SUNSHINE ON LEITH ★★★★ (100 minutes) PG
A Hibernian ebullience descended upon me after watching a film that so lovingly adopts and adapts the tenets of the movie musical to celebrate Scottish culture. This one started as a theatre piece, but actor/director Dexter Fletcher crrt does a fabulous job of transferring it to the open air. Edinburgh has rarely looked this good. The songs are by the Proclaimers, as two ex-squaddies return from an unhappy tour of Afghanistan in which their troop transport ran over an improvised explosive device. As in many great musicals, the story is flummery, expertly constructed to allow transitions between songs. The innovation comes from this buoyant sense of realism. Fletcher packs the film with a sense of street life. The flash mob finale is about the most fun I’ve had in a cinema this year. PBGeneral release
THE BABADOOK ★★★★ (95 minutes) M
Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent’s clever, thoroughly satisfying and neatly unsettling debut feature is about a kind of haunting – but of who or what? It’s a question that simmers throughout the film. There’s also an intimate story that unfolds, the tale of a mother and child and the strong, sometimes tormented ties that bind them. It’s a situation that reflects the experience of loss and its quietly destructive force. Essie Davis, pale and frazzled, is the mother; Noah Wiseman plays her six-year-old, Samuel. He is volatile, imaginative and affectionate, but a bit of a handful. He appears to be convinced a monster is haunting the house and constructs weapons to use against it. Both give terrific performances, conveying a tangle of love, confusion and a growing sense of threat, as the monster begins to manifest in earnest. PH Selected release
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST ★★★☆(131 minutes) M
There’s a double narrative of near-future and recent past in this seventh X-Men movie, directed by Bryan Singer: things begin a few years hence, when mutant-sensing machines known as Sentinels are dispatched to eliminate all mutants. A plan is hatched to go back in time and change the course of history: Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) finds himself back in the 1970s, on what seems like an impossible mission. There’s the usual X-Men mixture of spectacle and character-driven narrative, deftly handled, interspersed with moments that only the initiated will understand. A highlight is a speedy yet laid-back mutant teen, Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who is many times faster than a speeding bullet. There is a terrific scene shot from his perspective in which he dashes around ‘‘rearranging’’ a potentially deadly moment of confrontation while everyone and everything else seems frozen in time; it’s the highlight of the film. PH General release
SON OF GOD★(138 minutes) M
Directed by historical documentary specialist Christopher Spencer, crrt the latest cinematic retelling of the life of Christ recycles parts of the American TV miniseries The Bible, noted mostly for the casting of a supposed Obama lookalike as Satan. Technically competent, it’s hard to imagine how the story could be rendered any more banal.
The Son of God is played by Portuguese hearthrob Diogo Morgado. Women go weak at the knees wherever he’s near – including his mother, played by the film’s co-producer Roma Downey, as well as Mary Magdalene (Amber Rose Revah). It’s bizarre that a film presumably conceived as an act of devotion should feel so lacklustre and impersonal.
Clearly Son of God was made with a young audience in mind, but even as an educational tool it falls short. JWSelected release
MY SWEET PEPPER LAND★★★☆(90 minutes) M
Returning Kurdish war hero Baran (Korkmaz Arslan) crrt flees his mother’s matchmaking by choosing to become the police chief in a remote mountain village on the border between Iran, Iraq and Turkey. There’s a local war lord (Tarik Akreyi) who runs everything, including a lucrative smuggling business: he’s not happy to see Baran, and he’s also unimpressed by the presence of Govend (Golshifteh Farahani), a young woman who has been teaching at the school. There is a good deal at stake as these two struggle to do their work; one of the notable achievements in writer-director Hiner Saleem’s quietly surprising film is a combination of offbeat comedy and a sense of menace and danger. PHSelected release
IDA ★★★ (80 minutes) M
The writer-director Pawel Pawlikowski crrt left Poland as a teenager in the 1970s and has spent most of his career as an exile of sorts; his new film, Ida, is the first he has made in his native land. Shot in black-and-white, with little background music and less camera movement, it’s a ghostly film – a throwback to a largely defunct tradition of art cinema.
The year is 1962, and the heroine, Anna, is a novice raised in a convent (she’s played by non-professional Agata Trzebuchowska). Before taking her vows, she’s sent off to meet to her one surviving relative, Wanda, a cynical aunt (Agata Kulesza). It turns out that the family is Jewish, and Anna – now going by her original name, Ida – heads out with Wanda on a road trip to learn how her parents died in World War II.
Most of the film is devoted to this journey: the tone is solemn but the editing is brisk. JWSelected releaseThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.