‘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%


An unexpectedly gripping documentary, in part due to the significant geopolitical changes in eastern Europe since its making, Navalny is an incredulous tale of Alexei Navalny, popularist leader of the opposition to Vladimir Putin.

With an attempted assassination through poisoning by the Russian goon squad going desperately wrong, Navalny and his entourage eventually find themselves in Berlin. With access to the dark web through investigative journalists including Bulgarian Christo Grozev, the team track responsibility for the poisoning back to the Kremlin and a president who will not publicly even give a name to Navalny. After several months in exile, Navalny returns to Moscow in January 2021 to a potential hero’s welcome. But the authorities step in…

A handsome charmer of a hero, lawyer Navalny is committed to exposing corruption and abuse of power in Russia, resulting in a documentary, directed by Daniel Roher (Once Were Brothers), of bold substance and human touches as his family (wife Yulia and two teenage children) remain supportive and by his side throughout.

Winner of the 2023 Oscar for best documentary.

Rating: 74%

‘American Factory’

With General Motors closing its factory in Moraine, Ohio in 2008, more than a thousand people lost their jobs. A Chinese billionaire purchases the boarded up site some six years later looking to employ a mix of Chinese and Americans working side by side.

A decimated post-industrial Moraine welcomes investment from Fuyao Glass and the employment of locals – so much so it receives incentives from the State. But the honeymoon period is soon over as the culture clashes between Chinese expertise and local expectation create tension. With the skilled Chinese workers bought across from China, six or even seven day weeks are the norm with the assumption that working-class Americans would be the same, putting time with family second to the needs of the company. Health and safety is virtually non-existent, employment unsecured and wages are low.

American Factory is a sobering fly-on-the-wall documentary directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert (9to5: the Story of a Movement, Making Morning Star). With access to workers, management, board meetings (China and Ohio), unions, it provides an insight not only into a US-versus-China story but first hand unravelling of the age-old capital versus labour. Problem is that American Factory is repetitive and, in spite of its scope, feels somewhat minor and parochial. The result is flat and strangely uninvolving.

Winner of the 2020 Oscar for best feature length documentary.

Rating: 54%

‘A Screaming Man’

A tender African tale of family and the immediacy of civil war, A Screaming Man is an unsentimental reflection on consequence.

The downsizing of staff in the resort hotel in N’Djamena, capital of Chad, sees former swimming champion Adam Ousmane (Youssouf Djaoro – Lingui, Dry Season) lose his position as pool attendant to his son, Abdel (Diouc Koma – Gloria Mundi, Yao). As rebel troops move closer to the city, Adam is pressured into contributing to the war effort. 

Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Grigris, Lingui), A Screaming Man is a quiet, nuanced narrative of family life with its subtle portrayal of envy, bitterness and guilt. The result is a sublime and understated contemplation on the small details of life.

Won the Jury Prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Rating: 79%

‘Beach Rats’

An artfully told coming-of-age tale as 17 year old Frankie (Harris Dickinson – Where the Crawdads Sing, The Darkest Minds) hangs out with his mates on the basketball courts, chats up girls – and searches the internet for hookups with older men.

Textural and poetic, Beach Rats is a gentle unfold of a narrative with writer/director Eliza Hittman (Never Rarely Sometimes Always, It Felt Like Love) creating a paean to adolescent innocence and its associated awkwardness. With a docudrama aesthetic, the tension for Frankie and his interaction with mom Donna (Kate Hodge – TV’s She-Wolf of London, One Life to Live) and new girlfriend, Madeline Weinstein (Queen of Glory, TV’s Mare of Easttown) is palpable in his personal sexual self-discovery.

Rating: 69%

‘Reservoir Dogs’

The film that launched Quentin Tarantino onto an unsuspecting world – a bloody, violent crime thriller where a diamond heist goes badly wrong.

Recruited by crime boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney – Prizzi’s Honour, Born to Kill) and unknown to each other, a group of criminals are ambushed by the police, mid-heist. The survivors meet up at the warehouse rendezvous – with Mr Orange (Tim Roth – Bergman Island, Pulp Fiction), having being shot muliple times, slowly bleeding out. Taking a policeman (Kirk Baltz – Dances With Wolves, Natural Born Killers) hostage, the debate centres around one of their own being an informant.

