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Film Reviews This week’s new movies: Robert Pattinson, puzzles and penguins

High Life

Courtesy of Elevation

  • Directed by Claire Denis
  • Written by Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau and Geoff Cox
  • Starring Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche and Andre Benjamin
  • Classification R; 110 minutes

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Claire Denis’s new film High Life – which takes place in outer space but is defiantly not a sci-fi adventure; which focuses on the bond between a father and daughter, but is certainly not a family drama; which is fixated on sex, but is as repulsive as it is erotic – defies categorization.

Long Day’s Journey into Night

Courtesy of TIFF

  • Written and directed by Bi Gan
  • Starring Huang Jue and Tang Wei
  • Classification N/A; 133 minutes

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Long Day’s Journey into Night – a nearly 2½-hour riff on memory, dreams and regret – is an often ponderous, sometimes incomprehensible work whose rigid defiance of convention begins right with the title (the movie has nothing to do with the work of Eugene O’Neill, and its Mandarin title actually translates to The Last Night on Earth), continuing through a mid-film flip that is brazen, confounding and dazzling.

Nureyev

DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

  • Directed by: Jacqui and David Morris
  • N/A; 109 minutes

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In 1961, two months after the Soviets sent Yuri Gagarin into space, Rudolf Nureyev brought the USSR’s reputation crashing back to earth when he defected in Paris. In Nureyev, a new documentary by siblings Jacqui and David Morris, we see this swift juxtaposition of events, with the East gaining unprecedented ground in Cold War optics only to be summarily humiliated.

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Penguins

Photo: Jeff Wilson/Walt Disney Studios

  • Directed by: Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson
  • Written by: David Fowler
  • Featuring: the voice of Ed Helms
  • Classification: G; 76 minutes

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A penguin named Steve stars as the flippered protagonist in this sweet, playful coming-of-age documentary from Disneynature. Educating young audiences as it entertains just about anyone, Penguins features the droll narration of Ed Helms and some great Antarctic cinematography.

Sir

Films We Like

  • Directed and written by Rohena Gera
  • Starring Tillotama Shome and Vivek Gomber
  • Classification 14A
  • 99 minutes

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The heart wants what it wants, and sometimes what it wants is a light, heartfelt drama about a Cinderella situation. The Mumbai-set Sir fits nicely into the class-and-lass genre. Young widow Ratna is a live-in maid to Ashwin, a fetching and suddenly eligible bachelor architect.

The Grizzlies

Shane Mahood/Courtesy of Mongrel

  • Directed by: Miranda de Pencier
  • Written by: Moira Walley-Beckett and Graham Yost
  • Starring: Will Sasso, Ben Schnetzer and Tantoo Cardinal
  • Classification: PG; 102 minutes

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It’s a dangerous business these days to try to tell stories of another culture, especially one as historically marginalized as that of Canada’s Inuit. And the tear-jerking tale told in The Grizzlies – based on a true story about a teacher from down south who uses lacrosse to bring together Nunavut teens reeling from a rash of suicides – is suffused with possible landmines. But first-time feature director Miranda de Pencier delivers a crowd-pleasing (if sometimes clunky) drama.

Breakthrough

Photo Credit: Allen Fraser/Twentieth Century Fox

  • Directed by: Roxann Dawson
  • Written by: Grant Nieporte
  • Starring: Chrissy Metz, Topher Grace and Josh Lucas
  • Classification: PG; 116 minutes

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In Breakthrough, God (or at least a non-denominational, Americanized Christian idea of God) is everywhere. Christianity is not merely a thing people happen to practise – it is a life-support machine propping up a whole community. The result is a friction-less quality that bogs Breakthrough down.

Under the Silver Lake

Courtesy of A24

  • Written and directed by: David Robert Mitchell
  • Starring: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough and Topher Grace
  • Classification: R; 139 minutes

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Under the Silver Lake is David Robert Mitchell’s long-delayed follow-up to his 2014 horror breakthrough It Follows. By attempting to craft a slick mélange of neo-noir, dark slacker comedy and puzzle-driven treasure hunt, Mitchell has produced a film that is so preoccupied with turning itself on that it forgets to focus on the desires or basic needs of its audience.

Teen Spirit

Kerry Brown/LD Entertainment | Bleecker Street

  • Written and directed by: Max Minghella
  • Starring: Elle Fanning, Agnieszka Grochowska and Rebecca Hall
  • Classification: PG; 92 minutes

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Let’s begin with a positive: Teen Spirit has a great pop soundtrack, featuring music by artists such as Robyn, Tegan & Sara and Carly Rae Jepsen. This is, though, the only good thing that can be said of the directorial debut from actor Max Minghella. With so many missteps, you must question why Teen Spirit was even released.

Editor’s note: Editor's note (April 22, 2019): An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Ahmareen Anjum portrays Ratna, the lead in Sir. In fact, it is Tillotama Shome.
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