The Silent Forest (M18)
108 minutes/Now showing/4 stars
With eight Golden Horse nominations, this dramatisation of a real scandal at a Taiwanese school for the disabled might be overshadowed by the romantic comedy My Missing Valentine's 11 nominations (See the pick below).
Co-writer and director Ko Chen-Nien (who has nods for Best New Director and Best Original Screenplay) delivers a story that is unflinching in depicting the horror of bullying and assault - sexual or otherwise - while examining why institutions are reluctant to investigate and prosecute such cases, especially when disabled children are the victims.
New student Chang Cheng (Liu Tzu-chuan) is trying to fit into social circles at his school for the hearing impaired when he discovers that students have a "game" - one that shocks the boy, who finds that it also involves his crush, Bei Bei (Chen Yan Fei).
My Missing Valentine (PG)
120 minutes/Now showing/4 stars
This Taiwanese romantic comedy has been nominated for 11 Golden Horse Awards, the most of any film this year.
It opens with a montage summarising the odd life of Hsiao-chi (Patty Lee), born with an internal clock that ticks too quickly. In school, she is eliminated from sports competitions because she has a habit of starting before the whistle.
Now a grown-up, she is about to enter her 30s untouched by romance. Her job at the counter of a post office looks unlikely to net her a companion. Out of the blue, a kind and handsome customer begins chatting with her, finally asking the astounded Hsiao-chi for a date on Valentine's Day.
She is overjoyed but awakens the day after the holiday with no recollection of the previous 24 hours. Distraught, she digs into why the day that could have changed her life seems to have vanished.
Writer-director Chen Yu-hsun has taken bits of his favourite films and assembled them into a rich, rewarding work.
Hsiao-chi, a conflicted woman who is curious but shy, lonely yet afraid of contact, brings to mind the title character of French comedy Amelie (2001). The gentle humour is married to the whimsy of Japanese anime, seen especially in a second-act dream sequence involving talking animals.
The Perfect Candidate (PG13)
104 minutes/Streaming at The Projector Plus/4 stars
Selected as Saudi Arabia's entry to the 2019 Academy Awards, this drama details what happens after a doctor finds that the only way she can improve conditions at her clinic is to run as a candidate for the municipal council.
Mila Al Zahrani plays Maryam, a woman whose run for office is only a few degrees more difficult than the issues she faces every day as a female physician in a country that segregates men from women at social events.
Directed and co-written by Haifaa al-Mansour, whose 2012 female coming-of-age film Wadjda was the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia.
Admission: $10 for a 48-hour rental period