The Seattle International Film Festival continues. Out of the many films screening during week two, here are the ones we loved.
The Seattle International Film Festival continues this week with a packed slate of screenings running through June 10. Going into the festival’s second week, here are the highlights from movie reviewers Moira Macdonald, Brent McKnight, J.R. Kinnard, Crystal Paul and Shirley Qiu. For more information, see siff.net.
“The Mentalist” star Simon Baker makes his directorial debut with “Breath.” Two young Australian surfers discover freedom on the waves and adopt a mysterious local (Baker) as their guru. He pushes the boys to their limits, physically and emotionally. Think a more thoughtful “Point Break” with less bank robbery — it displays quieter machismo. With elegant surf photography and a confident hand, Baker proves adept behind the camera. Strong performances by Samson Coulter, Ben Spence and Elizabeth Debicki anchor a delicate coming-of-age story that explores masculinity and fear, and, like surfing, is equally about what’s beneath as on the surface. (May 25, Uptown; 8:15 p.m. June 3, Kirkland Performance Center) — Brent McKnight
“Cuban Food Stories” ★★★½
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Brightly hued, scenic shots of Cuba’s landscape and freshly-cooked foods captivate the eye in “Cuban Food Stories,” filmmaker Asori Soto’s journey through the flavors of his homeland. But it’s the people — and their pride and joy in their livelihoods — that tug the heartstrings. Through nine chapters covering multiple regions of the island nation, the film is both an alluring look at Cuba’s rich culinary traditions and a reminder to cherish the things we often take for granted: family, community and a hot meal. After watching the film, you may leave inspired to better know and preserve your own culinary heritage, and the stories it holds. (6:30 p.m. May 27, Uptown; 4 p.m. May 28, AMC Pacific Place; 6:30 p.m. May 31, Shoreline) — Shirley Qiu
“The Guilty” ★★★½
One man sitting in a single location talking on the phone for 85 minutes isn’t usually thrilling, but here’s Danish director Gustav Möller’s minimalist Sundance favorite, “The Guilty,” which basically takes place in a cubicle. A cop assigned to desk duty at an emergency dispatch center laments the lack of action, until he answers a call from a kidnapped woman that creates chaos. Möller squeezes every drop of tension out of the concept, and then finds ways to suck the air from your lungs again. The film veers in unexpected ways and showcases star Jakob Cedergren, who delivers a stratospheric turn. (9:30 p.m. May 25, Uptown) — B.M.
“The Last Suit” ★★★½
Seventy years ago, in the filthy basement of a Polish tenement, Abraham Bursztein promised a dear friend that he would one day return. With dry humor and unflinching candor, director Pablo Solarz shows us exactly why it took Abraham — a Holocaust survivor — 70 years to fulfill his promise. Much like David Lynch’s “The Straight Story,” a broken-down Abraham is forced to accept the kindness of strangers along his journey. In return, this proud Jewish tailor bestows the life wisdom that came at a terrible price. Bring a full box of tissues. (4 p.m. May 25, Egyptian; 6:00 p.m. June 3, Kirkland Performance Center) – J.R. Kinnard
“Love, Gilda” ★★★½
For anyone who grew up watching the birth of “Saturday Night Live,” Gilda Radner was a revelation. She wasn’t an actor or a singer or even a comedienne; she was just a great performer who would do anything to make you laugh. Director Lisa D’Apolito’s new documentary uses Radner’s painfully intimate diaries to illuminate an insecure woman who found the humor in everything… even her terminal illness. While it leaves you craving more details about Radner, “Love, Gilda” is a fascinating glimpse into the 1970s comedy resurgence that (re)shaped the genre for decades. Director Lisa D’Apolito is scheduled to attend both screenings. (7:00 p.m. May 24, Egyptian; 1:30 p.m. May 26, Pacific Place) – J.R.K.
“Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts” ★★★½
After surviving an attack from a group of entitled local men — and making short work of them in the process — recently widowed Marlina sets out on a quest for justice and retribution, a dangling severed head and very pregnant sidekick in tow. In this spare, stunning Indonesian neo-spaghetti western, Marlina discovers that entrenched patriarchal power structures aren’t easy to topple in a world where cops care more about stolen livestock than sexual assault. With a Morricone-inspired score, gorgeous cinematography that screams to be witnessed on a big screen, and bleak humor, this film’s tightly executed, meticulously controlled surface barely contains the seething fury within. (11 a.m. May 28, Pacific Place; 9:15 p.m. June 1, Pacific Place) — B.M.
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post” ★★★★
“What feels like fun is actually the enemy.” That’s what the counselors at God’s Promise rehabilitation camp tell their teenage patients. Here, kids suffering from same-sex attraction “sickness” are cured through the healing power of God. Director Desiree Akhavan finds the humor and honesty along a path marked with self-hatred, fellowship, and, ultimately, acceptance. Chloë Grace Moretz is exquisite as young Cameron Post, sent to God’s Promise for making out with her girlfriend at the big homecoming dance. Delicately observed, without a hint of judgement… even for the true believers. (6:30 p.m. May 25, Uptown; 3:00 p.m. May 26, Uptown) – J.R.K.
