Fifty-nine years ago, few people had heard of James Dean. Within the space of a few months, however, he would become one of the most talked about screen stars in the world, as he earned an Oscar nomination for his first featured role, helped define the modern teenager in his next and landed a second Oscar nod shortly after his death in a car crash at the tragically early age of 24. Subsequently, many have claimed Dean as their acting inspiration and he has remained an iconic symbol of juvenile defiance. Yet, the reissue of his three major movies in 4K digital restorations will reinforce the conviction held by some that Dean was less the ultimate Method actor than a gimmicky scene-stealer, whose talent lay less in getting to the soul of a character than in fixing the audience's gaze.

Born in Marion, Indiana in 1931, Dean lost his beloved mother when he was nine and was raised by his Quaker aunt before moving to California with his father and stepmother in 1949. Much has been made of his troubled childhood, a possibly sexual (perhaps abusive) relationship with Methodist pastor James DeWeerd and his estrangement from Winton Dean when he dropped out of UCLA in 1951 to act with James Whitmore's theatre troupe. But he scarcely stood out from countless other wannabes, as he graduated from a Pepsi Cola commercial to walk on parts in Samuel Fuller's Fixed Bayonets! (1951) and Douglas Sirk's Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (1952). He also got to deliver his first line, as a boxing trainer in Hal Walker's Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy, Sailor Beware (1952).

However, Dean reached his largest audience as the Apostle John in Arhur Pierson's small-screen Holy Week speculation, Hill Number One (1951), and he continued to scratch around in television after he relocated to New York in October 1951 on the advice of Whitmore and Rogers Brackett, a radio director who had taken Dean under his wing. Yet, while he struggled to make much impression at CBS, Dean gained access to the Actors Studio and sat in on Lee Strasberg's classes alongside Marlon Brando, Julie Harris and Arthur Kennedy. He channelled what he learned into roles like Bronco Evans, the disaffected youth in Omnibus's William Inge adaptation, Glory in the Flower (1953), and Bachu, the North African houseboy in Daniel Mann's Broadway version of André Gide's The Immoralist (1954), and the latter led to him being cast as Cal Trask in Elia Kazan's take on the last 80 pages of John Steinbeck's Cain and Abel saga, East of Eden (1955).

Adam Trask (Raymond Massey) farms a vast expanse of land near the central Californian town of Salinas. He has told sons Cal (Dean) and Aron (Richard Davalos) that their mother died many years ago. But Cal discovers that Kate (Jo Van Fleet) runs a brothel in nearby Monterey and he pays her a visit, without his father's knowledge. Moreover, when Adam's plans to start a long-distance vegetable haulage business almost cost him his fortune, Dean borrows $5000 from his mother to start growing beans, as he has been tipped off that prices will soar in the United States enters the Great War.

Cal also has a crush on Aron's girlfriend, Abra Bacon (Julie Harris) and they kiss atop a Ferris wheel at the fair. Aron suspects something is going on between them and punches his brother when he sees Abra holding Cal's jacket, as he wades into a fight between Aron and some neighbours over a German immigrant. The siblings remain on speaking terms, however, and arrange a surprise birthday party for Adam. Aron exploits the occasion to announce his engagement to Abra and a shaken Cal is left even more distraught when the morally stern Adam refuses the money he offers him from the bean business, as he wants nothing to do with war profiteering.

Abra tries to console Cal and they kiss. But, while Aron orders them to stay away from each other, he volunteers for the army shortly after Cal takes him to meet Kate and Adam has a stroke after sheriff Sam Hamilton (Burl Ives) breaks the news and he is forced to watch his favourite son cackling maniacally from the window of a troop train. Paralysed and unable to communicate, Adam is tended by an officious nurse (Barbara Baxley). However, thanks to Abra's intercession, Adam agrees to dismiss her and accept Cal's devotion. She embraces Cal passionately and leaves him to sit by his father's bedside.

Considered by many to be American cinema's most dynamic director, Elia Kazan had brought the Stanislavsky Method to the screen in tandem with Marlon Brando. However, his reputation had been besmirched by his co-operation with the House UnAmerican Activities Committee's investigation into Communism in Hollywood and many were hoping to see him fail after his shameless apologia, On the Waterfront (1954), took the Academy Award for Best Picture. But the picture proved a solid box-office hit and Kazan, Dean and screenwriter Paul Osborn all earned nominations to go with Jo Van Fleet's Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. There was also plentiful acclaim for Ted McCord's CinemaScope photography (especially as Kazan had never worked with colour or widescreen before), which ably contrasted the sprawling vistas with the more intimate close-ups, whose emotional content was perhaps a little too insistently highlighted by Leonard Rosenman's score. But the film's enduring significance rests squarely on Dean's performance.

Like Kazan, Dean was no stranger to paternal indifference and he clearly drew on the pain and frustration he experienced with Winton in the ad-libbed sequence in which he clings to a bemused Raymond Massey and sobs on having his birthday gift spurned. But such raw vulnerability can also be seen as opportunistic and self-aggrandising and, while Kazan was happy to indulge such erratic spontaneity, it sits uncomfortably in too a number of other scenes in which a touch more restraint and interiority might not have been in order. Dean always seems to be competing with his co-stars rather than acting with or off them. Consequently, he forever overloads his expressions, gestures and delivery and, thus, overbalances the action.

It may be possible to see why a younger generation feeling stifled by Eisenhowerian conformity might recognise a kindred spirit in Dean's readiness to kick out against the dual burden of neglect and expectation. But East of Eden is set in 1917 and such mannerisms are distractingly anachronistic, even though they do reinforce the gulf between Adam and Cal, as Raymond Massey was an old school actor who had little time for the Method or Dean's antics while immersing himself in his character before a take. Indeed, even Kazan became indignant when Dean started to behave like a star by partying hard and being disrespectful to the crew. Yet he recognised the shyness that made Dean seem so boyish and vulnerable and Nicholas Ray tapped into the same trait while making Rebel Without a Cause (1955).

