The summer movie season continues with a handful of festival highlights coming to theaters, including Cannes premieres both from this and last year, alongside family dramas, vampire flicks, and one of the boldest experimental offerings of the year. We should also mention Richard Linklater’s Hit Man, which was on last month’s list for its all-too-limited theatrical release, will hit its final resting place on Netflix beginning June 7.

14. The Devil’s Bath (Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala; June 28 on Shudder)

Goodnight Mommy directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala are back with another harrowing tale, but this time hewing closer to real life than providing a genre twist. Savina Petkova said in her review, “Early Modern times were messy: Europe was finding its footing in rationalism, seeking independence from the centuries-long spiritual yoke of Catholicism and Protestantism. Shedding the skin of the past seems, at least from our standpoint today, the best thing that could have happened to modern man. Preempting industrialization and a desire-fulfilling capitalist society, the journey towards Enlightenment positioned its preceding times as ‘The Dark Ages.’ But the freedom to live or die was certainly a luxury for many––especially women caught in the patriarchal webs of rural life. Ewa Lizlfellner was one such woman who didn’t want to live, but to die.”

13. Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person (Ariane Louis-Seize; June 21)

Boasting one of the longest yet most intriguing titles of the year, Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person marks the debut feature from Ariane Louis-Seize. An acclaimed selection at the Venice Film Festival, where it picked up the Giornate Degli Autori Director’s Award, as well as TIFF and beyond, Jared Mobarak said in his review, “Ariane Louis-Seize’s debut feature is thus perfectly titled like a ‘Want Ad’: Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person. Why? Because she and co-writer Christine Doyon acknowledge the reality that, whether intentionally or not, Sasha is herself suicidal in this refusal to feed. Every day she goes without drinking blood is a day closer to death. So she attends a group meeting for depressives to try and figure things out. Can finding a new lease on life bypass her unyielding morality? How about the other members’ willingness to die?”

12. Kinds of Kindness (Yorgos Lanthimos; June 21)

Quickly following up last year’s Poor Things, Yorgos Lanthimos is back with Kinds of Kindness. If you found his last one a bit stultifying, get ready for nearly three hours of that acerbic style. Luke Hicks said in his review, “This one is for the true Lanthimites, the Dogtooth sisters, the biscuit women, The Killing of a Sacred Deer heads, a film to which the callbacks are so abundant that one can’t help but wonder what the connection is for writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos and co-screenwriter Efthimis Filippou behind the scenes, outside of simply sharing tones and themes that all of their other films share. Regardless, the director as we knew him pre-Emma Stone is back (relatively speaking). And this time… with Emma Stone!”

11. Family Portrait (Lucy Kerr; June 28)

One of our favorites from last year’s Locarno Film Festival, where it picked up the Boccalino d’Oro for Best Director, Lucy Kerr’s directorial debut Family Portrait finds Deragh Campbell searching for the family matriarch in an elusive portrait that has drawn comparisons to the films of Antonioni. Savina Petkova said in her review, “Family Portrait deals with inexplicable loss, but one that is contained, repressed, inarticulate. If Katy has not literally lost her mother, the absence is strong enough to become the film’s driving force. But what keeps creeping up in conversation is the actual loss of a relative to an unknown virus. Without exposing too much of the COVID reality that gripped the whole world not so long ago, Kerr alludes to the fact that we still haven’t learned how to talk about such traumatic passings. What’s omitted is also left offscreen, sharing is a whisper, mutuality is hard to reach. If the photographic medium fascinates us by giving reality its own image––one that’s separate from reality––cinema re-animates its stasis and shows us life in flux.”

10. This Closeness (Kit Zauhar; June 7)

Following a premiere at last year’s SXSW, writer-director-star Kit Zauhar’s acclaimed second feature This Closeness is arriving this summer after an extensive festival tour. Following a couple who rent a room in a stranger’s apartment for a high school reunion, the film takes an idiosyncratic look at the messiness of relationships, intimacy, trust, and pleasure. Using her small-scale canvas, Zauhar shows herself adept with mining tension and discomfort in expressing one’s true emotion––until the inevitable boiling point.

