The 10 Best Movies in Theaters Right Now

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The 10 Best Movies in Theaters Right Now

Movie theaters are officially back. As the cinematic offerings slowly return to the big screen compared to the streaming services and various digital rental retailers, we’re here to sort out what’s actually the best bang for your buck at the box office.

New to this list are the Ridley Scott Rashomon, The Last Duel, Bergman Island from Mia Hansen-Løve, the exceptional anthology Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy and Maltese boating drama Luzzu. With fall in full swing, we were due for a refresh!

Of course, use your judgment when choosing whether to go back to the movies or not, but there’s an ever-growing percentage of vaccinated moviegoers who are champing at the bit to get back in front of the big screen. And I’m very happy to say that we’re back, here to help.

That said, things in theatrical distribution are a little strange right now, so apart from some big recent blockbusters, there’s a mix of Oscar-winners, lingering releases, indies and classics booked—depending, of course, on the theater. But thankfully, there’s been enough good movies actually released recently this year that you should have no problem finding something great to watch.

Check out the 10 best movies in theaters right now:


10. No Time To Die

no-time-to-die-poster.jpg Release Date: October 8, 2021
Director:Cary Joji Fukunaga
Stars: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Rami Malek, Ben Whishaw, Lashana Lynch, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Jeffrey Wright, Ana de Armas, Christoph Waltz
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 163 minutes

It’s telling that Craig’s swan song No Time to Die being the longest Bond ever, at a superhero-sized 163 minutes, probably won’t inspire as much public self-flagellation as the leaner, meaner Quantum. No Time to Die is neither lean nor mean; it’s a hard-working attempt to reconcile the Bond rituals with a series-finale emotional weight that these movies have been accumulating (with mixed success) since 2006. Apparently, that reconciliation process takes time: Director Cary Joji Fukunaga (or, more likely, Eon Productions, the tight-gripped caretakers of the Bond franchise) is so unwilling to drop either aspect of this opus that it often feels like two movies in one, both feature-length. So pronounced is the movie’s two-track approach that many of its story elements feel doubled: The opening sequence is a bit of creepy, horror-tinged backstory for Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann (first introduced in the half-lackluster Spectre) and a big Bond action sequence jostling him out of retirement. It feels like 30 minutes before the opening titles finally roll. Then, after those credits, it’s five years later, and the movie gives us a whole other Bond retirement, this time in Jamaica rather than Italy. If it seems like the characters, locations and plot turns keep on coming, and that it’s impossible to keep from mentioning the other Craig Bonds that have preceded it, that’s very much the experience of watching No Time to Die—and not always unpleasantly. If you can accept a saga-fication of Bond, with callbacks and plot threads and interconnections, it’s, at minimum, less of a Forever Franchise than the endlessly self-teasing superhero mythologies (ironic, given that this is the most forever of franchises). This movie really does want to tie the extended Craig era—longest in years, though not in total output—together. Despite the craft on display, No Time to Die lacks pantheon-level Bond action sequences. Cuba is terrific fun, Fukunaga stages a solid late-movie one-take stairwell fight and the big/delayed opener delivers. But the movie is more concerned with the human stuff, a decision that’s by turns hubristic, heartening and unprecedented. (Well, not entirely. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service tried something different, and the filmmakers show their belated appreciation for that once-maligned Bond classic here.) The emotional weight it’s trying to foist onto its loyal audience doesn’t always feel earned, just because it’s tricky to parse what, if anything, the movie is actually trying to say about a James Bond who has spent the majority of five movies beginning and ending, sometimes on a loop. Yet fans may welcome the chance to watch the series struggle against its conventions: Are these performances good, for example, or are all the good guys just beautiful? Is this movie visually sumptuous or was it just shot on film? Has James Bond been deepened, or just weathered? As neatly as No Time to Die wraps up, its certainty is ultimately limited to the last line of the credits: James Bond Will Return. How is another question altogether.—Jesse Hassenger


