5 to See: This Weekend

5 to See: This Weekend

This weekend ASFF selects five films from around the world, ranging from Hollywood blockbusters to low-budget indies and Chinese auteur cinema. Themes explored include grief, adolescence, love, loyalty and betrayal – each offering something rich and rewarding on the big screen.

Ash is Purest White (New Wave)

Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke (A Touch of Sin) turns to the gangster genre for his latest exploration of contemporary China. Dealing with the concept of the jianghu – a local underground brotherhood – it follows Qiao (Zhao Tao), a resourceful woman who falls for a good-for-nothing provincial mobster named Guo Bin (Liao Fan). A stylish evocation of this world, with nods to such Hong Kong classics as The Killer, this is no ordinary gangster film but one that fully understands the social and political context of its surroundings.

Avengers: Endgame (Disney)

Marvel’s superhero spectacular comes to a satisfying conclusion in this epic three-hour follow-up to Avengers: Infinity War. Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, with the world left devastated by evil alien tyrant Thanos’ ‘finger-snap’ that wiped out half the population, the remaining Avengers are left to figure out what next. The result is a giant spectacle of a movie, laced with wry humour and more A-List names than have any right to be sharing top billing. It’s a feat of narrative engineering that will leave fans delighted.  

Pond Life (Verve Pictures)

Reminiscent of work by Ken Loach and Shane Meadows, Pond Life marks the feature debut of theatre director Bill Buckhurst. Dealing with adolescence, growing pains and the friendships that bond you in your adolescent years, it follows a group of teens on an estate in Yorkshire during the mid-Nineties. Esme Creed-Miles – daughter to actress Samantha Morton, and recently seen in TV show Hanna – stars, while there’s also a turn from Angus Imrie, of The Archers fame.

Eighth Grade (Sony Pictures)

One of the best movies about growing up made in years, Bo Burnham’s story about a young American girl, Kayla (worthy Golden Globe nominee Elsie Fisher), who is coming to the end of her eighth grade year at school, is an excruciating but superbly observed coming-of-age drama. Set in the era of social media – Kayla frequently posts on YouTube – it’s difficult to watch at times, and parents of young children will doubtless be left worried. But it’s a film with a huge, blossoming heart.

Bel Canto (Vertigo Releasing)

Inspired by a real-life hostage crisis in Peru in 1996, Bel Canto stars Julianne Moore as an opera singer who gets caught up in a siege at an embassy in an unnamed South American country. Dealing with notions of Stockholm Syndrome, it’s a story that wants us to sympathise with the captors as much as the captives. Co-starring an eclectic cast, including Ken Watanabe and Sebastian Koch, it’s directed by Paul Weitz, who adds this to his increasingly curious CV – American Pie, About a Boy and Grandma included.

All films released by 26 April.

James Mottram