9. The Bikeriders (Jeff Nichols; June 21)

Nearly a year since its Telluride premiere, with a new distributor and added pedigree after Austin Butler’s recent villain turn in Dune: Part Two, Jeff Nichols’ The Bikeriders is finally arriving. While our review from the premiere of the biker-gang drama was less-than-kind, I’ll always look forward to the latest from Nichols, perhaps even more so in a summer slate that’s a bit light on adult-focused entertainment.

8. Music (Angela Schanelec; June 28)

As puzzling as they are intoxicatingly enigmatic, no one is making films like Angela Schanelec. Her latest doesn’t buck the trend. Leonardo Goi said in his review, “Thirty or so minutes into Angela Schanelec’s Music, a character makes a startling discovery. We’re inside a prison on the outskirts of an unidentified Greek town, where Jon (Aliocha Schneider) is to spend a manslaughter sentence. And we’re watching him bathed in the cell’s cold light when he suddenly opens his mouth and starts to sing. It’s a moment that shatters the film, one of the loudest in a tale otherwise marked by wistful silences. Jon’s stuck a grocery list of classical composers to the wall, and he intones an aria from Vivaldi’s Il Giustino, ‘Vedrò con mio diletto.’ It’s the first time we hear him sing and it amounts to an otherworldly revelation, both for the young man crooning and those of us who listen: a human being waking up to a superpower.”

7. Fancy Dance (Erica Tremblay; June 21 in theaters and June 28 on Apple TV+)

While Lily Gladstone made many headlines last year with her turn in Killers of the Flower Moon, another of her performances stayed under the radar. Now, Erica Tremblay’s 2023 Sundance premiere Fancy Dance arrives some 18 months later via Apple. As John Fink said in his review, “Fancy Dance is a rich character study that explores the contemporary impact of permanently marginalizing a community with limited options. Other communities and economies emerge and potentially entrap someone like Roki who, as a teen, tries reconciling a sense of foundation while having little to grab onto. Above all, this is a well-written drama that feels like an authentic, at times painful exploration of a community from a filmmaker that knows this place all too well.”

6. Green Border (Agnieszka Holland; June 21)

Returning with one of her most acclaimed films in years, Agnieszka Holland’s Green Border premiered at the Venice Film Festival last fall where it picked up a Special Jury Prize. Now, the harrowing, deeply humanistic account of the migrant journey between Belarus and Poland will arrive in U.S. theaters. Lena Wilson said in her NYFF review, “Green Border focuses on the treatment of migrants trying to cross from Belarus to Poland so they can find asylum in the European Union. As a result, Holland is now on the shit list of nearly every high-ranking Polish politician, from the president to the Minister of Science and Higher Education. What a shame they’re so blinded by their station that they can’t even appreciate magnificent works of art. Green Border is a riveting, finely crafted, deeply human accounting of the atrocities we make permissible in the name of nationalism.”

5. Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1 (Kevin Costner; June 28)

The first chapter of Kevin Costner’s four-film, 12-hour western Horizon: An American Saga will finally unspool this month. While a rather conventional throwback take on the genre won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, consider me incredibly excited. In one of the rare positive reviews from Cannes, Rory O’Connor said, “Everything that emerged in the lead-up to Horizon––the project’s scale, its runtime (181 minutes), the colon and hyphen in its title––has been pointing to one word; but calling something ‘epic’ has less to do with quantity than some movies would like us to think. In the most sweeping sequences of Dances with Wolves, Costner left the character all alone on the plains, dwarfed by the landscape and increasingly aware of his own place in it. Horizon, by contrast, seldom takes that kind of time to think. There’s a distinct lack here, too, of cinematic urgency, the sense that, regardless of length, there is somewhere the film needs to get to. The resulting feeling of watching Horizon will be familiar to anyone who’s ever binged a prestige show; but if that is a snag the viewer’s willing to overcome, Costner leaves plenty to enjoy.”

