‘Still the Water’

On the Japanese island of Amami Ōshima, a tattooed body is washed ashore. So begins a tender, Zen-like drama as two teenagers look to find their place with each other and in the wider world.

A suitably morose Kaito (Nijirô Murakami – Isle of Dogs, Natsumi’s Firefly) discovers the unidentified body as he struggles to deal with the separation of his parents. Girlfriend Kyoto (Junko Abe – Remember to Breathe, The Voice of Sin) is also dealing with separation issues as her mother, an island shaman, is approaching death.

Quiet, nuanced, understated, writer/director Naomi Kawase (Sweet Bean, The Mourning Forest) slowly and poetically peals back the poignancy of her coming-of-age story set in a natural world of great coastal beauty.

Rating: 64%


Ultimately highlighting the futility of violence, Omar is a Palestinian pressured to collaborate with Israeli authorities – or face a long jail term.

Scaling the dividing wall that cuts through Jerusalem, Omar (Adam Bakri – Slam, Official Secrets) travels from his place of work to see his family and secretly court Nadia (Leem Lubany – Rock the Kasbah, Saint Judy), the sister of best friend Tarek (Eyad Hourani – The Idol, Vanguard). Arrested for participating in an attack that sees an Israeli soldier killed, Omar is given the choice: inform on Tarek or face a lengthy jail term. Released yet under suspicion as an informer, Omar sets out to prove otherwise, resulting in a twisting game of cat and mouse as the authorities under Agent Rami (Waleed Zuaiter – London Has Fallen, The Angel) close in on him.

Directed by Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now, The Mountain Between Us), Omar’s true motives and alliances remain hidden as he discovers his betrayal by Amjad (Samer Bisharat – TV’s Fauda, The Looming Tower), thus questioning his personal and political motivations. The result is a finely honed, personal dramatic thriller interwoven with a deeply felt love story.

Nominated for the 2014 best foreign language film Oscar.

Rating: 79% 


A metaphorical rite of passage for Australian indigenous 21-year-old Djali (Hunter Page-Lochard), Spear is a creative cinematic dance drama from Stephen Page, artistic director of Bangarra Dance Company.

Steeped in cultural traditions but living in a westernised world, Djali journeys through men’s stories as he symbolically moves from adolescence to manhood, reconciling his identity as an indigenous male in contemporary Australian society. As, shot mostly in shadow, he and his male peers explore through movement distinct issues of adolescence and adulthood, so Aaron Pedersen (High Ground, Mystery Road) provides the only spoken commentary, a litany of concerns and issues facing the aboriginal male.

It’s a beautiful unravelling of dance and movement whether set in studios or the bush where movement is contextualised within its natural setting. Powerful, sublime storytelling complemented by a pitch-perfect soundtrack from the late David Page.

Rating: 72%

‘The Babadook’

Psychological horror in the suburbs of Adelaide as a single mum confronts the fears of her son and the monster contained within their home.

Struggling with the grief of losing her husband in a car accident several years earlier, Amelia (Essie Davis – Nitram, Babyteeth) is exhausted by the demanding Samuel’s (Noah Wiseman) nighttime routines and daytime aggression. As their relationship unravels, so the Babadook increases its presence in their everyday.

A sublime study of psychosis and PTSD as Amelia subconsciously blames Samuel for her husband’s death, The Babadook, with its excellent central performances, is a provocative and scary horror movie directed by Jennifer Kent (The Nightingale) in her feature film debut.

Winner of the 2015 AACTA award for best Australian Film.

Rating: 68%

‘Barking Dogs Never Bite’

The feature debut from South Korean Oscar-winning Bong Joon Ho (Parasite, Okja), Barking Dogs Never Bite is a mordant social satire that is both absurd and visceral.

Driven crazy by the constant yapping of a dog in the housing complex in which he lives, out-of-work academic Yoon-ju (Sung-Jae Lee – Art Museum by the Zoo, Carter) decides to do something about it. Somewhat dopey and controlled by his pregnant wife (the breadwinner in the house), by taking the wrong canine, Yoon-ju sets in motion a series of events that sees a non-too-bright housing estate clerk (Bae Doona – Cloud Atlas, TV’s Sense8) become something of a crusader.

It’s uneven and a little too reliant on slapstick for its comedy, but there’s plenty of early flourishes in evidence to point the way to the classic Parasite. With his trademark deft sense of observation and characters full of contradictions, Barking Dogs Never Bite is a satisfying oddity of a debut feaure.

Rating: 64%


An air of political menace and disorder pervades the early scenes of director Nicolas Roeg’s film debut, resulting in two young children left stranded in the blistering heat of the vast inhospitable Australian outback.

