Last year saw a clutch of British dramas about teenage girls holding their families together in the face of maternal meltdown. Now, following Bella Ramsey in Tom Beard's Two for Joy and Liv Hill in Jessica Hynes's The Fight and James Gardner's Jellyfish comes Ylva Bjørkaas Thedin, who gives a remarkable first-time acting performance in Norwegian debutant Camilla Strøm Henriksen's Phoenix. Allowing hints of horror to pervade proceedings that studiously avoid melodramatics, this is a decidedly sad study of the fact that child neglect isn't solely the preserve of those on the poverty line. 

Approaching her 14th birthday, Jill Vogler (Ylva Bjørkaas Thedin) lives in Oslo with her younger brother, Bo (Casper Falck-Løvås), and her mother, Astrid (Maria Bonnevie), an artist who hopes that a job interview arranged by her friend, Ellen (Kjersti Sandal), can provide the impetus to rise like a phoenix from the depression she has been suffering since the break-up of her marriage to jazz trumpeter, Nils (Sverrir Gudnason). He calls to let Jill know that he will be in town for her birthday on Saturday and she's disappointed that Astrid hadn't told her because she resents the fact that Nils is getting on with his life and has found a new girlfriend.

In a bid to help Astrid feel more positive about her interview, Jill buys her a white blouse. She feels it's too conventional, however, and suggests it's better suited to her daughter before sneering that being a mother isn't enough to make her life worthwhile. Despite Jill's reminder that she needs to be alert the next morning, Astrid goes out drinking and the siblings spend the night watching television after patching up a temporary quarrel. But Jill ushers Bo to bed when Astrid returns home with a man she has picked up in a bar. While her mother is in the bathroom, Jill forces the stranger to leave by claiming that her brother has pneumonia and needs to go to hospital. However, Astrid is furious with her daughter for interfering in her private life and slashes the blouse with a pair of scissors before Jill wrestles her mother to the floor and holds her until she calms down enough to sleep.

Despite disturbing Jill by getting up in the night, Astrid seems perky the next morning and selects a couple of paintings to show the museum director who is already keen to have her run some educational programmes because he had a crush on her at school. Jill is pleased that Astrid seems focused and hugs her before leaving for school. She's unaware that something had snapped in Astrid's mind when Bo had tipped the contents of his haversack on to the floor of his bombsite of a bedroom in order to find a note she needs to sign for his teacher. But she realises that something's wrong as soon as she gets home and hides the fact that Astrid has killed herself in her basement studio. 

Keeping Bo occupied with cartoons, Jill fakes a call from their mother to reassure her brother that everything is okay, even though Astrid won't be back before their father comes to take them out the next day. She finds a parcel in Astrid's bedroom, with a card depicting a phoenix wishing her `little, big girl' a happy day. In order to keep Bo sweet, Jill lets him sleep in Astrid's bed and answers all of his questions about why she might be out so late without her phone or purse. 

She's unable to sleep, however, and gets up to drop Astrid's phone into a boiling pan. Something disturbs her, however, and Jill wanders into her mother's room to see strands from one of her tactile forest paintings seep out into the room and creep across the sleeping Bo. Suddenly, Jill feels she's not alone and she is both relieved and anxious to discover Nils standing behind her. He wishes her happy birthday and promises that they will celebrate, even though Astrid isn't home. 

While Nils is helping Bo fix his bike, Jill stalls Ellen about Astrid's whereabouts and Nils invites her to his evening concert so they can get rid of her. He is booked into a swish hotel downtown and Jill's eyes widen when she sees the room. She is also delighted with the spangly pink dress he buys her, as well as the necklace that Bo gives her. Even the shoes that Astrid had found for her match her outfit and she smiles bashfully when Nils avers that she's going to need bodyguards to keep the admirers at bay. They tuck into the chocolate cake that Nils had delivered to the room and they laugh when he smears the white sofa cushion with chocolate after Bo had covered it with sticky fingerprints. 

Nils asks if they would like to meet his girlfriend and Kristin (Renate Reinsve) joins them at the restaurant. She compliments Jill on her dress and she enjoys being treated like a grown-up with a virgin piña colada and a sip of celebratory champagne. However, she freezes when she sees a woman at another table with luxuriant hair like her mother's and only relaxes when she sees her face.

After supper, they go to the club where Nils is playing. Jill is enchanted and imagines herself sharing the spotlight with her father on the stage. But the dream doesn't last long. He has told the children that he hopes to spend more time with them now he has a reason to come to Oslo more often. However, Kristin walks out on him when he casually announces that he is going to Brazil for three months. In his dressing-room, Nils tipsily tells Jill that he has always loved Rio since his father had described his adventures there. He wishes he could stay at home, but he is a vagabond and needs to go where people want to hear his music. 

As he wanders out to smoke, Jill pleads with Nils to take her to Brazil. But he shakes his head sadly and dozes off next to his son on a couch. Needing to clear her head, Jill goes for a walk in the early morning light and returns to the club to fetch Bo. Ellen finds them having breakfast and promises to find Astrid. When Jill blurts out that she is dead, Ellen thinks she's just upset and puts her to bed. However, she wakes in time to stop Bo from going into the basement and he accepts her explanation that he's not allowed in there when she cuts his hand in pushing him to the floor. 

They are watching TV when Nils arrives. He is angry with Jill for vanishing without a word and ignoring his calls. However, he calms down after Bo throws up and he sits them at the kitchen table to confess that he has been having a rough time with booze and drugs and that he is going to prison for three months for drink driving rather than heading for Rio. He apologises to the children for letting them down and laments that they deserve a better father. As he speaks, Jill and Bo seem to see a bag of rags take on the form of a spidery black creature crawling slowly along the corridor, but neither says a word. After Nils leaves, Bo asks Jill where their mother is and, seeing her fighting back the tears, he gives her a consoling hug. 

