Film Picks: Stop-Zemlia, Nordic Film Festival, The Black Phone

Stop-Zemlia starring (from left) Maria Fedorchenko, Arsenii Markov and Yana Isaienko. PHOTO: THE PROJECTOR

Stop-Zemlia (M18)

122 minutes, showing at The Projector, 4 stars

A 16-year-old introvert (Maria Fedorchenko) in Kyiv, Ukraine, navigates her final year of high school with her two best friends (Yana Isaienko and Arsenii Markov). The trio buoy up one another through their anxieties about themselves and the future.

There are parties, crushes, smartphones, family tiffs, sexual experimentation and biology class. Nothing seismic. But director Kateryna Gornostai understands and conveys how intensely teenagers feel every moment and how vulnerable they are, because the screenplay was inspired by her adolescence.

Splicing in improvised interviews with the characters sharing their fears and dreams, she turns out an authentic and empathetic docu-fiction film of Ukrainian youth.

Nordic Film Festival 2022

Still from the film A Taste Of Hunger starring Katrine Greis-Rosenthal and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. PHOTO: THE PROJECTOR/ZENTROPA

Four films - one each from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden - will be the focus of the festival, which runs in August.

Opening the festival is Danish drama A Taste Of Hunger (2021, M18, 104 minutes, screens on Aug 11, 8pm). Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Katrine Greis-Rosenthal star as Carsten and Maggie, a power couple running a popular restaurant. The problem is that they do not have any Michelin stars. Which will they put first - their Michelin ambitions or marriage?

The film is directed and co-written by Christoffer Boe, who won the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for romantic drama Reconstruction (2003).

Where: The Projector, Level 5 Golden Mile Tower, 6001 Beach Road
MRT: Nicoll Highway
When: Aug 11 to 21, various times
Admission: $13.50
Info: Website

The Black Phone (NC16)

103 minutes, now showing, 4 stars

Still from the film The Black Phone starring Mason Thames (boy) and Ethan Hawke. PHOTO: UIP

It is the 1970s and Finney (Mason Thames) is a 13-year-old boy coping with bullies at school and problems at home, where he lives with his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) and father Terrence (Jeremy Davies).

His town has been terrorised by a kidnapper nicknamed The Grabber (Ethan Hawke), who makes Finney his latest victim. Trapped in a soundproof room, the boy finds help from an unexpected source.

In the hands of director and co-writer Scott Derrickson, Hawke's Grabber is a memorable villain.

Finney's difficult adolescence is central to the film. He is in trouble at home and in school because of a character flaw, which the psychologically manipulative Grabber exploits at every turn.

Hawke does not have much screen time, but his performance as the narcissistic kidnapper ready to explode into violence at any moment makes him one of the best baddies in recent memory.

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