Having relocated to Los Angeles with his parents, Frank (Jim Backus) and Carol (Ann Doran), and 17 year-old Jim Stark (James Dean) enrols at Dawson High. However, he is soon in trouble for public drunkenness and his grandmother (Virginia Brissac) comes to the police station with his folks to reclaim him. Jim resents the fact that his mother is always criticising him and wishes his father would stand up for him (and himself) rather than backing down to keep the peace.

While in custody, however, Jim notices fellow students John `Plato' Crawford (Sal Mineo) and Judy Brown (Natalie Wood) and pals up with Plato after rescuing him from class bully (and Judy's boyfriend) Buzz Gunderson (Corey Allen). Plato is largely cared for by the family maid (Marietta Canty), as his father left home and he scarcely sees him mother. But, while he idolises Jim, Judy keeps her distance and dismisses him as a yo-yo, even though she has problems with her own parents (William Hopper and Rochelle Hudson), who continue to treat her like their little girl.

During a trip to the Griffith Observatory, Jim is moved by a presentation on the future of the universe that reinforces his views on the futility of existence. Thus, when Buzz and his mates slash the tyres of his car, he accepts the challenge of a knife fight and pins his adversary to the ground and holds the blade to his throat. But Buzz demands a second trial of strength and goads Jim into agreeing to hold a `Chickie Run' in stolen cars that evening. The rules of the dare are that Jim and Buzz should drive at speed towards the edge of a cliff at Palos Verdes and whoever jumps out of their vehicle first is deemed the loser. However, Buzz gets his sleeve caught on the door handle and he plunges to his death.

Arriving home, Jim tries to explain to his parents what has happened. But he becomes frustrated by their failure to understand him and, having kicked a hole in a portrait painting, he storms out of the house. Unable to find kindly cop, Ray Fremick (Edward Platt), Jim holes up in an abandoned mansion with Plato and the now sympathetic Judy. They play at happy families and share some of their most intimate hopes and fears. But their idyll is interrupted by Buzz's buddies, who blame Jim for their leader's demise, and Plato shoots his father's gun at them and, having wounded one, very neatly hits Jim.

The unhinged Plato flees to the observatory, with the police in hot pursuit. Anxious to prevent Plato doing anything else foolish, Jim manages to unload the gun while offering Plato his red windbreaker against the cold. But, when Plato comes outside to surrender, the sight of the gun in his hand causes one of the police marksmen to shoot and Jim rushes to his friend's side as he dies. Suddenly cognisant of why his emasculated father always tried to defuse situations, Jim accepts Frank's offer of his sports coat and symbolically leaves his youth behind by zipping up the jacket Plato is wearing, with the explanation that he always felt a chill. As they leave, Jim introduces Judy to his parents.

Starting out as a monochrome B movie, this was promoted to A status when studio chief Jack Warner realised he had a star on his hands. But it remains unclear whether it was Dean's performance, his death (on 30 September 1955, a few weeks before the picture's release) or the fact that his rebellion stuck a chord with so many disillusioned middle-class adolescents that led to the film becoming enshrined in the history of American teenagehood. Once again, Dean is twitching to outscore his co-stars at every turn, most notably in the cop shop sequence, in which his giggling inebriation and snot-nosed protests that his folks are tearing him apart is so contrived that it is difficult to watch without a wince of embarrassment. The same goes for the moment in which Dean self-reflexively mocks Jim Backus (who, like Massey before him, was often taken aback by the impromptu physicality of Dean's acting) by doing an impression of the Mr Magoo character he voiced in a long-running series of cartoons.

But Nicholas Ray seems more in control of Dean's showboating than Kazan was and recognises that it enhances Jim's underlying insecurity and need for approbation. Nevertheless, it's not possible to state with any degree of certainty where the line lies between inspired direction and Method hamminess, as Ray himself overdoes the animal imagery and the use of the colour red to suggest inflamed passions, danger signals and the red rags that cause the kids to become so short-fusedly bullish. Moreover, while Ray ably demonstrates an understanding of the cross-generational antagonisms and similarities that allow for the rapprochement between father and son, he fails to avoid the preachiness that took the curse off so many Hollywood attempts to depict the delinquency that bore no resemblance whatsoever to the spirited hi-jinx it had endorsed in the Andy Hardy comedies that Mickey Rooney had headlined between 1937-46. Furthermore, Ray spurns the opportunity to follow the lead of Richard Brooks's Blackboard Jungle (1955) and stud the soundtrack with rock`n'roll. Consequently, this chauvinist, dated and frequently incoherent picture feels much more like a melodrama fashioned by a fortysomething trying to not to be a square than an authentic slice of teen life.

One of the criticisms often levelled at Dean is that he strove too hard to emulate Marlon Brando. However, he comes closer to showing how he might have developed as a screen actor in George Stevens's Giant (1956), an adaptation of an Edna Ferber novel that is so weighed down by its own sense of dramatic and cinematic prestige that the soft soap potboiling at its core comes oozing out and calcifies before our very eyes. Reuniting Dean with Rebel alumni Sal Mineo, Dennis Hopper and Nick Adams (who dubbed some of his dialogue), this was clearly intended as the project that repositioned him as the new Montgomery Clift. But, despite his valiant efforts to convey advancing years, this exposes how ineffectual Dean could be when co-stars of the magnitude of Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson simply refused to be cowed by his attention-seeking shenanigans and decided to act him off the screen in the grand old-fashioned Hollywood manner.

