NZIFF 2022 mini-reviews (our latest reviews)


Our writers share their thoughts on this year’s Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival selections.

This year’s festival features plenty of gems (even if they might not all be available throughout Aotearoa). Our team of keen reviewers has been busy watching, and rendering their verdicts—keep checking this page for the latest mini-reviews, and you can also dive into the full list of reviews as it comes together after opening night.

All 2022 mini-reviews:
Latest reviews | A – E | F – L | M – RS – Z

Meet Me in the Bathroom

The early 00s New York band explosion gets a deserved feature-length doco, which two decades later lends some cultural context to the rise of the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem et al. Out of necessity lacking the immersive qualities of the oral history of the same name (Lizzy Goodman’s book from which it’s adapted), this is still a welcome document of the convergence of forces that saw a generation of acts rise (and fall) in a perfect storm, and a reminder of their charm, well most of them. PS fuck Ryan Adams and also the drunk dudes in the screening who chatted and whooped their way through the film—yes, we get it, you like mainstream music too. STEVE NEWALL

Ali & Ava

Ali & Ava is a shaggy gem of a relationship drama, with lived-in performances from Adel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook as the titular central protagonists. The film takes a few beats to kick into gear, but ultimately reveals a thoughtful and warm story about second chances, community and moving on. Bonus points for a great soundtrack. RACHEL ASHBY

Flux Gourmet

At a screening where I recognised many art school and music community nerds, Flux Gourmet went down a treat. Much more of a camp satire than Strickland’s last festival outing In Fabric, it lacks some of the sophisticated tension which that previous film wowed audiences with. However, if you are a fan of deadpan silliness or Gwendoline Christie wearing increasingly large hats, there is much to love—and love it I did. RACHEL ASHBY

Corsage

Once draped and pinned into fabric in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, here the incredible Vicky Krieps is violently laced into the corset (or ‘corsage’) of writer/director Marie Kreutzer’s revisionist portrayal of the famously eccentric Empress Elisabeth of Austria. A lavish production, Corsage thrums with its core performance—Krieps’ magnetic Elisabeth prompting rumination upon loss, responsibility, nihilism, aging, and the particularly gendered tension of ‘staying in one’s lane’. Beautiful. SARAH THOMSON

Decision to Leave

At this point Park Chan-wook’s control of his images is borderline supernatural, storming through another Hitchcockian thriller in a hail of match cuts, masterful wide shots, digital zooms and segues and on and on. At one point I marvelled at how much a wallpaper pattern spoke to the director’s personality, and by extent his characters. They too are meticulous and attentive, whether applying chapstick or connecting murder cases years apart. A neo-noir blast. TONY STAMP

Resurrection

Seeming on the surface suspiciously like yet another pandering post-me too movie that Hollywood loves, Resurrection’s harrowing story of a woman haunted by an abusive ex-boyfriend is quickly revealed to be quite another thing entirely—a searing, stunning interrogation of power and manipulation. Proving once again that no one is doing it quite like Rebecca Hall, her performance as the haunted, traumatised Margaret is literally hair-raising. Tim Roth, meanwhile, poses an almost other-worldly menace, as dizzying an influence on the viewer as he is to his former lover. The most devastating blow comes around halfway through the film in an 8-minute, unbroken monologue that days later I still can’t seem to shake. Absent of flashbacks and chillingly, bewilderingly upsetting, in a single shot of Hall’s face Resurrection takes familiar subject matter to an unforgettable new level. KATIE PARKER

Triangle of Sadness

A gleeful takedown of the uber-wealthy, Force Majeure director Ruben Östlund’s latest plays out something like Carry On Capitalism. Hinging on an explosively lavatorial set-piece that is equal parts disgusting, cathartic, and hilarious, and with a magnetic performance from Woody Harrelson as the Marxist captain of a luxury yacht, ultimately, your enjoyment of Triangle of Sadness is going to come down to whether you find its bitter conclusions on human nature to be incisively satirical or just glibly nihilistic. AMELIA BERRY

Dual

There are few cinematic tropes I love as much as that of being haunted by a double. Dual, in which a woman must spend a year training to fight her own clone to the death, is a darkly comedic (and just generally dark) take on the topic—examining a sense of alienation from the world and from ourselves that is bleakly familiar, even to those of us without clones. Strongly reminiscent of the stylisation of Yorgos Lanthimos, director Riley Stearns is nevertheless able to imbue Dual with a different brand of pathos and a world entirely his own. While the ending runs out of steam—our audience sat unmoving in unmistakably anticipatory silence as the credits rolled, as though a Marvel-esque post-credits sequence might appear to provide a slightly more satisfying punch—Dual is a surprisingly entertaining rumination on estrangement that I enjoyed a lot. KATIE PARKER