9. I’m Your Man

im-your-man-poster.jpg Release Date: September 24, 2021
Director: Maria Schrader
Stars: Maren Eggert, Dan Stevens, Sandra Hüller, Hans Löw
Rating: R
Runtime: 105 minutes

Anytime someone makes a concerted effort to shake up rom-com formulas, I’m all in. While the bougie and hyper-literate can poo-poo the whole genre as trite or corny, they’ve either got no heart, or they’ve never truly seen a great rom-com hit the admittedly rare sweet spot of story, actor chemistry and tonal execution. German director Maria Schrader almost achieves that sweet spot with I’m Your Man, but gets a little muddled in her storytelling in the last minutes. That doesn’t take away from her subtle and mature study of loneliness and intimacy via technology. Set in the very near future, Alma (Maren Eggert) is an expert researcher at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Falling short on funds, she agrees to be part of a three-week research program where she’ll provide her colleague an in-depth report advising for or against the ethics of a new technology: Entirely lifelike robots algorithmically programmed to be the perfect partner. For Alma, the tech company has programmed Tom (Dan Stevens), a handsome, smart, blonde specimen who also speaks German with a slight British accent because she likes the exotic. Eggert does a beautiful job modulating Alma’s slow thaw towards Tom. Stevens is also pitch perfect as he moves Tom away from his initial cloying programming and assimilates to Alma’s pragmatic needs. Watching him make that transition is like witnessing an expert race car driver shift for the most efficient ride possible; you weren’t aware it was happening but they sure did win that race. And it’s delightfully unexpected that the film doubles down on robot Tom as the romantic, doggedly undeterred in figuring out how to be the best partner he can for Alma. I’m Your Man succeeds in breathing gentle life into the well-worn genre by proving that, just like Tom, the perception of something’s value can actually be hiding something surprisingly deep.—Tara Bennett


8. Candyman

candyman-poster.jpg Release Date: August 27, 2021
Director: Nia DaCosta
Stars: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, Tony Todd, Vanessa Estelle Williams
Rating: R
Runtime: 91 minutes

The problem with writing about Candyman is that you will inevitably have to write “Candyman” five times. What if my monitor suddenly craps out, leaving me to see a paranormal entity rocking a full-length shearling behind my dark reflection? Unlike many of the white Chicagoans in writer/director Nia DaCosta’s slasher sequel, I’m not foolish enough to tempt the Bloody Mary of the Near North Side. I am, however, still drawn to her update of the legend, which manages to pick up the original film’s pieces and put them back together in a compelling, reclamatory collage. Ignoring the rest of the Candyman series in favor of a direct follow-up to Bernard Rose’s allegory-rich 1992 slasher, DaCosta introduces fancy-pants artist Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) to the same urban legend that consumed lookie-loo grad student Helen Lyle. The original story adapted Clive Barker to U.S. racism and wealth inequality—particularly in Chicago, and even more particularly in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green projects. Now its homes and high-rises have been demolished or abandoned. A massive Target overlooks its northwest border, where you can buy athleisure and grab an in-house Starbucks before heading to Panera Bread. Gentrification may have neatly plastered over history, but that history cannot be so easily erased. “A story like that—a pain like that—lasts forever,” says Colman Domingo’s long-timer laundryman Burke. “That’s Candyman.” DaCosta makes it clear that Anthony’s pulled by the legend, by history, more intimately than Helen ever was, and updates her scares in turn. The nightmarish apartments and putrid bathrooms Helen crawled through and photographed neatly reflected the entity haunting them; but the projects have been paved over, and Candyman persists. DaCosta shoots the city accordingly, either in dividing straight lines, or fully warped: You never notice how Marina City’s towers look like beehives until they’re flipped upside-down. Spurred on by Anthony’s interest, Candyman’s now an inevitability in every reflective surface. You can’t look away from DaCosta’s inspired compositions and layouts, your eyes led from one dark corner to the next with an Invisible Man-like mastery of negative space. One of these days, you think, she’s going to run out of ideas about how to shoot a mirror kill. Not so, especially in her world of omnipresent, physically and psychically painful self-reflection. While the kills, perpetrated by a being mostly just seen in mirrors, are sometimes a bit too obfuscated by their gimmick to be viscerally satisfying, they slot in perfectly with the film’s themes and aesthetic even when they’re not dumping cascades of blood. The power of martyrdom, the cycles of economic exploitation, the blood price expected for progress—even if these ideas are imperfectly engaged with, they’re so compellingly introduced as to solidify Candyman as a must-see horror and a must-discuss tragedy.—Jacob Oller