In the mid-1920s, Texan rancher Jordan `Bick' Benedict (Rock Hudson) travels to Maryland to bid for a prized horse named War Winds. He falls in love with socialite Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor), who ditches fiancé Sir David Karfrey (Rod Taylor) to marry Bick, against the wishes of her snobbish mother (Judith Evelyn). However, having been chided for being too friendly to their Mexican driver, Angel Obregón (Victor Millan), Leslie soon finds herself at odds with Bick's cattle-driving sister, Luz (Mercedes McCambridge), who run the Reata estate with a rod of iron. Neighbour Vashti Snythe (Jane Withers), who had designs on Bick, urges Leslie to give as good as she gets and the pair become firm friends. 

Among Luz's cowherds is Jett Rink (James Dean), who develops a crush on Leslie after she insists on calling into the Mexican shanty and saves Obregón's wife (Pilar Del Rey) and her baby. While they are out, Luz takes War Winds for a ride and, in a bid to harm the horse in revenge for Leslie trying to assume control of the household, she digs in her spurs, only to be killed when the beast rears. At the funeral, Jett learns he has been bequeathed a parcel of land and infuriates Bick by refusing to sell it for twice its value. Instead, he builds Little Reata and discovers oil in a footprint Leslie leaves in the soil and crows to Bick that he is going to be richer than he could ever dream.

As time passes, Bick and Leslie have three children - twins Jordy and Judy and their younger sister, Luz. But they are increasingly at loggerheads over Leslie's desire to help the migrant workers and Bick becomes jealous of her friendship with Dr Guerra (Maurice Jara). Moreover, Bick disowns Jordy when he shows fear at riding a pony on his fourth birthday and Obregón's son, Angel, rides it back to the corral without fear. However, Bick's Uncle Bawley (Chill Wills) tells Leslie to raise the children her way and she takes them for a lengthy stay in Maryland. Eventually, however, Bick persuades Lynne to come home at the wedding of her sister Lacey (Carolyn Craig) to Sir David.

Several years pass and Jordy (Dennis Hopper), Judy (Fran Bennett) and Luz (Carroll Baker) reach adulthood. Jordy trains to become a doctor, while Judy abandons her animal husbandry studies to marry sweetheart Bob Dace (Earl Holliman), who has just been drafted into the forces following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Angel (Sal Mineo) also arrives at the Christmas festivities in uniform and Jordy, who feels left out, seeks solace in Dr Guerra's pretty nurse, Juana (Elsa Cárdenas). As the afternoon wears on, Bick gets drunk on eggnog and tries to persuade Jordy and Judy to take control of Reata. However, she wants to set up her own ranch with Bob and, so, when Jett arrives to ask Bick if Jettexas can drill on his property, he reluctantly agrees.

By the time the war ends, Bick has become a millionaire. But Leslie objects to the oil barons receiving tax exemptions, as the money could be used to help the poor. Angel is killed in action, but Jordy and Bob survive and begin families of their own. Luz proves not to be the domesticating kind, however, and spurns Jett's proposal after a parade to mark the opening of his new airport and hotel in Hermosa. He further incurs the Benedict wrath when Juana is refused service in the hotel salon and Jordy smashes a mirror in fury.

When a drunken Jett arrives to give a banquet speech, Jordy throws a punch at him and gets pummelled in the ensuing melee. Bick intends thrashing Jett within an inch of his life in the wine cellar, but he is too inebriated to fight back and the clan head back to their suite in disgust. Bick tries to be nice to Juana, but Jordy accuses him of being as racist as Jett. Luz is stopped from checking that Jett is okay, but Uncle Bawley counsels that they will only make her resentful. Leslie goes with Luz and they find Jett alone in the banqueting hall lamenting his failure to win Leslie's heart.

While driving home the next day, the Bick, Leslie, Luz and Juana stop at a roadside diner. The waitress (Maxine Gates) refuses to serve Juana, but Bick pulls rank and the owner (Mickey Simpson) allows them to stay. However, when he turfs out an elderly Mexican couple, Bick tries to fight him and takes a beating for his trouble. On arriving back at Reata, Leslie announces that Luz has gone to Hollywood to become a star. She scolds Bick for complaining that one of his grandsons is a `wetback', but reassures him that he is a great man because he finally recognised the need to stand up for the downtrodden and she declares their family a symbol of the future of Texas.

As scripted by Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat, this is a liberal tract that pushes the Civil Rights envelope without too much of the hand-wringing that would characterise similar efforts in the 1960s. However, it also feels like the pilot for a glossy, Dallas-style soap opera, with two many of the secondary characters being ciphers and the plot often seeming to leap through the years when not lurching between grandiose set-pieces. Indeed, it's a companion piece to East of Eden in being a classic example of the kind of bombastic big-screen extravaganza that Hollywood hoped would lure people away from their televisions.

Hudson and Taylor deliver polished performances in invoking the spirit of Clark Gable and Joan Crawford from the Golden Age of Hollywood. But Dean is marginalised by both the plot and his reliance on Method tics that again feel out of place in a 1920s setting and seem incongruous in a grey-haired fiftysomething with no education, more money than sense and a debilitating drink problem. To a degree, he is another rebel. But Jett's cause is more egotistical than radical and, as a consequence, he winds up being the nouveau riche villain of the piece, while Bick's misogynist bigot becomes the paragon of paternalism. 

William C. Mellor's camerawork, Dimiti Tiomkin's score and Boris Leven's production design are all fine. But Stevens had long since ceased to be the iconoclast who had directed Laurel and Hardy and Fred and Ginger with such artless aplomb. As a result, this is often as dull as it is worthy and one wonders whether this was Hollywood's way of taming Dean - just as it had Brando, Clift and Paul Newman and would do Elvis Presley as soon as he stepped before a movie camera - and turning him into another pliable star whose whiff of danger could still be exploited as a marketing tool to get the kids back into cinemas to watch the full-colour, widescreen equivalents of the kind of pictures that used to entice their parents.