Leaving so much up in the air with this touching gesture of sibling solidarity, Henriksen ends as she began with a clutch of unanswered questions. We never discover what drove Nils and Astrid apart, but we can hazard an intelligent guess and the screenplay keeps making these demands on the audience, as Jill tries to hide the awful truth in the hope that something positive will happen to diminish its significance. As Astrid intimates during one of their last conversations, they are long overdue a good day and Jill's refusal to give up hope suggests that she and Bo will somehow get through this together. 

Her ordeal is truly harrowing, however, and Ylva Bjørkaas Thedin is outstanding as the teenager for whom chaos and secrecy have become the norm. She's allowed one brief moment of escape when she gazes longingly at the boy sitting next to her in a lesson about ecology. But this innocent intimation of first love serves only to remind that Astrid and Nils would, in all likelihood, have started out in such a quaint manner and look how their fairytale turned out. Henriksen keeps things on a Grimm level by having Jill imagine that things associated with her mother keep coming to unnerving life. Yet, while Ragna Jorming allows his camera to prowl stealthily through the shadows cast over the far from cosy apartment designed by Eva Norén, the score by Patrik Andrén and Johan Söderqvist isn't always so subtle, particularly in the closing stages.

As an actress-turned-director, Henriksen brings the best out of Maria Bonnevie, as the manic mother who seems ready to blame everybody but herself for her predicament. Sverrir Gudnason also impresses as the would-be jazz maverick who can't understand how he managed to father such good kids, while Casper Falck-Løvås does a splendid job of conveying how a six year old exists in his own little bubble, while alternately trusting and resenting those older than himself, who are supposed know what to do when he runs out of answers. But the film belongs to the 17 year-old Thedin and her wondrously expressive eyes.

Marc Collin is best known for his partnership with Olivier Libaux on Nouvelle Vague, a French band that produced bossa nova covers of new wave hits from the 1980s. Along the way, he has composed scores for films as different as Graham Guit's dognapping comedy, Les Kidnappeurs (1998), and Alexandra-Therese Keining's Swedish lesbian saga, Kiss Me (2011). Now, he made his directorial bow with The Shock of the Future, a fond memoir of the early days of electronic pop that seems intent on paying tribute to such female pioneers in the field as the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram, French synthesiser specialist Éliane Radigue, and the American trio of composer and sound effects designer Suzanne Ciani, Laurie Spiegel, who conceived the composition software, Music Mouse, and Wendy Carlos, who scored Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971) and The Shining (1980). 

It's 1978 and Ana Klimova (Alma Jodorowsky) wakes in her Parisian garret, lights a cigarette and exercises in her underwear beneath a poster for Jean-Luc Godard's Numéro Deux (1975) to Cerrone's electronica hit, `Supernature'. The floor is cluttered with vinyl and cassettes, but Ana isn't merely a fan. She's a working composer and Jean-Michel Jarre's `Oxygène' swells on the soundtrack, as she switches on a bank of modulators and sequencers and pops on her glasses.

She has a deadline to complete a Quicknails jingle for producer pal, Jean-Mi (Philippe Rebbot), who is far from amused by her tardiness and reluctance to check her answerphone. But, the more Ana footles on her synthesiser, the less inspiration she has. She twiddles some knobs and slides some faders and gets into a panic when the equipment breaks down. As it belongs to the owner of the apartment (who has gone to an ashram in India), Ana calls his repairman friend, Hervé (Teddy Melis). He quickly solves the problem and, over a joint, shows her a state-of-the-art Roland CR-78 beatbox. Blown away by its possibilities, Ana pleads with Hervé to let her borrow it and he agrees, even though she rejects his chauvinist suggestion of a kiss in return for the favour.

Beaming as she listens through her headphones, Ana experiments with her new toy until she is distracted by the arrival of her American friend, Duncan (Geoffrey Carey). He urges her to listen to Throbbing Gristle's `United' and Belgian Aksak Maboul's album, Onze danses pour combattre la migraine. They bop awkwardly to the music before Ana turns her nose up at one track because it sounds too much like a spoken word piece. However, she is enraptured by `Dance Like a Star' by The Future (an early name for The Human League) and spends the rest of the afternoon trying to compose a song of her own, as the camera fetishes the machinery she uses in gliding close-up.

Unsurprisingly, Jean-Mi is furious when he calls for the Quicknails tape to find that Ana wants to quit. When he asks her to return the advance he gave her, she shows him the beatbox, which he dismisses with a sneer because nothing will ever replace a proper musician at a drum kit. But Ana insists electronica is the music of the future and swears that rock will become as obsolete as jazz once people come to embrace a sound that's like `Kraftwerk Meets James Brown'. She enthuses about people dancing in the streets and on hillsides to music that connects directly with their soul. However, Jean-Mi is solely interested in getting his thousand francs back and Ana has to ask her friend, Paul (Laurent Papot) to bring the cash to that night's happening, where she is hoping impress Barclay Records honco, Dominique Giroux (Nicolas Ullmann). 

Fighting back tears, as she smokes another cigarette, Ana returns to the fray, only to be interrupted by the doorbell. She had forgotten to cancel session singer Clara (Clara Luciani) for the commercial job, but invites her in for a coffee. They bad mouth Jean-Mi before discussing music and are soon composing a song, with Clara contributing the lyrics. Ana is thrilled by the spontaneity of the collaboration and they get stoned watching Italo Bettiol and Stephano Lonati's children's animation, Chapi Chapo, on the television. Clara sings along to a guitar she finds propped up in a corner and she is so charmed by Ana's harmony that she suggests they form their own band. 

As Ana makes pocket money giving massages, she asks Clara to leave, but invites her to the soirée. She tells her client (Xavier Berlioz) about the struggles that women have in being taken seriously by the men running the music business, as they believe that pretty girls with long hair should be singers rather than creative artists. Ana knows her own mind, however, and spends the rest of the day refining her song before her guests arrive. 

