From offbeat coming-of-age stories to stirring European cinema, these are the films you should check out this August.
Film of the month: Cold War
To classify Cold War as a mere “drama film” would be such a gross understatement—after all, Paweł Pawlikowski embodies that particular brand of genius that elevates cinema to the realms of cathartic poetry and profound balladry—a gift he shares with the likes of Tarkovsky, Bergman or Haneke. When it comes to these kinds of film, standard terms and brackets simply don’t apply anymore.
Cold War follows the lives of two star-crossed lovers, Zula and Wiktor, over the course of a few decades, spanning several countries. Their story begins in post-war Poland where they first meet; her—a boisterous young singer/dancer, him—an older, collected pianist. Sparks fly, and soon the two artists find themselves desperately in love with each other—an affair they both know is too dangerous to maintain.
Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot, who portray the couple, don’t falter for a split second under the ever-present (often literal) spotlight and deliver stunningly honest, nuanced performances set to the elegantly pristine, theatrical cinematography of Łukasz Zal, Pawlikowski’s frequent collaborator. Top it all off with amazing music, combining rousing Polish folk with romantic Parisian jazz, and you’ve got yourself one knockout of a movie.
Sicilian Ghost Story
Any filmmaker can re-tell a true story. But it takes real talent and skill to take one, and tell it in a way that completely flips it on its head—which is exactly the case with this Italian gem. Based on a tragic story of a boy kidnapped by the Sicilian mafia, this drama manages to tell a brutal, true-crime story in an imaginative language infused with the magic of fairytales, the thrill of first love and the terror of nightmares.
Featuring astounding performances and gorgeous cinematography, it’s a genre-bending tale that’ll linger with you long after the credits roll.
A former US diplomat with a lot of emotional baggage must return to Beirut—a place he promised himself he’d never go back to—to negotiate for the life of a friend. Directed by the man behind the Bourne series, Tony Gilroy, this flashy thriller stars Jon Hamm and Rosamund Pike in the roles that have become their calling cards: him—an assertive, inscrutable man who’s deeply broken on the inside (Hi, Don Draper), her—an icy, highly intelligent, no-nonsense CIA operative who knows how to get what she wants.
Though it at times feels like it’s ticking every single cliché in the book, The Negotiator is a solid genre movie that’s bound to get your pulse racing on numerous occasions.
The Children Act
If there’s one thing you’ll take away from this stately courtroom drama based on an Ian McEwan novel, it’s that Emma Thompson can do no wrong. Here, she plays a whipsmart, widely admired judge dealing with an ethically complex case concerning a gravely ill young man, while her marriage to her increasingly frustrated husband (Stanley Tucci) is slowly falling apart behind the scenes.
Though the narrative will probably have you rolling your eyes time and again (think painfully pretentious characters delivering strings of banalities disguised as dialogue), The Children Act remains a surprisingly watchable movie thanks to Tucci’s sheer charisma and the wonder that is Thompson.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Set in the hostile world of a gay conversion therapy centre, it’s hard to believe how tender, sweet and funny this film is. A clever musing on youth and sexuality, Miseducation tells the story of a teenage girl who, following an incident that shocks her conservative parents, is sent to the centre for “treatment.” Despite the heavy subject matter, the film is charming and light on its feet.
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