James Dean was among the last screen idols to have a major socio-cultural impact on young people, as their focus switched to musicians in the years immediately after his death. Over the next two decades, teddy boys, mods, hippies and metalheads would all base their worldview on what they heard on radio. But, while everyone else had moved on from punk in 1982, a pair of 13 year-old Swedish girls are still devoted to anarchic Stockholm combo Ebba Grön in Lukas Moodysson's We Are the Best!, a sparky adaptation of Never Goodnight, a semi-autobiographical graphic novel by the director's wife, Coco, which captures the enthusiasms, insecurities and indiscretions of youth with considerable wit and offbeat charm, while also exposing just how poorly the Riot Grrrl mindset has been served by the media in general and cinema in particular.

With her short hair and granny glasses, Mira Barkhammar looks much less punky than mohawked fellow misfit Mira Grosin. But they share an abrasive attitude towards authority and a seething detestation of their PE teacher. They also have a healthy dislike of Iron Fist, a metal band that rehearses at the youth club run by Johan Liljemark and Mattias Wiberg. So, having been insulted once too often by the long-haired quartet, they exploit a bureaucratic snafu to get them ejected from the rehearsal space and start thrashing around on the drum kit and bass guitar they leave behind. Pleased with the cacophony they create (even though they have never picked up an instrument before in their lives), the girls decide to form their own punk group and play at the school's Christmas concert.

Denied the opportunity to appear in the show, Barkhammar and Grosin watch in disgust as peppy classmates Viveca Dahlén and Clara Christiansson dance in pastel spandex to the Human League hit `Don't You Want Me'. They are no more impressed by a cackhanded magician. But they do recognise the talent shown by classical guitarist Liv LeMoyne and try to enlist the Christian goody two-shoes in the school canteen. Much to their surprise, the lonely LeMoyne comes to the youth club and is so taken with the `Hate the Sport' number that she agrees to sign up and tries to teach Barkhammar a few drum fills and show Grosin how to play the bass.

Barkhammar lives with her mother, Anna Rydgren, and is embarrassed by her efforts to find a new boyfriend after hitting her 40th birthday. Grosin is equally ashamed of parents Lena Carlsson and David Dencik (a clarinet-playing oddball who finds his daughter's misadventures highly entertaining) and siblings Charlie Falk and Lily Moodysson. But Barkhammar has a crush on the 16 year-old Falk (even though he has abandoned Ebba Grön for Joy Division) and tries to impress him at a party, where she succeeds only in getting drunk and throwing up on his record collection. She gets into more trouble with LeMoyne's mother, Ann-Sofie Rase, who threatens to report them to the police after she and Grosin hector their new recruit into letting them shear her long, blonde tresses.

But the trio keep making musical progress and Liljemark and Wiberg are taken aback when they show the girls the club's new electric guitar and LeMoyne launches into an axe attack that earns them a spot alongside Iron Fist in a New Year gig at a Västerort community centre.  They also make contact with a punk boy band from suburban Solna and take a train across the capital to meet with Jonathan Salomonsson and Alvin Strollo on a snowy afternoon. Despite being slightly underwhelmed by their Brezhnev-Reagan song, Barkhammar and Grosin each develops a crush on Salomonsson and the former sulks on the roof of a housing block when she realises he prefers the more gregarious Grosin.

Christmas comes and goes and Barkhammar goes behind her friend's back to meet with Salomonsson in his bedroom. Unfortunately, the truth comes out while they're on a train and LeMoyne has to shame the pair into burying the hatchet so that they can play their debut. Liljemark and Wiberg have hired a bus to transport the girls and Iron Fist to the Västerort and there is plenty of spiky banter en route. But the tiny crowd take exception to the teen trio and some attempt to storm the stage after Grosin taunts them in the grand punk manner and they have to beat a hasty retreat.

The picture closes with inserts during the credit crawl showing Barkhammar, Grosin and LeMoyne getting up to harmless mischief. But, actually, they indulge in little else in a story that amusingly reveals the heroines' bristling posturing to be little more than mild acting out. The worst thing they do is browbeat LeMoyne into letting them cut her hair and their acute awkwardness as Rase suggests a church-going punishment to teach them the perils of coercion reinforces just how young and naive Barkhammar and Grosin really are. In this regard, Moodysson ably catches the tone of his source material. But this lacks the satirical sting of Show Me Love (1998) and Together (2000) and has none of the dangerous edge that made Lilya 4-Ever (2002) such discomfiting viewing.

Brighter, but less prepossessing or assured that Grosin, Barkhammar holds things together ably as the demure, middle-class rebel who doesn't understand why Rydgren keeps looking for boyfriends when she is still clearly fond of ex-husband Peter Eriksson. Yet she has her own share of crushes and occasionally wonders if her outré looks are more of a hindrance than a valid mode of self-expression. Refusing to accept that punk is dead, Grosin is palpably feistier, but she and LeMoyne are less well limned and, as a consequence, the vignettish narrative frequently lacks a cogent focus.

Nevertheless, Moodysson directs briskly and without condescension, as he explores the notion that even mavericks cannot entirely escape stereotype and conformity. He is splendidly served by production designers Paola Hölmer and Linda Janson, costumier Moa Li Lemhagen Schalin and editor Michal Leszczylowski, who imparts a restless energy to Ulf Brantås's unfussy visuals. But credit should also go to Rasmus Thord and the person who came up with such witty translations for the various punk lyrics.