Feeling a touch self-conscious after Clara applies some make-up, Ana and mingles with the bohemian throng. Hervé tries to flirt with Clara, while Duncan spins the platters and Paul manages to upset Dominique by not knowing who he is. Halfway through the evening, Ana turns off the music and plays her tune and everyone dances around merrily. Dominique is unmoved, however, and informs Ana that there's no market for this kind of music in the country, especially when it's sung in English. He patronisingly tells her she's young and pretty and should keep plugging away, but Ana is crushed. 

Paul takes her for a walk along the Seine and suggests she ignores a pretentious poseur who wouldn't know good music if he heard it. She tries to explain that he's a bigwig who could have helped her realise her dream, but Paul assures her that the people who love her are more important and that she shouldn't be discouraged. He takes her to a studio where Corine is recording a disco anthem and she asks for Ana's number and promises to listen to her stuff. Feeling inspired, Ana rushes home to bid farewell to Clara and Duncan, who leaves Julie London's `Moments Like This' on the stereo, as Ana begins to play and a closing caption acknowledges the achievements of Johana Beyer, Bebe Barron, Pauline Oliveiros, Else Marie Pade and Beatriz Ferreyra, as well as those mentioned above.  

Sadly, Collin's film doesn't quite do these groundbreaking women justice, as its standard issue `dig my sound' scenario had been old hat in those 1940s Hollywood biopics about the giants of jazz. Indeed, Ana's rant about bourgeois rock dinosaurs might have been paraphrased from one of the many `kids are alright' movies released the early 1960s. But there are more affectionate echoes of one particular 1962 feature, as this often feels like a bedsit version of Agnès Varda's Cléo From 5 to 7 (1962) and is, thus, much more preferable than Mia Hansen-Løve's fitfully frantic Eden (2014). 

More comparisons could be made between the way cinematographer Stefano Forlini lingers over Ana's dials, jacks and wires in and Eduard Tisse's fixation with the milking apparatus in Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori Alexandrov's The Old and the New (1929). But, as one might expect from his band name, Collin draws more heavily on the spirit of Godard, Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer and Philippe Garrell, although his visual style could hardly be considered revolutionary. Production designer Marco Melaragni does a nice job with all the modish browns and oranges in the décor, while editor Yann Malcor deftly captures the thrill of creation during the songwriting sequence. 

Besides Clara Luciani, the remaining cast members have to feed on caricatured scraps. Geoffrey Carey cuts an engagingly eccentric figure as the American expat who has spent 30 years collecting records in France and Japan. But the picture centres entirely around Alma Jodorowsky, whose grandfather is Chilean auteur Alejandro Jodorowsky. Although she is often required to do little more than look intense in her headphones and specs, she lights up during the session with Luciani and flies the feminist flag with calm assurance in resisting the efforts of the menfolk attempting to get a bit too up close and personal. It's just a shame that Collin couldn't find more imaginatively cinematic ways of conveying his undoubted love of both the period and its music.

Hollywood has always made potboilers and long may it continue to do so. But there's always something rather sad about an Oscar-winning actor having to subsist on such resoundingly mediocre fare as David Raymond's directorial debut, Night Hunter. Borrowing shamelessly from such vastly superior pictures as Don Siegel's Dirty Harry (1971), Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and David Fincher's Se7en (1995), this should have gone directly to disc and download without passing the undeserved Go of a cinema screen. 

After Sophia (Dylan Penn), a young girl dressed only in a shirt, runs through a snowy forest and breaks her back in jumping from a road bridge on to a logging lorry, Minnesota cops Aaron Marshall (Henry Cavill) and Dickerman (Daniela Lavender) are called in to investigate. Marshall has just warned tweenage daughter Faye (Emma Tremblay) about the perils of chatting to strangers online, but former judge Cooper (Ben Kingsley) takes things several steps further, as he uses Lara (Eliana Jones) to honey trap paedohphiles and proceeds to castrate them and empty their bank accounts in order to aid their victims. 

Commissioner Harper (Stanley Tucci) has detailed profiler Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) to crack an abduction case with computer experts Quinn (Nathan Fillion) and Glasgow (Mpho Kohao) and Marshall chides the latter for bringing his baby daughter to work when he can't get a sitter. Having broken up with wife Angie (Minka Kelly) because of his obsession with work, Marshall lives in a cluttered house that contrasts with the pristine and sparsely furnished abode where Cooper plans his attacks. However, despite giving Lara a pair of earrings fitted with transistors, he loses her when his chasing car collides with an elderly man (Frank Adamson) and he is taken to police headquarters. 

Harper recognises Cooper as a once distinguished judge and Marshall uses the device in Lily's earrings to track her to a large house in the frozen countryside. There, he finds Lily and Julie (Sara Thompson) in the basement, along with Simon Stulls (Brendan Fletcher), who is dancing in his underwear to a distorted version of `Jingle Bells'. As he appears to have severe learning difficulties and a possible multiple personality disorder, Rachel isn't sure he is capable of planning such dastardly crimes. However, when several cops die in a gas attack in the booby-trapped basement and Quinn is killed by a car bomb, Marshall and Harper realise that they are up against a fiendish adversary. 

Shortly after Rachel tries to connect with Simon by discussing his mother, Amy (Carlyn Burchell), Glasgow frees him in return for the return of his kidnapped baby. She is delivered in a sealed cardboard box and Marshall is so touched by her survival that he rushes home to hug Faye and Angie weeps as she overhears her ex-husband telling his daughter that he spends his days chasing people who live in the dark so that she can continue to shine in the light. 

Delving into Amy's past, Rachel discovers that she was raped by an academic who paid her off to prevent her bringing charges against her. Cooper recalls the case, but the court documents have been redacted to protect the defendant. When they identify him as David McGivern, Cooper remembers him as the old man from the crash. But, by the time Marshall reaches the campus, he is drying after being stabbed by Simon, who insists on being allowed to take his teddy bar back to his cell. 

