New from Every Movie Has a Lesson by Don Shanahan: CAPSULE REVIEWS: Feature films of the 6th Chicago Critics Film Festival

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For the third consecutive year, “Every Movie Has a Lesson” and Medium.com are credentialed to attend and cover the Chicago Critics Film Festival from May 4-10.  Now in its sixth year, the fine folks of the Chicago Film Critics Association have curated a stellar program of provocative documentaries, intriguing short films, and top-notch independent films, many of which are festival darlings making their Chicago debut.  All of the exciting festivities are hosted by the Music Box Theatre in Lakeview and stands as one of the best film weeks on the city calendar.

Headlining this year’s CCFF are three key films.  On opening night May 4th, star Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion) and producer Jordan Horowitz (La La Land) will be in attendance for their film Fast Color, a rub on a grounded superhero origin story of sorts.  In the mid-festival centerpiece slot stands Paul Schrader’s First Reformed from A24 Films starring Ethan Hawke as a rattled man of the cloth.  Schrader himself will be on-hand after for an insightful Q&A. Closing the festival will be comedian Bo Burnham presenting and moderating his directorial debut Eighth Grade, a witty coming of age episode.  

The full festival slate, a downloadable program, and advance tickets are available for any and all of the CCFF films online via the Music Box.  Found below are my capsule reviews of the feature films and documentaries from this year’s festivals.  This page will be updated as they are completed, so be sure to bookmark this and come back each day as new offerings are presented.  Build your 2018 hidden gem list and see you at the Music Box!


FEATURE FILMS

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WE THE ANIMALS

Director Jeremiah Zagar and his co-writer Daniel Kitrosser make their feature film debuts with We the Animals after cutting their teeth on serious shorts and documentaries.  In the hyper-realistic vein of The Florida Project and Boyhood, We the Animals follows the struggles of a volatile family skimming a level of poverty trying to make ends meet.  Three impressionable young boys comprise our POV as they meander and weather the ups and downs of their exhausted mother and angry father.  The youngest boy Jonah cannot compartmentalize the heavy emotions he feels and witnesses so he resorts to creating a healing fantasy through art. With simplistic power, animated interludes of stylized colored pencil on notebook paper take us into Jonah’s troubled psyche.  Years stretch across 90 minutes as we watch good kids unravel through hardship. We the Animals is a sobering and stern experience that cannot help but intrigue and engage heartstrings begging to share resiliency with these characters.  

STRONG RECOMMENDATION


UPCOMING: First Reformed, Abducted, Searching, On Chesil Beach, The Guilty, Support the Girls, Eighth Grade

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