That's Amore

Utopia Distribution

Vortex (2021)

Gaspar Noé has gotten moodier with age, but “Climax” felt like a soulless artistic exercise. The death of his mother, Nora Murphy, and his own battle with a brain hemorrhage apparently have had a profound effect on his follow-up, “Vortex,” at least thematically. To be quite frank, the screenplay of the new film may be just as threadbare as the last, but at least Mr. Noé here deploys split-screen that sustains the viewers’ attention more successfully than one single continuous shot.

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The Best of Youth


Futura (2021)

Three notable figures among the next generation of Italian filmmakers – Pietro Marcello of “Martin Eden,” Francesco Munzi of “Black Souls” and Alice Rohrwacher of “Happy as Lazzaro” – team up for the documentary “Futura,” about youths across Italy disillusioned by a grim future, lack of economic opportunities, insufficient government investment and disruptions brought about by Covid-19. This filmmaking collaborative doesn’t have ambitious aims to disrupt the status quo with a major stylistic movement like la nouvelle vague or Dogme 95. Rather, here they retreat to the country’s great cinematic tradition and follow in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s footsteps.

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Duck and Dive

National Geographic Documentary Films

The Rescue (2021)

A documentary recounting the 2018 mission to save a Thai soccer team of 12 kids and a coach trapped inside a flooded cave, “The Rescue” easily matches any dramatic action thriller in its ability to rivet viewers. This is no surprise coming from Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the filmmaking couple behind the Oscar-winning “Free Solo.”

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Taking Care of Business


Montana Story (2021)

Imminent death has a way of bringing the living together, whether that’s what they want or not. Blood responsibility and the requirements of endings – not the same thing as closure, which is a cherry on top – mean that last chances are a compulsion almost impossible to ignore. When the setting for this reckoning is the chilly Montana prairie, where regular people work several jobs in a second-hand coat to survive, there’s a harsh immediacy not found in more comfortable and/or populated places. Here the secrets are all out in the open.

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Cat's Cradle

Jaap Buitendijk/Amazon Studios

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021)

Benedict Cumberbatch turns up his eccentricity to 11 in “The Electrical Life of Louis Wain,” as the titular Victorian era artist whose claim to fame is drawing cats for The Illustrated London News. He was apparently also into electricity and patents, which the film glosses over despite the titular reference – but it shows enough here to remind us of the time Mr. Cumberbatch played Thomas Edison in “The Current War: Director’s Cut.”

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Disaster Gay

Final Cut for Real/Neon

Flee (2021)

A true story about an Afghan refugee who spent years hiding out in Russia before making it to Denmark to resume some semblance of normal life, “Flee” joins the recent chorus of films covering the same topic, including “Limbo,” “I Carry You With Me,” “El cuartito,” “Chal Mera Putt,” fellow TIFF entry “Snakehead” etc. What makes Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s film stand out is that it’s entirely animated, at times seemingly drawn directly over documentary-style interviews while other times illustrating flashbacks told during these sessions. It’s also perhaps the timeliest of the batch, given recent events in Afghanistan.

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All in the Family


All My Puny Sorrows (2021)

Movies about death are often the most vibrantly alive. How’s that for irony? A very early sequence in the wonderful “All My Puny Sorrows” shows a man standing in a railway crossing, working himself up to step into the path of an oncoming train. As the sirens blare and the barriers drop, he takes off his glasses and sets them neatly onto the ground. Is it so as not to make a mess? Or is it because it’s easier to go to your death if you can’t exactly see what’s coming? These are just some of the questions this somber, joyous, intellectual movie grapples with. But what makes it a joy to watch despite the heavy subject matter is how much love saturates the story – love which can survive the most permanent separation.

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Irreconcilable Differences


The Wheel (2021)

Director Steve Pink is best known for directing both “Hot Tub Time Machine” movies, but he also wrote the screenplays for “Grosse Pointe Blank” and “High Fidelity.” These movies are all basically about whether John Cusack will stop being a jackass with his friends (or fellow assassins) in order to find the love that’s been right there all along. “The Wheel,” which is Mr. Cusack-free and written by Trent Atkinson, is a smaller but more heartfelt exploration of similar themes. In this case the jackass is a woman and the love is halfway out the door.

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Youthful Offender

Céline Nieszawer

Arthur Rambo (2021)

It’s really, really annoying to see a movie try to make a sociological point when it doesn’t understand the meaning of its own plot in the first place. This is a trap a lot of people fall into when they are talking about social media that they don’t use themselves. Reading about Twitter is not the same thing as being on Twitter. Lurking on the site is not the same thing as being an active user. And there is a colossal difference in being torn to pieces over a misunderstanding, or after deliberately poking the bear. But you’d think you’d get all that cleared up before going to the trouble of making a movie about it.

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Carole Bethuel/Neon

Titane (2021)

If you are going to see “Titane” – which, as a bona fide patron of the arts, you should; it’s won Palme d’or and all – you’d be best advised to go in cold. Engaging with it here on any beyond-the-bare-bones level – screenplay, direction, acting, special effects et al. – simply necessitates spoiling. Basically, it’s a series of bonkers body-horror set pieces built strictly on shock value, with writer-director Julia Ducournau overreaching to connect the far-fetched dots.

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