Under orders to get rapid results so that Simon can be prosecuted, Rachel shows him pictures of the girls he has abducted and he appears to co-operate. But he also seems curiously obstreperous and taunts the families of his victims when he meets them to offer an apology. Convinced that Simon is behind Lara's sudden disappearance, Cooper takes the law into his own hands and rams the car taking Simon to the penitentiary. 

As he threatens him, however, the real Simon appears and the watching Rachel realises that he has an evil twin who has masterminded the entire operation. The twin murders Cooper and takes Rachel and Lara to a frozen lake, where he intends setting light to them and letting them fall through the ice. But Marshall arrives in the nick of time and, with the surface beginning to crack, he rescues the women and looks on as the brothers drown. 

The image of the twins hitting fiery tennis balls across the lake to ignite the petrol-soaked blankets wrapped around Rachel and Lara sums up the level of smug contrivance to which Raymond descends in this sordid thriller. It's competently made, with Michael Barrett's photography and Jim Page's editing sharing a pugnacity with Alex Lu's bombastic score. More nuanced is Taavo Soodor's production design, with its sinister basement, abandoned textile mill and creepy bomb-making factory. The performances are also far better than Raymond's cliché-strewn script deserves, as it blithely depicts experienced cops making a series of ludicrously incompetent decisions while posturingly addressing the moral dilemmas involved in pursuing sex offenders with faux gravitas. 

But it's the nasty revelling in the crimes, vigilantism and occasional bouts of police brutality that makes this so resistible. Raymond wants to shock and appal with the gruesome nature of the ordeals to which the victims are subjected. Yet, mercifully, he actually shows very little in a bid to implicate viewers by leaving things to their imagination. What is most unforgivable, however, is the way he and Brendan Fletcher exploit Simon's mental limitations, especially when he is substituted by his twin (in a risibly implausible switcheroo that is only detected when Marshall notices the pair write with different hands). The happy ending, that sees Marshall and Rachel take Faye for a day out, also smacks of the cynicism that courses through this slick, but repugnant picture.

In the 1950s, around 10 former Ottoman villages were all but abandoned following a land exchange between Turkey and Yugoslavia. Among them was Bekirlijia, which was discovered by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska while scouting locations for a multi-authored conservation film. Much to their surprise, they learned that this remote shell of a settlement was home to Hatidze Muratova and her 85 year-old, half-blind mother, Nazife. Over the course of the next three years, the documentarists spent 100 days in the region and the result is Honeyland, a direct cinematic account of everyday life that serves as a stark allegory on the dangers of reckless capitalism. 

In a remarkable opening sequence, the fiftysomething Hatidze strides across the scrubby Macedonian terrain to edge along a narrow ledge on a high ridge in order to extract honey from a hive hidden in the rocks. Wearing little protection, Hatidze leaves half of the sticky comb so that the bees have plenty to survive on and returns to the tumbledown shack she shares with her mother, Nerife, who announces that she has turned into a tree and taunts her devoted daughter by claiming, `I'm not dying, I'm just making your life misery,'

Despite having no running water or electricity, the pair appear content in an isolation they share with their dog, Jackie, and several cats. Although she enjoys complaining, Narife is delighted with the handheld fan and bunch of banans that Hatidze brings back from a trip to the market in Skopje. She gets a decent price for her honey, which she insists is pure and has health-giving properties, and treats herself to a box of chestnut hair dye. But, as she potters between the wild hives she nurtures around Bekirlijia and its environs, the peace is shattered by the arrival of Hussein and Ljutvie Sam and their seven children, who descend out of the blue with a caravan and a sizeable herd of cattle. 

As they are fellow Turks, Hatidze welcomes the new neighbours, even though they make a racket and the kids and cows keep turning up in the least expected places. Nazife refuses to leave the hut, but Hatidze revels in spending time with the children and Mustafa, Muzafer, Veli, Ali, Alit, Gamze and Ljutvish quickly take to her and the kittens. She sings for them and takes a turn on their rope swing and is excited when Hussein rigs up an aerial so she can listen to Phoenix and the Dream's version of `You Are So Beautiful' on the transistor radio. 

As Hatidze is the only female bee hunter in Macedonia, Hussein quizzes her about apiculture and is intrigued by the money she makes from selling her honey. Needing to supplement his own income, he acquires a bulk consignment of hives and Hatidze looks on anxiously as he sets about learning beekeeping on the hoof. She tries to explain her `half for me and half for you' philosophy and the need to preserve the fragile eco-system. But Hussein is too boorish to listen and gets angry when Ali starts tagging along with Hatidze to learn her methods. When the boy snaps back that his father is a bungling amateur who could ruin everything, Hussein bans him from spending time with Hatidze. 

She isn't cut off altogether, however, and over brandy and a bonfire, Hatidze also tells Hussein about losing her three sisters when she was young. Moreover, she helps rescue Ljutvish when she gets out of her depth at the swimming hole and Hussein thanks her by sharing a watermelon. He offers her a lift to the country fair, where the boys watch the wrestling and hold their own competition back in Bekirlijia. Hatidze is delighted when Ali wins and she rewards him with some special honeycomb. But she is less amused when local trader Safet Javorovac offers Hussein a bumper payday for 20 kilos of honey and his bees start attacking her hives when he removes too much honeycomb at once. 

Ali is furious with his father for upsetting the balance of Nature and joins Hatidze on a trek to her secret sources in her eyrie and in a tree trunk over the river. The images of the silhouetted against the sunset and the starry sky are glorious and reaffirm her oneness with her surroundings. But Hussein insists he has done nothing wrong and is merely trying to provide for his family. To this end, he burns a patch of scrub to plant corn and ignores Hatidze's warnings that he is destroying the flowers that the bees need for their pollen. 

