We’re thrilled to launch a new feature on The Film Stage highlighting our top recommendations for films currently in theaters, from new releases to restorations receiving a proper theatrical run. While we already provide extensive monthly new-release recommendations and weekly streaming recommendations, as distributors’ roll-outs can vary, we thought it would be helpful to provide a one-stop list to share the essential films that may be on a screen near you. We’ll be updating this page weekly, so be sure to bookmark.
Anatomy of a Fall (Justine Triet)
The ensuing days after a romantic breakup, even if it isn’t a cataclysmic one, are an uncanny time. Perhaps once the spell of verbal conflict and sparring’s ceased, suddenly your sole companion for the most intimate thoughts is yourself once again, but it’s an opportune moment for contemplation: how did it really go wrong? Or, can I be honest with myself and acknowledge my own partial responsibility for its demise? For Sandra (Sandra Hüller) and Samuel (Samuel Theis), the key onscreen and offscreen players in Anatomy of a Fall, are enduring this quagmire, although their inevitable breakup was enforced––the latter has just tragically died. – David K. (full review)
All of Us Strangers (Andrew Haigh)
There are many films about the devastating effects of the AIDS crisis, but very few that grapple with the loneliness of those left behind or came of age as it began to make headlines. Through supernatural metaphor, Andrew Haigh’s latest––and best––film tackles the existential displacement of a gay man (Andrew Scott) fast approaching middle age, his isolation only underlined by the near-abandoned tower block in which he lives. His friends have long moved out of the city, he has to maneuver a generational divide with a new, younger romantic partner (Paul Mescal) whose adolescence was far different to his, and he feels a longing to return to his childhood and come out to the parents who died before he became fully aware of his own identity. It’s a powerful, haunting film, one whose resonance comes entirely from its queerness; a faithful adaptation of the source material likely wouldn’t trouble many best-of-the-year lists. – Alistair R.
The Boy and the Heron (Hayao Miyazaki)
Whereas that 2013 film saw Miyazaki––a man with distinct sensitivity to children’s perspectives––deciding to close on the very adult tale of a man bearing blood on his hands from World War II, he returns to the well, somewhat, in The Boy and the Heron (I much prefer its Japanese title How Do You Live?). Beginning in the middle of a Toyko fire during the war, young man Mahito’s life is thrown into quick disarray. Quickly check Miyazaki’s Wikipedia page to find a quotation about him noting that one of his first memories was the “bombed-out cities” of his home country during that period––though Mahito faces a tragedy Hayao didn’t, his mother perishing in the flames. Soon relocating to the countryside with his strict father Shoichi––who is long past Mahito’s mother, having remarried her younger sister Natsuko––the boy faces growing pains beyond belief. His face smacked with a rock and shooting a burst of blood was enough of a shocking image from an anime film to make the press-screening audience gasp. – Ethan V. (full review)
Fallen Leaves (Aki Kaurismäki)
In 2006, Aki Kaurismäki was asked what he felt young filmmakers lacked. His response was almost Cartesian: “Humility,” the director suggested, “Above all, it is necessary to forget oneself.” The Finnish auteur returns with Fallen Leaves, a charming, moving, bittersweet romance packed with all the lovely things we’ve come to associate with him after four decades. The locations and colors still come in admirable shades of mustard and pea soup––as do the characters and their moods. As a film, Fallen Leaves could hardly be simpler––two people living separate, lonesome lives meet and maybe fall in love––but there is beauty in that simplicity and, as ever, Kaurismäki’s characters live far richer inner lives. – Rory O. (full review)
Ferrari (Michael Mann)
Appreciating Ferrari, Michael Mann’s long-planned biopic on the Italian racing mogul, it helps to go back to the director’s original rationale for the project. Where many viewers found an underpowered, stuttering work, the compressed period of time and the plot strands contained within were judiciously chosen by screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin and Mann to highlight Ferrari’s imperious and, most importantly, monstrous capabilities. The climactic Mille Miglia sequence, more than any in Mann’s body of work, horrifyingly illustrates the cost of progress and profit motive’s denial of the human factor. And it being the first Mann film you could accurately call “operatic” since the ’90s only further enhanced what could be a dual directorial swan song with Heat 2, if it ends up being made. – David K.
Here (Bas Devos; Feb. 9)
For anyone keeping tabs on Bas Devos’ career, it’s notable that the drama of his latest film Here is set in motion by something as benign as a pot of soup. A charming portrait with a flânuerial spirit, the film follows a Brussels-based Romanian construction worker who, having decided to move home, cooks what’s left in his fridge, packages it up, then gifts it to family, friends and––much later––a Belgian-Chinese woman doing a PhD in moss. She is played by Liyo Gang and he is played by Stefan Gota. It’s 81 minutes long, has relatively little dialogue, and tugs the heartstrings in all the best ways. It might be the most benevolent film of this year. – Rory O. (full review)
The Holdovers (Alexander Payne)
After teaming for Sideways two decades ago, writer-director Alexander Payne and actor Paul Giamatti have reunited The Holdovers, and while it’s not a return to form (Downsizing defender, reporting in), it’s already been rightly embraced as a triumph for the duo. Certainly set to be a recurring sad Christmas classic, Ethan Vestby said in his TIFF review, “[for] how it captures the ambiance of walking out of a liquor store and down a wintry street a few days after Christmas, The Holdovers makes for the ideal annual holiday revisit. If far from revelatory, it nonetheless contains a good deal of likability and honesty.”
Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Phạm Thiên Ân)
Early into Pham Thien An’s sprawling, stupefying Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell, there’s a shot that manifests Caravaggio inside a shack in rural Vietnam. Having traveled from Saigon to his home village to attend the funeral of his sister-in-law, Thien (Le Phong Vu) is visiting a local elder who sowed a shroud for the departed. The twenty-something wants to pay for the service; the old man doesn’t take money from neighbors. He does accept the company, though, and very generously spills a whole cascade of memories from the Vietnam War, laying bare an old bullet scar on his ribcage. And as Thien bends to graze the bruised skin under the warm, caliginous light, Pham frames the moment as one of reverential awe, an image modeled off of Caravaggio’s “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.” It’s a beautiful shot in a film full of them. That it comes near the end of a particularly intricate 24-minute take is a testament to Pham’s mastery of craft; that this three-hour odyssey is only his first feature only adds to the wonder. – Leonardo G. (full review)
The Iron Claw (Sean Durkin)
A knockout gut-punch off the ropes, The Iron Claw traces the devastating true story of the Von Erich family, a 1980s Texas wrestling dynasty comprising several brothers whose deep talents in the ring eventually collapsed under the weight of their exploitative, domineering father (Holt McCallany). As the eldest sibling, Kevin, Zac Efron turns in a transformative performance, navigating Sean Durkin’s visceral and intimate American fable with a roided-out musculature––all while trying to ward off a family curse of personal catastrophe. “If we were the toughest, the strongest, nothing could ever hurt us,” Kevin remembers his father telling him. But outside the ring, that philosophy became a death sentence of tragic proportion. – Jake K-S.
Last Things (Deborah Stratman)
One of the best works to premiere at Sundance in 2023, Deborah Stratman’s Last Things explores the planet and our history through the point of view of rocks. Fran Hoepfner said in her top 10 feature, “Despite its experimental nature, I believe that Last Things is––as best a thing can be––’for everyone.’ It is scary and mystical, funny and wholesome. It is both educational and profoundly entertaining.”
Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros (Frederick Wiseman)
The first of Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros‘ four hours moves as quick as a glacier. Herbs are inspected at a farmer’s market. Two chefs weigh up the benefits of pike and zander. Fans of Frederick Wiseman, immediately recognizing these rhythms, know to sit back and relax: his cinema is usually as taxing as a breath of air––probably as good for the system. Plaisirs is Wiseman at his most indulgent. There is a section that goes in deep on how cheese is aged. There is a visit to a beekeeper and another to a vineyard. But Plaisirs‘ 240 minutes are mostly spent charting a day in the life at Troisgros, one of the oldest three-Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. Suffice it to say: do not enter on an empty stomach. – Rory O. (full review)
Perfect Days (Wim Wenders)
Watch an exclusive clip above.
Wim Wenders’ serene, Oscar-nominated character study gives Kōji Yakusho one of his best roles, portraying the everyday routine of a toilet cleaner in Japan. (Don’t worry, it’s slightly more exciting than that sounds.) Luke Hicks said in his review, “With Perfect Days, a passion project he’s wanted to make for decades, Wenders has constructed a daydream of minimalist living (which I don’t mean fashionably) and humanist perspective that has more legs than his past five fiction films combined.”
