This month’s picks include a wry Bosnian coming-of-age film, a documentary about supernatural phenomena in Scotland and a drama about missing women in Mexico.
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By Devika Girish
‘The Two Sights’
Stream it on Ovid.
Joshua Bonnetta’s rapturous film opens with a remote shot of a dark, silhouetted figure setting up a boom microphone in a desolate landscape, while, in voice-over, a man describes the legend of “second sight” in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland: the supposed ability that some people have to see or hear things from elsewhere, be it the future, the afterlife or another realm. This connection between audiovisual technology and extrasensory experiences forms the spine of “The Two Sights.” On the soundtrack, various locals of the Hebrides describe strange incidents and encounters: a man who heard the radio years before its invention; a woman who saw a shadowy premonition of death; a fisherman who felt an unsettling communion with a beached whale. Onscreen, we see 16-millimeter images of unearthly beauty that complement — if not directly illustrate — these stories, with glimpses of craggy land and wooden boats and deep lakes all shimmering in fog and magic-hour light.
Bonnetta’s careful layering of sight and sound casts an extraordinary spell on the viewer; I felt as though I, too, were suddenly able to peer into the interstices between our world and another world. But there’s something else, something more familiar, that rings through the haunted tales and landscapes of the film: a yearning not just for the future but also for a Gaelic past whose traditions are rapidly fading.
Stream it on Netflix.
Natalia Beristain’s drama is a gutting look at the epidemic of forced disappearances that has plagued Mexico over the last many decades, and whose toll crossed 100,000 victims in 2021. Julia (Julieta Egurrola), the protagonist of “Noise,” is a celebrated artist whose life comes undone when her daughter disappears during a graduation trip. Now, Julia spends all her time waiting for news, visiting government offices and attending support groups with other women looking for missing relatives.
The film has a loose plot — Julia meets a determined journalist, Abril (Teresa Ruiz), who’s investigating these cases, and the two embark on a dangerous search mission — but it’s clear from the start that “Noise” is not a story that has an ending. It’s about how people like Julia survive a life with no closure.
With Julia as our surrogate, Beristain takes us into the communities that young and old women in Mexico have formed to take matters into their own hands. Julia attends a women’s protest resounding with angry chants, before it is broken up by riot police; later, she joins a squadron of folks who spend weeks trawling through fields to find any remains of their loved ones. Venturing into documentary terrain in these scenes, with candid portraits and testimonies of these resilient individuals, “Noise” shows us the grit and solidarity that keeps people pushing against the worst of odds.
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‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’
Stream it on Tubi.
In the opening moments of Ena Sendijarevic’s film, the wide-eyed, high-cheek-boned (and soon-to-be-blonde) Alma (Sara Luna Zoric) stands in front of a mirror in a clothing store in the Netherlands, arguing with her mother about whether she should buy a lilac dress or a red one. That banal choice turns out to be crucial. Soon, our deadpan heroine will leave for Bosnia to visit her estranged father, who’s dying in a hospital; on the way, she’ll lose her suitcase, and have only that dress (she goes with lilac) as a souvenir of home as she traverses strange motel rooms, bars, buses and the Bosnian countryside.
“Take Me Somewhere Nice” is a coming-of-age movie, with sexual awakenings and confrontations with mortality, but Sendijarevic’s script has a strongly sardonic undertone, a sense of gruff irony unusual for the genre. Alma is a mesmerizing figure precisely because of the disaffection with which she encounters the absurd and even dangerous things that come her way. She’s lost, Sendijarevic suggests, because she’s an immigrant in the land of her own people. Her father fled with the family to the Netherlands during the war in Bosnia but later returned because of homesickness. Caught between her father’s nostalgia for one place and her own for another, Alma fumbles along in a distinctly modern world of rootless locales, taking us along for the bittersweet ride.
‘Leonor Will Never Die’
Rent or buy on these platforms.
A television falls on a retired Filipina screenwriter’s head, sending her into one of her scripts. To rescue her, her son must make her movie, with help from the ghost of his brother. Martika Ramirez Escobar’s film is one of the weirdest meta-comedic capers I’ve seen in a while, not least because its heroine is a sweet older lady who loves violent action movies.
Once famous for making melodramas packed with shootouts and fistfights, Leonor (a delightful Sheila Francisco) stops working when she loses one of her sons to an on-set accident. Years later, as her other son, Rudy (Bong Cabrera), prepares to go abroad and Leonor contemplates a life of loneliness and irrelevance, she comes across an ad for a screenwriting contest and digs up an old project — only to be thwarted by an on-set accident of her own.
The many layers of this adventure are almost impossible to keep straight: Leonor is inside her own trashy ’80s action film, like a God descended upon earth; outside, Rudy is producing another, more modern version of that script; and at points, we see glimpses of the making of the film we’re watching, so that we never quite know which reality we’re in. “Leonor Will Never Die” is a gleeful love letter to Filipino cinema history — each of the films-within-the-film recreates a distinct look and style — but the movie is as melancholy as it is manic, ruminating on the ways in which the lines between onscreen and offscreen violence can become blurred.
‘The Kings of the World’
Stream it on Netflix.
This Colombian drama is a work of extraordinary beauty, even as it chronicles harsh, dispiriting realities. The film opens with dreamlike shots of the streets of Medellín, where a teenager sits atop a white horse, as an unseen narrator describes a day when “every human in the world fell asleep.” It’s a moment of quiet grace — and lush imagination — before “The Kings of the World” drags us into the rowdy, dangerous lives of five orphans: the 19-year-old Rá (Carlos Andres Castañeda), his best friend and three younger boys they’ve taken under their wing. Rá discovers that he’s finally been granted the deeds to his late grandmother’s property as part of a land restitution program for victims of forced displacement. Off he goes into the countryside with his boys, tumbling through brothels and farms and foggy mountain roads. Along the way, their brittle posturing of macho grown-up-ness shatters as they confront various kinds of violence — wrought by criminals, by the state, by their own fears and distrust.
The director, Laura Mora, captures their journey with a kinetic naturalism that evokes documentary, but interjects moments of fantasy, allowing the boys’ inner lives the space to breathe and bloom. Another solid entry in the canon of films exploring the scars of Colombia’s civil conflicts, “The Kings of the World” examines the kinds of masculinity — and the makeshift families — that endure amid poverty and precarity.
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