Once again, Ali despairs and asks Hatidze why she stays in such a godforsaken spot. She swears that things would be different if she had a splendid son like him and, that night, inquires of Nazife why she was never allowed to marry. The old woman reveals that her husband had turned away the matchmakers because nobody was good enough for his daughter and she consoles Hatidze with the fact that it's never too late and she might still find herself a husband. 

Under pressure from Javorovac, Hussein hacks into the tree housing Hatidze's hive and Nazife is so sad to see her daughter so bereft that she curses the Sams with the words, `May God burn their livers.' Shortly afterwards, Hussein's calves begin to die off and, following a blazing row with Ljutvie, he ups sticks and Hatidze watches them leave from a rock overlooking the dust road. The camera surveys the desolation they have left in their wake and we are left to speculate on how they said their goodbyes. 

Winter sets in and the freezing Nazife wonders `Is there spring?' Sadly, she dies soon afterwards and Hatidze is left alone to mourn. In the dead of night, she scours the village with a blazing torch to scare away the wolves she can hear howling in the distance. But Hatidze is not one to wallow in self-pity and she sets out across the snow-dusted landscape with Jackie to check her ledge hive. The bees are safe and offer no resistance, as Hatidze takes half of the honeycomb. As she heads home, there is still hope. 

In fact, Stefanov and Kotevska have since revealed that they gave Hatidze some of their festival prize money to buy a house in the village where her brother lives, although she still makes day trips to collect honey from her bees. Nothing is mentioned about the fate of the Sams, however, whose motives for settling in Bekirlijia are similarly never disclosed. But such unknowns add to the appeal of an engrossing picture, whose makers are convinced that the future of cinema lies in `fiction that looks like documentaries and documentaries that look like fiction'.

By all accounts, cinematographers Fejmi Daut and Samir Ljuma shot over 400 hours of footage between them and Stefanov and Kotevska admit that several potentially fascinating incidents were omitted because they didn't suit their storyline. One can but hope a few of them make it into the DVD extras, as Hatidze is a compelling character, whose extrovert traits contrast so starkly with her acceptance of solitude and her patience in waiting for Nature to run its course. Yet every care is taken to avoid presenting Hussein as the villain of the piece, as he is doing what he thinks is right and is too entrenched in his patriarchal culture to heed the advice of an ageing spinster and his adolescent son. He is not alone in clinging to such antiquated notions, of course, and this is as much a cautionary call for social and economic responsibility as it is a meticulously observed character study.

The largely (and unjustly) forgotten British critic, Richard Winnington, claimed that reviewing films was a vocation in itself and shouldn't be used as a stepping stone for other pursuits. He passed away before the Young Turks from Cahiers du Cinéma launched the nouvelle vague in the late 1950s, but one suspects, even while he might have admired their work, Winnington would have stuck to his guns. His columns were always accompanied by a waspish caricature and they could still teach many modern critics some invaluable lessons about making the film the subject of their notices rather than themselves. 

Nobody has thought to make a documentary about Winnington. Indeed, profiles of celebrated screen critics have been few and far between. But the likes of Steve James's Roger Ebert profile, Life Itself (2014), and Sally Aitken's David Stratton: A Cinematic Life (2017) are now joined by Rob Garver's What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael, a centenary celebration that reflects upon the life and opinions of the doyenne of American critics, who wrote for McCall's, The New Republic and The New Yorker between 1965-91.

Following audio of an interview that Pauline Kael gave to a small child, we learn from a range of illustrious talking heads that she did as much to shape New Hollywood and contemporary criticism as anyone in America. Such was her status at The New Yorker that she could make or break directors, let alone movies. However, her refusal to speak anything but her own mind led to conflicts that said more about the chauvinism of the film industry and the print media than it did about her cracklingly colloquial prose. 

With Sarah Jessica Parker reading from Kael's writings over cannily chosen and exceptionally edited clips from a dazzling array of pictures, Garver pieces together her life and times. Martin Ritt's Hud (1963) plays over Kael's reminiscence about growing up in Petaluma, California. She saw much of herself in such 1930s actresses as Bette Davis, Joan Blondell and Rosalind Russell, but much preferred books to films. Having quit the University of Berkeley to write plays, she realised she hadn't the propensity and endured grisly spells as a nanny and a copywriter before deciding to liberate herself from the daily grind after seeing Vittorio De Sica's Shoeshine (1946). She also needed to find a reliable source of income after separating from experimental film-maker James Broughton, who was the father of her daughter, Gina James. 

When the editor of City Lights heard Kael arguing with her friends about Charlie Chaplin's Limelight (1952), he asked her to write a review and she began her career with the words, `I don't care if he is a genius. I don't like that man,' Having cured herself of a certain `term paper' approach in her first efforts, Kael found a voice that Camille Paglia rightly suggests contains echoes of Dorothy Parker and her rapier reflections on Dorothy Arzner's Christopher Strong (1933) and Alain Resnais's Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) have the stirring effect of making one want to see the films again to see why her trenchant opinions chime or don't chime with your own.

During this period, Kael read some of her reviews (without remuneration) on the radio and this resulted in a brief marriage to Edward Landberg, which is the subject of Christian Bruno and Natalija Vekic's short, Ed & Pauline (2014). Writer-director Paul Schrader interjects at this point that Kael was a West Coast gal who liked to stick it to New York worthies like Bosley Crowther of the New York Times and we hear her scathing denunciation of readers who went to see Francesco Rosi's The Moment of Truth (1965) because Crowther described it as the ultimate bullfighting pictures. In an interview with the estimable Dick Cavett, she condemns those critics who view getting through the day as a justifiable end in itself and urges aspiring writers to find their own voice and refuse to be cowed by either their employers or their readers. 

