Top-notch Aussie drama about Josh Codey (James Frecheville), a young lad caught in the grip of his family, a group of Melbourne criminals under the leadership of matriarch Smurf Codey (magnificently played by Jacki Weaver), a petite blonde grandmother who calls hits on rivals while popping a casserole in the oven. The Codeys are engaged in a war with the cops of the armed robbery division, who are almost as corrupt and violent as the criminals they pursue. Gritty and hard hitting, Animal Kingdom portrays suburban Melbourne as a jungle, and its characters grimly fight to stay alive, fending off enemies from without and betrayal from within. Animal Kingdom will not make you feel good, but it will keep you enthralled.
Las Buenas Hierbas
Family saga from Mexican director Maria Novaro focusing on a mother suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and her grown daughter’s attempts to cope. The director, who first came to prominence in 1989 with the highly praised Lola, eschews melodrama for a richly textured tapestry of modern Mexican life. Novaro has been described as an impressionistic director for her weaving together of sometimes disconnected bits of story to build up a complex and unresolved picture of real life. This makes a perfect fit with the understated musical interludes of guitar and percussion, which enrich the mood without obtruding on the meandering flow of the narrative.
Black Heaven (L’autre monde)
French film by Gilles Marchand that uses an alternate reality video game as its main trope. The setup is promising: A young couple, Gaspard and Marion, find a cellphone at the beach. It rings, they answer, and with that they are drawn into the discovery of the sexy Audrey (Louise Bourgoin), who has apparently tried to commit suicide. This action is somehow related to the online game Black Hole (a darker version of Second Life), and Gaspard opens an account to see if he can discover Audrey’s story. Amazing computer graphics and dark eroticism are not quite enough to save the film from its confused and confusing narrative.
The Ghost Must Be Crazy
Horror comedy out of Malaysia made up of two separate shorts by different directors: The Day Off, a story of the supernatural fears of a bunch of military reservists undergoing training in the jungle by director Boris Boo (巫培雙) and Ghost Bride, a film about the consequences of making Faustian pacts, by TV-host and first-time director Mark Lee (李國煌). The general mood of slapstick and some occasional real scares is similar to the Singapore movie Where Got Ghosts? (嚇到笑), which was released here late last year.
Heartbeats (Les amours imaginaires)
Quebecois director Xavier Dolan, aged just 21, picked up the special youth prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival for his debut feature I Killed My Mother. In this, his second film, Dolan shows he has talent to spare in what can be seen as an homage to cinematic idols Wong Kar-wai (王家衛), Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Bernardo Bertolucci and Pedro Almodovar. Heartbeats is an utterly over-the-top film about a love triangle between three amazingly good-looking people exploring their sexuality and the limits of love. Everything is utterly gorgeous, the emotions utterly superficial, and an undercurrent of sorrow and tragedy runs beneath the surface.