Capsule reviews for Oct. 13

Human Flow

The latest documentary from masterful Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is commendable as much for its exhaustive scope as for its thought-provoking message. His topic is contemporary human migration, which he examines through stories of immigration and refugee crises around the world — as he points out, millions worldwide are being displaced because of famine, war, climate change and other factors both unfortunate and infuriating. While that might not be surprising, the film is both persuasive and beautiful in the way it blends dynamic visuals with even-handed compassion for victims. Taking a big-picture approach, the result is perhaps too long, ambitious, and episodic. But it’s also impactful. (Rated PG-13, 140 minutes).

 

The Secret Scripture

A solid cast is squandered in this handsomely mounted period piece from venerable director Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot) that begins with a psychiatrist (Eric Bana) trying to untangle the cryptic diaries of a longtime Dublin asylum patient Rose (Vanessa Redgrave) still haunted by her past. We learn through flashbacks of doomed relationships that the younger Rose (Rooney Mara) endured decades earlier, which were influenced by Ireland’s involvement in World War II and rigid Catholic attitudes toward gender roles. As the mystery unfolds, the film gradually strains credibility and becomes more formulaic in structure — not without its powerful moments, but lacking consistent intrigue or suspense. (Rated PG-13, 108 minutes).

 

6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain

As the title suggests, the outcome isn’t in doubt in this lackluster survival drama from director Scott Waugh (Need for Speed) that chronicles the true-life story of Eric LeMarque (Josh Hartnett), a drug addict who becomes lost during a blizzard while snowboarding in the Sierra Nevada mountains. He tries to survive several harrowing days in subzero temperatures awaiting an unlikely rescue. Hartnett’s committed performance forces him to act by himself for much of the film. He brings more authenticity to the material than the wobbly screenplay, which makes heavy-handed pleas for sympathy but lacks conviction while portraying Eric’s path to personal redemption and spiritual transformation. (Rated PG-13, 98 minutes).

 

Tom of Finland

Even if you’re familiar with the work of the titular Finnish illustrator who became a gay icon, this biopic provides an intriguing glimpse into the relationship between art and commerce, set against a backdrop of cultural repression and restraint. Tom (Pekka Strang) is really Touko Laaksonen, who begins exploring his homosexual tendencies after fighting in World War II. He must draw and market his erotic, hyper-masculine sketches in secret because of sodomy laws at the time, but develops an underground following. Strang is terrific, and Dome Karukoski’s direction is visually striking, even if the film overall is more safe than provocative, considering the subject matter. (Not rated, 115 minutes).