7. Luzzu

luzzu-poster.jpg Release Date: October 15, 2021
Director: Alex Camilleri
Stars: Jesmark Scicluna, Michela Farrugia, David Scicluna
Rating: NR
Runtime: 94 minutes

What a tragic fate, to live at the intersection where tradition crosses modernity. Post-Brexit, Americans and Europeans alike have grown to romanticize the EU despite its pronounced flaws; stamping each of its 27 countries with a uniform slate of regulations, as if economic accords come in “one size fits all” measurements, has had a negative impact on the working class. Without offering direct commentary on either rose-tinted liberal views or Boris Johnson’s nationalist maneuvering, Maltese-American writer/director/editor Alex Camilleri’s naturalist debut, Luzzu, dramatizes those blue-collar struggles under well-intended but neglectful political guidance. The film is about the EU without being about the EU. It’s strictly about Jesmark Scicluna, a 20-something Maltese fisherman playing himself, to a point: Camilleri’s writing tailors Jesmark’s personal experiences into a character of similar background but with varied ordeals. Jesmark is the son of a fisherman who was himself the son of a fisherman and so on down the generations, with each father passing down the family luzzu—the vivid red-yellow-blue fishing boat traditionally used by sailors of the Maltese islands. Wishing to make his living the same way his forebears did, Jesmark collides with roadblocks and other obstacles, primarily financial and also domestic. He has an infant son with his girlfriend, Denise (Michela Farrugia), and they’re told by their pediatrician that the little cutie has a growth impediment solved only by expensive medical intervention. Camilleri worked as assistant editor with Ramin Bahrani on three movies before directing his own. Bahrani’s influence is evident in Luzzu’s neo-realism, and the film is of a piece with the works of Diego Ongaro, Jonas Carpignano and Kelly Reichardt, too. It’s that non-professional component that ties Camilleri’s filmmaking together: Scicluna’s performance isn’t flashy, but it’s honest, which gives the film much more impact than any faux-grounded affectations would allow. He matches well with his co-stars, but he acts best with the luzzu itself, a character of a sort and a symbol above all else. Jesmark replaces wood, David lovingly adds layers of paint, but beneath the love and care there is decay. Watching Jesmark let go of the boat, the past and his beloved traditions is as painful as Luzzu is lovely. What’s a fisherman without a rod? What is a fishing community if restrictions deny their catch? The world continues to change no matter what anyone does. Camilleri understands that dilemma and puts it on film with humble clarity.—Andy Crump


6. Bergman Island

bergman-island-poster.jpg Release Date: October 15, 2021
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Stars: Vicky Krieps, Tim Roth, Mia Wasikowska, Anders Danielsen Lie
Rating: R
Runtime: 112 minutes

