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Film Review: Anomalisa - Next To Her - The Here After - The Witch

10/03/2016 10:16 GMT | Updated 10/03/2017 10:12 GMT

'Anomalisa' is a breathtaking, surreal masterpiece - Asaf Korman's compassionate 'Next To Her' is a sensitive and compelling tour-de-force - 'The Here After,' Magnus von Horn's impressive debut feature is a tale of alienation, abandonment and guilt - Robert Eggers award winning low budget 'The Witch,' is original, unnerving and gripping.

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Director: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan, David Thewlis, Michael Stone. Animation, Comedy, Drama. USA 2016 90 mins. Winner Grand Jury Prize 2015 Venice Film Festival (15) *****

Original, extraordinary and unique. 'Anomalisia' is a breathtaking and brilliant stop motion animation black comedy that's surreal, bizarre and emotional.

Unhappy in his marriage, family and work, life's bleak and lonely for motivational speaker Michael Stone (David Thewlis). Some may whisper that it's a mid-life crisis? Michael's going to speak at a convention in Cincinnati. he books in at the Hotel Fregoli, retreats to his room and raids the mini bar. Despair and exhaustion cling to Michael. A drink in the bar with Bella, a love from the past is a no-go but then a chance meeting with Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a sales rep at the convention. Is this the moment of change? Unlucky in love Lisa's worshiped Michael Stone from afar and he's smitten. They talk and laugh. The love affair begins.

With realistic bodies, the dummies with their faces in two sections, unsettling and bizarre. Everyone has the same voice, Tom Noonan playing all parts except Michael Stone (superb David Thewlis retaining his Northern accent) and Lisa (brilliantly voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh). A sex scene that beats anything Hollywood can offer makes you wonder whether it's puppets or the real thing and Lisa's knock out rendition of 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' have to be seen to be believed.

Mesmerising, humorous, sad and surreal, Charlie Kaufman, who scripted 'Being John Malkovich', 'Adaptation' and 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' and directed and wrote 'Synecdoche, New York' delivers a masterpiece - a day in the life of Michael Stone, a glance at everyday life, a nightmare, the nightmare of everyday life? Stunning.

Released 11th March

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Director: Asaf Korman. Liron Ben-Shlush, Dana Ivgy, Yaakov Daniel Zada. Drama. Hebrew with English subtitles. Israel 2014 90 mins. Official Selection Un Certain Regard 2014 Cannes Film Festival (15) ****

Asaf Korman's first feature is a compelling and sensitive tour de force that enters the claustrophobic world of two sisters who have forged an interdependence. All but abandoned by their mother, Chelli (Liron Ben-Shlush), a part time security guard cares for her severely disabled sister Gabby, played so effectively by Dana Ivgy that it's all but impossible to believe that she's acting. It's a world where the two sisters share everything from watching TV, bathing to sleeping together in their dingy apartment in a rundown district in Haifa. Locked in the apartment for most of the day, complaints from neighbours and social services intervention forces Chelli to place Gabby in a day care centre. When romance blossoms with a colleague, Zohar (Yaakov Daniel Zada), Chelli's life's on the up but his positive rapport with Gabby triggers Chelli's possessive streak and her co-dependence surfaces with disastrous consequences.

With close up shots that connect the audience with the characters, Asaf Korman's stark and realist touch sits easily with the standout performances. In a world bound by frustration, anger and love, Chelli and Gabby become isolated from Zohar, the mummy's boy who's courageous and compassionate and the one liberating factor in both their lives.

Released 11th March

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Director: Magnus von Horn. Ulrik Munther, Mats Blomgren, Wieslaw Komasa. Drama. Swedish with English subtitles. France, Sweden, Poland 2015 101 mins. Director's Fortnight 2015 Cannes International Film Festival (15) ****

With echoes of Thomas Vinterberg's 'The Hunt,' the Swedish pop star Ulrik Munther gives a powerful performance in Magnus von Horn's directorial feature debut 'The Here After,' a tale of alienation, abandonment and guilt.

John (Ulrik Munther) recently released from a young offenders institution returns to the family farm and his controlling father (Mats Blomgren), younger brother Filip (Alexander Nordgren) and an ailing and senile grandfather (Wieslaw Komasa). His school is unwelcoming and they want rid of John. His crime's not forgotten or forgiven and the lynch mob mentality surfaces.But what was John's crime? With a controlled direction, Magnus von Horn offers a slow and restrained build and it's not until an unexpected and violent confrontation in a supermarket that hints of his past emerge. Bullied, harassed, isolated and abandoned by former friends except for Malin (Loa Ek), whose rebellious streak draws her to John, and an inability to leave his past leads him to confront it.

Screened at Director's Fortnight at Cannes, shot on 35 mm by Lukasz Zal with long takes, wide lensing and muted colours offering a sense of isolation and detachment, Magnus von Horn's slow burn and restrained direction and music free soundtrack effectively builds tension in what is an impressive feature debut.

Released 11th March

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Director: Robert Eggers. Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Inesor, Kate Dickie. Drama, Horror. USA 2015 Best Director Sundance Film Festival; Sutherland Award, First Feature 2015 London Film Festival 90 mins. (15) ****

Unsettling, intense and unnerving, Robert Eggers impressive award winning, low budget debut feature with an excellent cast and sense of historical detail isn't the standard horror film.

New England, 1639, devout Christian William (Ralph Ineson) and his family are banished to a farm on the edge of a dense forest. Life's hard, nature's cruel, crops fail and tensions build. Strange and unsettling things happen and there's talk of witches. When the youngest child Samuel disappears the family are uncompromising in their conviction that a supernatural force is linked to their daily troubles. Paranoia grips, and hysteria mingles with Christian belief. Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), the first born will be the scapegoat. The twins Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) sense she's the Devil's handmaiden and Black Philip, the goat must be a symbol of Satan. The descent into madness begins.

Stunning, original and gripping with superb cast performances and controlled direction, set decades before the infamous Salem witch trials in the 1690s and with echoes of Michael Haneke's 'The White Ribbon,' make it 'must see' viewing.

Released 11th March

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