Birds Of Passage traffics in cliché, wrapping a familiar crime yarn in fascinating cultural fabric

C+

The first thing we see in Birds Of Passage, a drama set among the Wayúu people of northern Colombia, is a ritual courtship dance that seems to accompany a young woman’s coming-of-age ceremony. Entering a circle of family and friends, the man seeking the woman’s favor proceeds to run backwards, while she, face painted…

An award-winning lead performance can’t steer The Heiresses into insightful drama

C

How much sympathy should one feel for the formerly wealthy? That’s one of many questions barely explored by The Heiresses, Paraguay’s submission to the foreign-language competition at this year’s Oscars. (It didn’t make the shortlist.) The film begins with its protagonist’s decline already in progress, as Chela (Ana…

There’s nothing spooky and a lot irritating about the showbiz-family affair Claras Ghost

C-

Art imitates life a bit too strenuously in Clara’s Ghost, the first feature written and directed by Bridey Elliott. (She’s probably best known for her starring role in the indie comedy Fort Tilden.) Set almost entirely in a rich Connecticut family’s home, this clumsy quasi-supernatural psychodrama features the entire…

Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem open old wounds in Asghar Farhadi’s too familiar Everybody Knows

B-

Most great filmmakers stumble eventually, and they often do so in a particularly dispiriting way: attempting to rehash a previous triumph. Before winning two foreign-language Oscars (for A Separation and The Salesman), Iran’s Asghar Farhadi made a splash on the festival circuit with 2009’s About Elly, in which the…