There is no place on Earth tied more firmly to a filmmaker than Fårö is to Ingmar Bergman. One cannot venture through the small island without being reminded of him at every turn: The rugged, ominous seascape that lurks in the background of Persona (1966); the carcass of a farmhouse that was burned down during the filming of Shame (1968); the seafront estate that the director called home for 40 years. And, of course, there’s the house where Scenes from a Marriage (1973), Bergman’s wildly popular and subversive marital drama, was filmed. That’s where Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) plant themselves at the start of Mia Hansen-Løve’s Bergman Island. The couple, both writers and directors, are participating in an artist’s retreat to see if being in the shadow of the Swedish filmmaking giant will help get their creative juices flowing. What begins as a straightforward story of two artists creating different projects ultimately turns into Hansen-Løve’s strongest argument for the inextricable nature of life and art yet. On both personal and artistic levels, Chris and Tony are besieged by Bergman’s ghost the moment they set foot on the island. The woman who shows the couple into their house, for example, makes sure to give them the dismal news that Scenes from a Marriage was responsible for a huge uptick in divorce rates upon its release. Still, the couple just can’t seem to hold back from persistently discussing the filmmaker’s achievements, and fighting over which of his films to watch on the island. (Anything but The Seventh Seal, of course, which Tony hates). But what’s so satisfying about Bergman Island is that it ultimately defies all personal and creative expectations placed on it by its association with Fårö. While on Fårö, Chris begins to dream up an idea for a new film, inspired by her own first love. As she narrates to Tony, the film comes to life: A young woman named Amy (Mia Wasikowska) arrives at Fårö for a wedding and is reunited with her old lover Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie). Bergman Island’s film-within-a-film is an explosive reflection of Chris’s inner state as an artist. Amy and Joseph’s story is gracefully imbued with possibility, only furthered by Wasikowska’s tender, emotional performance. Their B-plot is told with the same nimble vigor as Chris and Tony’s story, but with more of a breezy, unrestrained edge. Amy dances to ABBA and skinny dips at night. Nothing feels forced about the two narratives: They are perfectly woven together both by Hansen-Løve’s subdued, effortless directorial style and Marion Monnier’s artful editing, until each feels like it could not exist without the other. When the two storylines melt into abstraction, it feels perfectly organic. Hansen-Løve’s films have always had such a strong overtone of humanity, with a deep focus on emotions and characters unafraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves, that it only makes sense that her final statement in Bergman Island is that being an artist is a deeply, deeply personal thing. With the backdrop of Bergman, the film suggests that, additionally, it’s a powerful thing to be inspired by an artist. But what’s even more fulfilling is to be inspired by an artist and still reject their methods of creation in favor of your own.—Aurora Amidon


5. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

wheel-of-fortune-and-fantasy-poster.jpg Release Date: October 15, 2021
Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Stars: Kotone Furukawa, Ayumu Nakajima, Hyunri, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Katsuki Mori, Shouma Kai, Fusako Urabe, Aoba Kawai
Rating: NR
Runtime: 121 minutes

The awkward charm of coincidental encounters is what sets Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy in motion, a collection of three short films about the unexpected outcomes of otherwise mundane interactions. Each segment lasts approximately 40 minutes, focusing on full-length casual conversations and the intense emotions they immediately provoke. The film’s anthology approach works as a compelling contrast to Hamaguchi’s other 2021 feature, Japan’s Oscar selection Drive My Car, which itself is a three-hour adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story of the same name. Whether by weaving together standalone shorts or fleshing out an existing text, the director suggests that the subtleties of everyday exchanges often harbor strange secrets. Though none of the stories are connected—or even exist in the same ostensible world—there is a consistent throughline of analyzing performance. Whether it’s achieved through a character playing out imagined scenarios in their mind, communicating the vulnerable passion of sex or roleplaying to receive long-awaited answers to unquelled questions, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy demonstrates the benefit of inhabiting delusion. In fact, the film’s English-language title addresses this very fixation. The idea of fortune is not inherently bound to prosperity, but rather the more intangible and improbable intricacies of fated consequences. In this sense, the role of fantasy is to act as a salve for the often depressing mundanity of real-life obligations and social mores, whether through speculative daydreams, beguiling lies or invited deceit. Hamaguchi certainly possesses a fascination for depicting multifaceted women in his filmography (Happy Hour, Asako I & II and now Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy as well as Drive My Car), a trait that can surely be traced back to the filmmaker’s decades-long obsession with Cassavetes. This interest is compounded by his prominent focus on romance in women’s lives: In the case of Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, these relationships range from doormat ex-boyfriends, unforeseen objects of seduction and long-lost loves. However, the women explored in each segment are hardly defined by their success in securing a happy union. Particularly due to the short films ranging from ending on a sour or slightly saccharine note, the characters are given much more room to be frustrated in their relationships—this theme of disharmony in otherwise functional relationships being another recurring motif in Hamaguchi’s films. Both Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy and Drive My Car incorporate themes of the erotic thrill of crafting a narrative, the power in playing pretend, and the malleable and ever-transmogrifying nature of human relationships. Though his highly anticipated Drive My Car distills these musings in a slightly more meticulous manner, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy cuts to the chase in a way that’s quaintly quirky—and never dull to watch unfold.—Natalia Keogan