With both still dressed in their school uniforms, teenage Jenny Agutter (The Avengers, The Railway Children) takes responsibility for her younger brother (Luc Roeg). Facing starvation and heat exhaustion, they cross paths with an aboriginal teenager (David Gulpilil – The Tracker, The Proposition) on walkabout – a boy’s ritual in which he must leave his home and learn to survive off the land.

A magical, mystical mood piece, an allegory of the clash of two cultures, Walkabout is adapted from the novel by Donald G. Payne and director Roeg (Don’t Look Now, Insignificance) created a mesmerising, groundbreaking (in its day) narrative highlighting the moral poverty of western values and civilisation.

Rating: 78%

‘Where Is the Friend’s Home?’

With his trademark economy of form, Abbas Kiarostami’s (Taste of Cherry, Through the Olive Trees) gentle, nuanced realism produces a quietly immersive tale of a young boy’s journey to a neighbouring village in rural Iran.

When 8 year-old Ahmed (Babek Ahmed Poor – Through the Olive Trees) mistakenly takes his friend Mohammad’s notebook, he knows he must find a way to return it. Already in trouble at school, Mohammad (Ahmed Ahmed Poor – Through the Olive Trees) will be expelled. Ahmed slips away from his home with only the knowledge that his friend lives somewhere in Poshteh, the next village on the other side of the hill.

A simple premise that pays extraordinary dividends as, concientiously, Ahmed asks his way round Poshteh, determined to deliver the notebook. Exquisite and unobtrusive, poetic yet real, Where Is the Friend’s Home is unforgettable in it’s simplicity.

Rating: 87%

‘Muriel’s Wedding’

A touching, dark comedy from 1994, Muriel’s Wedding is something of an Australian classic and introduced both Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths to the world of film.

Social outcast, ABBA fan and unemployed, Muriel (Toni Collette – The Sixth Sense, Nightmare Alley) dreams of marriage as she drifts through dull, suburban life in Porpoise Spit, Queensland. Dad Bill (Bill Hunter – The Square, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) is a corrupt misogynist local councillor whilst the voiceless mom (Jeanie Drynan – Paperback Hero, Don’s Party) is a drudge to the rest of the layabout family. Escaping to Sydney, Muriel rooms with Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths – Hilary and Jackie, Hacksaw Ridge) and her life changes forever.

It’s light, it’s frothy, a dancing queen of a narrative that delves briefly into poignant, serious moments before writer/director PJ Hogan (My Best Friend’s Wedding, Mental) moves quickly on. Both women prove to be each other’s Waterloo at different points in a crowd-pleaser of a feature as Muriel travels a path of self-awareness and discovery.

Rating: 72%


Spectacular, bloody battle scenes abound as Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon, Dersu Uzala) transposes King Lear to medieval Japan and the world of the Samurai.

Ageing warlord Lord Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai – Kagemusha, Harakiri) divides his kingdom between three sons. But in voicing his scepticism of the plan, the youngest – Saburo (Daisuke Ryû – Kagemusha, Agitator) – is banished. As foreseen by Saburo, his two older brothers conspire to reduce even further the power and reach of their father as well as each other. War and confrontation is an inevitable consequence.

With power a corrupting influence, so the brothers and their courtiers plot and manipulate and Kurosawa’s expressionist vision results in a sweeping visual epic. It’s a glorious feast of storytelling, part battle scene after battle scene, part heavily-stylised Kabuki. It’s a magisterial telling of ‘ran’ (Japanese for chaos) and Shakespeare’s great tragedy of a play.

Nominated for 4 Oscars in 1986 including best director and cinematographer, won 1 for best costume design (Emi Wada).

Rating: 80%

‘The Meg’

Trashy popcorn fodder, The Meg sees things go badly wrong for a group of marine scientists exploring deep into the Marianas Trench. With their submarine stuck on the ocean floor, its disgraced former Naval Captain and down-at-heel Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham – Spy, Transporter) who’s called in to help. But in saving the sub, things get a little more complicated when the seafloor ecosystem is disturbed, allowing a believed-extinct Carcharodon Megalodon, the largest marine predator known to have existed, to rise from the deep.

Derivative, bland and templated, directed by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, While You Were Sleeping), there’s little soul to the narrative as Taylor puts his bad boy reputation behind him to win over the fearless Suyin (Bingbing Li – Resident Evil: Retribution, Snowflower and the Secret Fan), daughter of the head scientist, and save the innocent swimmers of Hainan.

Rating: 38%