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PFF reviews: 'Two Days, One Night,' 'Laggies,' 'The Tribe,' 'Gueros' and more

The Philadelphia Film Festival offers the Dardenne brothers' "Two Days, One Night," Lynn Shelton's "Laggies" and the all-sign language "The Tribe."

Marion Cotillard tries to save her job in "Two Days, One Night." Credit: PFF Marion Cotillard tries to save her job in "Two Days, One Night."
Credit: PFF

‘Two Days, One Night’
5 Globes
Monday, Oct. 20, 7:50 p.m., Prince Music Theater
You can set your watch to Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne: Every three years, almost to the day, the Belgian filmmakers release a new, astutely observed social drama — fables that dig into issues plaguing the working class but without a hint of didacticism. There are few filmmakers more reliable, though their latest is even more excellent, even for them. Marion Cotillard, their first A-list star, smoothly integrates into the world of a factory worker on sick leave who discovers she’s on the cusp of losing her job. Budget cutbacks have forced the powers-that-be to either cut a position or eliminate everyone’s sizeable monthly bonus. In a sadistic move, the bosses have put that decision in the employees’ hands, meaning Collard’s Sandra has to rush from coworker to coworker, begging them to vote in her favor. Whether what Sandra is doing is ethical or not is never decided. It’s an idea she herself wrestles with as she runs from person to person, who are perhaps unfairly forced to face the person whose life they may have to make worse. There’s no easy answer, and the Dardennes don’t pretend to have one. It’s a film of ideas that is entirely defined by action — tense, nail-biting, furiously fast-paced action, with Sandra nervously booking from place to place, having to hide her shame as she begs people to do the unthinkable. If the Dardennes ever make a full-on thriller, look out. — Matt Prigge

'Big Significant Things'
3 Globes
Fri., Oct. 24, 5:20 p.m., Ritz East; Sun., Oct. 26, 5:00 p.m., Ritz East
While his girlfriend is in San Francisco looking at houses, Craig (Harry Lloyd) is secretly traveling through the American South, visiting roadside attractions like the World’s Biggest Rocking Chair. He is searching, obviously, for a little meaning in his life; he is about to make a big commitment. Craig encounters various strangers on his journey, most notably, Ella (Krista Kosonen), whose singing in a bar transfixes him. The film’s small, quiet moments —like Craig eating pizza in his car —are wistful and revealing. Lloyd gives a very expressive performance; his anxiety, loneliness, and desperation are all palpable. But while Bryan Reisberg’s modest film makes some predictable turns, it ends up going nowhere slowly. "Big Significant Things" wants to make some grand observations about life, growing up, relationships and responsibility, but ultimately, it is too slight to be completely effective. —Gary M. Kramer

‘Gueros’
3 Globes
Mon., Oct. 20, 9:40 p.m., Ritz East; Thurs., Oct. 23, 8:40 p.m., Roxy
The latest exciting newish voice from modern Mexican cinema, director Alonso Ruizpalacios makes his feature debut with this old school hangout picture. Set over a day during a monthlong student strike, “Gueros” finds slacker roommates tasked with watching over a teenage brother. Boredom leads to pranks, which lead to an all-night journey that, unfortunately, means some pat lessons. But Ruizpalacios has an odd sense of humor and a black-and-white film style that, while reminiscent of 1990s indie cinema — and the work of fellow countryman Fernando Eimbcke (“Duck Season”) — has an idiosyncrasy and yen for leftfield fits of poetry and playfulness all its own. — Matt Prigge

Teen Chloe Grace Moretz and former teen Keira Knightley hang in "Laggies." Credit: A24 Teen Chloe Grace Moretz and former teen Keira Knightley hang in "Laggies."
Credit: A24

‘Laggies’
3 Globes
Mon., Oct. 20, 5:45 p.m., Ritz East
Even after last year’s “Touchy Feely,” it’s still disarming to see director Lynn Shelton — who broke through with the Mumblecore improv fests “Humpday” and “Your Sister’s Sister” — using a tripod, much less someone else’s script. “Laggies” is a clean indie she didn’t write but which boasts a Sheltonesque high concept plot: Keira Knightley plays an immature 28-year-old who reacts to her boyfriend’s marriage proposal by hanging out with a bunch of teenagers (led by Chloe Grace Moretz). Shelton’s love of spending time with people who can’t always articulate their feelings shines through, and Knightley has likely never been more agreeable onscreen. — Matt Prigge

'Traitors'
4 Globes
Fri., Oct. 24, 4:30 p.m., Ritz East; Sun., October 26, 4:55 p.m., Roxy
In this absorbing and atmospheric drama, Malika (Chaimae Ben Acha) is a punk singer who needs money to make a demo. To earn fast cast, she gets a job driving a car into the mountains for a drug dealer. While Malika knows how to hustle, her savvy is tested when she meets Amal (Soufia Issami), a fellow drug mule whose troubles are perhaps greater than her own. As urgent as it is authentic, Traitors benefits from having a feisty, determined young Arab woman at its center, and viewers will root for her. Malika is grace under pressure under some intense interrogation. Writer/director Sean Gullette tackles a few too many issues in the film’s 82 minutes, and the editing is choppy at times, but Traitors presents an interesting slice of life in Morocco, and Ben Acha is absolutely captivating. —Gary M. Kramer

'10,000 Km'
4 Globes
Wed., Oct. 22, 12:00 noon, Ritz Bourse; Sat., Oct. 25, 12:00 noon, Ritz Bourse
The fantastic first 20 minutes of the intimate, affecting two-hander "10,000 Km" introduces Sergi (David Verdaguer) and Alex (Natalia Tena) in bed in their Barcelona apartment. They are hoping to make a baby. However, when Alex gets an email to move to Los Angeles for a residency, Sergi is reluctant, but he agrees to maintain a long distance relationship. "10,000 Km" chronicles the couple episodically—sexing over Skype, fighting, confessing their emotions and examining their relationship as it changes over time. They make compromises that these their love for one another. The two leads are alternately funny, sexy, sweet, and insecure, and the performances are wonderfully natural. Their contemplative moments of being “together apart” resonate deeply. Writer/director Carlos Marques-Marcet’s film is exquisitely controlled, but the parts somehow seem greater than the whole. —Gary M. Kramer

The Ukrainian "The Tribe" features unsubtitled sign language. Credit: PFF The Ukrainian "The Tribe" features unsubtitled sign language.
Credit: PFF

'The Tribe'
4 Globes
Tues., Oct. 21, 10:00 pm, Ritz East
A very different kind of silent film, the fascinating, unforgettable Ukrainian drama, "The Tribe," unfolds entirely in sign language, without subtitles. That said, ambient noise and some vocal sounds are audible. Audiences will quickly pick up the plot as Sergey (Grigorly Fesenko) enters a boarding school for deaf students. He gets initiated in the Tribe, a gang of criminals, who rob folks and pimp out Anna (Yana Novikova) and Svetka (Rosa Babiy) to truckers for sex. The girls are planning to immigrate to Italy. However, when Sergey has some explicit trysts with Anna, he falls in love with her. "The Tribe" features some very graphic sex and violence, which will probably shock audiences, but adventurous moviegoers will appreciate the film’s emotionally powerful moments. Writer/director Myroslav Slaboshpytshiy employs a riveting use of tracking shots and fixed camera set-ups, and he coaxes daring, mesmerizing, and incredibly expressive performances by Fesenko and Novikova. —Gary M. Kramer

Follow Gary M. Kramer on Twitter @garymkramer and Matt Prigge @mattprigge

 

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