Switching the scene to modern-day Chile, Sebastián Silva puts two more young women out of their depth at the heart of Magic Magic, a companion piece to his unclassifiable curio, Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and 2012. Once again collaborating with his actor brother Agustín and the American indie icon Michael Cera., this is another quirky odyssey that will divide critical opinion. But this is much more considered than its predecessor, while its insights into social gaucheness, politico-cultural insularity and mental illness have a sensitivity and sincerity that was often missing from the trippier Crystal Fairy, which followed Cera's bid to sample the mesacline brew derived from the pulp of the San Pedro cactus.

Twentysomething Juno Temple arrives in Santiago from California to stay with Emily Browning. This is her first trip outside the United States, but her hopes for a little quiet time with her cousin are dashed when she is bundled into a car heading south with Browning's Chilean boyfriend, Agustín Silva, his testy older sister, Catalina Sandino Moreno, and their gringo buddy, Michael Cera, who has a habit of getting on people's nerves by speaking and acting without thinking. Cramped in the back seat, Temple feels left out as everyone else sings along to the CD player in Spanish. But things go from bad to worse when Browning gets a phone call and she tells Temple that she has to catch a train back to Santiago to sit an exam at college (when, in fact, she is going for an abortion).

Encouraged to sit in the front seat, Temple jams an old jazz disc in the CD Player and everyone has become heartily sick of listening to Cab Calloway's `Minnie the Moocher' by the time they stop off in the countryside to pick up Mapuche friend, Roxana Naranjo. As they return to the car, Cera hears a couple of runt puppies whining in the undergrowth and, ignoring Naranjo's warning that it has been left to die for a reason, he insists on putting the healthier looking dog into the car. A few miles on, however, its whimpering has become so pathetic that Sandino snatches the creature off Cera and leaves it at the side of the road.

Unable to get a signal to speak to Browning, Temple endures the remainder of the journey and is dismayed to discover that they have to make a dusk-light boat trip across a lake and then trek to a house in the island interior before she can get some rest. She resents being stuck in a poky bedroom by Sandino and finds Cera's relentless and often tactless chatter infuriating. Moreover, she finds it hard to sleep and feels very out of sorts when Silva and Cera invite her to accompany them on a walk. Temple is aghast when Cera shoots a parrot with a pellet gun and (somewhat abashed himself) he tries to apologise by scribbling on a page torn from a nature magazine.

Temple thrusts the paper under her pillow and bemoans the fact that she cannot get through to Browning. Convinced that Sandino doesn't like her, she tries to keep to herself. But, when she goes to a stroll in the hills, she is attacked by an overeager sheepdog and gets little sympathy from Cera and Silva, who are playing tennis on rollerskates. Somewhat mollified by the knowledge that Browning will rejoin them next day, Temple tries to join in as Silva tells her he is a keen student of hypnosis. But she retreats to bed early with some pills that Sandino has given her to help her sleep.

Relieved to be reunited with Browning, Temple joins her, Silva and Cera on an excursion to a cliff overlooking the lake. The boys dive into the water, narrowly missing the rocks below. But Temple is scared to take the plunge, having seen a sheep being driven off the ledge to its death the day before. Even after Browning shows her what to do, Temple cannot summon the courage and she suffers Cera's teasing all the way home. So, in a bid to prove she is a good sport, Temple agrees to let Silva hypnotise her and everyone is stunned when she seems to go into a trance and thrusts her hand into the fire. Sandino bandages the wound and gives Temple some more pills. She protests to Browning that she hates her room, but her cousin puts her heightened emotion down to shock. The next morning, Cera is awoken by Temple thrusting her crotch into his face and he complains bitterly to Browning to keep her under control.

Feeling increasingly paranoid and tormented by the squawking of the dead parrot and the puling of the abandoned puppy, Temple slips away from the house and the others find her just as she is about to jump off the cliff ledge. They are powerless to stop her, but rush her home, where Sandino summons Naranjo, who is staying with relatives on the mainland. She changes the dressing on Temple's hand and gives her a drink filled with healing herbs. However, Temple's condition seems to worsen and, as they put her in the boat to leave the island, her life is clearly hanging in the balance.

Several divided dualities prove key to this darkly comic psychological melodrama, whose bilingual dialogue seems a lot more tightly scripted than in the more obviously improvised Crystal Fairy. Temple is separated from Browning, just as the two puppies are arbitrarily prised apart and Cera tries to drive a bromantic wedge between Browning and Silva. Similarly, Temple (who is frequently shown with her mirror image) becomes slowly detached from reality, as her behaviour grows increasingly hyperactive and erratic whether under the influence of hypnosis or the schizophrenia that no amount of Mapuche homoepathy is going to cure.

Refusing to explain or justify any aspect of the narrative, Sebastián Silva reinforces this plurality by dividing the cinematographic duties between Christopher Doyle and Glenn Kaplan, who bring very different perspectives to hostile vistas and claustrophobic interiors that are frequently distorted by Temple's growing disorientation. (The editing credit is similarly shared between Jacob Craycroft and Alex Rodríguez, while Claudio Vargas and Ruy García doubled up on the sound). Demonstrating a touching vulnerability that makes her initially whiny character increasingly symphathetic, Temple finds a fine foil in Cera, who plays against his kooky dork persona to portray an immature, self-centred attention seeker, whose tomfoolery is only marginally less cruel than Sandino's more cutting disapproval. But the other characters are too sketchily drawn to be anything other than helpess (and pretty resistible) onlookers as Temple's health degenerates.

Yet, while Silva captures Temple's capitulation with ingenuity and dexterity, he imbues proceedings with an ambiguity that shrouds the grim ending in disconcerting uncertainty. While many will be moved by the tragedy, some will dismiss this as a calculatingly cultish exercise in ill-disciplined self-indulgence that struggles to find significance in its clumsily strung together set-pieces. Whatever one's take on the picture, however, most will hope that Silva's next outing sees him return to more traditional dramas like The Maid (2009) and Old Cats (2010).

