5 to See: This Weekend

ASFF selects five films set for release in UK cinemas this Friday. A mixture of features and documentaries, hailing from Japan, England, Ireland, Kenya and France, the directors tackle a wide range of subjects ranging from the War on Terror and elephant poaching to the value of first love and friendship.

Mia Goth (left) as “Harriet Smith” and Anya Taylor-Joy (right) as “Emma Woodhouse” in director Autumn de Wilde’s EMMA, a Focus Features release. Credit : Focus Features

Emma (Universal)

Autumn de Wilde makes her feature debut with this sparkling Jane Austen adaptation, starring Anya Taylor-Joy as the titular heroine. Nailing the undercurrent of Austen wit that flows through the story, de Wilde and her team also craft an exquisite-looking film, a vibrant primary-coloured evocation of Regency-era England. Featuring a cast including Johnny Flynn and Mia Goth, who add real substance to the lustrous surface, it’s the equivalent of biting into a delicious Fondant Fancy and finding a sharp centre underneath.

A Paris Education (New Wave)

The sort of movie the French do best, writer-director Jean-Paul Civeyrac’s tale follows a young man, Étienne (Andranic Manet), who leaves his girlfriend and his hometown of Lyon to enrol in a Paris film school. Here, his eduction really does begin, as he meets fellow students that he begins to grapple with intellectually, talking about Bach, Baudelaire and Marlen Khutsiev. Naturally, a woman enters the frame, a political activist named Annabelle (Sophie Verbeeck), and that changes everything as he seeks to establish his own identity.

First Love (Signature Entertainment)

Don’t be fooled by the title. Japanese maverick Takashi Miike has not started making romantic comedies. The director of such jaw-droppers as Audition, Ichi the Killer and 13 Assassins is back with a gore-filled tale built around the story of a nascent couple – a boxer (Masataka Kubota) and a call girl Sakurako Konishi) – caught up in a drug-smuggling caper, as they’re pursued by cops, the yakuza and a female assassin. As is always the case with Miike movies, prepare yourself for some unadulterated carnage.

Still from First Love.

When Lambs Become Lions (Dogwoof)

American documentary filmmaker Jon Kasbe, who won an Emmy for his 2013 short Heartbeats of Fiji, turns his attention to wildlife poaching in Kenya. Specifically, the focus lands on a small-time ivory trader – dubbed ‘X’ – who engages in the risky and ethically outrageous profession to provide for his family, along with his assistant Lukas who kills the elephants with poison-tripped arrows. Also adding to the intrigue is the poacher’s wildlife ranger cousin Asan, who hasn’t been paid in months.

Jihad Jane (Wildcard Distribution)

The War on Terror is the driving force in Ciaran Cassidy’s documentary that follows the arc of white female American jihadi Colleen LaRose, better known as ‘Jihad Jane’. Hers is a curious tale, of a woman from a poor background who ultimately wound up in prison after half-baked plots and online pronouncements led her down a dark path. Testimonies with her and ‘Jihad Jamie’, another American woman looking to enforce a fatwah on a Swedish artist, are illuminating.

All films released on 14 February.

James Mottram

Featured Image: Still from When Lambs Become Lions.