Mill Valley Film Fest 2022: 15 movies you have to see – The Mercury News

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Hey, cinema fans, let’s clue you in on one of the most exciting film events of the season, the 45th Mill Valley Film Festival.
Certainly you’ll be able to give those little grey cells a workout Oct 6 when Rian Johnson’s star-studded whodunit “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” kicks off the fest. Johnson, along with film stars Kate Hudson, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr. and producer Ram Bergman plan to attend, in one of the many celeb-studded events.
If dead bodies and a long list of suspects isn’t your cup of tea, never fear. The festival runs through Oct. 16 and features 145 indie gems showcasing global stars and Bay Area talent while increasing the visibility of female filmmakers as part of its Mind the Gap mission. (Nearly 54 percent of features this year are helmed by women.)
Here are 15 films I’ve seen that and highly recommend. Although the festival has shifted to mostly in-person screenings, there are a limited number of films that will be made available to stream.
“My Policeman”: Melodramatic and swoon-worthy cinematic flourishes — the kind filmmaker Douglas Sirk used to specialize in during the 1950s — abound in this moving and bittersweet tale of a tangled love that is said to have been inspired by E.M. Foster’s clandestine relationship. In Michael Grandage’s caressing hands, Bethan Roberts’ novel on the scars left by repressed sexuality and romantic deceit gets grandly transformed into a stunningly photographed tearjerker of the sort that Hollywood sadly abandoned. Grandage’s quite sexy adaptation flickers from a vibrant past (‘50s Brighton in England) to the somber present as a school librarian (Emma Corrin/Gina McKee), a less cultured policeman (Harry Styles/Linus Roache; both well cast) and a museum curator (David Dawson/Rupert Everett) suffer from hiding their true wants, needs and desires. Dawson emerges as a true star. Ignore the bad reviews, this is a stunner. Screenings: 8 p.m. Oct. 12, Smith Rafael; 2:30 p.m. Oct. 14, Sequoia.

“Close”: The connection between two 13-year-old boys withers and dies once the two friends — Leo (Eden Dambrine) and Remi (Gustav De Waele) – return to school where they’re greeted with homophobic slurs. Director Lukas Dhont’s lovely autumnal lament on an innocence destroyed aches not only with pain and guilt but compassion and acceptance. It’s one of the best films of 2022 and features world-wise performances from the entire cast. Composer Valentin Hadjadj’s score couldn’t be more haunting and impactful, and the cinematography is breathtaking. Screenings: 6 p.m. Oct. 14, Sequoia; and 8 p.m. Oct. 15, Smith Rafael.

“Decision to Leave”: A potentially fatal attraction pushes a married South Korean police investigator (Park Hae-il) to the emotional breaking point in this Cannes award winner. One of my favorite directors, Park Chan-wook (of the 2003 original “Oldboy”) copped the best director honor at Cannes for this destined to be another classic that is filled with numerous extraordinarily shot and staged sequences. “Leave” could have been a run-of-the-mill potboiler about a sad-sack detective losing his ethics once he meets up with a femme fatale (Tang Wei), there’s much more afoot here than steamy encounters and a cliched story. You’ll be thinking about the ending for days. Screenings: 6 p.m. Oct. 9, Smith Rafael; 7 p.m. Oct. 16, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA).

“Nanny”: The supernatural announces its ominous presence early but stays mostly in the background in director Nikyatu Jusu’s atmospherically shot feature debut, a thought-provoking domestic chiller. Everything that holds back its complex Senegal-born protagonist Aisha (Ana Diop, in a career-making performance) can be tied to Americans’ callous attitude toward immigrants. As the wealthy, dysfunctional parents of a girl that Aisha cares for, Michelle Monaghan and Morgan Spencer excel at reflecting a self-absorption that threatens to swallow anyone in their path. Jusu will be awarded the MVFF award for feature debut at a special presentation in Mill Valley. She will be joined onstage by Diop. Screenings: 6 p.m. Oct. 15, Sequoia. “Nanny” also screens at 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Roxie in San Francisco.

“Call Jane”: The Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe V. Wade makes Phyllis Nagy’s dramatized version about the real ‘60s-’70s underground band of defiant Chicago activists who helped women attain illegal abortions ever more relevant. Nagy’s accessible crowd-pleaser rallies around two passionate performances, one from Elizabeth Banks as a suburban housewife who sneaks away from her suburban home to help the cause, and another from Sigourney Weaver, as the leader of the organization. UC Berkeley student Chiara D’Ambrosio has a supporting role in the film. Screenings: 2:45 p.m. Oct. 8, Smith Rafael; noon Oct. 9 at the Lark.
“The Good Nurse”: The festival’s closing night selection is a shocking, gripping true-crime dramatization with another strong performance from Jessica Chastain as a nurse realizing that a recent hire (Eddie Redmayne, in his best performance yet) isn’t the sweet guy she thinks he is. This Netflix psychological thriller is well-written and digs deep into potent themes about our secretive and bureaucratic health-care system. Redmayne — who deserves supporting actor Oscar nod for tjis — will attend along with director Tobias Lindholm and costar Nnamdi Asomugha, a former UC Berkeley athlete and student. Go Bears! Screenings: 5 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Rafael and the Sequoia.