Some have labelled this maddeningly uneven curio a psycholgical horror movie and compared it to Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965). But it also makes for fascinating comparison with another of this week's releases, Wrinkles, which is being made available in both Spanish and English-dubbed versions. The latter features the vocal talents of Martin Sheen, George Coe and Matthew Modine, but we shall concentrate on the original.

The problems of later life dominate Ignacio Ferreras's touching animated version of Paco Roca's award-winning graphic novel, which explores the difficulty of growing old gracefully and coping with the excruciating sense of rejection on being committed to a home after a lifetime of sacrifice by one's children. Echoing many of the themes explored by Sarah Polley in her estimable live-action debut, Away From Her (2006), this may err slightly towards whimsy in its depiction of the more rascally residents and towards sentimentality in its denouement. But the graphics have been lovingly created and there is evident affection for the impeccably voiced characters and an understated concern for the plight of those left to face the ravages of age in less agreeable circumstances.

Snapping out of a reverie in which he imagines himself back in his bank manager's office, Emilio (Álvaro Guevara) learns from son Juan (Raúl Dans) and daughter-in-law Nuera (Montse Davila) that they can no longer look after him and that they have made arrangements for him to enter a retirement home. Stung by their ingratitude and daunted by the realisation that he will have to leave his cosy abode for the institution where he will, in all likelihood die, Emilio travels with reluctance to a comfortable, but soulless facility on the outskirts of town.

He is greeted with enthusiasm by his new roommate, Miguel (Tacho González), an Argentinian who has long been in Spain and welcomes the prospect of a new buddy to enliven his routine. Having shown Emilio their room, Miguel introduces him to the various characters in his little orbit: Antonia (Mabel Rivera), who pops the spare portions of jam and sugar in her handbag at mealtimes; Dolores (Xermana Carballido), who voluntarily came to live at the centre to care for her Alzheimer-stricken husband, Modeste; Ramon (Paco M. Barreiro), who used to be a disc jockey on the radio; Mrs Sol (Ana Macineiras), who keeps giving Miguel money to place a phone call to her neglectful son; Rosario (Charo Peña), who sits in her room gazing out of the window and imagining she is still young and beautiful and riding on the Orient Express; the paranoid Eugenia (Ana Lemos); and Martin (Xavier Perdis), who longs for the delivery of the puppy that Miguel has promised him.

Emilio is dismayed by the manner in which Miguel seems to fleece so many of his supposed friends or makes them promises he cannot possibly keep. But he soon comes to realise that the garrulous migrant not only provides solace by telling people what they want to hear, but he also finds a way of alleviating his own loneliness. Indeed, the pair become firm friends, even though Emilio is convinced that Miguel has stolen both his wallet and his watch from his bedside table.

As Emilio becomes accustomed to the routine, he comes to trust Juanjo (Oscar Fernández), the dreadlocked orderly who does the drug round, and Ana (Beatriz García), the gym coach who gets teased for her enthusiasm and voluptuousness. But he is saddened by the infrequency of Juan and Nuera's visits and thinks back with wistful nostalgia to a seaside holiday with Juan and his much-missed mother Maite (Isabel Vallejo). Moreover, Emilio becomes increasingly afraid of being dispatched to the upper storey, where the advanced Alzheimer's cases go. So, shortly after Modeste is taken away Miguel tries to help Emilio pass his examination by the senior doctor (Andrés Bellas) and has to resort to setting off the alarms to prevent him from revealing his creeping symptoms.

Sensing that his friend is succumbing to more frequent bouts of memory loss and confusion, Miguel arranges with his pal Zurdo (Matías Brea) to hire a car so they gang can go out for one last nigth on the town. However, things don't go according to plan and Miguel finds himself alone again, although he can take comfort of sorts in a melancholic discovery.

Such is the focus of modern mainstream movies on youth that there have been few worthwhile studies of old age. This is certainly one of the most genial and poignant, with the occasional tensions between Emilio and Miguel preventing the action from becoming formulaic or mawkish. However, Ferreras and his co-scenarists also stress the way in which the pompous bourgeois comes to rely on the proletarian foreigner and, in the process, learns more about life in his final months than he had done in much of his seemingly buttoned-down adulthood.

Recalling the work of Raymond Briggs and Sylvain Chomet, the richly detailed imagery makes admirable use of shadow and reflective surfaces and subtle variations of expression. Equally impressive is the ease with which the action slips between time frames to reveal the vitality of the lives the residents lived before entering their dotage. Dolores's charming anecdote about clouds is particularly affecting in this regard, especially with Nani García's occasionally over-insistent score for once providing a suitbably romantic accompaniment. But there are also trenchant asides on the quality of the care and the extent to which the staff are content to corral their charges rather than encourage them to make the most of every day.

Another widower relocates in an effort to make sense of his emotions in the debuting Stephen Brown's The Sea, which has been adapted for the screen by John Banville from his own 2005 Booker Prize-winning novel. As Salman Rushdie demonstrated in collaborating with director Deepa Mehta on Midnight's Children (2012), it always doesn't help to have the original author involved in the translation of an acclaimed book, as, even when they accept their narrative requires an extensive structural overhaul to make it work as a motion picture, they don't always plump for the wisest choices in making what are bound to be painful compromises.

Since redrafting The Newton Letter as Reflections for Kevin Billington in 1984, Banville has adapted Elizabeth Bowen's The Last September for Deborah Warner in 1999 and George Moore's novella for Rodrigo García's Albert Nobbs in 2011. He has also teamed on a couple of occasions with Neil Jordan, most notably on Graham Greene story, The End of the Affair (1999). But the combination of Brown's inexperience behind the camera and Banville's proximity to his own conception of the source text somehow conspire to reduce an intricate and intriguing scenario to a series of atmospheric set-pieces that stubbornly refuse to coalesce into a satisfying whole.

