Adelaide Film Festival (AFF) returns this week with more than 130 films from 43 countries (among them, 27 world premieres and 38 Australian premieres) screening from October 18 to 29. From heavy-hitters of the international festival circuit to quiet indies and a powerful and intensely personal doco, here are eight films you won’t want to miss.

Fingernails
Part of this year’s AFF Special Presentations program, Christos Nikou’s rom-com Fingernails has a star-studded cast including Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter, Women Talking), Riz Ahmed (The Sound of Metal, The Night Of), Jeremy Allen White (The Bear), Luke Wilson (The Royal Tenenbaums) and Annie Murphy (Schitt’s Creek, Russian Doll). Oh, and Cate Blanchett is a producer. Buckley plays Anna, who suspects her relationship with longtime partner Ryan (White) may not be the real thing. So she starts working at a mysterious institute designed to test the presence of true love. The lo-fi sci-fi will appeal to fans of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and excellent Apple TV series, Severance.

Poor Things
Winner of the prestigious Golden Lion award at this year’s Venice Film Festival, this whimsical, absurdist comedy comes from filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite, The Lobster) and producer Emma Stone, who also plays lead character Bella, a young woman brought back to life by an unorthodox scientist (Willem Dafoe). When she runs off with a slick lawyer (Mark Ruffalo) she embarks on a journey of self-discovery and liberation across continents. Based on the book of the same name, the screenplay is by Australian writer Tony McNamara, who also wrote The Favourite and created TV series The Great.

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All of Us Strangers
Your boyfriends Andrew Scott (Fleabag’s Hot Priest) and Paul Mescal (Normal People) lead this mysterious and melancholy film as neighbours who have a chance encounter one night. As their relationship develops, Scott’s character Adam finds himself drawn back to his suburban family home, where his parents appear to be living as they were on the day they died, 30 years prior. For those who want their full Mescal fix, he also stars alongside Saoirse Ronan in sci-fi romance Foe, where the two play a married couple living a secluded life in the not-too- distant future before a stranger shows up with a startling proposal. Filmed in the Australian outback (standing in for America’s Midwest), the film poses questions about identity, humanity and artificial intelligence.

Monster
This Cannes favourite by acclaimed Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda is co-presented with Adelaide Festival Centre’s OzAsia Festival. The gripping film follows Minato (Soya Kurokawa), a young boy who alarms his widowed mother when he begins to act in a strange and self-destructive way. It looks like his teacher has been bullying him, but things aren’t as simple as they seem. The story, which won Best Screenplay at Cannes this year, is told from three perspectives. It also won the festival’s Queer Palm award. “Monster was among the very best of the Cannes Film Festival line-up this year,” says AFF CEO and creative director Mat Kesting. “Kore-eda is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest living directors and his films are always deeply satisfying experiences.”

Her Name is Nellie
In 1925, the Australian Museum commissioned three statues of “full blood” Aboriginal people – a child, a man and a woman – exhibited nameless as examples of a “dying race”. The woman was Nellie Walker, Irene Walker’s great grandmother and director Daniel King’s great, great grandmother. Now Irene is on a journey to retrace Nellie’s life and to reconnect the other families to their ancestors’ statues and re-display them, this time with their names, identities and dignity. Presented in partnership with AGSA’s Tarnanthi Festival, King’s powerful and poignant doco about a family reclaiming its history is an intensely personal story with national significance.

The Royal Hotel
The opening night of the festival will screen Australian-born filmmaker Kitty Green’s The Royal Hotel, which was filmed in outback SA and stars Julia Garner (Ozark, Inventing Anna) and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, Lord of the Rings). The tense thriller follows Garner’s character Hannah and her friend Liv, Canadian backpackers who run out of money and soon find work at a dilapidated pub – The Royal Hotel – in a remote Aussie mining town. The boorish male patrons’ toxic masculinity and microaggressions gradually become more threatening as the situation spirals out of control.

I Used to be Funny
This Rachel Sennott vehicle (the filmmaking debut of writer-director Ally Pankiw, whose credits include TV shows Shrill, Feel Good and Black Mirror) will appeal to anyone who enjoyed her turn in Shiva Baby (or who’s waiting patiently for the local release of Bottoms). The rising star brings her zillennial charm and wit to this slow-burn but sharp indie in maybe her most dramatic and nuanced role yet – as a comedian grappling with a traumatic event in her recent past. When Brook, a teen she used to babysit, goes missing, she sets out to find her, as memories of her time with Brook’s family are slowly revealed to the audience. It’s a raw, thoughtful and funny depiction of depression and comedy.

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