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40 Films to See This Summer

Written by on April 24, 2019 

Our Time (Carlos Reygadas; June 14)

At least based of its original title of Where Life is Born, director Carlos Reygadas’ fifth feature film from the outset seemed to promise the ultimate realization of his festival-approved Transcendental Vision. Yet what we finally received instead six years after his last feature is a three-hour cuckold drama that’s thankfully at least a little closer in spirit to the lizard-brained surrealism of Post Tenebras Lux as opposed to his banalization of Dreyer (and still art-house calling card) Silent Light. One almost wants to describe it as admirably awkward; the feeling of both watching a train-wreck unfold in (very) slow-motion and a work of art that very boldly and genuinely seeks to please no one. – Ethan V. (full review)

Yesterday (Danny Boyle; June 28)

There’s a trace of comedy running through much of Danny Boyle’s work and for his next film, it looks to be a bit more full-blown. He’s teamed with Richard Curtis for the new musical comedy Yesterday starring Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran, and Ana de Armas. The high-concept story follows an upcoming artist who is the only person to remember The Beatles. Looking to be Boyle’s return to a full-blown crowd-pleaser, with Curtis’ influence felt throughout, it’ll close Tribeca Film Festival, so look for our review soon. – Jordan R.

Midsommar (Ari Aster; July 3)

After Ari Aster’s Hereditary became A24’s highest-grossing film, earning over $77 million at the global box-office, it was a no brainer that his next feature would see the light of day sooner. Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, and Will Poulter, Midsommar follows a young couple’s vacation to a Swedish village, where they discover the residents’ peculiar traditions and rituals. As one of the main characters carries pain from a recently deceased loved one, these rituals become cloaked in a sense of dread. “It’s an apocalyptic breakup movie,” Aster has said of the project, which gives off major Wicker Man vibes in the first trailer. Recently moved up to a precisely mid-summer release, we can’t wait to see the horror he has up his sleeves. – Jordan R.

Ray & Liz (Richard Billingham; July 10)


If there is an image to best introduce audiences to the grimy cinematic world of Ray & Liz–the remarkable debut feature of Turner prize-nominated visual artist Richard Billingham–it might be, fittingly, the very first one to hit the screen: that of a cracked, burnt-out light bulb filmed dangling beneath a nicotine-stained ceiling. Billingham has spent much of his career as an artist documenting and, in his short films, dramatizing the lives of his father Raymond (a chronic alcoholic played here by Patrick Romer and, as a younger man, by Justin Salinger ) and mother Elizabeth (Deirdre Kelly and–best of all–Ella Smith) and Ray & Liz could be viewed as a culmination of that work. It’s an immersive poetic-realist dive into the artist’s fractured memories of his parents during the time he spent growing up in Birmingham in the ‘70s and ‘80s. – Rory O. (full review)

The Farewell (Lulu Wang; July 12)

There’s something special about The Farewell. Written and directed by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina, this is the kind of film that feels specific and universal all at once. The film opens with the title card: “Based on an actual lie.” Wang builds this narrative from personal experience: her family chose to hide a cancer diagnosis from her grandmother (Zhao Shuzhen) and spend the final days celebrating instead of mourning. Or at least that was the idea. A fairly elaborate plan is hatched, involving a sham wedding that forces an abrupt reunion back in China. – Dan M. (full review)

The Art of Self-Defense (Riley Stearns; July 12)

If Fight Club taught us one thing and one thing only it is to never underestimate the power of a bored single man with nothing to lose. And that is, in some ways, also the central thesis of Riley Stearns’ delightfully twisted The Art of Self-Defense, a pitch-black comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg as sad sack Casey, a lonely auditor who, in the film’s opening scene, is mocked at a distance in French by a couple. He, unfortunately, has become proficient in French, working his way through cassette tapes on his commute to work. He’s an easy and perhaps asexual target, turning to a meticulously photocopied men’s lifestyle magazine for advice and masterbatorial materials. – John F. (full review)

Sword of Trust (Lynn Shelton; July 12)

After finding her voice in humorous, touching films like Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister, Lynn Shelton has dedicated more time recently to the world of TV with GLOW, Love, and more. She’s now back with her latest film, Sword of Trust, which premiered at SXSW and will arrive in theaters this summer. Starring Marc Maron, Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Jon Bass, Toby Huss, and Dan Bakkedahl, it follows the peculiar story of attempting to pawn off an inherited sword purported to be from the Civil War.  – Jordan R.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino; July 26)

As it pertains to Hollywood studio tentpoles, nothing this summer arrives with more anticipated (and dread, when it comes the thinkpieces) than Quentin Tarantino’s Manson era movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The delightful trailer was the ideal tease for the film, which centers on a TV actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and stuntman buddy’s (Pitt) attempt to enter the studio system, all the while living next door to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafał Zawierucha) in the summer of 1969. Also featuring Al Pacino, Bruce Dern, Timothy Olyphant, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Scoot McNairy, Zoë Bell, Dakota Fanning, Damian Lewis, Lena Dunham, Luke Perry, and many more, it’s not known yet if the director will finish in time to premiere at Cannes, but regardless, we’ll see the final results in just a few months. – Jordan R.

The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent; Aug. 2)


Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale features some of the most atrocious on-screen violence in recent memory. It is a cauldron of blood, murders, and rapes so unflinching in vividness and brutality as to make it impossible to go through its 136 minutes without ever turning away from the screen, let alone to come out of it untouched. But it is also, in a way that’s indissolubly bound to role that violence plays in Kent’s work, and to the depiction she offers of it, one of the most memorable works in its genre – a parable that never turns violence into a spectacle, but is resolutely committed to expose the poisonous double prism of racism and sexism it feeds upon. – Leonardo G. (full review)

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