possible demonic possession against the backdrop of America’s current financial woes. Newly married and forced to move back to her family home to save money, the titular Molly (newcomer Gretchen Lodge) soon starts falling apart as the weight of her own personal history starts bearing down on her. Haunted by the spectre of an abusive past (her father has only recently died), she fears her mental and physical health is deteriorating, so she begins documenting on video what she’s convinced might be her own possession by a creepy, equine entity. Sanchez uses that footage to punctuate in pleasingly ambiguous ways a more logical narrative in which her young, truck-driving husband tries to make sense of her behaviour, rationalising it as either drug abuse or psychological problems – both of which she’s been treated for before. What follows isn’t big on scares, but it’s a well crafted film that also boasts an intensely committed lead performance from Lodge.
Killer Joe (18)
Directed by: William Friedkin
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Gina Gershon, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Juno Temple
VETERAN director William Friedkin serves up a supreme slice of “rednexploitation” with Killer Joe, an amped-up adaptation of Tracy Letts’s pugnacious play of the same name about twisted family of Texan trailer trash who conspire to kill off the family matriarch to cash in on her life insurance. Too slack-jawed to do the job themselves, they employ the services of “Killer” Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a professional hitman whose day job as a detective makes covering up his tracks more convenient. McConnaughey is something of a revelation here, tapping into a sleazy side that was hinted at in his breakout turn in Dazed & Confused, but subsequently buried as he pursued a lucrative career playing shirtless leading men in worthless romcoms. Backed up by the fearless cast – Emile Hirsch, Gina Gershon, Juno Temple and Thomas Haden Church – all of whom revel in the awfulness of Letts’s characters, MacConnaughey is the coolly amoral centre around which a fired-up Friedkin crafts an increasingly depraved tale of betrayal that transcends the theatrical origins of its source material while refusing to pull its punches.
Where Do We Go Now? (12A)
Directed by: Nadine Labaki
Starring: Nadine Labaki, Layla Hakim, Yvonne Maalouf
LIKE the recent The Source, this Middle Eastern drama mixes whimsy, broad comedy and full-on melodrama to tell a story of women standing up to boorish men to improve their lot in life. Also like The Source its clanging mix of styles and tones make it a frustrating and largely irritating viewing experience. Set in a village in an unnamed country where Muslims and Christians share an uneasy co-existence, it revolves around the flare-up that erupts when news of an external conflict reaches the town, causing the bellicose menfolk to start getting an itch for war again. The women of the town, sick of needless death and destruction, seek to defuse tensions by deploying a raft of kooky plots to distract the men – among them diverting a bus full of Ukrainian dancers into town. Having broken through on the international scene with the dull but well liked Caramel, this is co-writer/director/star Nadine Labaki’s bid for major international arthouse appeal. Alas, while it has certainly been custom-designed to provide plenty of undemanding smiles in an exotic locale, its naïve message and whimsical blend of styles grate rather than elate.
Directed by: Shion Sono
Starring: SHôta Sometani, Fumi Nikaidô, Tetsu Watanabe, Mitsuru Fukikoshi
AUDACIOUSLY set amid the wreckage of the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japanese director Shion Sono’s home country, this manga adaptation serves up a bleak but brilliant post-apocalyptic parable about the contaminated ideals that are having a debilitating effect on the nation’s youth. The latter is represented by 14-year-old Somida (Shôta Sometani), a schoolkid determined to reject the high-achieving ethos his teacher is intent on instilling in him. With little in the way of parental guidance, he’d rather live a life of ordinary simplicity, but this proves harder than he imagines as the violence surrounding him invades his psyche, turning him into a sort of avenging angel, fighting back against the hopelessness that seem to have doomed him from the off. Sono, who made the provocative high school movie Cold Fish, fills the film with shocking moments of sometimes surreal, sometimes graphic violence as Somida’s existential journey reflects a nation that frequently thrives on disaster. All of which sounds like a tough watch, but it’s explosively directed and, at times, touchingly acted, offering small moments of redemption in the form of the relationship that evolves between Somida and the shy girl who loves him unconditionally.