Storm Boy (2019)

This realistic story is a blend of healing and compromise. The infusion of a conservation theme is quite different than typical films about animals, which tend to be preachy guilt trips. In this case, a fable bonds grandfather and granddaughter, who have more in common than she realizes, and serves as a bridge between past and present, which is a change of pace from the all-too-common use of random flashbacks to interject backstory. Furthermore, great pains were taken to respect indigenous culture, tradition and, appropriately, wildlife.

Meloncholia (2011)

Lush visuals mirror colliding juxtapositions as the classical score provides a romantic– nearly spiritual– quality to a poetic tragedy that unfolds without frantic energy, hence the title, which is also the name of a planet headed toward Earth. The tension lies in a clash of social expectations and emotional reactions rather than in scurrying to save the planet. Its placid unfolding allows the audience to welcome the astronomical event alongside the characters, who– whether anxious, optimistic, or in denial– have no choice but to accept the inevitable.

Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story (2005)

Yes, an unlikely competitor defies the odds by overcoming a significant injury. However, when it comes to Sonador, his main backer is a child. Though Cale Crane grew up around horses, racing is actually in her blood; the ranch on which she grew up may be empty but it hasn’t seen its last horse, yet. Training a potential champion becomes a family affair, which garners more than luck and money.

Dark River (2017)

Respectfully and effectively capturing the process of healing from childhood trauma is no simple endeavor. This depiction of a sexual abuse survivor is equal parts bitter and sweet and The Moors provide the perfect backdrop for a brooding woman to return to the scene of many painful memories. Her brother is reluctant to surrender control of their late father’s farm, especially to someone he never understood. But their differing approaches– modern clashing with traditional– leaves precious little breathing room; eventually, unexpressed questions and insightful explanations bubble to the surface.

Ricky and the Flash (2015)

When a plot is a character study rather than a tale with a definitive moral, trivia will overshadow all other aspects. In this case, the fun facts (e.g. Meryl Streep learned to play the guitar and does her own singing alongside career musician, Rick Springfield and her real- life daughter plays the part onscreen) enhance the realism that keeps it from being overly simplistic. Any humor lies in relatable and/or ironic elements, which can only be disappointing when compared to a formulaic Dramedy, in which everyone learns their lesson far too easily.

The Imposter (2012)

How does a foreign man suddenly end up a U.S. citizen, welcomed into the family of a long- missing child? While it’s impossible to fully understand the grief of those keeping vigil by the window, waiting for a phone call that may never come, it is curious that every expert agrees there are many loose ends. Is it merely that hindsight is 20/20 (as the old saying goes) or is there a more sinister explanation? Though the testimony of an identity thief certainly isn’t everything, it seems to corroborate the suspicion of at least one specialist…

Masterfully crafted, the details of this publicly documented incident are recounted chronologically by a rotation of several family members, some government employees, a smattering of friends/ neighbors and one relentless private investigator. During the lengthier portions of each person’s story, voiceover serves as narration for actors’ portrayals of the events being described. By the end of the film you have about as much information as everyone involved to decide for yourself what you think happened.

Nebraska (2013)

Family is complicated, as is small town interpersonal politics. The addition of fame and a potential fortune amplifies tensions that crescendo towards a battle for personal pride. When a hapless salesman realizes his boozy old father plans to travel cross- country to claim a non-existent prize based on a misunderstanding, it’s becomes clear he’s just […]

11:55 (2016)

A decorated Marine, who comes home to the barrio is confronted by a regrettable decision from his past that threatens his plans for a brighter future. With each agonizing minute that passes, an act of vengeance inches closer, unless he can diffuse a showdown before the train arrives. To bother with the nuances of similar […]

Cool Runnings (1993)

I remember seeing this sweet and funny Jamaican bobsled team’s journey to the Olympics when it first came out. Everyone in the theater clapped at the end! When I rewatched it with a member of a much younger generation, it still held the same charm that evoked a swell of emotion capable of warming an […]

Only the Brave (2017)

Second to 9/11, the Yarnell Hill fires took the lives of the most firefighters at once. And to think I repeatedly gravitated towards this film then rejected it! I wrongly– but understandably– assumed it would either be a scrappy little high-fiver or a tribute to testosterone. Was I wrong! Not that Twister isn’t inspiring… I […]