Each week we highlight the noteworthy titles that have recently hit streaming platforms in the United States. Check out this week’s selections below and past round-ups here.

Beyond Utopia (Madeleine Gavin)

A harrowing, brave account of what it’s like to defect from North Korea, Madeleine Gavin’s Beyond Utopia follows a heroic pastor and the people he helps. Perhaps most unforgettable is a multigenerational family whose escape is shown through furtive, horror-movie-like handheld camera and revealing interviews. As Gavin offers a rundown of North Korean politics, we see this family slowly reckon with their own brainwashing and realize the world outside North Korea is not what their upbringing taught them to believe. – Lena W.

Where to Stream: PBS

The Florida Project (Sean Baker)

How, exactly, did Sean Baker do it? How did the director of Tangerine make this story of a mother and daughter living at a rundown motel outside of Disney World in Orlando so joyous, sad, and utterly insightful? Young star Brooklynn Prince, giving one of the most natural performances I’ve seen from a child, is essential to its success. And the great Willem Dafoe, of course, has never been better — or sweeter. But Baker deserves the highest praise. He has constructed a film about children and parents that is truly insightful. Does Moonee deserve better? Without question. But Baker shows that even in situations as messy as those depicted in The Florida Project, there can be deep love. And that counts for something. – Chris S.

Where to Stream: Netflix

Fremont (Babak Jalali)

In Fremont, Donya (Anaita Wali Zada) is often alone. She lives in a small apartment in Fremont, California, commuting each day to her job in a fortune cookie factory in San Francisco. She has a single friend that works there with her. Donya splits time between her apartment, the factory, and a therapist’s office, in hopes of receiving sleeping pills. Donya is an Afghan refugee, once a translator for the U.S. Army and now living among a community of other Afghans in the Bay Area. She’s reserved, and Zada plays this isolation with a shy smile easily formed on her face. The government discarded Donya, left without much money, insurance, or the necessary means to make any sort of meaningful change to a somewhat limited, isolated existence. Director Babak Jalali’s fourth feature is sly, droll, finding humor in the darkness surrounding Donya. When she meets with her therapist – a curious, sad Gregg Turkington – he spends the majority of their sessions talking about his favorite immigrant story, White Fang, a book which only grows in their shared estimation by the film’s end. When Donya is given a promotion as a fortune writer, she takes this as an opportunity to meet someone new, to possibly give more of herself to another person. – Michael F. (full review)

Where to Stream: MUBI (free for 30 days)

A Ghost Story (David Lowery)

The psychological weight of our certain death and the fact that life will go on long after we are departed is difficult to convey visually, but A Ghost Story is one of the most poignant films to ever grapple with this issue. It’s a singular feat of enthralling storytelling that I would say is going to leave a lasting impression centuries after everyone involved has passed away, but as Will Oldham(aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy) ponders in David Lowery’s micro-masterpiece, humanity will eventually perish. It’s not a comforting thought, to say the least, but A Ghost Story leaves enough room for the viewer to find peace in the reflection. – Jordan R. (full review)

Where to Stream: Tubi

Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project (Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson)

More than 50 years ago, while a student at Fisk University, Nikki Giovanni was published in the journal Negro Digest. Since then she has become a heralded poet and cultural staple while being called the “Poet of the Black Revolution,” a title apt for the fire within her writing. Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson examine her life in Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, a documentary attempting to detail the way she views the world.  – Michael F. (full review)

Where to Stream: Max

Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese)

Wolves are not subtle creatures. It’s a rhetorical question: “Can you find the wolves in this picture?” Who couldn’t spot wolves among humans? They’re much smaller than people, much growlier. They have a vicious appetite and care only about satisfying it. What they lack in tact they make up in blunt aggression, tearing their victims apart limb-by-limb and leaving a blood-stained trail of evidence to prove it. They’re indignant, not the most intelligent, and they don’t speak the language. But that’s where William Hale differs: he speaks the language. Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Killers of the Flower Moon makes no mistake about who is at the center of its tragedy: the Osage Nation. – Luke H. (full review)

