Philadelphia Film Festival Preview

45 Years

(10/29) 7:00pm, Ritz East B; (11/1) 5:00pm, Ritz East B

Director: Andrew Haigh

Synopsis: A week before the 45th anniversary of their wedding, the plans of Geoff Mercer and his wife Kate are disturbed when they receive news that the body of Geoff’s former lover has been discovered after her disappearance 50 years ago.

Why You Should Care: The sensitivity and bravery of “Weekend”, which turned heads at SXSW in 2011, demonstrated Andrew Haigh’s promising talent as an emerging filmmaker. His preference for small-scale drama shows in his latest film, which returns to the themes of unconventional romance and interpersonal strain, this time with a couple who has been together for a few decades rather than a few days. Whether Haigh can meet the standard set by his previous film will depend on whether he can resurrect intimate dialogue and quiet realism that made “Weekend” a hit.


(10/22) 6:00 pm, 8:30 pm, Prince Theater

Director: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson

Synopsis: Michael Stone, a famous writer on improving the efficiency of customer call centers, goes through life disconnected and departs for Cincinnati for another speaking engagement when he meets Lisa, whom he believes is different from rest.

Why You Should Care: Acclaimed for his imaginative and provocative screenplays, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman has been eerily silent since his directorial debut, “Synecdoche, New York”, in 2008. He returned to the spotlight when a Kickstarter campaign for “Anomalisa” gained traction in late 2012 and was fully funded, marking the Kaufman’s first foray into animated filmmaking. The consistency of his output as a writer has yet to be rivaled in its depth and wit, and audiences will likely see in the return of his sobering existentialism and mind-bending thought experiments, amplified in his latest film by the new possibilities opened by the medium.


(10/27) 6:00pm, Prince Theater

Director: John Crowley      

Synopsis: Brooklyn tells the story of Ellis, a young woman who emigrates from Ireland to New York City in the 1950s.

Why You Should Care: Based on Colm Tóibín’s celebrated novel of the same name and with a screenplay penned by Nick Hornby, Brooklyn has good reason to be a winning film. Saoirse Ronan is one of today’s finest young actresses and her leading performance should ground the film and be complimented by newcomer Emory Cohen’s breakthrough turn. The two act out a love story between a newly arrived Ellis and blue-collar Italian-American Tony, only for Ellis to be drawn back to Ireland. It is exciting to see a coming-of-age, period love story treated so lavishly, sensitively and appealingly on the big screen.


(10/25) 7:15pm, Prince Theater

Director: Todd Haynes

Synopsis: During the 1920s, a young clerk and photographer in Manhattan, Therese Belivet, falls for the older, married Carol.

Why You Should Care: As demonstrated in “Far From Heaven”, Haynes’s fluency in fifties cinematic tropes makes him the perfect filmmaker to adapt a novel by Patricia Highsmith, whose macabre works have been previously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock. Aside from the mini-series Mildred Pierce 2011, Haynes has been absent from the silver screen since his Bob Dylan biopic “I’m Not There”, which earned Cate Blanchett an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Blanchett returns to work with Haynes in what promises to be yet another psychologically complex role, given Haynes’s earlier confrontation with gender, race, and identity.

James White

(10/23) 7:25pm, Ritz East B; (10/26) 2:55pm, Ritz East A

Director: Josh Mond      

Synopsis: James White follows the titular character (Christopher Abbott) through the drama of caring for his cancer-ridden mother (Cynthia Nixon) while he tries to figure out his own aimless life.

Why You Should Care: First time writer/director Josh Mond (producer of Martha Marcy May Marlene) brings us the compelling story of misanthropic, self-destructive James in what looks to be an excellent character study and showcase for Abbot in the title role. Critics have also heavily commended Cynthia Nixon’s multifaceted performance as James’ concerned, condemning, sick, and loving mother.

Just Jim

(10/29) 9:30pm, Prince Theater

Director: Craig Roberts      

Synopsis: Like the typical high school movie outcast, Jim (Craig Roberts) is willing to do anything to get recognition and popularity. However, that’s where the comparisons to most teen flicks ends- except that Just Jim appears to be a kind of Heathers for the uncool dude taken under the wing by Emile Hirsch as Dean, a kind of reincarnation of James Dean.

Why You Should Care: Just Jim promises to be a black comedy coming-of-age story and panacea for all of the rom-com, prom-arched teen films rife in Hollywood. Indie-darling Craig Roberts (star of Submarine) makes his directorial debut in Just Jim, crossing genres and bending expectations as Jim goes through the quintessential makeover and gets a glimpse of popularity, and subsequently goes down a rabbit hole of violence and irresponsibility.

The Lobster

(10/25), 4:35pm, Ritz East B

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Synopsis: In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.