In 1962, Andrew Sarris published `Notes on Auteur Theory' to bring François Truffaut's essay on `Les Politiques des Auteurs' to American audiences. Kael disagreed and said so in vociferous terms in a piece entitled `Circles and Squares', which Sarris's widow and fellow critic Molly Haskell considers almost slanderously unfair. However, Kael's dislike of academic criticism and the suggestion that arthouse cinema was superior to popular entertainment led her to resist accepting lazy categorisation. This allowed her to vent forth on films like Federico Fellini's La dolce vita (1960), Michelangelo Antonioni's La notte and Alain Resnais's Last Year At Marienbad (both 1961) in the stinging `The Come-Dressed-As-the-Sick-Soul-of-Europe Parties'. As Paglia states, she likes these films for the very reason Kael loathed them. But that didn't make her remarks any less cogent or potent and it's one of the ironies of Kael's career that she championed a generation of American auteurs, with Sam Peckinpah, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Brian De Palma among those to benefit from her support. 

While writing notes for the repertory films showing at the Cinema Guild in Berkeley, Kael moved into an apartment with murals painted by Jess Collins. Two of the designs were inspired by Jean Renoir's The River (1951) and The Golden Coach (1952) and friends recall the lively parties that Kael threw with plenty of jazz and lively conversation. However, Gina James admits that it was sometimes difficult being the daughter of a critic, as Kael could and often would criticise everything. 

Over footage of the egg-eating scene from Stuart Rosenberg's Cool Hand Luke (1967), we hear Kael replying to some listener letters. In one barbed response, she insisted that critics didn't need practical experience of film-making to know what was good or bad about a picture. She also asserted that men didn't like women who were able to argue analytically and, to illustrate the point, Garver selects an extract from her withering review of David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962), in which she complained that the film had robbed her of the image of TE Lawrence she had derived from his writings by making him a sado-masochist with a Christ complex. 

We also hear Kael signing off as a gratis broadcaster before a Guggenheim grant enabled her to write I Lost It At the Movies (1965), the first of the 13 collections of criticism that remain as essential today as similar works by Graham Greene, Manny Farber, Dilys Powell and Philip French (among others, of course). The success of this tome led to Kael relocating to New York, where her brief stint at McCall's ended when she kept slating the year's biggest hits. She saved especial ire for Robert Wise's teeth-rottingly saccharine adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music (1965) and who could blame her?

Kael's sojourn at The New Republic proved equally brief, as she quickly tired of having sentences inserted into her copy. She had begun to wonder whether it was possible to make a living as a film critic, especially when American films like Sidney Lumet's The Group (1966) lacked the edge and intelligence of films from Japan, India, Sweden, Italy and France, where Jean-Luc Godard had emerged as the F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce of cinema. Thus, when Crowther slaughtered Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Kael felt moved to respond in a notice that Greil Marcus recalls made people see the film from a fresh perspective. By suggesting, at the height of the Vietnam War, that the film had put the `sting back into death'. 

Director David O. Russell recalls how the review was rejected by The New Republic and printed by The New Yorker. In that moment, Kael was jettisoned into the front rank and remained there for the rest of her career. She had her run-ins with editor William Shawn, but he respected her viewpoint and voice, however contradictory they could sometimes be. While she called for a new form of American cinema, she could still value the mundane that crept under her skin, as she pointed out in the Harper's essay, `Trash, Art and the Movies'. 

Quentin Tarantino recalls how Kael's review of Godard's Band of Outsiders (1964) captured his own aesthetic. But he also jokes that she ruined Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) by pointing out a major plot flaw. Critic Joe Morgenstern accepts that she could be callous and we see footage of David Lean describing how Kael's assault at a 1970 Critics Circle lunch so sapped his confidence that he didn't make another film for 14 years. Russell stresses that good criticism should always be subjective and Paglia concurs that a good review should challenge the reader's attitudes not seek to convert them to your standpoint. 

With Gina serving as her secretary (as Kael never learned to type), she shared the New Yorker column on a half-yearly basis with Penelope Gilliat. Consequently, she had to lecture and write articles to supplement her income. But nothing had quite the impact of `Raising Kane', a 1971 introduction to the book of the screenplay that drew on research by UCLA academic Howard Suber in claiming that Orson Welles had belittled the contribution to Citizen Kane (1941) of co-scenarist Herman J. Mankiewicz. Welles considered suing for libel and film-maker Peter Bogdanovich issued an angry riposte, which Kael felt was unfair, as she loved the film and was a great admirer of Welles. 

She sparked equal controversy with a boffo review for Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972) after paying to see it on the closing night of the New York Film Festival. Paglia still can't understand her enthusiasm for what she considers an offensive obscenity, but Kael's comments made the feature a sensation. She also went in to bat for Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971) after Rona Barrett and Rex Reed took against it and encouraged acolytes like Roger Ebert and Paul Schrader (who were dubbed `the Paulettes') to echo her sentiments.  Moreover, she lauded Nashville (1975) for pointing out that Americans shouldn't pat themselves on the back for ousting President Nixon when they are still complicit in the same `big lie' that put him into the White House. 

By contrast, Kael railed against William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973), as life was scary enough without horror films taking things to the extremes of hardcore pornography. As a result, she bought a large house in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and commuted to New York when she had to. But she couldn't escape controversy, with William Peter Blatty accusing her of lacing her reviews with poisonously personal remarks, while Norman Mailer took exception to her panning of his biography of Marilyn Monroe. However, she also fell out with people she had championed, as she disliked Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) and Woody Allen's Stardust Memories (1980) because they betrayed what had come before. 

Feeling that she could do more good as a Hollywood insider, Kael accepted Warren Beatty's invitation to work on Paramount pictures like James Toback's Love and Money (1981). However, the arrangement didn't last long and she returned to The New Yorker shortly after helping David Lynch launch The Elephant Man (1980). No sooner was she back in harness than colleague Renata Adler savaged When the Lights Go Down (1980) as `worthless' in the New York Review of Books and this assault on her supposed `prose hypochondria' emboldened others to voice their objections to her style and opinions. 

