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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 26.May.20

Citizens of the World   Cittadini del Mondo
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5
Citizens of the World
dir Gianni Di Gregorio
prd Angelo Barbagallo
scr Marco Pettenello, Gianni Di Gregorio
with Ennio Fantastichini, Giorgio Colangeli, Gianni Di Gregorio, Daphne Scoccia, Salih Saadin Khalid, Galatea Ranzi, Roberto Herlitzka, Iris Peynado, Francesca Ventura, Silvia Gallerano, Riccardo Ciancarelli, Michelangelo Ciminale
release It 20.Feb.20,
UK 12.Jun.20
19/Italy 1h32

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fantastichini, colangeli and di gregorio
Set in an earthy corner of Rome, this gentle comedy casually explores real issues through the eyes of wonderfully engaging characters. Actor-filmmaker Gianni Di Gregorio takes the same relaxed, doc-style approach as his 2008 gem Mid-August Lunch, keeping the tone light while this time touching meaningfully on the economic plight of retirees. And it's easy to identify with the feeling that money is what limits our possibilities.
On meagre pensions as they turn 70, Giorgetto (Colangeli) and his friend the Professor (Di Gregorio) spend their days drinking beer in cafes, watching women and moaning about the state of society. Deciding to move to someplace where their cash goes further, they consult the well-travelled Attilio (Fantastichini), a lively free spirit who decides to join them. The big question is where to go, and the more they try to plan, the more complicated this gets. And as things finally come together, each of them secretly finds a reason to stay where they are.
Along the way they meet a geography expert (Herlitzka) who discusses variables like spending power, weather, natural disasters, taxation and social issues from ageism to human rights. And he narrows the options to Cuba, Bali, Bulgaria and the Azores. Although his own idea of paradise is when his wife is out and he can have a drink. Meanwhile, Giorgetto needs a passport, Attilio hates selling off his precious souvenirs, and the Professor's savings are a victim of low interest rates.

The script takes these things in stride, building a bigger picture of men who are past their prime but still have a lot of life in them. It's thoroughly engaging to eavesdrop as they talk in circles. Each has his own challenges and interests, which the actors bring out with sensitivity and subtlety, plus terrific comical timing. And in scenes with other family and friends, their personalities come into remarkably sharp focus. So while their journey is predictable, there are some lovely surprises.

The film's understated approach is disarming, taking on serious themes without becoming strident. These men want a better life, failing to notice how good they have it. They're not actually poor, for example, as Attilio's daughter (Scoccia) scolds him. Perhaps issues of culture and history are more important than they thought they were. And a contrasting subplot about a migrant from Mali (Khalid) who borrows Giorgetto's shower offers both a low-key counterpoint and timely perspective. And the final shot is genius.

cert 18 themes, language 8.Jun.20

I’m No Longer Here  Ya no Estoy Aquí
Review by Rich Cline | 4.5/5     MUST must see SEE
I'm No Longer Here
dir-scr Fernando Frias de la Parra
prd Alberto Muffelmann, Gerry Kim, Fernando Frias de la Parra, Gerardo Gatica
with Juan Daniel Garcia, Coral Puente, Leo Zapata, Angelina Chen, Jonathan Espinoza, Yahir Alday, Fanny Tovar, Leonardo Garza, Tania Alvarado, Yocelin Coronado, Adriana Arbelaes, Chung Tak Cheung
release Mex Oct.19 miff,
US/UK 27.May.20
19/Mexico Netflix 1h52

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puente and garcia
With doc-style realism, filmmaker Fernando Frias de la Parra vividly captures the look and rhythms of life in both Mexico and New York. Damian Garcia's expert cinematography and the fierce attitudes of the characters insistently pull us into a story that ripples with earthy humour and emotion. It's not always an easy story to watch, but it's infused with a compelling sense of humanity that's provocative, moving and urgent.
In Monterrey, 17-year-old Ulises (Garcia) is leader of the proudly stubborn Terkos. They're part of the Kolombia counterculture movement, known for its slowed-down cumbia beat. After a misunderstanding with a murderous local gang, Ulises is forced to flee north to live with relatives in Queens. But he misses home, and he can't take the everyday teasing he gets from his construction coworkers. Hiding out on a rooftop, he befriends curious 16-year-old Lin (Chen), even though neither speaks the other's language. And as things get increasingly tough, he continues to dream of his home.
With his distinctive hair and baggy clothes, Ulises' style can't help but attract attention, even in New York. And his personality is magnetic, with an unassuming leadership style, knowing observations and warm sense of humour. The film flickers between the days leading up to his exile and his attempts to make a new life in Queens, drawing intriguing parallels. The imagery is gorgeous, as the Terkos hang out high above Monterrey. And New York is just as picturesque.