Dismissing the protests of his daughter Claire (Ruth Bradley), art historian Max Morden (Ciarán Hands) checks into The Cedars, a boarding house in the sleepy Irish seaside village where he spent an idyllic childhood holiday in 1955. He is welcomed by proprietor Miss Vavasour (Charlotte Rampling), who gives him what had been the children's room when the 12 year-old Max (Matthew Dillon) had played there while staying with his impoverished parents in cheap accommodation nearby. Ostensibly, Max is seeking solitude to research a book on the French Post-Impressionist Pierre Bonnard. But he is also trying to come to terms with the loss of his wife Anna (Sinéad Cusack), a photographer who has only recently lost a long and often bitter battle against cancer.

When not exchanging pleasantries with fellow guest Colonel Blunden (Karl Johnson), who may or may not have been involved in shady dealings in Belfast during the Troubles, Max drowns his sorrows in the local pub, as he thinks back to the cruel accusations that Anna made against him during her last days, when she seemed far more concerned with her own misfortunes than how he would cope without her. He also harks back to the 1950s, when he had befriended the bohemian Grace family, who had welcomed him into their home, despite the misgivings of his mother (Fionnuala Murphy). Carlo Grace (Rufus Sewell) had tried to amuse him by doing peculiar accents and always being ready for a jape. But the young Max had been far more intrigued by his wife, Connie (Natascha McElhone), their twins Chloe (Missy Keating) and Myles (Padhraig Parkinson), and their nanny, Rose (Bonnie Wright).

Despite being mute, Myles is able to communicate (and often bicker) with Chloe, who tends to treat Max like a plaything acquired by her parents to torment and tease. However, Max is so besotted with both Chloe and her mother that he withstands any joshing or humiliations. Indeed, this trait remained at the heart of his relationship with Anna, who reminds him of past failings and misdemeanours as she curses him for living when she has to die. Yet, when in his cups, the older Max can become a bit pugnacious and Blunden has to rescue him after he gets into an argument in the pub that spirals out of control.

Feeling sorry for himself, Max recalls the day when Chloe and Myles lured him into a barn and Chloe began to take advantage of his innocent crush on her. However, Rose caught the children in flagrante and the twins fled the scene and ran into the sea before anyone could stop them from drowning. As Max reconciles himself to his dual loss, he realises that Miss Vavasour is Rose and that she has also lived with the tragedy her entire life.

Admirably played by a well-cast ensemble, this is evidently a project that has been made with care and affection. Cinematographer John Conroy and production designer Derek Wallace bathe the childhood flashbacks in a golden glow that contrasts with the starker blues and greys that characterise Max's grief, while Kathy Strachan's costumes reinforce the sense of idealised nostalgia. But, as the flashbacks become increasingly frequent, editor Stephen O'Connell struggles to make sufficiently smooth transitions and, as a consequence, the narrative becomes a little clunky and contrived. Andrew Hewitt's score also errs toward the emotive, in spite of a couple of poignant passages by violinist Hilary Hahn.

The fault, however, lies with Banville's script and Brown's direction, with the former failing to reproduce the novel's evocative atmosphere and the latter lacking personality. With the exception of Rufus Sewell's almost pantomimic caricature, the performances are solid, with Cusack hissing her resentment, Rampling exuding enigmatic aloofness, McElhone radiating illicit allure and Hands stooping under the weight of his regret and pain. But, game though the youngsters are, they always feel a touch too modern for 1950s Ireland and it's this blend of literate chic and glossy accessibility that betrays the production's over-eagerness to appeal to arthouse audiences who may not have read the book, but are aware of its cachet. Thus, while this may prompt some to seek out Banville's tome, it's unlikely to sway admirers of its diegetic intensity and technical acuity.

Finally, and most fittingly for this week, the 1950s also provide the setting for Bruno Barreto's Reaching for the Moon, an adaptation of Carmen L. Oliveira's novelistic biography, Rare and Commonplace Flowers, which chronicled the 15-year lesbian romance between American poet Elizabeth Bishop and the Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares. Handsomely photographed and intelligently played, this has a reassuringly old-fashioned feel about it. But, as the source so often blurred the line between fact and fiction, it isn't always easy to discern what is faithful recreation and what is soapy supposition.

In 1951, Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto) confides to poet friend Robert Lowell (Treat Williams) that she is suffering from writer's block, having just relinquished the post of America's Poet Laureate. He suggests that the 40 year-old needs to take a break and recommends that she uses a recently received travel bursary to visit South America and take the opportunity to catch up with her old Vassar friend Mary Morse (Tracy Middendorf). On arriving in Brazil, Bishop takes such a dislike to Morse's supremely confident and archly manipulative partner, Lota de Macedo Soares (Glória Pires) that she determines to move on as soon as possible. The fiercely patriotic Soares also takes exception to Bishop's dismissive remarks about Rio and her countrymen and fumes at Morse for letting such a xenophobe into their home.

However, an allergic reaction to some nuts lays Bishop low and she is forced to accept the couple's hospitality at the glorious Samambaia estate in the hills near Pétropolis where they entertain such distinguished guests as right-wing politician Carlos Lacerda (Marcello Airoldi). He attends a birthday party held in Bishop's honour and notices the look on Morse's face as Soares gives her a hair slide she had admired as a gift and takes her for a drive in the moonlight. The locale begins to work its magic on Bishop who responds to a kiss and meekly acquiesces with Soares's insistence that she moves in with her.

