2019 Seattle International Film Festival capsule movie reviews
Here are bite-sized capsule reviews of films screening at the 45th Seattle International Film Festival. This article will continue to be updated throughout 2019 SIFF.
Tickets for all screenings are now on sale at siff.net. General admission for regular screenings is $15 for non-members and $12 for SIFF members. Don't arrive late - standby tickets are sold for nearly sold out showtimes.
Screens May 24 and May 26 (tickets)
Just below the surface of this comedy about a woman trying to take back control of her life and run a marathon is a sincere, acerbic journey of deep-rooted insecurity and burgeoning confidence. Jillian Bell is superb as both a vulnerable, self-loathing woman and a perfect asshole. It's whip-smart comedic jabs don't take away from the film's intimate and introspective take on body image, envy and overcoming crippling self-doubt. A strong ensemble cast powers this hilarious, earnest crowd-pleaser.
Screens June 9 (tickets)
While the plot - an extended family keeping a grandmother's terminal cancer diagnosis from her - drives this comedic drama, the heart of this bittersweet tribute to family is love and heritage. The lie creates a tension that permeates the film, as the American-raised granddaughter (Awkwafina) grapples with the secret, leading to a wider take on the differences between Eastern and Western values. This personal and moving family drama captures the essence of saying goodbye without saying goodbye.
Screens May 20, May 25 and May 26 (tickets)
The latest from writer-director Bob Byington ('Infinity Baby' & '7 Chinese Brothers') is an offbeat character study that finds dark humor in a patently upsetting crime. Star Kaley Wheless is pitch perfect as the unrepentant and disaffected antihero who upends her life completely - and obviously doesn't believe she's a criminal. She's perfectly willing to go to prison to escape her own unsatisfying existential prison. Nick Offerman's narration of this sordid tale is voice-over perfection.
Screens May 18, June 6 and June 7 (tickets)
The stark, snow-laden Minnesota winter is the perfect backdrop for this darkly comedic rumination of lives lived in quiet desperation. Watching two admittedly mopey adults contemplate their lives sounds like the opposite of fun or entertaining - but veteran comedian co-leads Rachael Harris and Rob Huebel infuse "Falls" with a wry buoyancy that doesn't merely keep the tone from sinking under its own contemplative themes. Its dark humor is equal parts acutely incisive, bleak and hilarious.
Screens May 18 and May 23 (tickets)
Warning: while the film overall is hard to watch, the first act escalates to a truly devastating and disturbing end. Writer-director Jennifer Kent's ('The Babadook') latest brilliantly sets up a staid, grim revenge thriller - then leverages the sickening crimes inflicted upon its protagonist as a means to address the wider cruelty forced women, children and Aboriginal Australians during Britain's 19th century colonization. Not for the easily unsettled - mostly because the horrors are all too real.
Screens May 17 and May 18 (tickets)
Indie-flicks are rife with adorable meet-cutes between two unlikely characters who just "click" - but few are filmed, on location, during the Olympic Games! Stars real-life Olympian Alexi Pappas and Nick Kroll are adorable in this romantic drama set behind the curtain of the 2018 Winter Olympics. The film dials into the love people have for the Olympics - and explores deep-seeded anxieties about the uncertain future and dreams unfulfilled.
Screens May 17 and May 19 (tickets)
Sadly, this intriguing flick is yet another indie flick that squanders an intriguing premise. Peter Sarsgaard stars as a "house tuner" who studies how inaudible tones affect people's emotions -- and ultimately their moods and life choices. Yet, the potential here is muddled with a myriad of tangled plot threads, many of which aren't fully developed. Watching a muted, reserved Sarsgaard progressively unravel, however, is always entertaining.
Screens May 18 and May 20 (tickets)
As an unknown high school track athlete becomes an overnight, breakout track-and-field superstar, the distractions in his personal life adds depth and dimension to his journey. "Sprinter" is most compelling when it explores what it means to be an emerging athlete in Jamaica (where track is its unofficial national sport) on the verge of super-stardom. Despite some formulaic sports drama plot twins, the film recovers its stride and grows into an inspiring sports drama.
Screens May 16 (tickets)
Great character dynamics make up for a meandering narrative that ultimately sputters to its end. Comedian Marc Maron is perfectly cast as a testy pawn shop owner who always seems to have a caustic retort ready to fire. Filmmaker Lynn Shelton deftly directs a sharp ensemble cast with a sense of controlled chaos as these comedians exchange barbs. The plot initially intrigues - but just becomes more of a liability than an asset for the film.
Screens May 18 and May 24 (tickets)
Jessie Buckley's whirlwind lead performance combines an undeniable powerhouse talent with a dynamic character. It's impossible not to root for this aspiring country star (even if she's her own worst enemy). While the rough-around-the-edges ex-con dreamer is often frustrating (in the best way possible), the story itself is safe. Many plot points just fall into Rose's lap. A contrived and saccharine ending, incongruous with the rest of the gritty story, leaves the film overly sweet.
Screens May 17 and May 20 (tickets)
Sweet without resorting to saccharine contrivances, Egyptian drama is rooted in an elementally relatable core: discarded people searching for belonging. Notably strong casting of its lead duo of an orphaned teen and reserved leper offsets a somewhat uneven and wandering narrative flow/direction. At times funny, touching and heartbreaking, this unconventional road trip journey is humane to its very core.