The long-awaited return of beloved auteurs, new discoveries, decades-in-the-works passion projects, festival winners, and beyond are among June’s major offerings. Check out our picks for what to see below.
15. Watcher (Chloe Okuno; June 3)
Slipping back into a genre she knows well, Maika Monroe leads Chloe Okuno’s Watcher, a slow-burn thriller with a sense of paranoia seeping into every frame. Jake Kring-Schreifels said in his Sundance review, “Ever since It Follows, the 2014 horror movie about a spectral grim reaper stalking a teenage girl, Maika Monroe has become her generation’s avatar of fear and paranoia. Throughout her filmography, she boasts an inner world of melancholy that begins in a delicate register and then multiplies into a feverish anguish the farther her characters tumble down their own rabbit holes. It’s the kind of psychological spiraling that gives oxygen to director Chloe Okuno’s feature debut, Watcher, a chamber piece thriller and the latest gaslighting parable to champion Monroe’s specific set of skills.”
14. After Blue (Dirty Paradise) (Bertrand Mandico; June 3)
After his delirious, vividly strange debut The Wild Boys, Bertrand Mandico is back with After Blue (Dirty Paradise), which premiered at Locarno last year and will now arrive in U.S. theaters this month. As Leonardo Goi said in his review, “In the post-apocalyptic nightmare of After Blue, humanity—or what’s left of it—roams a former paradise turned wasteland. The Armageddon that wrecked the Earth in some undetermined past left no machines behind, no screens, and, perhaps most conspicuously, no men. In the distant planet the human race fled to, and which writer-director Bertrand Mandico’s film is named after, “they were the first to die,” we’re warned early on: “their hairs grew inside them, and killed them.” As it was for its predecessor, The Wild Boys, After Blue is suffused in a feverish ecstasy, that wild excitement that comes from a watching one world crumble and another jutting into being from scratch, a vision of a clean slate in which everything—and everyone—can be reinvented, and every norm challenged. “
13. Neptune Frost (Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman; June 3)
Following a major festival tour that included Cannes, TIFF, NYFF, BFI London, and Sundance, Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman’s Neptune Frost is finally arriving in theaters. A sci-fi punk musical that introduces an Afrofuturist world of wonder, the story centers on an anti-colonialist computer hacker collective that attempts to take over an authoritarian regime. Per Michael Frank’s NYFF review, “Neptune Frost uses music as energy, drifting in and out of its melodic elements as easily as its composer drifts between spoken word, hip-hop, rap, and electronica.”
12. Flux Gourmet (Peter Strickland; June 24)
After carving out quite a niche in stylistic psychological horror thrills with Berberian Sound Studio, The Duke of Burgundy, and In Fabric, Peter Strickland returned earlier this year with Flux Gourmet, a culinary-focused oddity that premiered to a great response at Berlinale. David Katz said in his review, “Flux Gourmet is arguably the first instance where Peter Strickland, the British genre specialist who’s always seemed inches away from a real career breakthrough, has had the storyline and structure—the real, solid content, basically—to make something as good as his posters and loglines promise. Making reference to promotional material is not superficial: more than anyone associated with arthouse horror (or “elevated horror,” to stir the pot) currently working, he is absolutely soaked, marinated in more disreputable sides of the genre: to be blunt, the softcore, Europhile, blood-soaked exploitation kind. Where the goal, some decades ago, was to just make you buy a ticket for the thing… so you could see all that.”
11. Apples (Christos Nikou; June 24)
Premiering at Venice to strong acclaim back in 2020, Christos Nikou’s Apples would go on to become Greece’s official Oscar entry and now, at long last, the drama about an amnesia pandemic will get a release this month. As Eli Friedberg said in his review, “[the film] is set in a world where digital technology seems not to exist, yet the psychic imprint of the digital age hangs heavy over first-time director Christos Nikou’s sparse absurdist dramedy. In an alternate-universe Greece, people are falling victim to a pandemic of sudden-onset Memento syndrome: total, crippling amnesia that befalls ordinary adults seemingly at random, necessitating elaborate state-run medical programs for the mnemonically impaired. Of particular concern to such programs are “unclaimed” amnesiacs, patients who fail to be identified by friends or family members and thus become wards of the state, who must be gradually rehabilitated into society and construct new identities from scratch.”
10. Beba (Rebeca Huntt; June 24)
A selection at TIFF, Berlinale, and the forthcoming Tribeca, Rebeca Huntt’s feature directorial debut Beba is among our most-anticipated films of the summer. With a first trailer exuding a strong, poetic style, the NEON-backed documentary follows Hunt as she explores her Afro-Latina heritage while living in NYC. Here’s hoping this is the launch of a major talent.
9. Tahara (Olivia Peace; June 10)
A few months before Shiva Baby premiered at SXSW 2020 and led to a breakout for star Rachel Sennott upon its TIFF screenings and subsequent 2021 release, another project starring the actress premiered at Slamdance and is finally getting a release this summer. Olivia Peace’s Tahara follows Sennott and Madeline Grey DeFreece’s characters as friends who discover they may have a stronger desire for each other after a kiss while at a classmate’s funeral. Jared Mobarak said in his review, “That Peace and Zeidman can take this funny, catty, high school comedy of immature kids and transform it into a weighty drama with authentic consequences is no small feat.”
