Saint Maud (M18)
85 minutes, opens Feb 25 exclusively at The Projector, 4 stars
In this scarily beautiful work of psychological horror by first-time feature director Rose Glass, a young woman gripped by depression and loneliness spirals downwards into doom while thinking she is being lifted to heaven.
Palliative care nurse Katie (Welsh actress Morfydd Clark, giving a phenomenal performance) experiences a traumatic incident while caring for an elderly patient, which alters her profoundly.
She changes her name to the old-fashioned Maud and becomes deeply religious, believing that God speaks to her directly.
After she becomes a carer for the terminally-ill American Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), Maud tries to convert her cynical, pleasure-loving patient to her brand of evangelical worship, one marked by ecstatic trances and divine visions. It does not go well.
British writer-director Glass's confident visual language is rooted in small-town England. In a joyless seaside town marked by wet stone, deep shadows and British reserve, the puritan is beset by unbelievers she believes have been sent to test her faith.
In a story dark with despair, but also lit up by moments of grace, Maud is both victim and villain, a Joan of Arc born in the wrong age. She is among people who have known her for ages but cannot plumb the depths of her suffering - or rather, would prefer not to know.
As the title of the movie implies, being picked by God carries a cost. For the sad, isolated Maud, the price will be high indeed.
The Marksman (PG13)
107 minutes, opens Feb 25, 2 stars
If, as they say, Tom Hanks is America's dad, then America must have two dads, because there is also Liam Neeson. Hanks must be the nice one who attends the parent-teacher meetings; Neeson is the dad with all the guns.
Like clockwork, here comes another Neeson action movie in which baddies come for his family and property, forcing him to reluctantly brush the dust off his arsenal and recall his military training as if being a soldier once confers upon a veteran a magical and permanent set of super powers.
Interestingly, despite its lazy premise, this movie has a rather low body count. In fact, there is only one major shootout.
This seems to be a Neeson lone-avenger flick with ethical concerns that never worried the European film-makers whose movies - such as the Taken thrillers (2008 to 2014), soaked in racist stereotypes and violence - gave the actor from Northern Ireland a late-career boost.
Former Marine Jim Hanson (Neeson) is a rancher on the verge of going under financially when he stumbles on a massive load of cash. The problem is, the bag holding the money belongs to Mexican boy Miguel (Joe Perez), who has been smuggled across the border with the cartel hot on his heels.
The money belongs to the gangsters and Jim must choose between getting Miguel and his money to safety or stealing the money and leaving the boy to his fate.
Much of the story is concerned with a haphazard cross-country pursuit of Hanson and child by comically evil cartel members, with the rest about the tension between the sad boy and the gruff Hanson over the loot.
No prizes for guessing if Hanson's frosty heart will melt, making him the father figure for both boy and the grateful cinema-going public.
108 minutes, opens Feb 25, not reviewed
Australian musician Sia, a prolific contributor to movie and television soundtracks, makes her feature-film directing and co-writing debut here. The title character, played by Maddie Ziegler, is on the autism spectrum. Her half-sister Zu (Kate Hudson) must care for her after the death of their mother. Zu, a recovering addict whose life is in chaos, resents being made a guardian of a sibling in need of constant attention.