Garcia has effortless charisma, holding the screen as people are naturally drawn to him, especially when the cumbia is flowing through his entire body. But his strong will alienates strangers, and Garcia beautifully conveys his loneliness. The film stays focussed closely on him, with the other much smaller characters swirling around him to add insight and sometimes connect with him in unexpected ways. Everyone in the cast is equally authentic.

Frias' filmmaking is bracingly alive, packed with fascinating characters and honest interaction as Ulises navigates both his youthful band of friends and multicultural New York. The story's political edge is powerful, as these marginalised young people struggle to assert their identity, seeing authority as intrusive and unjust. In the final act, the narrative slows down and turns inward, and a simmering sadness offers an even more vital thematic kick. The resonant question for Ulises is whether he can truly go home again.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 20.May.20

Only the Animals   Seules les Bêtes
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5
Only the Animals
dir Dominik Moll
scr Dominik Moll, Gilles Marchand
prd Caroline Benjo, Carole Scotta, Barbara Letellier, Simon Arnal
with Denis Menochet, Laure Calamy, Damien Bonnard, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Nadia Tereszkiewicz, Guy Roger 'Bibisse' N'Drin, Bastien Bouillon, Marie Victoire Amie, Christian Ezan, Jenny Bellay, Fred Ulysse, Roland Plantin
release Fr 4.Dec.19,
UK 29.May.20
19/France 1h57


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calamy and menochet
Revealing a mystery out of sequence, director-cowriter Dominik Moll skilfully holds the audience in his grip. Like a whodunit, the plot circles around five interconnected people. But the question of why is just as important as whodunit. There are some story elements that feel a little out of balance, but each aspect of the narrative is compelling and involving. And it's thrilling to see it all come together.
In rural France during a snowstorm, an abandoned car is found on the road, its owner Evelyne (Tedeschi) missing. With no clues, local cop Cedric (Bouillon) speaks to the disturbed sheep farmer Joseph (Bonnard) nearby. His health worker Alice (Calamy) is having an affair with him, unbeknownst to her monosyllabic husband Michel (Menochet), who also vanishes. Meanwhile, waitress Marion (Tereszkiewicz) isn't telling the cops that she was in love with Evelyne, who only thought of her as a fling. And in Africa, lovelorn Armand (N'Drin) is working a catfishing scam that hooks Michel.
Each of these five people is concealing something, and the nonlinear narrative unfolds in chapters that add details from their perspectives, often including shocking moments that twist the story further. Based on a Colin Neil novel, the plot and characters are wonderfully textured, dense with quirks and and themes. These people don't know how much they have in common, including how they rely on faithful dogs, unwitting clients or awkward partners, dealing with their distinct loneliness in a variety of ways.

Each character in the story makes terrible decisions for sympathetic reasons. Menochet brings his usual hangdog intensity to Michel, in contrast to how Calamy plays Alice's remarkably open-hearted approach to life. Bonnard has a haunted quality as the unnervingly awkward Joseph. N'Drin gives Armand a quick-thinking intelligence that's compromised by his personal desires. And Tereszkiewicz is superb as the tenacious stalker who thoroughly unnerves Tedeschi's strong-willed Evelyne. Their scenes pack the strongest emotional kick.

While the plot hinges on a rather enormous coincidence, it's still a ripping thriller as well as a provocative exploration of how badly we all need to feel needed, and how easily this yearning can warp our sense of reality. The deeper idea is an exploration of the difference between loving and having fun. As Armand's shaman Papa Sanou (Ezan) says, "Love means giving what you don't have." All of which adds depth and meaning to a fiendishly clever dramatic puzzle.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 25.May.20

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