Speaking in 2017, Ridley Scott recalls his fury at her attack on Blade Runner (1982) and confides that he has never read another review of his films since. She ran into more trouble over a withering critique of Claude Lanzmann's Shoah (1985), which she complained was `exhausting' and lacking in `moral complexity'. Admirers like David Edelstein regret the lack of sensitivity in claiming most of the interviewees had come from `Woody Allen's convention of village idiots', but Lili Anolik rightly states that a critic is not compelled to follow the consensus and can still acknowledge the value of a film's theme while denouncing its methodology. Yet, as Stephanie Zacharek notes in recalling Kael's review of Brian De Palma's Casualties of War (1989), she could also be impassioned and respond on a deeply personal level to films, because a critic's first duty is to be honest with themself. 

She also recognised that critics stand between the public and the ballyhoo generated by the studios to coerce them into parting with their money. As actor Alec Baldwin declares, many modern critics are reluctant to upset those who grant them access to films and the Internet has played into their hands because fanboy blogs and vlogs invariably do their bidding for them with gushingly unquestioning glee. How many of them will have heard of Dmitri Kirsanoff's Ménilmontant (1926), which Kael reveals is her favourite film in the 2000 interview (with her grandson?) that begins this cinephile's delight?

In 1991, feeling discouraged after criticising Woody Allen and Bette Midler for their work in Paul Mazursky's Scenes From a Mall, Kael decided to quit The New Yorker. She planned to contribute occasional articles, but only published an introduction to the compendium volume, For Keeps (1994), in the last decade of her life. At her memorial, Gina suggested that her mother's lack of self-awareness, introspection and restraint and her conviction that she couldn't have a negative effect because she meant well freed her to speak her mind. One suspects the imperious Pauline rarely suffered from self-doubt, but her strength lay in her conviction and, while she was never always right (which critic can be outside their own mind?), she was wrong more honestly than the vast majority of her peers and successors. 

Closing with a dazzling flash montage of title cards to credit the pictures quoted in the course of his sincere and accomplished tribute, Garver leaves us in no doubt that Kael's hope that cinema would improve has not been realised and that the standard of criticism has plunged as movies have become more blockbusteringly formulaic in seeking to satisfy a narrower and less demanding demographic. One can only imagine the hate-filled abuse she would receive if she was writing online today. But her reviews would still be trenchant and incisive, informed and thoughtful. Moreover, they would have integrity. Rather like this fine film. So, if you're going to watch an old movie, try to track down Kael's review. You may not agree, but you will often see what you have just watched in a different way.

Sydneysider Pat Farmer is quite a character. On leaving the Australian House of Representatives in June 2010, he announced that he was going to run a Pole to Pole ultramarathon to raise funds for the Red Cross's clean water programme. Not content with this 21,000 km journey, in 2015, the 53 year-old embarked upon a 4647 km trip across the subcontinent between Kanyakumari and the northern town of Srinagar to aid the Nanhi Kali Foundation, which promotes the education of disadvantaged young women. Documentarist Anupam Sharma chronicled this `Spirit of India' odyssey in The Run, which arrives on British screens two years after an award-winning tour of the festival circuit. 

The plan is to run 80 km a day over 64 days and he is given a rousing send off by his compatriots before receiving a warm welcome from his hosts. Struggling with the intense heat and humidity, the first leg proves more taxing than anticipated, but Farmer is supported every step of the way by trainer-niece Katie Walsh and doctor Joseph Grace, who form part of the back-up team with rookie journalist-cum-photographer Kevin Nguyen and wife and social media guru, Tania Farmer. But this trip isn't exclusively about pounding pavements, as his sponsorship deals require him to make a number of personal appearance to promote tourist attractions and give inspirational speeches in places like the port city of Kochi. 

Enjoying the reaction he gets at schools along the route, Farmer delays rehydration treatment and Dr Grace keeps having to nag him about the need to stick to achievable goals. In order to add another voice to the chorus, ex-rugby player Josh Cordoba flies out to join the support team and help Walsh persuade the local organisers to reduce the 60+ receptions that Farmer has to attend each day with ordinary Indians who are excited to see him and grateful for the causes he is helping. 

By Day 15, Farmer has completed 1148 km and has arrived in Goa. It's been far from a smooth progress, however, with Nguyen being chewed out for failing to keep the website up to date and the local organisers being castigated for adding unscheduled stops during the day. Aware of the need to avoid letting anyone down, Farmer takes out his frustrations on Walsh, who knows him well enough to resist the control freakery and let him have the odd home truth when it needs telling. She remains upbeat, however, as she knew there would be glitches and tantrums along the way and is confident that everything will be forgiven and forgotten once they cross the finishing line. 

On Day 23, Farmer reaches Mumbai to hook up with Tania. They celebrate their second anniversary on the road and get to spend a night in a palace in Rajasthan. As he passes through a region associated with Mahatma Gandhi, Farmer recalls his 1930 Salt March and claims that it's always possible for individuals to make a difference. But it's clear that poverty is endemic wherever he goes and he keenly surveys the passing scene to gain an appreciation of everyday reality for the people who come out in their droves to greet him. 

Not everyone knows who he is, however, and there's an amusing dead air moment with some farmworkers. Yet he keeps plodding past belching buses, trundling ox carts and overloaded camels and gets to savour the delight of running towards the Taj Mahal at Agra. Unfortunately, around this point, he is stricken with stomach troubles. However, he is buoyed by a song written in his honour and he arrives at the India Gate in New Delhi on the eve of his 54th birthday. He attends a reception at the Australian High Commission that he compares to the Mad Hatter's Tea Party because of its surrealism after weeks of parched toil. Walsh is in also her element proving that women are more than a match for the sometimes dismissive men handling the Indian side of the run. But not everything pans out, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelling a meeting at the last minute and the Australian media being lukewarm about the entire event. 