A mesmerising unfolding of snappy dialogue and manic behaviour (motormouth Steve Buscemi – Fargo, Lean On Pete – is truly memorable) within the confines of the warehouse, Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill) unleashes a barrage of brutality amid its machismo in the aftermath of violence.

Rating: 76%

‘I Am Love’

Elegant in its telling of personal and sexual awakening, I Am Love is a painterly yet thrilling brushstroke of a traditional narrative as Emma Recchi (Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer, The French Dispatch) transitions from faithful but repressed wife and mother to passionate lover.

Married into the wealthy Milanese industrialist family, Emma is the perfect host and mother to her three twenty something children. A bored dilettante of sumptuous meals, shopping and lunches out, her main confidant is housekeeper, Ida (Maria Paiato – La pelle dell’orso,  Il testimone invisibile). But life and aspirations change when eldest son, Edoardo (Flavio Parenti – Parlami d’amore, To Rome With Love) introduces friend and potential business partner Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini – Ovosodo, Ora o mai più) to the family.

It’s a grand sweep of a feature with a gorgeously brash and climactic score by John Adams (Run Lola Run, Call Me By Your Name) and directed by Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name, A Bigger Splash).

Nominated for best costume design Oscar in 2011.

Rating: 79%


An unexpected Oscar winning documentary, Icarus is a two hour expose of a major international sports doping scandal initiated by Russia – with more than a hint the final decision of the reach of the program lying with Vladimir Putin.

What began as American documentary filmmaker Bryan Fogel exploring the opportunities of doping to win an amateur cycling race evolved into something considerably bigger through a chance meeting with Grigory Rodchenkov, director of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory. As their friendship grows, Rodchenkov reveals to the filmmaker details of the Russian state-sponsored Olympic doping program. Evolving into something of a thriller with Rodchenkov fearing for his life, the level of deception astounds as world sporting authorities respond to the revelations.

It’s an extraordinary tale with the fate of Rodchenkov balancing on a knife edge. But sadly, Fogel cannot resist looking to upstage the Russian scientist as far as screen time is concerned, resulting in an overlong and repititive Icarus where its impact is seriously diluted.

Winner of the 2018 Oscar for best documentary.

Rating: 67%


Regarded as one of the best films of 2021, Flee is a harrowing tale humanely told through its richly animated visualisation as Afghani refugee Amin unburdens his past.

Having been granted Danish asylum as a teenage boy on the basis of having lost all his family fleeing Kabul, Amin has never revealed the full truth. Having fled the Afghan capital, he and his family initially settled in Moscow. Overstaying their visa, they lived in fear and isolation. With the help of a considerably older brother already living in Stockholm, many attempts to leave failed. Eventually, an alone Amin was able to find a way out. It’s this Amin needs, on the eve of his marriage to Kaspar, to reveal.

Making history in becoming the first film to be nominated for best documentary, best foreign language film and best animation,Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee is powerful yet poetic, visceral yet matter-of-fact.

Nominated for 3 Oscars in 2022.

Rating: 79%

‘And Then We Danced’

Set within the macho world of traditional Georgian dance with its feats of endurance and masculinity, And Then We Danced (directed by Levan Akin – Certain People, The Circle) subverts as Merab (an extraordinary Levan Gelbakhani) finds himself challenged by the arrival of potential rival, Irakli (Bachi Valishvili).

Passionate in its telling with glorious scenes in the rehearsal room, And Then We Danced is a powerful coming-of-age drama. Linked with Mary both personally and as a dance partner for many years and on the brink of joining the National State Dance company, a dormant sexuality is awoken within the extremely likeable Merab, putting his world entirely at risk.

A conventional narrative it may be, set within conservative Georgian society, but the heartwarming tale of And Then We Danced is one of personal rebellion and self identity with Merab finding unexpected support by a member of his family.

Rating: 73%