GFF Reviews

Theeb (100 mins)

GFT, Thu 19th, 11.00; GFT, Fri 20th, 18.15

Director: Naji Abu Nowar

4 stars

The great Anthony Mann westerns of the 1950s were often about the encroachment of civilisation on traditional ways of life, and this outstanding Arabian drama tackles similar themes while also serving as a parallel companion to Lawrence of Arabia thanks to its 1916 setting. It's seen through the eyes of a young Bedouin boy, Theeb, as he and his older brother guide an English soldier across the desert, with all the associated danger that brings. Simultaneously a coming of age story (Theeb is an endlessly bold and spirited character) and a look at the tentacles of imperialism, it's also a thrilling adventure to boot.

Catch Me Daddy (111 mins)

GFT, Thu 19th, 17.40; GFT, Fri 20th, 15.50

Directors: Daniel Wolfe, Matthew Wolfe

4 stars

A young Pakistani woman goes on the run with her boyfriend while her father tries to bring her home with the aid of her brother and his gangster associates in this brutal and uncompromising British thriller. Atmospherically shot in bleak Yorkshire locations, this harrowing drama hums with authenticity in both its subject matter and its raw and natural performances, with Scots Gary Lewis and Conor McCarron on particularly fine form.

A Second Chance (105 mins)

CCA, Sat 21st, 18.15; CCA, Sun 22nd, 15.30

Director: Susanne Bier

4 stars

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from Game of Thrones is a Danish cop with a happy family life whose world is shaken by the neglect shown by a pair of drug addicts to their baby. The majority of the drama stems from an incident and a decision about half an hour in, and the less you know the better. What you should know is that these characters taking decisions and actions of heart-stopping magnitude makes for gripping cinema, while also asking the audience to ponder questions of real ethical and social depth, driven by incisive direction from the award-winning Susanne Bier.

X+Y (111 mins)

GFT, Wed 25th, 18.00; Grosvenor, Thu 26th, 15.00

Director: Morgan Matthews

4 stars

Teenager Nathan (Asa Butterfield) is autistic, but his gift for maths means he has a chance to compete in an international Olympiad, which forces him to try to overcome his social limitations while training in Taiwan. His mother (Sally Hawkins) struggles with his inability to show affection for her, and this disconnect forms the basis of some deeply moving scenes. Butterfield and Hawkins are exceptional, and Rafe Spall adds nicely ironic support as Nathan's teacher in a funny and touching gem.

It Follows (107 mins)

Grosvenor, Fri 20th, 20.30; GFT, Sat 21st, 23.15

Director: David Robert Mitchell

3 stars

Taking its lead from Japanese chillers like The Ring, this American indie horror certainly features a strong premise, as a young woman finds herself stalked by a malevolent force visible only to her, and which can only be evaded by passing it on to someone else through sex. The metaphorical ambition is admirable and there are a couple of decent and effective scare moments, but much like the recent Babadook, this is a horror that scores many more points for its ideas and thematic potency than for actually being a particularly good horror.

Altman (95 mins)

CCA, Sun 22nd, 18.20; CCA, Mon 23rd, 16.00

Director: Ron Mann

4 stars

The career of maverick director Robert Altman is covered in this lively documentary profile that benefits hugely from having input from the man himself. From being fired for trying to inject realism into projects in the 1960s to developing his trademark overlapping dialogue style, it's rich with clips covering his 70s acclaim with MASH and Nashville, later setbacks and calamities and the dry years of the 80s before his comeback with The Player. Stars he's worked with try to articulate what it means for a film to be Altmanesque, and this is an engaging portrait of just how unique and innovative a filmmaker he was.

The Dark Horse (124 mins)

GFT, Thu 19th, 20.00; GFT, Fri 20th, 11.00

Director: James Napier Robertson

3 stars

A huge success in its native New Zealand, this affecting drama stars Cliff Curtis as real-life chess player Genesis Potini, just released from a mental institution into the care of his gangster brother. Together with an old pal he sets out to teach chess to troubled kids, aiming for a tournament but without the film putting too much emphasis on the chess matches, because it's not really about that. It's best at delivering an eye-opening look into a world where Maori tradition clashes with modern criminality and the nobility of the chess board to inspire and hopefully provide salvation.