Why You Should Care: Yorgos Lanthimos made a name for himself after making the critically-acclaimed Greek drama, Dogtooth, in Premiering at Cannes this year to strong reviews, The Lobster depicts a future in which people must find a mate within 45 days- if they are unsuccessful, they are released into the woods and transformed into an animal. The Lobster boasts an exceptionally intriguing plot-line, and rests heavily on the shoulders of lead actor Colin Farrell, who is enjoying a career resurgence with this film and his strong recent role in HBO’s True Detective.

The Program

(10/24), 2:30pm Ritz East B; (10/27), 7:30pm Ritz East B

Director: Stephen Frears

Synopsis: An Irish sports journalist becomes convinced that Lance Armstrong's performances during the Tour de France victories are fueled by banned substances. With this conviction, he starts hunting for evidence that will expose Armstrong.

Why You Should Care: Lance Armstrong is a name most Americans are familiar with. At one point, he was the ideal American- someone who thrived off his talent, and faced adversity with courage and determination. His fall from grace after a doping scandal, then, is highly conducive to a cinematic re-telling. Stephen Frears, who last made 2013’s Philomena, returns to the director’s chair to portray a fallen hero. The criminally underrated Ben Foster portrays Armstrong, and recently informed the media that he used performance enhancing drugs in preparation for his role, in order to truly capture the psyche of Armstrong. Talk about commitment to a role.


(10/24), 12pm, Prince Theater

Director: Justin Kurzel

Synopsis: Macbeth, a Thane of Scotland, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.

Why You Should Care: William Shakespeare’s Macbeth has been portrayed on screen over a dozen times, but Justin Kurzel’s adaptation has established itself as the definitive Macbeth film in many minds. After roaring onto the scene with his brutal first feature, Snowtown, Kurzel infuses the same passion and fury into this faithful adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most well known works. Considering the fact that The Weinstein Company may dump this adaptation stateside in a very limited release, similar to their treatment of The Immigrant last spring, you should not miss your chance to check this out in Philadelphia!

Sunset Song

(10/24) 12:05pm, Ritz East A; (10/27) 12:00pm, Ritz East B

Director: Terence Davies

Synopsis: Sunset Song depicts the struggles of the Guthries, a Scottish farming family whose livelihood is upended by the onset of World War I. The movie explores the tensions between members of the Guthrie family and their relationship to the land.

Why You Should Care: In this first feature adaptation of Lewis Grassic-Gibbon’s novel of the same name, acclaimed director Terence Davis creates a lush but human portrait of northeast Scotland and its people. The film should be both emotionally and aesthetically enrapturing and give attention to a time period and area not overly portrayed in film.


(10/25), 7:15pm, Ritz Bourse; (10/31), 9:40pm, Ritz East B

Director: Sebastian Schipper

Synopsis: While on holiday in Berlin, a young woman finds her flirtation with a local guy turn potentially deadly as their night out with his friends reveals its secret: the four men owe someone a dangerous favor that requires repaying that evening.

Why You Should Care: Last year, critics and audiences raved at Birdman, which was edited to look like a single-take film. On the other hand, this year, Victoria abandons all such digital enhancements, opting for the real deal- a single take, script-less film that drew raves at its premiere earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival. Through its real time structure, this film seemingly raises the stakes and crafts an exhilarating heist, all revolving around the eponymous Victoria. Victoria surely should rank high on any cinephiles list.

World of Tomorrow

(10/23) 7:10pm, Ritz East A; (11/1) 9:50 pm, Ritz East A

Director: Don Hertzfeldt

Synopsis: A four-year-old girl stumbles upon an ancestor from the far future, who whisks her centuries forward in time to give her a glimpse of humanity’s fate despite her ability to comprehend it.

Why You Should Care:“World of Tomorrow” won Don Hertzfeldt his second Grand Jury Prize for Short Film at the Sundance Film Festival and has drawn comparisons to Chris Marker’s “La Jetee” in its originality and scope. Known for being an adherent of hand-drawn animation, Hertzfeldt delves into the world of digital animation and summons its resources to tell his latest film. Speculating about the far future and diving deep into the past, “World of Tomorrow” showcases Hertzfeldt’s penchant for mingling cynicism with awe, the paradoxical consequences of the human story’s seeming triviality when framed against the cosmic narrative.


(10/28) 8:30pm, Prince Theater

Director: Paolo Sorrentino

Synopsis: Fred, a retired composer and orchestra conductor, is on vacation in the Alps with his daughter and his best friend, Mick, who is a film director, when he is invited by Queen Elizabeth II to perform at the birthday of Prince Philip.

Why You Should Care:Director Paolo Sorrentino reignited interest in contemporary Italian cinema with “The Great Beauty” in 2014, and his second English-language feature film explores familiar topics such as aging, celebrity, and creativity. Never quite direct about its purpose yet never opaque, Sorrentino’s elliptical style will not be for everyone, but its dazzling conveyance of a broad selection of psychological states through sound and image gives viewers much to look forward to.