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Le Refuge

Director: François Ozon
Cast: Isabelle Carré, Louis-Ronan Choisy, Pierre Louis-Calixte, Melvil Poupaud
Le Refuge

Despite winning the Best Film Prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 2009, François Ozon’s Le Refuge didn’t achieve the kind of international success that greeted some of the director’s other, flashier movies (8 Women, Swimming Pool). The cinematic equivalent of a perfectly constructed short story, Le Refuge is a low-key drama that traces the growing intimacy between a pregnant junkie (Isabelle Carré) and her dead lover’s brother (Louis Ronan-Choisy) during one summer. It’s a tender, sympathetic piece of work with a wonderful attention to atmosphere and emotional nuance, that builds to an unexpected, controversial—yet entirely appropriate—conclusion. Ultimately, it’s the movie itself that’s the refuge, inviting the viewer into a quiet, contemplative space in which to observe these two characters, their problems and their interaction, without judgment. You may find that you leave the film thinking about your own life, your dilemmas and decisions, what to embrace, what to renounce. Alex Ramon



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The Secret in Their Eyes

Director: Juan José Campanella
Cast: Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Guillermo Francella, Pablo Rago, Javier Godino
The Secret in Their Eyes

The Secret in Their Eyes lingers on themes of police corruption, grief, the often astounding injustice of the justice system, and love lost. Hitchcockian tension, a breathtaking chase, and ambiguous victims and villains seamlessly coexist alongside existential musing on how to handle what life throws at you and, ultimately, what makes it worth living in the first place. Benjamin’s urge to write a book will not only keep him busy but also, he hopes, fill a gaping hole or two he’s been unable to forget. It’s personal, yes, but also a side effect of his relationship with the victim’s husband (Pablo Rago), whose daily dedication to finding his wife’s murderer shows Benjamin a purity of love he’d never seen or felt. This being a thriller, there is a bit of vagueness in the last chapters about who in fact killed the Buenos Aires woman. Another small knock on the film is its bright ending, which feels tacked-on. But it does reinforce the story’s strongest message of not dwelling on what has already happened. For if you do, as one character eloquently tells Benjamin, “You’ll have a thousand pasts and no future.” Tricia Olszewski



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Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

Director: Mat Whitecross
Cast: Andy Serkis, Naomie Harris, Ray Winstone, Olivia Williams, Noel Clarke, Toby Jones
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

Even his friends admit that Ian Dury was a bit of an asshole. After a childhood bout with polio left him disabled and bitter, he channeled that rage into a minor music career. When punk came about, he turned UK musical hall and Benny Hill like humor into a winning combination. Along with main collaborator Chaz Jankel, he turned Ian Dury and the Blockheads into a British household name. As played by Andy Serkis in this winning biopic, our angry anti-hero is a bad example, a bad parent, a bad bandmate, and a rather bad person overall. As we watch his erratic influence undermine his highly suggestive son Baxter, it ‘s clear that the title to this film is also the reason for its subject success—and failure. Bill Gibron



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Director: Sophia Coppola
Cast: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Michelle Monaghan, Chris Pontius, Simona Ventura

Like the best fashion campaigns, Sofia Coppola’s film works very hard to sell its product while also just about convincing you that it might actually have some substance threaded in under the wispy, tissue-paper surface. Like the best works of art, it creates a world that very few of its viewers will ever come close to experiencing, but where they will nevertheless feel perfectly at home by its conclusion.Somewhere floats uneasily between these worlds, neither wholly honest storytelling nor wholly empty spectacle. Should I say that Stephen Dorff is a revelation? Perhaps that’s too strong a word. But when an actor who has been lost for years in the wilderness of blink-and-you-missed-them roles is thrown a role like this (where the spacious gaps between lines of dialogue leave him reliant on his face and eyes) and crafts something winningly gentle and touching, notice deserves to be paid. Coppola shuffles him through a short set of claustrophobic locales—hotel rooms, his car, the occasional hallway—and watches as the man begins to come unglued. Chris Barsanti



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Director: Donovan Marsh
Cast: John Cleese, Troye Sivan, Tanit Phoenix, Jason Cope, Jeremy Crutchley, Aaron McIlroy

South African director Donovan Marsh scored a coup when his feature-film adaptation of John van Ruit’s novel, Spud, secured British comedian John Cleese and Wolverine actor Troye Sivan in starring roles. The movie details the misadventures of 13-year-old Spud Milton (played with charm by Sivan) at a Durban boarding school, but instead of the expected coming of age story, the film struggles to fit into a defined genre. Despite a mostly child cast, the content seems too mature for younger audiences, while adult viewers may find the performances too static. Cleese’s performance as “The Guv”, for example, is comfortable rather than inspiring. His attempts to add drama fall short and too often he resorts to his usual dry quips to finish a scene. The film received some bad press in South Africa for its use of “sexist” dialogue. The jury is still out whether it will wow international audiences. Sally Fink

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