4. The Last Duel

the-last-duel-poster.jpg Release Date: October 15, 2021
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jodie Comer, Adam Driver, Harriet Walter, Alex Lawther
Rating: R
Runtime: 152 minutes

To tell a story that’s been told before, Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel does something a little familiar, and a little different. His medieval epic based on the book of the same name by Eric Jager—concerning the last judicial duel of France—is conveyed across three chapters. In a narrative device easily comparable to Rashomon, another film which details the conflicting accounts surrounding a rape, the script (co-penned by stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck alongside Nicole Holofcener), sends us back to the beginning three times. The Last Duel retreads the path already taken, but each occasion with a different guide. In some instances, diplomatic actions become violent ones, off-handed glances become indicative of deceit, relationships drastically change, words take on different meanings, and the world is suddenly observed as if we were seeing it for the very first time. Which is why, when we are introduced to the knight Jean de Carrouges (Damon), we come face-to-face with a grizzled, esteemed war hero. He charges into a brutal battle and valiantly hacks away at the enemy forces. Spears enter chests, viscera is sliced, blood sprays to near-comical effect. The squelching of flesh, cracking of bones and clanging of metal is amplified by the film’s impeccable sound design, battle sequences defined by the kineticism of Dariusz Wolski’s camerawork. In this first chapter, we see the world as Carrouges sees it, and it’s a world where he is a respected fighter and dutiful husband who has been wronged by his former friend, and who expresses compassion and swift wrath against the man who committed the sin of rape against his young wife, Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer). But as the narrative shifts over, we understand that this is not entirely true. Carrouges is perceived as something of a dimwitted blowhard in the eyes of Jacques le Gris (Adam Driver), former friend to Carrouges on the battlefield and squire to Count Pierre d’Alençon (Affleck). Pierre d’Alençon and his squire are infamous womanizers, engaging in orgies and gossiping about how much they hate Jean de Carrouges (which is often funny just by sheer virtue of Affleck and Damon’s real-life friendship). Of course, Marguerite’s chapter provides the most conclusive account of the story, articulating a life lived only at the whims of men. And in the eyes of Marguerite, Carrouges is nothing but a brute she was forced to love, and le Gris is a lustful freak to whom she is only superficially attracted. The character is handled elegantly by Comer, who carries Marguerite with composure masking the ubiquitous glint of terror in her eyes; the quivering yet entirely routine fear of a person whose personhood has been rendered negligible from birth. It is simple to dub Scott’s film a medieval take on #MeToo, and, well, OK, it is. It’s an easily applicable, overtly modern allegory about the implications of coming forward on charges of sexual assault—how women can be just as complicit in the pervasion of rape culture as men are in perpetrating it, and how the costs of saying anything at all can be so dire that it is not worth saying anything at all. But these are things we already know. Such commentary has been done to death at this point, and frequently in ways which come across as tone-deaf and trite. Instead, Damon, Affleck and Holofcener have penned a skilled illustration of how men see the world differently, and how rape culture is born out of these lived-in blind spots. The decision to tell the 150-minute story through three separate ones not only begets a stunningly compelling narrative that allows for multi-layered characters, but it’s a gimmick that gets to the very heart of what the film is trying to say: When men fundamentally see the world in opposition to women, and when that world is then attuned to their whims, there can be only one truth. Ridley Scott directing a grand, riveting medieval epic that doubles as an analysis of gender dynamics might be unexpected, but The Last Duel manages to effortlessly combine Scott’s action sensibilities with an empathetic thread between the past and present.—Brianna Zigler