4. Ghostlight (Kelly O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson; June 14)

One of our early favorites of 2024, Kelly O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson’s Saint Frances follow-up Ghostlight arrives this month after screenings at Sundance and SXSW. John Fink said in his review, “A masterfully crafted work with nearly no false notes, Kelly O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson’s Ghostlight is a tender drama bearing profound moments of humor and small triumphs. The smartly constructed script by O’Sullivan buries the lede, revealing new narrative information with each layer as we watch a nuclear family slowly come apart and, later, find solace in the wake of their son’s suicide. Anchored by a real-life family, the film feels as if it’s been meticulously workshopped with the same intimate collaboration that gave O’Sullivan and Thompson’s last feature, Saint Frances, its authentic nuances.”

3. Janet Planet (Annie Baker; June 21)

One of the most assured directorial debuts of the year, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker seamlessly transitions from theater to cinema with Janet Planet, a lovely, rigorously composed mother-daughter drama that finds a perfect season to blossom. Jake Kring-Schreifels said in his NYFF review, “Throughout this existential comedy, lighthearted coming-of-age drama, and sublime slice of Western Massachusetts life, Lacy has a habit of expressing herself in unintentionally funny, wounding ways to her mother. It’s a characteristic that’s baked into their codependent relationship that Lacy struggles to maintain in the months before she begins sixth grade. An outcast amongst her peers, she tests her mother’s patience and devotion, threatening to kill herself if she doesn’t help her escape summer camp. Later, as she settles back home, Lacy insists they still sleep in the same bed.”

2. The Human Surge 3 (Eduardo Williams; June 28)

If one ever wanted a peek at what the future of cinema could look like, Eduardo Williams makes a convincing case. Continuing his chronicling of community across the world in form-defying ways, The Human Surge 3 still feels closer to a dream I experienced than what most would define as a movie. Leonardo Goi said in his review, “The Human Surge 3, Williams’ second feature and follow-up to his 2016 The Human Surge (the first installment of a trilogy with no second chapter), is another stupefying project designed to push the medium toward new, uncharted paths. Like the first Surge, this too unfurls in its barest terms as a hangout movie, cartwheeling across three different countries (Sri Lanka, Peru, and Taiwan) to dog a few low-income twenty-somethings as they fritter away time with friends in-between odd jobs. But where the saga’s first episode played like three shorts stitched together, traveling across distinct settings in standalone segments, The Human Surge 3 trades that for something far more elliptical and confounding.”

1. Last Summer (Catherine Breillat; June 28)

Like last year’s May December, Catherine Breillat’s long-awaited return with Last Summer is a brilliant feat of tonal mastery. This tale of stepmother-stepson attraction is a perfectly articulated, morally ambivalent exploration of desire. Savina Petkova’s review out of last year’s Cannes noted, “Unlike the underlying cynicism of Brief Crossing––a film with a similar age gap and dynamic––Last Summer finds Breillat more open to the tenderness of love’s initial stages: Drucker lights up, she orgasms, she laughs, and even her lexicon changes. There are three sex scenes in the film, and all of them are magnificent: the camera keeps to one face at a time for a long––delightful––amount of time as features become distorted by the seismic force of orgasm. Certainly a departure from Sex is Comedy‘s brilliantly funny meta-exposé of erotic scenes, Breillat’s latest gives love a chance.”

More Films to See

  • The Watchers (June 7)
  • Banel & Adama (June 7)
  • I Used to Be Funny (June 7)
  • Tuesday (June 14)
  • Inside Out 2 (June 14)
  • Summer Solstice (June 14)
  • Treasure (June 14)
  • Just the Two of Us (June 14)
  • Fresh Kills (June 14)
  • Firebrand (June 14)
  • Federer (June 20)
  • Thelma (June 21)
  • Copa 71 (June 21)
  • Chestnut (June 21)
  • Chronicles of a Wandering Saint (June 28)
  • Daddio (June 28)
  • June Zero (June 28)
  • A Quiet Place: Day One (June 28)

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