Top End Wedding
When loved-up Sydney couple Lauren (Miranda Tapsell, also the film’s screenwriter) and Ned (Gwilym Lee) get engaged, they’re determined to get married immediately. And at Lauren’s behest, they’re going to do it on the other side of the country, with her family in the Top End of the Northern Territory. But when they arrive they discover Lauren’s mother has run away, and the couple have 10 days to get the family back together and get hitched.

This charming and cheerful rom-com adds absolutely nothing new to the genre, but if it’s innovation you wanted, you wouldn’t be buying tickets to a rom-com. The fairytale romance, the supporting cast of wacky friends and family and the tense dash to the aisle are all good examples of the form, but Top End Wedding’s greatest achievement is its fresh and funny Indigenous Australian voice. The rom-com is a very American genre, but with Indigenous director Wayne Blair and star/writer Tapsell (who previously worked together on The Sapphires) giving it a strong sense of identity, this is as uniquely Australian as films come. Tapsell is a proper rom-com star, charmingly awkward, funny and warm.

It can be cheesy at times, but it’s all told with so much love that by the time the story culminates in the Tiwi Islands it’s made it to the upper echelons of Australian rom-coms.

Top End Wedding is screening at Cinema Nova, Sun, Lido, Classic and all Palace Cinemas. Watch the trailer.

The Kindergarten Teacher
“If you stay open and curious, you can do whatever you want,” New York kindergarten teacher Lisa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) tells her students. But at some point, Lisa lost that curiosity. Trapped into a corner by domestic life, she’s desperate for something new. Then one of her students, quiet five-year-old Jimmy (Parker Sevak) starts composing inexplicably beautiful poems. Lisa takes it upon herself to nurture his talent, and her duty of care becomes an obsession.

God, this is good. I haven’t seen the original, made in Israel in 2014, but this new version is a straightforward retelling, right down to the poems the child prodigy blurts out at random intervals. It’s an appealing film about little moments of beauty piercing a woman’s mundane life, and her reckless attempts to capture them. Maggie Gyllenhaal brilliantly channels both the pent-up calm of a carer and the threatening aura of an out-of-control mind as obsession takes hold and the film turns into a thriller.

The Kindergarten Teacher is screening at Cinema Nova. Watch the trailer.

Gloria Bell
Gloria (Julianne Moore) is an entirely average middle-aged divorcee floating unmoored in a world that doesn’t need her. The kids have moved out and started families of their own, but Gloria is still painfully emotionally dependent on them. She spends her nights in a singles’ bar dancing to disco and meeting mediocre men, and singing adult contemporary alone in the car. Then she starts a relationship with Arnold (John Turturro), who has some dependency issues of his own.

This is another remake about another woman trapped in mundanity. Director Sebastián Lelio has told this story before in his 2013 Chilean-Spanish film Gloria, but if an English-language remake is what it takes for people to see these stories, then so be it.

Gloria Bell is a clear-eyed look at the ordinary life of a woman in her fifties – hardly a forgotten demographic, but just one society at large generally doesn’t care about. Moore plays loneliness superbly in this film, as a slight woman, quiet and often awkward, alone in any crowd. Moore zeroes in on the nuance, veering between cheery and eager-to-please, plainly depressed, and ultimately empowered. But underneath the loneliness, this is a story about ruptured families, and the cycle of need and dependance that anchors us to other people.

Gloria Bell is screening at Village Rivoli, Cinema Nova, and Palace Cinemas Balwyn, Como, Kino and Westgarth. Watch the trailer.

2040
As we hurtle towards climate catastrophe, the messaging has never been more urgent: we need to change our ways or face permanently trashing the planet. Taking the stance that people respond to optimism better than to doom and gloom, Australian documentary filmmaker Damon Gameau trawls the globe imagining a better future from currently-existing technology and asks the question, “What could the world look like in the year 2040 – if we really tried?”

This smart and optimistic documentary blends climate science with special effects to offer us that rare thing: a cinematic vision of the future where we don’t wreck the planet and descend into fascism. Instead we turn to renewable energy, driverless shared vehicles and sustainable farming practices.

There’s a human heart to it as well. Gameau ostensibly addresses the film to his young daughter, showing her the world he wants her to inherit. And it’s a beautiful one. Gameau stands in central Melbourne with traffic din replaced by birdsong, and roads replaced by parkland. As in Gameau’s previous hit That Sugar Film, material that could add up to nothing more than a pious lecture is presented with one eye on everyday life. 2040 is more in tune with the times than the extended PowerPoint presentation of An Inconvenient Truth, and it leaves you with far more hope.

Damon Gameau and expert guests will be conducting Q&A screenings of 2040 at Cinema Nova on May 19, Palace Como and Palace Brighton Bay on May 20, the Lido and the Sun on May 21, and Village Rivoli on May 22. The film is on general release on May 23. Watch the trailer.

The Last Movie (1971)
Kansas (Dennis Hopper, who also directed the film) is a Hollywood stuntman working on a Western film set in Peru. When a colleague is killed during a stunt gone wrong, he quits, stays in Peru and moves in with a local sex worker. A strange odyssey follows, featuring a gold prospector, moneyed American businessmen and a cargo cult of locals who are making their own movie with sticks for cameras.

Anyone who’s seen Easy Rider knows Hopper is a brilliant filmmaker. Anyone who’s seen his performance in Mad Dog Morgan knows he’s a loose unit. This is an imperfect marriage of the two.

The Last Movie has a chequered history. It had a limited release and was unavailable for nearly 50 years, giving it conflicting reputations as one of the worst movies of all time and as a lost gem. Last year, it was finally cleaned up and given a proper release, and it’s … interesting.

Wilfully baffling at times – with scenes shot unclearly, shown out of order or deliberately missing – it’s original and brave even today. Apparently Hopper made a straightforward cut of the film, but filmmaker friend Alejandro Jodorowsky goaded him into making it more experimental. The result is a very, very loose tale of colonialism, voyeurism, power and money, and a fascinating snapshot of the dizzying hangover that came at the end of the ’60s.

The Last Movie is screening at ACMI on May 19 and 23. Watch the trailer.