This Must Be the Place (directed by Paolo Sorrentino; streaming on Netflix, Amazon) Taken at a glance, it’s not a surprise that This Must Be the Place never found an audience. It’s a dark indie comedy that stars Sean Penn as Cheyenne, an aging goth rocker who owned the ’80s but has since given up music because of a personal tragedy. The film takes a strange turn when Cheyenne adopts his dead father’s lifelong mission to find the Auschwitz guard who humiliated him during the war. Despite an almost painfully slow first act, Penn chips away at you with his total inhabitation of Cheyenne and eventually wins you over with the coyness of his deadpan delivery. There is a lot of power and wisdom behind that timid voice once it seeps in – you just have to let it in.
Fish Story (directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura; streaming on Netflix) A song can save the world, right? When people say that, they usually mean something a little more spiritual, something about human connections made over a piece of lyric or the swell of a orchestra that keeps you sane or even alive. They usually don’t mean it did so through a convoluted chain of events that unfurls over the span of 50 years. This movie attempts to spin a tale about a 1975 punk song with a minute-long gap of conspiracy-laden silence spliced into the middle ends up saving the world – literally – by stopping a comet from destroying the Earth in 2012. Nakamura weaves a delicious comic tale that isn’t so far-fetched, riffing off Armageddon, The Karate Kid and doomsday cults along the way.
The Swell Season (directed by Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins, Carlo Mirabella-Davis; streaming on Netflix, Amazon) The end result of the 2007 Irish indie film Once – aside from the critical acclaim, album sales, sold-out concerts, a Broadway musical and an Oscar – was that its stars, folk-rock duo Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, were introduced to a wider audience and cast into the public spotlight. They were a fairy-tale couple whose dreams came true, and the world was that much better just because they existed. But all dreams exist in an untenable state, and the bitter wakeup eventually comes. As a documentary crew follows them as they’re on tour to promote Once, the cracks in Hansard and Irglova’s relationship are revealed. It’s not the film that the crew set out to capture, but it’s a heartbreaking and fascinating experience to watch this couple crumble under the weight of fame, success and expectation.