The Best Films to See This July

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Problemista, 2024
Problemista, 2024(Film still)

From Yorgos Lanthimos’ twisted Kinds of Kindness to Turkish master Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s searing cinematic epic, here are five of the best films to see this month


From July 8

Julio Torres is a writer for Saturday Night Live who scored a critical hit with Los Espookys, an HBO comedy about a group of kids who start a business bringing horror-movie scenarios to life. He stars in his fanciful feature debut as Alejandro, a Salvadoran migrant and wannabe toymaker trying to get his US visa renewed before he is – quite literally, as it turns out – ‘disappeared’ by the state. Salvation arrives in the unlikely form of Elizabeth (Tilda Swinton), an art critic and all-round human tornado in smudgy eyeliner looking to sell her late husband’s paintings to fund his continued cryogenic stasis. Torres’ film seems madcap and rather slapdash at first – there’s a cameo from Larry Owens as a dreamlike personification of the website Craigslist – but soon finds its groove as a wonderful and unexpectedly moving meditation on finding your voice as an artist, buoyed by a fantastically frazzled turn from Swinton as the fierce yet loving Elizabeth.

Kinds of Kindness

Out now

Imagine Franz Kafka directing back-to-back episodes of Black Mirror, and you’re somewhere in the twisted wrongverse of Kinds of Kindness, the new anthology film from Yorgos Lanthimos. Reteaming with Poor Things collaborators Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe and Margaret Qualley, the Greek weird-wave director lucks out with the addition of Jesse Plemons, in career-best form as, variously, a disgraced office worker desperate to please his old boss; a man besieged by thoughts that his wife may be an imposter; and a cult member trying to find someone who can resurrect the dead. The provocations are routinely in the worst possible taste, as you’d expect from Lanthimos, and his eye for fucked-up power dynamics remains unparalleled. But sometimes the effect is more cynical rather than subversive, a trait that marks this one out as a minor entry into his canon.

Orlando, My Political Biography

From July 5

For Paul B Preciado, “life is not at all like a biography”, which is why he’s decided to hitch his own story to a novel, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. In this ambitious blend of fact and fiction, the Spanish writer and filmmaker posits Woolf’s 1928 tome as a prophetic work, mapping the stories of modern-day transgender folk on to that of the book’s changeling protagonist. Like all good and loving children, he lays bare his feelings of rage as well as love towards Woolf, noting with bitterness how, unlike Orlando’s own metamorphosis, transition in the real world is an often painful and drawn-out process. Astute and often lyrical – Preciado recalls how nights in his pre-transition youth became “silent waiting rooms” of the mind – the film only falters slightly in finding a visual language to match its narrative daring. But it’s a work of striking originality all the same.

 Read our interview with Paul B Preciado here.

In a Violent Nature

From July 12

Now here’s something different: a Canadian slasher flick filmed from the POV of the killer, In a Violent Nature is a self-described “ambient horror” about a Jason Voorhees-like villain stalking the woods where a group of young holidaymakers have rocked up for the weekend. It’s an audacious premise which, from the title on down, seems cleverly designed to get the critics wondering, ‘But is it art?’ And to that end, some of the scenes of our killer tramping wordlessly through the long grass at sunrise take on a mildly surrealistic glow. But for the most part, Nash’s film falls back on the thrill of old-fashioned pleasures, inventively staged – including one karmic kill scene that’ll have you choking on your popcorn.

About Dry Grasses

From July 26

Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s new film is one of the year’s best, a masterclass in slow-cinema style that’s intimate in scale and epic in scope. Samet (Deniz Celiloğlu) is a jaded teacher nearing the end of his assignment at a school in a snow-clogged rural Turkish community. Along with his colleague and roommate, Kenan (Musab Ekici), he finds himself accused of inappropriate behaviour by some female pupils at the school. Samet is indignant, regarding the affair as confirmation of the community’s pious ignorance, but soon meets another teacher, Nuray (Merve Didzar), who sees through his shifty-eyed liberalism and enters into a love triangle with Samet and Kenan. Masterfully shot and performed – Didzar’s searching turn won her a best actress prize at Cannes – Ceylan’s film has the allegorical weight and shrewd psychological insight of a Russian novel of ideas, suggesting a battle for the soul of modern-day Turkey in a drama for three players.