Return to Seoul

Park Ji-min is instantly magnetic as French-Korean Freddie, prone to acting on whims such as a return trip to her birthplace, regardless of (or perhaps subconsciously because of) the consequences. This homecoming refracts the course of her life in ways expected as well as surprising, portrayed with a wry sense of humour and complete lack of judgement that make the eventual catharsis that much more affecting. TONY STAMP

My Old School

Perhaps this was never going to be able to live up to its promise of “twists you’ll never see coming”, and perhaps it could have benefited from a bit of a trim of its running time, but if the notion of an abundance of delightful Scottish accents retelling what was, admittedly, a pretty wild story, you might just find yourself getting a kick out of this flick. Plus, it’s got Alan Cumming in it—worth your pennies for that alone. MATTHEW CRAWLEY

Triangle of Sadness

Subtlety certainly is an unfair expectation for a film that has a spew- and shit-covered set-piece making full grotesque use of a tiltable luxury ship set built on a mechanical gimbal. There are plenty of laughs to be had, and a welcome skewering of wealth, power and gender roles, but Triangle of Sadness is also far too on-the-nose, long, unfocused and, to be honest, a bit of a surprise that a jury thought it worthy of the Palme d’Or. Good, but not great. STEVE NEWALL

Animation for Kids

This hour of joyful short films felt like the best way to conclude my festival. Highlights include ‘Luce and the Rock’, a hugely expressive buddy tale about a girl and a 20-tonne boulder child, and ‘Battery Daddy’, a felt stop-motion story that’s coming for Marcel’s shoes as the cutest damn thing in the fest. While these films are for anyone, it was especially heartwarming to see so many kids in the theatre take to these visually inventive pieces of cinema far from what they’d usually see in their day-to-day screentime. LIAM MAGUREN

Emily the Criminal

Hello Aubrey Plaza, Serious Actor. This isn’t the Parks & Rec vet’s first dramatic role but it’s her most substantial, a discreetly layered turn powering John Patton Ford’s grungy crime caper. Refreshingly low-stakes and snappy, there’s the odd crackle of generational politics here, but it’s mostly a vehicle for the increasingly frayed performance at its centre. TONY STAMP

Sick of Myself

Featuring two of the foulest characters you will see on-screen this year, Kristoffer Borgli’s venomously funny sickie takes the toxic culture of media-obsessed self-absorption into compellingly cringey extremes. Almost horrifically ruthless—it’s perhaps the most repulsive non-horror body horror comedy since Wetlands. But we still laugh because under every retch-inducing moment the film hurls at us, we recognize the awful humanity of it all. AARON YAP

Perlimps

While it’s one of the most gorgeously hypnotic things I’ve ever seen in The Civic, this eco-activist fable is sadly weighed down by its two lead characters who spend most of the short running time either bickering childishly or explaining heavy fantasy lore. The film admirably brings together its dreamy, kaleidoscopic, rainbow-splashed vision of nature with the pair’s “mission”—its message to kids is blunt and rightfully damning of us adults—but ultimately made me wish the script leading up to it was better. LIAM MAGUREN

Triangle of Sadness

If you’re looking for subtlety, even of the type of squirmingly subtle, class-based creeping wretchedness director Ruben Östlund has been known for in their previous work, perhaps look somewhere else. This satire of societal transaction hits like a relentless projectile of bodily fluids—but, goodness, it’s grand. Niche tip: don’t sweat trying to interpret Brecht’s Mother Courage to a modern world—just watch this stunning piece of ridiculousness instead. SARAH THOMSON

Punch

Set against the black sand beaches of Tāmaki Makaurau’s West Coast, Punch follows 17-year-old boxing champ Jim (Jordan Oosterhof) as he falls for outcast classmate Whetu (Conan Hayes, in a star-making turn), all the while dealing with his father’s (Tim Roth) alcoholism and the homophobic prejudices of his insular rural town. Written and directed by Welby Ings, the film has all the rough edges you’d hope for from a feature debut, and while some swings miss, more than a few of them land, making for an artful exploration of small-town gay masculinity. AMANDA JANE ROBINSON

Both Sides of the Blade

When Sara (Juliette Binoche) recognises her ex-lover François (Grégoire Colin) in the street, she is struck by the weight of her decision to leave him for his best friend Jean (Vincent Lindon) ten years earlier. What follows is a turbulent unravelling of love’s calm, considering the depths of desire and devotion and the cost of chronic ambivalence. While this moody, pandemic-era portrait is by no means one of Denis’ best, her chemistry with her actors—each of whom she has worked with before—makes for an intimate, compelling watch nonetheless. AMANDA JANE ROBINSON

