Some stylish visuals and intriguing genre flourishes aren’t enough to overcome the ponderous pace and narrative gimmicks of this ultraviolent feminist Western from Dutch director Martin Koolhoven. Taking place on the 19th century American frontier, the fragmented plot follows a mute young midwife (Dakota Fanning) who runs afoul of an intimidating preacher (Guy Pearce) with some antiquated views about religion and gender politics. With much of the story told in reverse chronological order — which causes some issues with character development — the film sidesteps conventions but isn’t as provocative or spiritually enlightening as it aspires to be. Instead, the pretentious result is bleak and bloody. (Rated R, 148 minutes).
My Scientology Movie
What it lacks in original insight, this documentary compensates with an amusing dose of mischievous audacity. British filmmaker Louis Theroux chronicles his investigation of the notorious Church of Scientology, in which he partners with whistleblower Marty Rathbun in an attempt to infiltrate the compound of Scientology head David Miscavige, only to meet with resistance from random followers at almost every turn. It takes a more lighthearted approach from the recent Going Clear, which covers the same subject, exploring not only the inner workings of the church itself, but the struggles of those trying to break free from it. Theroux’s confrontations with fanatics only reinforce his points. (Not rated, 99 minutes).
The Ottoman Lieutenant
A historical romance that has little value either historically or romantically, this earnest melodrama takes place at the outset of World War I, when a young American woman (Hera Hilmar) leaves her sheltered upbringing to join a doctor (Josh Hartnett) working at a clinic in Istanbul under a cynical doctor (Ben Kingsley). Her humanitarian effort meets with the realities of religious and political conflict when she falls for an officer (Michiel Huisman) in the Ottoman Army. Perhaps its intentions are heartfelt, but the film features uneven acting and oversimplifies the details in its true-life historical backdrop for the sake of cheap sentiment and overwrought emotional payoffs. (Rated R, 110 minutes).
This feature-length advertisement for vegetarianism might become best known for its startling and disturbing sequences involving cannibalism. And indeed, that gory shock value tends to overwhelm the character-driven aspects of this low-budget French drama about a teenage veterinary student (Garance Marillier) who endures hazing rituals that include the consumption of raw meat — something to which she’s vehemently opposed. After urging from her sister (Ella Rumpf), her feast begins a downward spiral of uncontrolled hunger that threatens her relationship to a classmate (Rabah Nait Oufella). Genre aficionados might appreciate the throwback vibe confidently steered by rookie director Julia Ducournau, even if the overall impact is muddled. (Rated R, 99 minutes).