Eighth Grade (15)
Looking back over the battlefield of my schooldays from the safe distance of mellowing middle age, I'm reminded of tiny, beautiful victories in an exhausting war of attrition to fit in with peers, who always seemed to be smarter, funnier and cooler than me.
Award-winning stand-up comedian Bo Burnham eloquently captures the anguish and insecurity of those school years in his heartfelt and exquisite debut feature.
Anchored by a mesmerising lead performance of unvarnished, naked emotion from Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade joins an elite class of cinematic coming of age stories which candidly reflect a pivotal moment when hormones rage, bodies develop at an alarming rate and every heartbreak is amplified beyond rational thought to the end of days.
Humour and uncomfortable self-reflection are best buddies in Burnham's polished script, which doesn't spare his central character any blushes as she fibs about her sexual experience to impress a boy or spars with her father over the dinner table.
This beautiful-yet-awkward creature is 13-year-old Kayla Day (Fisher), who is in the final stretch of solitude at Miles Grove Middle School. She stands awkwardly on the precipice of a more formidable challenge – high school – without any emotional support except for her father (Josh Hamilton), whose faltering attempts to connect with his self-conscious daughter are thwarted by the pings of social media.
Unexpectedly, Kayla receives an invite to a pool party thrown by classmate Kennedy Graves (Catherine Oliviere). Kennedy only extended an invitation under parental duress but Kayla attends nevertheless, hoping to bump into her unrequited crush, Aiden (Luke Prael). She is oblivious to attention from Kennedy's cousin Gabe (Jake Ryan).
Eighth Grade comes top of the class in every respect, from Burnham's sensitive portrayal of the flawed protagonists and their tribal rituals to Fisher's natural, unself-conscious and achingly funny performance. Current obsessions with video sharing and online visibility are seamlessly woven into Kayla's personal journey, ushering us back and forth between teary-eyed recognition and unbridled joy.
‘It's so easy to love you,' Kayla's father tells her, bursting with pride that ripples off the screen. We know how he feels.
Released April 26.
Bel Canto (15)
Love blossoms in the sweltering heat of an unnamed South American country during a blood-spattered hostage crisis in director Paul Weitz's slowburning thriller.
Based on the novel by Ann Patchett, Bel Canto punctuates the stand-off between guntoting rebels and an unflinching government with soaring arias performed by American soprano Renee Fleming, whose impeccable trills are lip-synced by Oscar winner Julianne Moore.
Moore catalyses polite screen chemistry with co-star Ken Watanabe that barely simmers, weakening a confidently staged and tragic finale fit for an opera, albeit in pyrotechnic-laden slow motion.
Released April 26.
Avengers: Endgame (12A)
Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely confidently surf the ripple effect of Thanos' radical approach to population control, cresting a wave of feverish anticipation that has been gathering momentum over the past 12 months.
When planets align and pure emotion wells in the actors' eyes, there's no denying the primal power of pivotal scenes of self-sacrifice and redemption that will elicit saltwater downpours in darkened theatres.
It's a full-blooded odyssey of redemption that bristles with bold ambition and the studio's trademark irreverent humour.
This is the end. For now.