Morse is appalled by Bishop's treachery, but she has severed her ties with her disapproving family and is too old to resume her career as a ballerina. So, she agrees to take up residence in a bungalow in the grounds and adopt a daughter so that Soares can have a family. Bishop spies on her rival with binoculars from the big house. But, while Morse retains an emotional hold on Soares, their physical relationship appears to be over and Bishop gets to accompany her lover when she goes to Rio on business. They walk along the beach and attend smart parties. But Bishop, who is trying to remain sober after a struggle with alcoholism, starts drinking again and embarrasses the Soares when she gets tipsy in public.

Morse and Soares buy a baby girl from an impoverished peasant (Erica Migon) and Barreto intercuts the trip to a shack in the countryside with Bishop's recollection of the day her mother was bundled into an ambulance and taken to an asylum. However, installed in a studio that Soares has designed for her, Bishop feels sufficiently secure to start writing again and her new volume, North and Sound: A Cold Spring, earns her the Pulitzer Prize in 1956. She is presented with the award by the American ambassador (David Herman) and arrives back in their Rio flat to have a long telephone conversation with Lowell. Having drunk too much champagne, the amorous Soares crashes out on the bed and, for the first and only time in their relationship, Bishop tells her that she loves her, as she sleeps.

Content to play the role of grandmother to the eight year-old Clara (Kiria Malheiros), Soares becomes more involved with politics, as Lacerda runs for governor and becomes part of the inner circle after President Joao Goulart is overthrown in a coup in 1964. Angered by Bishop's sneering remarks about the banana republic mentality, Soares badgers Lacerda into letting her to transform an area of landfill in Botafogo Bay into a public space for the whole of Rio. Bishop is stung when Soares appoints Morse as her assistant and the tension soon starts to rise as the three women share a luxury apartment with Clara and their faithful maid, Joana (Luciana Souza). Disappointed when Soares turns down the picnic lunch she has brought to the beach, Bishop starts drinking heavily and argues with Morse when she tells Clara that she has a problem.

Ordered to return to Samambaia, Bishop starts to write again and wins the National Book Award. Coaxed into making an acceptance speech, Bishop mocks the Brazilian psyche and its casual attitude to the imposition of a military dictatorship and Soares is furious with her for showing her up in front of Lacerda and the American ambassador. Shortly afterwards, Bishop gets so drunk in a downtown bar that she has to be carried home and Soares urges her to get a grip on herself.

Nettled by being treated like a chattel, Bishop accepts a one-term teaching post in New York and, while she revels in Lowell's company and the adulation of her students. Soares is hailed at the opening of Flamengo Park for the towering floodlights that create the illusion of soft moonlight. Some in the press, however, accuse her of elitism and she begins to suffer from depression. Despite taking Bishop's advice and forgiving her long-estranged father José Eduardo Macedo Soares (Marcio Ehrlich), Soares has a nervous breakdown and is admitted to an asylum. She writes daily to Bishop, but Morse destroys the letters and prevents Bishop from seeing Soares when she finally returns to Rio.

Convinced that Soares no longer wishes to see her, Bishop collects her belongings and relocates to New York, where she begins an affair with one of her students, Kathleen (Anna Bella Chapman). Soares is hurt when she realises that Bishop has moved out and calls to ask if she can come to visit. Bishop is anxious as she waits at the airport and the pair make awkward conversation on getting back to Bishop's apartment. As she looks round, Soares asks why Bishop was so reluctant to say she loved her and she is disappointed by her reply that fish find it difficult to swim in the desert.

Unable to sleep, Soares wanders around in the night. She picks up a book and sees the affectionate inscription on the title page and realises that Bishop has moved on. When Bishop gets up next morning, she pulls open the curtains and sunlight floods into her bedroom. But she fails to rouse Soares as she lies on the sofa and, having found an empty bottle of pills under a cushion, Bishop sobs as she cradles her beloved's head in her lap.

While it's tolerable to tweak events to make them more potently dramatic, the shameless rewriting of history is entirely unacceptable. Thus, while it is possible to overlook the fact that Bishop won the National Book Award in 1970 for her Collected Poems volume and not for her 1965 volume, Questions of Travel, scenarists Matthew Chapman and Julie Sayres deserve censure for having Soares kill herself to painlessly in Bishop's apartment when she actually lingered for several days in September 1967 after taking an overdose of tranquillisers. This telenovelistic climax is both disrespectful and ruinously undermines what is supposed to be a serious treatment of the factors that brought Bishop and Soares together and, ultimately, drove them apart. That said, the script adopts a very casual approach to chronology, with huge swatches of the middle part of the story being overlooked, but insufficiently signalled. Those unfamiliar with Brazilian history, for example, will not know the dates of coups and Clara would surely be older than eight in 1964/5 if she was adopted soon after Bishop and Soares became an item.

Irksome inconsistencies and tinkerings apart, this is an engaging saga that offers several revealing insights into the creative and destructive aspects of each woman. Pires plays Soares with a buttoned-up stridency and controlling arrogance that makes her eminently unsympathetic. Yet, even though Bishop is by no means an angelic victim, Otto is allowed to attenuate her flaws and she often comes close to resembling a misunderstood heroine in a Douglas Sirk melodrama rather than a well-documented historical figure. Middendorf is even more of a cipher, however, as she resorts to tired shorthand to convey the embittered envy of the spurned spouse. Barreto must bear some of the blame for this and the uneven pacing. But he and Mauro Pinheiro, Jr. make fine use of the often stunning scenery, while José Joaquim Salles's production design and Marcelo Pies and Mary Jane Marcasiano's costumes are exemplary. It's just a shame that Barreto didn't devote more time to understanding the psychological frailty of his principals instead of pitching them into impassioned incidents that too often feel like sloppily linked episodes in a glossy soap opera.