8. Fire Island (Andrew Ahn; June 3)
After his relatively subtle and restrained dramas Spa Night and Driveways, director Andrew Ahn is loosening up a bit with the romantic comedy Fire Island. Led by Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang, the story centers on two pals who head to Fire Island to reunite with a group of best friends for a weeklong vacation; a good deal of partying, romance, and heartbreak is in store. Following Ahn’s stellar last film, we’re looking forward to seeing him expand his potential audience while still retaining a strong sense of human connection.
7. First Love (A.J. Edwards; June 17)
After getting his start with Terrence Malick on the editing team for The New World, Knight of Cups, and Song to Song, A.J. Edwards has proven to be a formidable writer-director in his own right. Following The Better Angels and Age Out, his third feature, First Love, is a tender tale of both a blossoming romance and a nuanced depiction of the pride and human frailties that can disrupt a decades-long bond. Starring Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Diane Kruger, Jeffrey Donovan, and Sydney Park, it’s another strong example of a director working in the Malick mode that doesn’t feel like mere imitation.
6. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (Sophie Hyde; June 17)
One of the most pleasant surprises at this year’s Sundance was the latest from Australian director Sophie Hyde. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande follows Emma Thompson as a widow attempting to have proper sex for the first time in her life and does so by hiring a sex worker (Daryl McCormack). Per Dan Mecca’s review, “Some films just seem easy to make. This is a compliment—nothing back-handed about it. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is one such example. As written by Katy Brand and directed by Sophie Hyde, every minute feels extremely natural. Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack star as Nancy Stokes and Leo Grande, respectively. The latter is a stunningly (stunningly) handsome sex worker. The former is a retired, widowed teacher determined to discover a sex life that got buried under thirty years of polite, repressed marriage.”
5. Elvis (Baz Luhrmann; June 24)
If studio filmmaking has felt a little dull in the last, oh, nine years, it perhaps has at least something to do with the lack of Baz Luhrmann, a director whose vibrant, oft-audacious style deserves the big screen. He’s back this summer with Elvis, and while reactions from Cannes landed all across the map (read Luke Hicks’ level-headed review here), to see Luhrmann take on a rock ‘n’ roll icon with his lavish perspective and passion for music means it’s one of the few summer wide releases worth seeking out.
4. Cha Cha Real Smooth (Cooper Raiff; June 17)
On the heels of their Best Picture-winning CODA, Apple TV+ is gearing up for the release of another major Sundance acquisition: Cooper Raiff’s sophomore feature Cha Cha Real Smooth, which they picked up for around $15 million. Also starring Dakota Johnson, Evan Assante, Vanessa Burghardt, Leslie Mann, Brad Garrett, Raúl Castillo, and Odeya Rush, it follows a recent college graduate who finds a job as a party hype man at local bar and bat mitzvahs and strikes up a connection with Johnson’s character, who is married. In his review, Jake Kring-Schreifels said, “It’s not exactly cool to be the nice guy these days, but Cooper Raiff is making a good case for them again. In each of the 24-year-old’s first two movies, his sensible zoomer characters have the gift of being goofy, innocent, and naive.”
3. Mad God (Phil Tippett; June 10)
With his work on Star Wars, RoboCop, Jurassic Park, Starship Troopers, and many more, the Oscar-winning Phil Tippett has come to define the landscape of visual effects for the past many decades––particularly on the now-rare practical side of filmmaking. The artist has been toiling away at an ambitious independent new project, Mad God, for quite some time, having first attempted to begin work on it back in the early 1990s. It’s now set for a release this month. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “For an apt description of Mad God we can look to Tippett himself, who once described the film as “everything but the kitchen sink that I’ve been thinking about for the last 60 years, all rolled into one.” He’s not far wrong. It is wildly entertaining, full of scatological filth and who knows how many other fluids, but only in fits and spurts, and I feel it may be a victim of its own stunted growth pattern. (Having gone into production just a few years after the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Mad God can be forgiven for resembling the last twenty years of post-apocalyptic themed video-game aesthetics.) In this and many other ways, it is surely best savored as a rediscovered gem.”
2. Benediction (Terence Davies; June 3)
Following 2016’s A Quiet Passion, British director Terence Davies has finally returned with Benediction, a beautifully rendered biopic that subverts the cliches of the genre to tell the tale of World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon and his life of heartbreaking conformity. As C.J. Prince said in his review, “Time is everything in a Terence Davies film. In Benediction, his biopic about English poet Siegfried Sassoon (Jack Lowden), he eventually covers his subject’s marriage to Hester Gatty (Kate Phillips). There’s a shot of the couple standing still, facing the camera as they pose for a wedding photo (a shot that tends to pop up throughout the director’s filmography). The camera flashes, we see the black-and-white photo, and then a fade transitions us to the future, where it rests on their bedside while Hester looks at their newborn child. The sequence is an encapsulation of what Davies does best: observing life with one’s head facing backwards, the cumulative weight of the past bearing down on every moment of the present.”
1. Crimes of the Future (David Cronenberg; June 3)
The wait for David Cronenberg’s new feature has been a long one, but—judging from reactions out of its Cannes premiere—well worth it. But the wait for a theatrical release is mercifully short—it arrives this Friday. As Rory O’Connor said in his review, “Recycling the title of one of his earliest projects (though the similarities with that particular film stop there), Crimes sees him further explore certain themes that have haunted his work for decades: a belief that the body is something open to modification (if not fully disposable), and the futurist notion that organisms and machines might one day meld, with the innate eroticism that such an idea entails.”