T2 Trainspotting is not the best film released this month, but it’s the one that had the biggest effect on me. As somebody who vividly associates seeing the original 1996 film with my early 20s, that’s exactly what it is calculated to do. Like a lot of the soundtrack featured in the film, it functions as both a remix and an update of the original Trainspotting as we are reintroduced to the characters to discover that none of them have moved on as much as they would have liked to. Thematically it is anti-nostalgic, while stylistically being deeply nostalgic which results in a film that is equal parts refreshing and euphoric as well as sobering and melancholic.
On paper the concept of Toni Erdmann sounds patronising and condescending – an older man follows his daughter on a business trip to disrupt her ordered corporate life with pranks and jokes to make her find joy in life again. Instead, this is an impressive drama/comedy about the relationship between parents and their children that also comments on the dehumanising effects of capitalism. It is also a film of surprises with the ability to trigger strong emotional responses with the many scenes that are unexpectedly deeply moving plus and the many, many scenes that are deliriously funny. The escalation of humour in key moments results in some of the finest cinematic comedy in recent years.
Manchester by the Sea is a beautifully written, directed and acted drama about living with grief, guilt and regret. The use of flashbacks to convey the memories of the lead character Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) as they come back to haunt him means that for a lot of the running time the audience don’t know the full details behind what has made him into such a shadow of a person. The climax of the backstory is heartbreaking and makes the events in the current time period all the more poignant.
Documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson assembled various outtakes from the documentaries she has filmed, as well as some personal home movies, to create her deeply personal and very moving film Cameraperson. Through the juxtaposition of footage taken all over the world during different time periods, Johnson reflects on how humans cope with tragedy and horror – whether experiencing it directly or witnessing it – and the blurred lines between objectivity and subjectivity she has experienced in her professional life.
The Family documents the widespread power and influence of the Melbourne-based cult The Family from the 1960s to the 1990s. It’s an extremely accomplished documentary that includes extensive interviews with survivors of the cult, who were children at the time, and members of the police who were instrumental in rescuing them. Perhaps most shocking are the revelations about the degree to which cult leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne was able to infiltrate legal, medical and political institutions throughout the decades.