Film News: Preview of 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival

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CHICAGO – Tonight what heights we’ll hit. The 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival (CCFF) begins on Friday, May 17th, 2019, and offers a week of 2019 film greatness, selected by Chicago Film Critics from the major festivals so far. This will be a whole week at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre, Click here for the schedule.

7th Chicago Critics Film Festival
Photo credit: Ian Simmons for

Patrick McDonald (PM) and Jon Lennon Espino (JLE) of has previewed some films, and anticipate others. We’ve divided this overview into FILMS WEVE SEEN, FILMS WE WANT TO SEE (BASED ON TITLE OR DESCRIPTION) and FILMS WE MUST SEE. We hope to SEE YOU there.


Saint Frances

The Opening Night film is a statement of sorts … a statement regarding the pressures on women to manifest certain obligations within their lives in our current world. It is a beautiful and emotional sensibility that touches upon roles, expectations and internalized repression.

Kelly O’Sullivan wrote and is the lead actor in the film, and the title character is a magnificent six-year-old truth teller (Ramona Edith Smith). In a nanny-and-child relationship, they comfort and challenge each other through their trials. O’Sullivan, partnered with feature debut director Alex Thompson, create a pastiche of feelings that everyone will relate to, and and it results in a hopefulness that teaches us how to access our humanity. A must see. Friday, May 17th, 7pm. (PM) Click here for the interview with O’Sullivan and Thompson.

The Nightingale

But first, a warning … this film is not for the faint of heart. Trigger warnings will abound with all the carnage, violence, brutality, and rape in this film. None of it is used senselessly, but it is overused as literal overkill to get the film’s message across. A much different turn for Jennifer Kent’s sophomore film – her first was the well received “The Babadook” – but still just as effective. 

Where Kent’s debut film kept much of the true terror in the shadows and peripheries, “The Nightingale” splatters it all on the screen, while still maintaining the emotional complexity of the characters. That is one constant in both film – the unjust suffering of women. The way she uses her character in “The Babadook” was to take a look at loss, grief, and motherhood, and she similarly takes the same brush to the character of Clare (Aisling Franciosi) but weaves a tale of revenge in 1800’s Tasmania, at the peak of British colonialism. Kent crafts this epic with searing social commentary and a historical backdrop. At over two hours, this film is definitely a commitment, and while it will force you to look away for some of the more severe moments, it is well-worth the time. Sunday, May 19th, 7pm. (JLE)

The Nightingale
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In Fabric

The devil is in the details, which means it is easily etched into every fiber inside of every fabric. This is especially true for the dress in “In Fabric”, which seems to curse each wearer with misfortune. That’s right, you read that correctly. A haunted, devil dress. If that isn’t enough to garner your attention, then the fact that this film is written and directed by the same person (Peter Strickland) who brought us the strangely sultry “The Duke of Burgundy” should be enough to push your curiosity over to the darkside of this midnighter film. Saturday May 18th, 11:59pm. (JLE)

Cold Case Hammarskjöld

As a JFK assassination buff, this descriptive immediately spoke to me … “In 1961, United Nations secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane mysteriously crashed, leaving no survivors. It’s understood that because Hammarskjöld was, at the time, advocating for Congo’s independence, the “crash” was an assassination. With the case still unsolved fifty-plus years later, Danish journalist, filmmaker, and provocateur Mads Brügger leads viewers down a wild investigative rabbit hole to unearth the truth.” It’s filled with such sweet 1960s intrigue that Oliver Stone’s stone face just cracked a smile. Wednesday May 22th, 10pm. (PM)

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