Peter Keough offers an overview of non-fiction highlights. Here are a dozen interesting narrative features.
Aubrey Plaza plays the titular character in writer-director John Patton Ford’s feature debut, “Emily the criminal.” This is the opening film of the festival. Student debt leads a young woman down a shady path, and the further she goes, the sleazy she becomes. Somerville, April 27, 7:30 p.m.
One way to gauge the quality of a film festival is the stature of the program’s top directors. It’s hard to get better quality than Claire Denis or Zhang Yimou (see “One Second,” below). Denis realized “Both sides of the blade.” His first film since “High Life” (2018), it features Juliette Binoche as the woman in a love triangle involving her partner (Vincent London) and her best friend (Grégoire Colin), her former lover. Brattle, April 28, 7 p.m.
Writer-director Peter Strickland’s “Gourmet flow” has by far the best title of the festival, though its combination of comedy and horror (when was the last time the word “food” featured prominently in a plot summary?) may not be to taste from everyone. It stars Gwendoline Christie and, with truly impressive hair, Asa Butterfield. April 28, Brattle, 9:30 p.m.
Writer-director Cooper Raiff’s previous film, “S#!%house,” won the 2020 Grand Jury Prize at SXSW. No, that’s not exactly his title, but you get the idea. Raiff’s latest has an even less conventional title, though it’s much more printable. “Really Smooth Cha Cha” stars Raiff as a recent college graduate who befriends a young mother (Dakota Johnson) and her autistic child. April 29, Brattle, 7 p.m.
After triumphing last year with her writing-directing debut, “Passing,” the great Rebecca Hall returns to acting. In “Resurrection,” she embodies a single mother whose past, in the person of Tim Roth, returns and radically reorganizes her life. Andrew Semans wrote and directed. April 29, Brattle, 9:30 p.m.
The title of “God’s Country” is and is not ironic. Thandiwe Newton stars in this thriller about a college professor in the American rural west who runs into a pair of hunters. Director Julian Higgins, who is making his feature film debut, helped adapt the short story by James Lee Burke. April 30, Brattle, 1 p.m.
Writer-director James Morosini draws on his own experiences in “I love my father,” about a father reaching out in an unusual way online to his estranged son. Patton Oswalt, as a father, leads a cast that includes Morosini, Rachel Dratch and Lil Rel Howery. April 30, Somerville, 7:30 p.m.
Zhang demonstrated his mastery of cinematic spectacle in films such as “House of Flying Daggers” (2004) and “Shadow” (2018). In “A second,” he returns to the smaller scale and emotional intensity of the film that made him internationally famous, “Raise the Red Lantern” (1991). May 1, Brattle, 8:30 p.m.
The writer-director team of Scott McGehee and David Siegel combine family drama and modern Western in “History of Montana.” Owen Teague and Haley Lu Richardson star as siblings who clash over the care of their aging father and the future of the family ranch. May 2, Somerville, 6:45 p.m.
In “My old school,” director Jono McLeod does a different kind of braiding. The film is both documentary and dramatic, centering on a high school classmate of McLeod’s. Alan Cumming memorably features in the film, in a very unusual way. May 2, Somerville, 7 p.m.
Emma Thompson plays a retired teacher who decides her sex life needs improving. She thinks she figured out how to do it, with the help of the main character (Daryl McCormack), in “Good luck to you, Leo Grande.” Sophie Hyde directed the comedy/drama. May 2, Brattle, 9:30 p.m.
The closing film of the IFFB is “Marcel the shell with shoes.” Dean Fleischer-Camp’s feature debut is an animated/live-action mockumentary. Isn’t this the case with all films about a mollusk? It’s based on the series of YouTube shorts that Fleischer-Camp made in 2010. Voice talent includes Jenny Slate, who helped write the screenplay, and Isabella Rossellini. May 4, Coolidge Corner, 8 p.m.
Mark Feeney can be contacted at [email protected]