“On Chesil Beach” ★★★½
The great Saoirse Ronan, whose delicate voice here contains a universe of pain, turns in another heartbreaker of a performance in Dominic Cooke’s quiet British drama, set in 1962 and based on Ian McEwan’s novel. She’s Florence, a very young newlywed; Billy Howle is Edward, her also very young husband. Their wedding night turns into an excruciating symphony of awkwardness; flashbacks show us, subtly, the overwhelming baggage each of them carries. “It’s a series of questions,” Florence says, describing a piece of music; so, hauntingly, is the film — you wish Billy could just lose himself, as we do, in her eyes. (7 p.m. May 25, Shoreline; 3 p.m. June 2, Uptown) — M.M.
“Supa Modo” ★★★★
I’m glad movie theaters are dark because I ugly-cried my way through all 74 minutes of “Supa Modo.” I straight-up bawled my eyes out. Obsessed with movies and terminally ill, young Jo (a stunning Stycie Waweru) inspires her small, tight-knit Kenyan village to come together to realize her dream of becoming a superhero. Brutal and beautiful, melancholy and joyous, “Supa Modo” is simultaneously crushing and uplifting. With more depth and emotion than some much longer movies, it illustrates the power of film and imagination to unite and heal. As the movie says: “What’s the harm in a little pretending?” (3:30 p.m. May 27, Uptown; 4:30 p.m. June 1, Shoreline) — B.M.
“Three Peaks” ★★★½
Young Tristan is conflicted about his mother’s new boyfriend, Aaron. He’s still loyal to his displaced father, but Aaron is younger and full of playful energy. Over the course of summer vacation in the picturesque Italian Dolomites, Tristan tests Aaron’s dedication in increasingly dangerous ways. Director Drei Zinnen, with an assist from cinematographer Axel Schneppat, manifests the fears of this struggling family in every mountain, snow drift, and dying tree. What begins as a frolic in the sunshine grows progressively darker, until the entire landscape is obscured by an impenetrable fog that threatens to swallow them all. (9:30 p.m. May 29, Uptown) – J.R.K.
“Warrior Women” ★★★½
If the American Indian Movement snakes like a river through sociopolitical activism, surely Madonna Thunder Hawk is steering the ship. Now almost 80 and still raising hell, this modest warrior has galvanized protest movements spanning from Wounded Knee in 1973 to the recent Dakota Access Pipeline standoff. Director Christina King uses Thunder Hawk’s story not only as a lens through which to view the Indigenous rights movement, but as a textbook for all grassroots activism. The film is inspiring and, regrettably, more relevant than ever. The director and Madonna Thunder Hawk are scheduled to attend both Uptown screenings. (6:30 p.m. May 26, Uptown; 1:00 p.m. May 27, Uptown) – J.R.K.
“We the Animals” ★★★½
Adapting Justin Torres’ autobiographical novel, Jerimiah Zagar crafts a haunting, singular coming-of-age story. Three rowdy but close brothers run wild through their working-class town in upstate New York, trying to survive their parents’ explosive relationship — by turns abusive and manically passionate — and stay afloat financially. All the while, Jonah, the youngest, attempts to wrap his head around his burgeoning queer identity. Dreamy and impressionistic, interspersed with fantastic bursts of animation, “We the Animals” plays like a gauzy, mesmerizing, half-remembered experience from childhood. Writer Daniel Kitrosser will attend the May 25 screening. (7 p.m. May 25, Pacific Place; 12:30 p.m. May 26, Uptown) — B.M.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” ★★★½
OK, did you know that Fred Rogers did all the voices of the puppets in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe? Despite growing up with Mr. Rogers’ kindly voice, this revelation kind of blew my mind, in a gentle Mr. Rogers-ish way. Morgan Neville’s warmhearted documentary brings to life the man who helped so many of us through childhood, believing that his role was “to help children through some of the difficult modulations of life.” By the end … no, I wasn’t crying, there was something in my eye. Neville (“20 Feet From Stardom”) will attend both screenings. (6 p.m. May 26, Uptown; 1:30 p.m. May 27, Uptown) — M.M.
“This Is Home”★★★★
“This Is Home” ignites a quiet fury, bringing you abruptly into the daily frustrations and humiliations of four Syrian refugee families. As Donald Trump’s immigration ban is introduced, and an eight-month deadline nears, signifying when these families will lose financial support from the International Rescue Committee, the film’s title becomes a desperate plea. Some family members begin to question their decision to leave Syria, others worry over relatives who can no longer join them in the U.S., and still others miss their home but know they cannot go back. While policies like the immigration ban are becoming normalized, “This Is Home” is a reminder of the human cost our political situation exacts. Alexandra Shiva’s strategic cinematography makes you share every frustration, fear, and moment of hope along with these families. A post-film reception hosted by EPIX and the IRC, with Syrian food from Project Feast, will be held at the Maxwell Hotel on Wednesday at 8 p.m. (6 p.m. May 30, Uptown; 3:30 p.m. May 31, Uptown) – Crystal Paul
Seattle International Film Festival
May 17-June 10 at SIFF Cinema Uptown, SIFF Cinema Egyptian, SIFF Film Center, Pacific Place, Majestic Bay (May 18-23), Ark Lodge (May 18-24), Lincoln Square (May 18-31), Kirkland Performance Center (May 31-June 3), Shoreline Community College (May 25-June 2). Individual tickets are $11 for weekday matinees ($9 SIFF members), $14 evening/weekend shows ($12 SIFF members); various ticket packages available. Box office: 206-324-9996, siff.net or at festival venues.