Farmer looks on the bright side and enjoys being feted wherever he goes. He is particularly taken by the kitchens feeding the poor at the Golden Temple in Amritsar and regards that as one of the highlights of the trip. Although it's not named in the captions, the Kashmiri leg is less enjoyable, as extra security is laid on and they have to detour to avoid a carjacking black spot. But the Himalayas prove a boon and Farmer is relieved to be nearing the end, as are the support team, as tensions between Grace and Nguyen spill over close to the finishing line. Nothing can detract from the feat of running two marathons a day without a break for 64 days, while attending over 750 interactions and receptions along the way. Moreover, the effort succeeded in raising AU$11,000 in domestic sponsorship and a further $1 million from various Indian agencies.  

There's something fitting about the fact that this actuality should arrive here in the week that the Aussies retained the Ashes, as it provides plentiful insights into the pugnacious spirit that is very much a national characteristic. It also offers an honest appraisal of the clashes behind the scenes that are natural for any enterprise of this kind. Credit must go, therefore, to cinematographer Kush Badhwar, as well as editor Shweta Rai. But Sharma always seems to be reacting to events and feels reluctant to seek opinions outside the project crew. Consequently, we hear nothing about what the locals think about Farmer's super-human effort (as he was often running in 80% humidity) and don't learn anything about the foundation for which he's running.

In the past, Sharma has impressed with the 2013 documentary short, Indian Aussies: Terms & Conditions Apply, and the 2015 romcom, UnIndian, which teamed Tannishtha Chatterjee with fast bowler Brett Lee on his acting debut. Here, he embeds with Team Farmer to capture a flavour of the Indian landscape and the warmth of the population. He also conveys something of the chaotic nature of the venture and the fact that good works don't necessarily bring out the best in people all of the time. Yet, as he had to respect Farmer's need for downtime, Sharma doesn't get particularly close to his subject. Thus, this is too superficial and scattershot to be sufficiently inspirational, while the closing caption reference to India and Australian diplomats excluding Farmer from ongoing bilateral trade discussions feels unnecessarily hucksterish.

The ICA in London is currently showing a selection of films by the Mexican documentarist, Eugenio Polgovsky, who died at the age of just 40 in 2017. Having won a UNESCO photography competition at the age of 17, Polgovsky trained at the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, where he won awards around the world for his diploma film. Tropic of Cancer (2004). Three years later, he impressed again with The Inheritors, which he followed with the shorts, Mitote (2012), and A Leap of Life (2014). Two years later, he released Resurrection (2016) and became the first film-maker to receive the Creative Arts Fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge. 

Life is tough in the small village of Charco Cercado, which is situated in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi and lies on the Tropic of Cancer. Huge trucks thunder along the road running through the desert carrying goods that the extended Reyes family could only dream of. They have to make do with delicacies like rat stew, which are cooked up in a large cauldron by the unidentified woman whose son had killed a giant rodent with his slingshot.

She has spent the day skinning snakes and feeding their innards to the birds kept in cages around the courtyard of a cramped shack. The woman dries the skins to sell as aphrodisiacs, while other members of the ramshackle community head into the desert to search for rare cacti, check the animal traps dotted around the scrub or find falcon eggs to hatch and rear the chicks. It's soul-destroying slog, but nothing is too much trouble if it brings in a few pesos. 

This is where the other vehicles on the highway come in. They are driven by affluent locals or tourists from across the US border, who are prepared to pay good money for exotic birds and beasts. They also snap up the snake skins and anything else that would decorate their plush homes. There's little badinage between buyers and sellers, as they come from different worlds and this is their only point of contact. Yet both are exploiters, with the impoverished Mexicans sapping the resources of the desert to survive, as there's no thought for tomorrow when today is such a grinding struggle.

Echoes abound of Luis Buñuel's Las Hurdes (1932) and Lisandro Alonso's La Libertad (2001) in a film that would make a perfect double bill with Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska's aforementioned Honeyland. Serving as his own cameraman, Polgovsky doesn't care if Enrique Greiner's microphone creeps into shot, as such guerilla technique chimes in with the rough-and-ready nature of existence in Charco Cercado. The only hint of polish comes from the use of the ominous organ music of César Franck. But, while he leaves much of the dialogue untranslated and offers the audience little by way of tangible context. Polgovsky leaves us in no doubt about his purpose when he translates a newspaper advertisement that reads, `Eliminate your myopia!'

Polgovsky also filmed The Inheritors on low-grade digital video to create the illusion that he was capturing life as it was lived in another era. But the scenes of child labour are very much filmed today in the Mexican provinces of Veracruz, Oaxaca, Pueblo and Guerrero, where there is a shortage of adult workers because they have ventured north in search of better-paid employment in the United States. 

Once again, the theme is survival. But there's no sense of resentment on the faces of those who have been robbed of their childhoods to collect firewood, mould bricks or help pick tomatoes. Indeed, some of the kids even pause to grin at the camera. as if to acknowledge that they are complicit in Polgovsky's project and want to please him as much as they seek the approval of their relatives in working hard and without complaint. 

As in Tropic of Cancer, there is no introduction to provide the viewer with any background information. What more do they need. as it's clear from every frame that these children are being exploited by a capitalist system that barely acknowledges their existence. But this isn't an angry polemic, as Polgovsky opts simply to observe and allow the audience to reach their own conclusions and examine their own consciences. 

Much of the spare dialogue is again left untranslated, but little elucidation is required. The images speak for themselves, with a harsh poetry that makes Polgovsky's discreet humanism all the more potent. There are numerous Bressonnian close-ups of hands at work, whether tilling soil, bundling sticks or whittling with swift skill to create artefacts to sell by the side of the road. This last sequence involving a small boy is made all the more harrowing by the sight of the dried blood on his fingers. It's clearly the work of a master film-maker and it's a genuine tragedy that Eugenio Polgovsky died so young and deprived the people who needed him most of a sincere and devastatingly eloquent champion.