Film

The Movies to Look For in Early 2017

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The coming year looks like it won’t be an improvement over 2016, so here are some promising films that may help distract us in the next three months. We haven’t seen them all yet — in keeping with the pessimism most of the country is feeling, we’re also considering “what could be bad” in the movies we haven’t seen on this list.

1) Théo and Hugo (January 20)

The first ten minutes or so of this French film, written and directed by out gay couple Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (they also made The Adventures of Felix), are set at a men’s sex club (or “an orgy,” as straight critics insist on calling it). The scene is explicit (the men are naked and most have erections) but also a roundelay, with young, furry-chested Théo (Geoffrey Couët) accepting or gently rebuffing the advances of other men while he tries to catch the eye of the charismatic, handsome Hugo (François Nambot), who is getting fucked by someone else — and loving it. When Hugo is finally face-to-face with Théo, the moment is surprisingly romantic.

The film isn’t as original once the men are outside the club, but as the two talk and amble across pre-dawn Paris, Théo and Hugo becomes a pleasant cross between Andrew Haigh’s Weekend and an exceptionally well-crafted PSA.

2) They Call Us Monsters (January 20)

Ben Lear (son of TV producer Norman) directs this documentary that sits in on a screenwriting workshop held at a male juvenile detention center. The attendees are awaiting trial for violent crimes and will be sentenced to adult facilities. In the meantime, their state, California, is considering the option of parole to those tried as adults for crimes they committed as children. Although it would have been illuminating also to study some young women offenders, this engrossing, informative, and heartbreaking film flies by in its 84 minutes, as the three likable young men collaborate and in the process reveal their own stories of hunger, homelessness, and trauma.

3) Lovesong (February 17)

Coming off her Indie Spirit–nominated turn in American Honey (playing every terrible, miserable boss you’ve ever had), Riley Keough co-stars in this drama from Korean-American director So Yong Kim (who co-wrote the script with her husband, Bradley Rust Gray). Keough plays Sarah, a young, married mother who goes on a road trip with her single friend Mindy (Jena Malone), which awakens the possibility of a relationship between the two women.

What could be bad: The phrase “co-wrote the script with her husband” doesn’t offer reassurance that the film will be free of the assumptions about queer women that marred The Handmaiden and Blue Is the Warmest Color. Advance word is that the scenes between the two women are fairly chaste, and “sexless” has been the default for queer characters in American movies for too long.


4) A United Kingdom (February 17)

Black British director Amma Asante’s follow-up to Belle is, like that film, based on a true story. David Oyelowo plays a prince from Botswana studying in 1940s London, where he meets and marries a white woman (Rosamund Pike), causing international uproar.

What could be bad: Pike and Oyelowo are both powerhouse actors but don’t evince much chemistry in the trailer. The story also seems pedestrian; we have a biracial president who won both his terms by comfortable margins, so interracial marriage isn’t exactly a hot-button issue — though with Trump and his neo-Nazi cronies coming into power, who knows?

5) Get Out (February 24)

Jordan Peele, the unflappable President Obama in the “anger translator” sketches of Key & Peele, has said The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby inspired him to write and direct this horror film. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a Black man, and his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), visit her parents upstate for the first time, and the few Black people Chris meets in the small town exhibit bizarre behavior.

What could be bad: The “scary” parts in the trailer have a cheesiness that hasn’t been seen since the drive-in movies of the 1970s. And the scenes of a Black man terrified he’s about to die at the hands of white people cut a little too close to real-life videos we’ve all seen in recent years.

6) My Life as a Zucchini (February)

Switzerland’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar (also just announced as nominee for the Golden Globes’ Best Animated Feature Film) is a brightly colored, stop-motion tale of a boy nicknamed Zucchini who, after his alcoholic single mother dies, goes to live in a group home with other children. Directed by Claude Barras from a script co-written by Girlhood‘s out queer writer-director, Céline Sciamma.

What could be bad: In her other films, Sciamma has often put her young characters through grueling circumstances that could be jarring in a movie aimed mostly at kids.

7) Their Finest (March 24)

Lone Scherfig (An Education) directs this British comedy starring Gemma Arterton (Tamara Drewe) as a woman in World War II Britain unexpectedly helping to write a propaganda film. The cast includes Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Rachael Stirling, and Jeremy Irons.

What could be bad: A British comedy with a well-known ensemble that includes Nighy has the potential to be good, but might turn out to be another Love Actually.