(WOMENSENEWS)–Like the subject it covers, the documentary “Citizenfour” has been cloaked in secrecy and intrigue. Laura Poitras reported ongoing government harassment while working on the project, making it a real-life spy thriller that involves the filmmaker, as well as the subject. Based in large measure on extensive independent research and interviews conducted by Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald with National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, it argues that the government’s unconstitutional behavior violates citizens’ rights to privacy.
Other Oct. 23 Openings
“Laggies” is October’s feel good dramedy. Written and directed by Lynn Shelton, the film stars Keira Knightly as Megan, an ambitionless 28-year-old who is watching peers reach one milestone after another in their personal and professional lives. When her boyfriend (Mark Webber) proposes, she panics, flees and winds up keeping company with a newly befriended teenager (Chloë Grace Moretz), her pals and her attractively quirky single dad (Sam Rockwell). The charming and funny movie provides welcome easy entertainment in counterpoint to the month’s weighty nonfiction and (over)abundance of horror.
“Low Down” is the affecting tale of the troubled relationship between a girl (Elle Fanning) and her father (John Hawkes), a jazz pianist whose musical brilliance and love for his daughter are overshadowed by his crushing heroin addiction. Based on Amy Albany’s memoir of life in Hollywood during the 1970s, the film is a brutal, emotion-wrenching coming-of-age drama. Fanning and Hawkes deliver stunning performances.
“White Bird in a Blizzard” is another coming-of-age story, but it revolves around the relationship between Kat Connors (Shailene Woodley) and her more-than-bored suburban mother (Eva Green), who mysteriously disappears at a time when 17-year-old Kat is so distracted by hormonal surges she hardly notices her mom’s gone. But the loss hits hard later, when she returns home from college and needs to know what happened. Indie writer/director Gregg Araki loosely based his script on Laura Kasischke’s novel, which was loosely inspired by a Midwestern case. Woodley is wonderful, but the film loses focus and, despite its supersaturated cinematography, lacks luster.
“1,000 Times Goodnight” stars Juliette Binoche as a top war photographer who is committed to capturing images that make a difference. While on assignment shooting a female suicide bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan, she’s badly injured. She returns home to face her husband and two daughters’ ultimatum that she must give up her dangerous work. The conviction and great sensitivity of Binoche’s performance make this film a must-see.
“Ouija,” as you might gather from the title and release date, is an October scarer. This tricky treat for Halloween is co-written by Juliet Snowden and director Stiles White. The thriller plot involves the awakening of malevolent powers by consulting an ancient Ouija board, which forces a group of friends to face their deepest terrors.
In “Camp X-Ray,” Kristen Stewart stars at a female soldier whose first deployment is to the cruel and confusing environment of Guantanamo Bay. She’s assigned to guard hostile “jihadists” who are routinely mistreated and who show no respect for her as a female soldier. Even more disturbing, she is harassed by male officers and fellow military personnel. Driven by her sense of isolation, she breaks protocol and befriends one of the detainees. Their unlikely alliance changes their outlook in unexpected ways. Stewart’s performance is brilliant, as her talent really emerges from the twilight.
The month’s final scarer is Rowan Joffe’s cinematic adaptation of “Before I Go to Sleep,” the novel by S.J. Watson about a woman who loses her grip on reality and suffers inexplicable terrors. Nicole Kidman stars as Christine Lucas, a woman whose memory was damaged in an accident years earlier. Every morning, she must be told by her husband (Colin Firth) who she is and where she is. But one day she awakens to terrifying thoughts that make her suspect that everything she believes true about her life–including her husband, trusted doctor and memory loss — is a haunting masquerade. Happy Halloween.
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