“The Grab”: As suspenseful as it is demanding and damning, Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s gripper issues a wake-up call to the global community and offers testimony on why we need investigative journalism. Be prepared to put those brain cells to work while following along with tenacious reporter Nathan Halverson at the Emeryville-based nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting as journalists there uncover shocking well-disguised campaigns by countries and dubious organizations to snatch land, water, food and and other precious resources from the unsuspecting. The “Grab” could be the most important documentary you’ll see in 2022. Screenings: 6 p.m. Oct. 7 and 1 p.m. Oct. 10, the Sequoia.
“Town Destroyer”: The fractious debate at San Francisco’s George Washington High School over a 1936 mural that features, amongst other striking images, the form of a dead indigenous man, is the foundation for a global discourse on what is art, what is history and what is no longer acceptable. In Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman’s lean (less than 60 minutes) documentary, artists, students and community members  comment on this thorny and volatile issue. A panel discussion at an 8 p.m. Oct. 8 screening at the Sequoia is certain to be lively. The film also screens at 1:15 pm. Oct. 14 at the Smith Rafael and 1:45 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Roxie.

“The Art of Eating: The Life of M.F.K. Fisher”: The influential life and reflections of gifted Wine Country culinary wordsmith M.F.K. Fisher are re-created with delicate care in this fondly crafted portrait. While it relies on incisive interviews with landmark chefs such as Alice Waters Jacques Pepin, Ruth Reichl and others to reflect on Fisher’s impact, this world premiere from San Francisco director Gregory Bezat and executive producer Gary Meyer comes most alive whenever Fisher’s graceful writing takes center stage. Warning: Do not watch this film if you are hungry. Screenings: 7 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Smith Rafael; 2 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Sequoia.
“Fantastic Negrito: Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?”: Rarely do documentaries on musical artists provide such a raw, uncensored and honest portrayal of what drives a creative spirit. Oakland filmmakers Yvan Iturriaga and Francisco Nunez Capriles do just that in this fascinating deep dive into the life of Grammy-winning Oakland bluesman Xavier Dephrepaulezz, aka Fantastic Negrito. To say this documentary is eye-opening would be an understatement. Screenings: 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; 3 p.m. Oct. 16, Lark Theater.
“Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls”: Writer/director Juilanna Notten’s feature debut was obviously filmed on a tight budget, but the result is still an LGBTQ-themed charmer for tweens and adults alike, an irresistibly sweet and humorous queer-positive story.  Erin (Elliot Stocking) is searching for a smooch and relationship, and she finds the potential for attaining both once assured social-media sensation Syndi (Rosali Annikie) sweeps into class. While the seams of a shoestring budget show, you won’t mind since there’s so much heart and tenderness on display. Stocking is marvelous in the lead. Screenings: 4 p.m. Oct. 14, the Sequoia; 2 p.m. Oct. 15, Lark Theater.
“The Whale”: You’ve probably heard about Brendan Fraser’s devastating performance in Darren Aronofsky’s film about a man’s spiral into self-hate and self-destruction. All of the acclaim surrounding the movie and Fraser’s performance is deserved. The former “Mummy” star commands every scene he’s in as as obese shut-in/online writing professor who is simply eating his way to death. Hardly uplifting, Aronofsky’s drama makes us feel like we’re locked in a disarrayed apartment with him. At times, it feels like you’re watching a stage play, but Fraser’s performance is one for the ages. He’ll appear onstage to receive a tribute at 7 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Sequoia.
“Living”: Tender, humane and anchored by a master-class performance from Bill Nighy, this remake from director Oliver Hermanus (“Moffie”) is elegantly crafted and polished. Based on Akira Kurosawa’s classic “Ikiru,” “Living” follows a brusque British paper-pushing manager (Nighy) who discovers how to live once he receives a fatal prognosis. Imbued with realistic hope and filled with splendid period details, it reminds us all to live in the present before it’s too late. Nighy should be a major contender for best actor. Screenings: 7 p.m. Oct. 9 and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 11, Sequoia.
“Argentina, 1985”: The burden of his country’s history weighs heavy on the tensed-up shoulders of Julio Strassera (Ricardo Darín), a family man assigned the unenviable task of prosecuting military junta leaders in the nearly decades-long (1974 to 1983) tyranny that gripped Argentina, during which dissenters were raped, slaughtered and made to vanish forever. Director Santiago Mitre takes a non-fussy docudrama approach and it’s the right move. With fascism on the rise, “Argentina 1985” warns us of the risky future ahead. Screenings: 6:45 p.m. Oct. 10 and 11.a.m. Oct. 11, Smith Rafael.
“Our Father, the Devil”: The appearance at a retirement community of a seemingly innocuous priest Patrick (Souléymane Sy Savané) sends Marie Cissé’s (Babetida Sadjo) life into upheaval, raising the demons from her past. Ellie Foumbi’s explosive debut can’t be denied; neither can the performances here, notably the one from Sadjo, who cycles through a juggernaut of raw, intense emotions. Foumbi’s film asks tough questions about the hazards of meting out blood vengeance and the irreversible damage from genocide. Screenings: 6 p.m. Oct. 13, Smith Rafael; 11 a.m. Oct. 14, Sequoia.
Contact Randy Myers at [email protected]
When: Oct. 6-16
Where: Various theaters in Mill Valley, Larkspur, San Francisco and Berkeley
Tickets: Most screenings $8-$16.50, special events cost more. Tickets, schedule and more information at mvff.com
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