La Haine *** - Meaning "hatred", this is, apart from the language, a film that could have been shot in many British cities. Indeed, there are several renowned directors working in the UK today who specialise in the "grim up north" kind of filmmaking to which this can be compared, grainy monochrome photography and all. The hatred in question in this case can be seen as racial or social, with a gritty council housing estate simmering with tension and anti-establishment feeling. The film manages to generate a genuine fear in the viewer, who can only hope that things will turn out well, against all the mounting odds.
Before Sunrise *** - Richard Linklater directs this slight, but interesting, story of two strangers who meet on a train and decide to spend the night together exploring a European city unknown to either of them. Although the partially ad-libbed script occasionally seems a bit clunky, the viewer does grow to care about the pair sufficiently that the ending, in which they agree to meet up again in a year's time, works as a genuine cliffhanger.
Before Sunset ** - Linklater teams up again with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy nearly a decade on to find out what has become of the young ideallists of Before Sunrise. It turns out the years have not been kind to either of them. Linklater adds a new element to his part-improv film this time - it's in real-time, which gives a more genuine sense of urgency over their time together. But this time, it's harder to care about two characters who have lost their youthful charm. Hawke and Delpy share the credits for the Oscar-nominated script.
Me And You And Everyone We Know *** - Falling into an indie sub-genre inhabited by the likes of American Beauty, Napoleon Dynamite, Ghost World and even Donnie Darko, this is one of those films about relationships between disparate and quirky individuals in which, inevitably, some of the characters self-destruct while others find redemption. The cast is distinctly non A-list, which does help draw the audience in. Special credit must go to Miranda July, who writes, directs and stars, but keeps her involvement unobtrusive.
Stickmen ** - It could be argued that there are too many Brit-flicks about violent gangsters and hard-men, without New Zealand weighing in on the act as well. This film - a sort of billiards-based version of The Big Lebowski - starts slowly but does eventually succeed inasmuch as the audience will be rooting for the good guys by the end.