The Best Films to See This April

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Evil Does Not Exist, 2024
Evil Does Not Exist, 2024(Film still)

From Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s sublime eco-lament to Alex Garland’s sci-fi actioner Civil War, here are five of the best films to see this month

Evil Does Not Exist

From April 5

If Drive My Car, the film that brought Ryusuke Hamaguchi Oscars glory in 2022, was an epic, snaking prose-poem about grief and missed connections, then Evil Does Not Exist is more like a haiku. At once lucid and stubbornly opaque, it’s an enigmatic film on our place within nature whose mystery only deepens on second viewing.

In a rural mountain community two hours from Tokyo, a pair of talent agency workers try to bulldoze residents into accepting their employer’s plans to build a new glamping site. Takumi (Hitoshi Omika), a local odd-jobs man living in the woods with his eight-year-old daughter, is rightly sceptical of the proposals, but soon finds himself courted by the firm for his knowledge of the area. Meanwhile the reps start to question their own lives in the city – a very Hamaguchian touch, this – as they feel themselves drawn by the call of nature.

Hamaguchi makes us feel the quiet of this place in long, lingering shots that lull you in its rhythms: if he wants us to watch a man chop wood, we’re going to watch him chop wood until he’s done, basically. Such moments of calm are juxtaposed with odd intimations of violence, from the weird frisson of the title to Eiko Ishibashi’s haunting string theme, a lament for a tragedy that hasn’t yet come to pass.

Then there are the little grace notes that Hamaguchi includes for no particular reason: a group of kids stood motionless during a schoolyard game of Red Light, Green Light; a jaded office worker whose crumpled pose briefly mirrors that of a painting behind him. These are the moments you come to treasure from Hamaguchi, whose elevating eye gives the smallest of dramas – one lengthy scene revolves around the correct placement of a septic tank – transcendent poetic force. By the time he’s built to a climax that’s as sudden as it is unexpected, you’ll want to keep coming back to this beguiling mystery time and again.

Read AnOther’s interview with Ryusuke Hamaguchi here.

Io Capitano

From April 5

Matteo Garrone’s epic migrant drama is like a superhero origin story in disguise. The idea stemmed from the Gomorrah director’s desire to see a film told from the migrants’ point of view, and tells the story of Seydou and Moussa, two Senegalese teens striking out for Europe in search of fame and fortune, only to find themselves at the mercy of people traffickers and mafia groups. Awful things ensue, but Garrone stays close to the sense of thrilling adventure felt by his protagonists, giving their journey through the Sahara desert the romantic sweep of a David Lean epic. Better yet, he scores a real coup in charismatic newcomer Seydou Sarr, riveting as a shy young man discovering unsuspected powers of leadership.

Civil War

From April 12

As per a YouGov poll conducted in 2022, two in five Americans believed a civil war could unfold in the US within a decade. Fast-forward two years and that figure looks, if anything, a touch conservative, so it was only a matter of time till someone decided to imagine what that might actually look like – a premise Alex Garland’s daringly conceived new thriller for A24 runs with. In the midst of a nationwide conflict, jaded war photographer Lee (former AnOther Magazine cover star Kirsten Dunst) brings eager pupil Jessie (Cailee Spaeny) out on the road to track down the embattled president (Nick Offerman). En route it all gets a bit Apocalypse Now – beware the Jesse Plemons cameo – before the film explodes into violence in its final act with an extended assault on the White House. It’s a slick and occasionally inspired piece of action filmmaking that nonetheless suffers from slightly rote characters whose stake in this conflict is never really revealed.

Close Your Eyes

From April 12

Victor Erice is a revered figure in Spanish cinephile circles; an avowed influence on Guillermo Del Toro and Pedro Almodóvar, his Franco-era debut, Spirit of the Beehive, was an exquisite childhood reverie set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Now he’s back with only his third fiction feature at the age of 83, a haunting drama concerning the disappearance of an actor, Javier (José Coronado), midway through making a film in 1990, and the attempts of his director and friend, Miguel (Manolo Solo), to discover what happened to him some 20 years later. As the mystery continues to needle at Miguel even after an unexpected twist in the tale, Erice burrows deep into themes around ageing and identity, memory and cinema. It’s a film about what happens to your calling as an artist when the drama of your life seems to have played out, and the stubborn belief in the power of cinema to work miracles.

The Teachers’ Lounge

From April 12

In İlker Çatak’s discomfiting drama, well-intentioned teacher Carla (Leonie Benesch) shares concerns at her school’s handling of a series of thefts in the classroom. But when she finds what seems to be a smoking-gun uncovering the thief’s true identity, she makes an accusation of her own that threatens to engulf the whole school. Çatak’s film unfolds like an anxiety dream and speaks directly to a wider crisis of liberal values playing out across Europe, making up for its slightly pedestrian style with sharply drawn insight and moments of humour, as when Carla is grilled by pupils working for the school newspaper who solemnly inform her that “we must protect our sources”.