A Hero (PG)
127 minutes, opens March 31at The Projector, 4 stars
In Iran, owing money can land a person in jail. The legal system believes in the idea of collective responsibility - your family should help clear the debt or the creditor can petition the state to lock you up until someone who cares for you steps up.
The practice might sound mediaeval, but it recognises that creditors have rights too.
Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi, a double Oscar winner, builds his story around a man sent to debtors' prison. Rahim (Amir Jadidi) is allowed out for a family visit when an incident puts him at a crossroads. Should he do the right thing and remain locked up or profit from someone else's misfortune and ensure his own happiness?
If you enjoy Farhadi's social dramas, you should be familiar with - and most likely love - his cinema of moral anxiety.
Characters commit indiscretions, often in the name of love - a white lie about a friend's marital status (About Elly, 2009) or a shove to eject an unwelcome person from the home (Oscar winner A Separation, 2011) - and horrifying consequences follow.
In A Hero, winner of the Grand Prix at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, Rahim's act - along with his low social status - attracts bullies with a need to feel morally superior. Like many of Farhadi protagonists, Rahim's suffering is intense. It is done to elicit sympathy, but never feels manipulative.
This is a story without villains, just citizens trying to survive in a faith-based society that loves a witch hunt, but which is also capable of great compassion.
Rahim, a sign painter who lost his business after digital printers made his skills pointless, has a dignity that makes his agony feel more painful.
Best international feature Oscar nominees
Japan's Drive My Car (R21, 179 minutes, showing at The Projector, 3 stars) secured victory at the recent Oscars, after weeks of leading in the pundits' polls.
You can still catch this road drama, as well as the other nominees in the Best International Feature category, online and in cinemas.
From Italy, there is Paolo Sorrentino's autobiographical The Hand Of God (M18, 130 minutes, Netflix, 4 stars), a coming-of-age tale about a football-mad teen set in 1980s Naples.
Indie cinema The Projector is screening The Worst Person In The World (R21, 127 minutes, 4 stars) by Danish-Norwegian film-maker Joachim Trier. This Norwegian drama-comedy follows Julie (Renate Reinsve), a young woman who falls in and out of love too easily and leaves a trail of emotional destruction.
Danish animated drama Flee (M18, 89 minutes, showing at The Projector, 4 stars) re-creates the life of a real-life refugee, Amin, who departed Afghanistan as a boy and made a perilous journey to Europe, eventually settling in Denmark.
Everything Everywhere All At Once (M18)
140 minutes, now showing in cinemas, 4 stars
When you love Wong Kar Wai's lush, romantic In The Mood For Love (2000), the science-fiction action of The Matrix (1999) and Stephen Chow's martial arts comedy Kung Fu Hustle (2004) and want to reference all of them, the result is Everything Everywhere All At Once - one of this year's most fun movies, but also most manic.
Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) runs a failing coin laundry with husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). She is miserable - her business is to be audited by mean-spirited tax officer Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis); her judgmental father (James Hong) has just moved into her home; and her lesbian daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is getting serious with a white woman. Worse, Evelyn begins to hallucinate, seeing visions of the lives she would have had if she had made different choices.
The writing-directing team of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert - known collectively as Daniels - have mastered the art of staying a hair's breadth from chaos. The result is a heartfelt study of Evelyn, an immigrant from Hong Kong, conquering her mid-life crisis in the most literal way - by doing battle with a demonic being that can travel across alternate realities.