(WOMENSENEWS)— “The Fits,” a first feature from director Anna Rose Holmer, who also co-scripted with Saela Davis, is the subtly affecting story of Toni (Royalty Hightower), an 11-year-old inner-city Cincinnati girl whose brother trains her to box at the local community center. There, she’s drawn into the girls’ dance class, a group that offers her camaraderie as well as choreographic challenges. As she struggles to fit in, she’s exposed to an outbreak of “the fits,” mysterious and frightening seizures that afflict the teen and tween dancers. The film’s stunning and stylish storytelling, choreography and cinematography present visual keys to the psychology of teen and tween girls as they develop physical and emotional gender identity. Kudos to the director and cast, especially for the performance by Hightower, a local girl who’d never acted before. Brava!
“Honeyglue” is an unusual love story between Morgan (Adriana Mather), a young woman with terminal cancer, and Jordan (Zach Villa), a gender-bending gent who wears makeup and dresses. The two, who’ve just met, decide to make the most of Morgan’s remaining months on earth and get married, with both wearing wedding dresses. Written and directed by James Bird, the film is an engaging dramatic treatise on living life to the fullest while coping with impending death. Stefan Colson’s clever cinematography and brilliant editing support the story’s emotive appeal. “Honeyglue” will stick with you.
“Me Before You” is director Thea Sharrock’s take on Jojo Moyes’ movie adaptation of her eponymous novel, a sweetly inspiring romance. An uplifting bond forms between an emotionally bereft young man (Sam Clafin), who was recently paralyzed in a motorcycle accident, and the buoyant young woman (Emilia Clarke) who’s hired to take care of him. He’s posh and she’s a rural Welsh girl, but she brings to the burgeoning relationship her unfailing belief that you should make the most of life, no matter how limiting the circumstances. Their dialogue has an earnest charm and the narrative is saved from sappiness by the strong performances of Clafin and Clarke and their palpable emotional chemistry. They don’t get too weepy, but you might. Bring tissues.
“Love, Sweat and Tears” is mandatory viewing. The documentary about Dr. Pamela Dee offers so much valuable information and insight it could be a real life-changer for viewers. Dee’s career mission is to change perceptions about menopause and to alleviate its impact on women who suffer not only physical symptoms, but from the “change of life” stigma that persists despite efforts to remove it. The film is more than a prescription for hormone therapy, it’s a convincing argument that sex and sexuality are a woman’s right throughout her life, that sex toys should be relieved of their negative porn association and that ongoing sexual activity has recognizable health benefits. These messages are delivered with warmth and humor by Dr. Dee and her hearty supporters, including the late Joan Rivers who appears in the film.
“The God Cells” is an informative advocacy documentary about using fetal stem cells for the treatment of a wide range of neurological and immunological disorders. Afflicted patients report remarkable health improvements. While the film emphasizes the effectiveness of stem cell treatment, not the science behind it, it does show the raging controversy about the harvesting stem cells from aborted fetuses and issues surrounding abortion and women’s rights to choose. Timely and relevant; a must-see.
“Time to Choose” is an important and appropriately horrifying provocation about climate change. Filmed on five continents and including a roster of experts, entrepreneurs and environmental victims, filmmaker Charles Ferguson shows the universality of the problem. Stunning cinematography captures mountain brooks running red with pollutants, denuded and flattened mountaintops with toxic sludge fields poised to slide into communities in valleys below. The film also identifies such culprits as the burning of fossil fuel; ubiquitous single-crop farming and unhealthy nutritional habits. It suggests ways that governments, nongovernmental organizations, advocacy groups and individuals can contribute to the solution; before it’s too late.
“The Witness” is an extraordinary probe into the infamous 1964 Kitty Genovese murder, about which The New York Times reported that 38 people who witnessed the stabbing of the young woman in Kew Gardens, Queens, did nothing to aid the victim. The alleged citizens’ apathy was almost as shocking to New Yorkers as was the murder. Fifty years later, Genovese’s brother William set out with filmmaker James D. Solomon to track down and interview people listed by the police as witnesses to the crime, and find out what really happened. The film is a truly confounding statement on media responsibility and impact.
“Out of Print” is filmmaker Julia Marchese’s wonderful tribute to the glories of 35 mm films and those who are dedicated to preserving our ability to watch them on the big screen, in particular at the unique New Beverly Cinema, an independent revival cinema in Los Angeles that counts among its patrons and supporters Kevin Smith, Seth Green, Patton Oswalt, Joe Dante, Edgar Wright and Jon Landis. A community of movie legends and lovers are here to say digital display just doesn’t equate. And, yes, the documentary was shot on 35 mm.
Stay tuned for reviews of more June openers next week.