3. Pig

pig-poster.jpg Release Date: July 16, 2021
Director: Michael Sarnoski
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

In the forest outside Portland, a man’s pig is stolen. Rob (Nicolas Cage) is a witchy truffle forager that we learn used to be a chef—a Michelin-starred Baba Yaga, a gastronomical Radagast—who sells his pig’s findings to sustain his isolated life. What follows is not a revenge thriller. This is not a porcine Taken. Pig, the ambitious debut of writer/director Michael Sarnoski, is a blindsiding and measured treatise on the masculine response to loss. Featuring Nicolas Cage in one of his most successful recent permutations, evolving Mandy’s silent force of nature to an extinct volcano of scabbed-over pain, Pig unearths broad themes by thoroughly sniffing out the details of its microcosm. The other component making up this Pacific NW terrarium, aside from Rob and the golden-furred Brandy’s endearingly shorthanded connection, is the guy Rob sells his truffles to, Amir. Alex Wolff’s tiny Succession-esque business jerk is a bundle of jagged inadequacies, and only Rob’s calloused wisdom can handle such prickliness. They’re exceptional foils for one another, classic tonal opposites that share plenty under the surface of age. Together, the pair search for the pignapping victim, which inevitably leads them out of the forest and back into the city. There they collide with the seediest, John Wick’s Kitchen Confidential kind of industry underbelly you can imagine, in a series of standoffs, soliloquies and strange stares. It’s a bit heightened, but in a forgotten and built-over way that feels more secret than fantastic. The sparse and spacious writing allows its actors to fill in the gaps, particularly Cage. Where some of Cage’s most riveting experiments used to be based in manic deliveries and expressionistic faces, what seems to engage him now is the opposite: Silence, stillness, realist hurt and downcast eyes. You can hear Cage scraping the rust off Rob’s voice, grinding the interpersonal gears much like the dilapidated truck he tries (and fails) to take into town. Wolff, along with much of the rest of the cast, projects an intense desperation for validation—a palpable desire to win the rat race and be somebody. It’s clear that Rob was once a part of this world before his self-imposed exile, clear from knowing gazes and social cues as much as the scenarios that lead the pig-seekers through basements and kitchens. Part of Pig’s impactful, moving charm is its restraint. It’s a world only hinted at in 87 minutes, but with a satisfying emotional thoroughness. We watch this world turn only slightly, but the full dramatic arcs of lives are on display. A sad but not unkind movie, and certainly not a pessimistic one, Pig puts its faith in a discerning audience to look past its premise.—Jacob Oller


2. Titane

titane-poster.jpg Release Date: October 8, 2021
Director: Julia Ducournau
Stars: Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier, Laïs Salameh
Rating: R
Runtime: 108 minutes

Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) had an early connection with cars. Her insistence on using her voice to mimic the rev of an engine as a young girl (played by Adèle Guigue) while her irritated father (French director Bertrand Bonello) drove was so undaunted that one day she caused him to lose control of the vehicle. The accident rendered her father mostly unscathed, and Alexia with a titanium plate implanted in her skull. It was a procedure that seemingly strengthened a curious linkage between her and metal and machine, an innate affection for something hot and alive that could never turn away Alexia’s love. As the doctor removes Alexia’s surgical metal headgear, her father looks on with something that can only be described as disdain for his child. Perhaps, it is because he knew what Alexia would become; perhaps, Alexia was just born bad. Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or-winning follow-up to 2016’s Raw crunches, tears and sizzles. Bones break, skin rips, libidos throb—the human body is pushed to impossible limits. It’s something that Ducournau has already proved familiarity with, but the French director takes things to new extremes with her sophomore film. Titane is a convoluted, gender-bending odyssey splattered with gore and motor oil, the heart of which rests on a simple (if exceedingly perverted) story of finding unconditional acceptance. Eighteen years following the childhood incident, Alexia is a dancer and car model, venerated by ravenous male fans aching to get a picture and an autograph with the punky, sharp-featured young woman. She splays her near-naked form atop the hood of an automobile to the beat of music, contorting and touching herself with simmering lust for the inanimate machine adorned with a fiery paint job to match Alexia’s sexuality. Pink and green and neon yellow glistens on every body (chrome or otherwise) in the showroom, but Ruben Impens’ cinematography follows Alexia as she guides us through this space where she feels most at home. Titane persists as a boundary-pushing exploration of the human form, of gender performance, masculinity and isolation; Ducournau’s script is surprising, shocking, titillating at every turn. And despite her cruelty, and the relative distance from and lack of insight into her character, Alexia remains an empathetic protagonist. This is in no small part thanks to Rousselle’s commanding portrayal which astonishingly doubles as her feature debut. Titane is not just 108 bloody minutes of bodily mutilation and perversion, but of blazing chaos inherent in our human need for acceptance. Ducournau has wrapped up this simple conceit in a narrative that only serves to establish her voice as one which demands our attention, even as we feel compelled to look away. Yes, it’s true what they’ve said—love will literally tear us apart.—Brianna Zigler


1. The Green Knight

the-green-knight-poster.jpg Release Date: July 30, 2021
Director: David Lowery
Stars: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Ralph Ineson, Barry Keoghan, Joel Edgerton
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Rating: R
Runtime: 130 minutes

When Sir Gawain departs Camelot, he rides past a scene of desolation. A once-prosperous forest stripped of its lush greenery by human hands, only splintered wood and dust remain. Through his journey, Gawain (Dev Patel) is greeted by similar, if not entirely equal imagery, constantly evocative of mankind’s awkward, unwanted presence within the natural world. One year prior, the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) approached King Arthur (Sean Harris) and his Knights of the Round Table, conjured up by Gawain’s mother, Morgan Le Fay (Sarita Choudhury), seeking a participant for his Christmas Game. Should one of Arthur’s knights land a blow against him, the knight shall receive his mighty axe, but must seek him out exactly one year later to receive an equal blow in return. When Gawain, reluctant to accept though eager to bring honor to his name, agrees to the Green Knight’s terms, the humanoid creature only drops his axe and lowers his head to reveal an oaken neck, offering it to Gawain freely. Naturally, Gawain succeeds, but at what cost? The Green Knight retrieves his head and rides off into the night. Gawain understands he cannot do the same. Foliage sprouts in the stone cracks on the hall floor where the Green Knight’s blood has been spilt. David Lowery’s The Green Knight is a modern reckoning with a medieval fable. It’s a haunting, confounding, surprisingly erotic fantasy epic; a confrontation between man and nature, nature and religion, man and himself. Adapted from the anonymously authored Arthurian poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Lowery’s austere yet spellbinding take on the simple 14th century legend evokes the same questions as the original work, interrogating the cost of one’s life for the sake of one’s honor when there is only certainty that they will die. “Greatness? Why is goodness not enough?” pleads Esel (Alicia Vikander), Gawain’s lover, a sex worker, whom he holds at arm’s length. But the film and Gawain’s quest carry a message that stretches far beyond the fantastical world of King Arthur, one about humanity’s inherent frailty in the face of far-reaching environmental destruction and what gods they have foolishly chosen in place of nature. Obscurities are what anchor The Green Knight as Lowery leans into the ambiguity that defines the original text and replaces it with his own equally mystifying visual interpretations. By blending his abstract sensibilities seen in 2017’s A Ghost Story with the grand fantasy of his live-action Pete’s Dragon, Lowery has crafted a breathtaking, titillating adaptation of folklore with a denouement that carries real-world weight.—Brianna Zigler