Speak no Evil

Setting up a relatably unfortunate situation and taking it to the absolute worst place it could possibly go, this is the kind of grisly horror thriller that genre fans will love and just about everyone else will hate. Reminiscent of everything from Funny Games to Coming Home in the Dark to The Strangers, with a winkingly over-the-top orchestral score and undercurrent of pitch-black humour running throughout, director Christian Tafdrup has his own brand of bad vibes to bring to the table, and a destination in mind that few would (at least initially) predict. Brimming with delicious, sickening dread, the slow march towards its inescapable (and unspeakable) conclusion is as hypnotic as it is squirm-inducing. I loved this sharp, nasty little film—but, obviously, it’s not for the faint of heart. KATIE PARKER

Neptune Frost

Juggling more ideas than it can ultimately handle, Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman’s Afrofuturist fable is notable for its inventive lo-fi design work, with copper wiring and computer circuitry adorning bodies and infiltrating the natural world. Propelled by a score with plenty of rhythmic heft, there’s a lot here to enjoy, even if narratively it falls somewhat short. TONY STAMP

Triangle of Sadness

In his early films, Ruben Östlund orchestrated scenarios that laid bare his wealthy characters’ hypocrisies, and let us relish the resulting awkwardness. He now seems happy to have them sliding around in their own bodily waste, as if that amounts to the same thing. People in this movie quote Marx and Reagan at each other. It’s less subtle than a landmine. But is that the point? Are stroke victims really a deserving target for satire?! I’m exhausted. TONY STAMP

Stars at Noon

Claire Denis can keep feeding genre cliches through her wonderfully gauzy lens as long as she likes. Sweaty, sultry, so tactile you can almost feel the linen shirts, this is a pseudo-spy thriller that’s also exceptionally horny, and all the better for it. TONY STAMP

Emily the Criminal

Aubrey Plaza thriller sets out with comparatively everyday stakes, but is no less tense for it. Anchored by an excellent dramatic performance by a restless, impulsive Plaza, the film works off a strong foundation of option-limiting past mistakes, mounting student loan debt and the opportunities provided by entry-level fraud. Plus, there’s room for an entertaining detour when Plaza faces off against a cameoing Gina Gershon in an inter-generational feminist back-and-forth (“when I was your age…”) for our times. STEVE NEWALL

Stars at Noon

Claire Denis’ COVID-era thriller might be set in pandemic-era Nicaragua, but could really be any place and time once-privileged outsiders/white guys in linen suits have gotten down on their luck or on the wrong sides of autocratic military regimes. Yes, it’s all a bit familiar, but Margaret Qualley is as electric as she is desperate, her chemistry with Joe Alwyn is solid, and Stars sells all the sweatiness (tropical, carnal, panicky) it needs to work… as kind of a steamy hangout thriller? STEVE NEWALL

Clean

The life of the deliciously quotable Sandra Pankhurst, founder of Victoria’s ‘Specialized Trauma Cleaning Services’, could fill a book—and has done: Sarah Krasnostein’s bestselling ‘The Trauma Cleaner’. Lachlan McLeod’s documentary Clean also follows Pankhurst’s story, but opens the lens a little wider to include the personal stories of Pankhurst’s colleagues and clients. It takes a mighty amount of personal protective equipment, industrial solvents, crash courses in microbiology, and (perhaps most of all) empathy to clean the sites of homicides, of hoarding, or simply to help create order in the lives of those who, for whatever reason, are unable to create that order themselves. NB: You will need: tissues. You will receive: a full heart. SARAH THOMSON

Smoking Causes Coughing

Quentin Dupieux! An undeniable multimedia talent, but one whose only true feature-length gem as director (don’t @ me, Flicks contrib. M. Crawley) is 2019’s incredible Le Daim (Deerskin), has now found the ideal home for their stylistically rich, Eerie, Indiana/Tales from the Crypt style ideas: a tokusatsu portmanteau pic. Let the ‘Tobacco Force Five’ take you on a journey of pure-Dupieux campfire stories – in between fighting rubber kaiju and lusting after randy boss rats, of course. (Sidenote: beyond pleased to see Dupieux, a.k.a. French touch electro artist Mr. Oizo, make a return to puppetry.) Gory, oozy, silly, grand fun. SARAH THOMSON

Family Dinner

Well-executed rural dietary chiller establishes an interesting character in a former cookbook queen now put out to pasture, and makes some canny observations about weight loss (the question ‘who are you to tell me how to feel about my body’ has a different tone here). A signposted ending detracts somewhat, a third act that could also have gone into more out-there places, but your response to this one will really come down to personal, um, taste. STEVE NEWALL

Incredible But True

A comedic French take on a Twilight Zone-style morality tale, Incroyable Mais Vrai sees a man’s life fall apart after he and his wife purchase a house with a strange temporal anomaly inside (and it doesn’t help that his boss has become obsessed with his new surgically-installed iPenis). While it’s undeniably funny and well-observed, the film feels like it just runs out of steam, giving us a wildly long montage instead of a third act and landing with a bit of a dull thud. Hard not to feel disappointed walking out of this one. AMELIA BERRY

All 2022 mini-reviews:
Latest reviews | A – E | F – L | M – RS – Z