Where to Stream: Apple TV+

Napoleon (Ridley Scott)

In a conversation with Empire Magazine, Ridley Scott promised a cut of his latest movie Napoleon that is over four hours long and “fantastic”; this would be an exciting prospect on paper, maybe, if the two-and-a-half-hour cut of Napoleon felt like anything beyond a cursory scroll through Wikipedia. The acclaimed director’s latest historical epic––not so much sword and sandal as it is cannon and boots––starring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role, however, is an unfortunate slog: all filler, no killer, stretching into tedium before its rushed ending. – Fran H. (full review)

Where to Stream: VOD

Pier Paolo Pasolini – Agnès Varda – New York – 1967 (Agnès Varda)

A recently restored gem where the French luminary interviews the Italian master about art, cinema, and politics while walking down 42nd street in New York City.

Where to Stream: Le Cinéma Club

Pulse (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

Cinema can and should encapsulate multitudes, of course, so forgive whatever reductionism might ring when I suggest watching Kiyoshi Kurosawa is to experience filmmaking in totality: the use, intent, and effect of mise-en-scène; the privilege of seeing decisions made in rhythmic, shot-to-shot terms; the push-pull between delineating and concealing narrative information; and how each, separately or together or more often somewhere in-between, shape a film. Pulse is perhaps his best-known film, the one through which a career of 40-plus features is most often compacted. A work so sui generis in atmosphere, texture, and evocation—okay, I’ll admit, a film so scary—leaves little wonder why. If certain of Pulse‘s Internet-driven thrills have aged, it’s not poorly; most days I think we can only witness this vision of connectivity-driven madness come true. — Nick N.

Where to Stream: Prime Video

Self Reliance (Jake Johnson)

A lot of filmmakers at South by Southwest hatched their first movie during the pandemic. Jake Johnson is no exception. With Self Reliance, the actor’s shift into directing is the kind of quarantine-brained debut you’d expect from a Joe Swanberg day player with guidance from the Lonely Island producing team. It’s got a shaggy and conversational comedic style, a few engaging co-stars capable of improvising, and a surreal scenario for its everyman’s life. You kind of know what you’re getting into, and Johnson happily meets expectations. – John F. (full review)

Where to Stream: Hulu

La Syndicaliste (Jean-Paul Salome)

I’ll admit I didn’t expect to see an overt Vertigo homage in the middle of this rather matter-of-fact Isabelle Huppert procedural. Fixating for a second on the bun on the back of her noticeable-through-the-runtime blonde wig, La Syndicaliste affords some time, in the middle of all its backroom dealings and court hearings, to ponder her as a star and film history. For all the dramatic proceedings surrounding her, the icon––who’s essentially been anointed France’s Meryl Streep (though far less annoying and mechanical a performer)––is given some opportunities to “serve” throughout; chiefly she looks very poised answering her cell phone.  – Ethan V. (full review)

Where to Stream: VOD

Utama (Alejandro Loayza Grisi)

Utama is about the effects of climate change and its particular impact on South America’s indigenous communities, no doubt, but its other urgent subject depicts the challenges of a really ornery grandpa. The grandfatherly traits of having your tea brewed to a certain temperature, the non-negotiability of a spot on a particular armchair, and an absolute insistence on daily routine are all in evidence, and in a film that aims to be a universal story––where its lessons can be applied in any locale––this is still the element that rings truest. It’s quite a shock of recognition, as grandson Clever (Santos Choque, a nonprofessional like the entire cast) visits their home, to be branded a “brat” by gramps Virginio (Santos Choque); then he is calmly invited to the table for dinner with a reassuring pat from nana Sisa (Luisa Quispe). – David K. (full review)

Where to Stream: Kino Film Collection

Also New to Streaming

MUBI (free for 30 days)

American Movie
Pieces of April
The Blair Witch Project
But I’m a Cheerleader
Medicine for Melancholy
Age of Panic
Bottle Rocket
Don’t Be a Dick About It
Omelia Contadina
Whores’ Glory
Lost and Beautiful
The Illusionist
Extinction of the Species

Prime Video

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Mister Organ


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