Pictures of Ghosts (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
If the death of cinema is imminent, at least Kleber Mendonça Filho can play it out with some vintage Tropicália. It’s becoming a nice leitmotif of the Brazilian director’s career, whose ultraviolent Bacurau curtain-raised with Gal Costa’s “Não Identificado,” and latest effort Pictures of Ghosts, which premiered as a Special Screening at Cannes, eases in with Tom Zé’s deceptively jaunty “Happy End.” This is a first-person, arguably selfish movie––in that associated genre, the docu-essay––where Mendonça Filho seems to be waving a teary-eyed goodbye to valuable associations and possessions, perhaps only those of individual sentimental resonance. Yet it’s “selfish” in a productive manner, almost as a function of self-care, like a sunny afternoon lounging on the settee revisiting one’s favorite LPs. – David K. (full review)
Poor Things (Yorgos Lanthimos)
Bella Baxter––whose organic internal makeup I’ll leave to shocking reveal––was born an adult woman. The furiously beating heart of Yorgos Lanthimos’s new film, Poor Things, she was found dead at the bottom of a bridge, an unknown life left behind her, and reanimated from Jane Doe into Bella (Emma Stone) by a bubble-belching monster. Though, that’s not what he calls himself. – Luke H. (full review)
The Settlers (Felipe Gálvez)
The barbaric, bloody sins of the past come to define what entities govern certain land today, carried out by conquistadors and colonizers who hide behind righteous religious falsities to denigrate an indigenous population. With his directorial debut, a hauntingly conceived Chilean western The Settlers (Los Colonos), Felipe Gálvez localizes an origin story of this horror vis-a-vis the brutal genocide of the now-extinct Selk’nam people, who were native to the Patagonian region of southern Argentina and Chile. While spare early passages are narratively opaque and formally ornate to a distancing fault, the riveting second half––including a chilling reckoning with others occupying the desolate land and a well-executed structural gamble––brings profound expansion to this chilling story of atrocity. – Jordan R. (full review)
Skin Deep (Alex Schaad)
One of our favorite films coming out of the Venice Film Festival back in 2022, where it won the Queer Lion award, Alex Schaad’s feature debut subverts genre and gender as it toggles from body-swap thriller to intimate relationship drama. Jared Mobarak said in his review, “By wielding a science fiction conceit wherein two people can consensually transfer their essences into the other’s body, his co-writer and brother Dimitrij and he can begin tearing down walls of gender, sexuality, psychology, and identity itself. Because while our purest self is that essence, all the other pieces that make up who we are impact its formation, evolution, and, inevitably, disintegration. Leyla isn’t mired in a ‘rough patch’ like Tristan tells himself as a coping mechanism to deal with her obvious shift in personality from active lover of life to depressive hermit devoid of spark. Her body and brain—her very existence—have become a prison. And where the only escape had been death, this alternative promises rejuvenation.”
The Taste of Things (Trần Anh Hùng)
One of the most purely pleasurable films of last year, Trần Anh Hùng’s The Taste of Things brings Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel together one of the best culinary cinematic experiences since Babette’s Feast. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “Last time Benoît Magimel appeared in the Cannes competition, a vision in Albert Serra’s Pacifiction, he played a foreign diplomat who stalked an island of French Polynesia like a trashy king. If Serra’s otherworldy film told a cautionary tale about feckless Euro-decadence, Magimel’s latest is more like a revelry. Adapted from Marcel Rouf’s 1924 novel The Passionate Epicure, The Taste of Things is a film about the pleasures of preparing food and consuming it, the idea of cooking as an act of giving and even of love––if a leitmotif exists in this film’s script, it is the sigh of ecstasy.”
The Sweet East (Sean Price Williams)
After 22 years behind the camera––as cinematographer for the likes of Alex Ross Perry and the Safdie brothers––Sean Price Williams has emerged with his first directorial feat(ure), which boasts the creative flourish of a veteran on numerous levels, not least the seamlessly executed shifts in style and batshit Odyssean arc following a girl who must keep escaping the grasp of older men. The sweet cyanide screenplay was penned by film critic Nick Pinkerton, whose toe-stomping approach to character, theme, and colorful storytelling lays fresh ground for Williams to exercise every trick he’s ever learned. More non-musical movies should have integrated theme songs. – Luke H.
Tótem (Lila Avilés)
The characters of Tótem don’t just appear onscreen; they take it over. From the top there’s the patriarch Roberto (Alberto Amador), who speaks using an electrolarynx and, when not dryly cajoling his flock, enjoys pruning a handsome Bonsai. There are his daughters Alejandra (Marisol Gasé), who we meet mid-phonecall, mid-ciggie, and covered in hair dye, and Nuria (Montserrat Marañon); their children, the young Marthe (Saori Gurza) as well as a gamer and a stroppy teen whose names I lost track of. There is Alejandra’s brother, an artist named Tona (played by the screenwriter Mateo García Elizondo), and his partner Lucia (Iazua Larios), with whom he has a daughter, Sol (Naíma Sentíes). This lively ensemble are joined here and there by a mystic, a party of friends, a cat named Monsi, two dogs, three snails, a parrot, a scorpion, enough plants to fill a modest botanical garden, and a pestering drone. – Rory O. (full review)
The Zone of Interest (Jonathan Glazer)
In The Zone of Interest a commander, his wife, and their four children live a life of bucolic bliss. They picnic by the lake. They doddle by the pool. When he sets off to work, she tends to the lilacs. Sat around the dinner table over würst and kohl, the girls’ hair plaited back like golden brezeln, they seem as if plucked from German romanticism. So why, you begin to wonder, is the light so dim? Why do these people not seem to mind when the dogs bark at night? And why do those barks sometimes sound like screams? – Rory O. (full review)
More Recommended Films Now Playing in Theaters
- American Fiction
- The Beekeeper
- Disco Boy
- How to Have Sex
- Inshallah a Boy
- Mambar Pierrette
- The Promised Land
- She Is Conann
- Sometimes I Think About Dying
The Best New Restorations Now Playing in Theaters
The below list features newly restored films receiving a theatrical release run. For NYC-specific repertory round-ups, bookmark NYC Weekend Watch.
- Days of Heaven
- I Heard it Through the Grapevine
- Household Saints
- One from the Heart: Reprise
- The Pianist
- The Third Man
Read all reviews here.