Starring: Matthias Schoenaerts, Marion Cotillard, Armand Verdure
Director: Jacques Audiard (CERT 15, 122 minutes)
The plot: Genius French director Jacques Audiard follows his gritty prison thriller A Prophet with this tough but tender tale of friendship, fatherhood and love. Sexy brute Ali (Schoenaerts) takes his five-year-old son to the south of France, moving into the humble home of his sister and her lorry-driver husband. Finding work as a nightclub bouncer, Ali meets Stephanie (La Vie En Rose Oscar-winner Cotillard), who trains whales at the local aqua park. Dramatic events occur, sending the unlikely pair in surprising directions.
What’s right with it? If you’re a sucker for bruised hunks who have trouble expressing their emotions, you should overlook major flaws in Ali – especially his dire parenting skills – and find a place for him in your heart. Perhaps it’s due to his insensitivity that he fails to see Stephanie’s horrific accident as a big deal – whatever, his blithe acceptance of her altered body is just what she needs to move past her own crippling self-pity. What follows is a story of personal growth that’s all the more exhilarating for seeming so tough and so real. As for young Sam (Verdure), a kid who’s not always first in his dad’s affections, he really tugs the heart-strings.
What’s wrong with it? Adapted from two separate short stories by Canadian writer Craig Davidson, the film is somewhat raggedy in shape. And be warned: this is not one of those French films filled with pretty scenery, people and clothes.
Verdict: With few major movies on offer this week, hopefully audiences will discover this devastating, powerfully human, life-affirming and brilliant film. 5/5 @charlesgant
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (CERT 15, 143 minutes)
The plot: Returning home after WW2, troubled ex-naval dude Freddie (Phoenix) stumbles from one awful situation to another until he randomly falls in with Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), the charismatic head of a peculiar new religion, who sets out to “save” him.
What’s right with it? Like all PT Anderson films (Magnolia, There Will Be Blood), this is beautifully made, superbly acted and bold, and the scenes puncturing the absurdity of the Scientology-style cult are great fun.
What’s wrong with it? Phoenix’s character is, frankly, a bit of a tiresome drunk to spend so much time with, and we’re never sure why Dodd is so obsessed with him.
Verdict: Often extraordinary and mostly gripping, but not quite the masterpiece we’d hoped for. 4/5 @BoydHilton
Starring: Lauren Anne Miller, Ari Graynor, Justin Long
Director: Jamie Travis (CERT 18, 85 minutes)
The plot: Lauren (Miller) loses her job, boyfriend and flat, and is forced to move in with old college frenemy Katie (Graynor). The girls overcome their differences to run a successful sex-phoneline business.
What’s right with it? The girls’ discovery of true love and its many incarnations is all heart, little hanky-panky. Miller (Seth Rogen’s wife and this film’s co-writer) and Graynor have great chemistry and dialogue.
What’s wrong with it? We’ve seen the girls’ gay best-friend role (Long) ad nauseam.
Verdict: Enter with low expectations and be surprised. It won’t win awards, but it will make you laugh and it might make you misty-eyed. Need a tutorial in talking dirty? Step right up. 3/5 Lesley O’Toole