Voice From the Stone

★★★½ out of four stars

7 p.m. April 20 at Uptown Theatre; 7:10 p.m. April 28 at St. Anthony Main

“Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke plays a nurse in 1950s Italy caring for children who have become deeply emotionally withdrawn. Her newest charge, living in a huge palazzo with his recently widowed father (Marton Csokas), has willfully gone silent. The film draws eerie puzzlement over whether the voices he hears in the castle’s massive masonry walls are truly coming from his deceased opera star mother. Clarke provides the love and compassion the boy needs; could the brooding Csokas take the same interest in her? Moving between supernatural and rational tones, Twin Cities director Eric Howell’s feature-film debut is magnetically moody, creating the spirit of a Hitchcock version of “Jane Eyre.” Howell and cast members will attend Thursday’s screening. (94 min., USA/Italy)

COLIN COVERT

The Darkness

7:05 p.m. April 20 and 7:10 p.m. April 22 at St. Anthony Main

 

The best fright films trigger our terrors by making us fill in important blank spaces in the story and visuals. This Mexican minimalist chiller makes us full partners in the creative process, giving us loads of human-scale horror to worry about. In a claustrophobic old cabin in the foggiest possible woods live an aging father and his three children. There seems to be some sort of big bad wolf outside the door. But is the real danger in its jaws or the possibility that a nearby hatchet, shotgun and rock might go into the wrong hands? Long, unbroken cuts enable the pressure to build to almost suffocating tautness, withholding clarity until the final harrowing moments. (92 min., Mexico)

COLIN COVERT

Whose Streets?

7 p.m. April 21 and 4:15 p.m. April 22 at St. Anthony Main (USA)

In August 2014, locals in Ferguson, Mo., took to the streets in protest after the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. When local and state law enforcement amped up artillery and security, especially after Wilson was not indicted, the tension amongst neighbors, civilians and police sparked rioting and vandalism, leaving a city left picking up the pieces and asking: Who is policing the police? Co-directors Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis did a masterful and heroic job capturing the scene with hand-held cameras. Their raw, unapologetic, “the truth hurts” filmmaking style yields a disturbing and eye-opening experience. (103 min.)

JIM BRUNZELL III

Sami Blood

9:55 p.m. April 22 and 9:15 a.m. April 29 at St. Anthony Main (Sweden/Norway/Denmark)

Racism Scandinavian style. This period piece vividly dramatizes old, harsh prejudices against the rural Sami people of northern Sweden. It’s handsomely set in the 1930s, when social-Darwinist race biology exams measuring facial structure and nude photography were standard in state schools. Lene Cecilia Sparrok is magnetic as a Sami girl determined to sever ties with her Lappish heritage, and its melodious yoiking song tradition, to reinvent herself as a full-blooded Swede. Her assimilation tests the pugnacious teen’s backbone and the deep-rooted societal standards of old urban Sweden. When you abandon your heritage and family, what is there to gain? It’s an impressive, confident feature debut for writer/director Amanda Kernell, who is Swedish-Sami herself, and a promising talent of tomorrow. (110 min.)

COLIN COVERT

Untouchable

10 a.m. April 22 and 7 p.m. April 25 at St. Anthony Main (USA)

It’s hard to imagine any offense more heinous than the sexual abuse of children. But does our emotional response trigger judgments of justice or retribution? Child safety advocate Patty Wetterling is extensively interviewed in David Fiege’s documentary about the complex subject. Its focus is Florida, which enacted the toughest state law short of the death sentence when the state’s most powerful lobbyist learned that his daughter had been sexually assaulted for years by her nanny. His law had a ripple effect of consequences far beyond correction, creating what observers call “an endless punishment machine” and “a knowing rejection of science in favor of fear as the basis of legislation.” A deep, difficult and thought-provoking study of a taboo subject and a flawed legal system. Wetterling will participate in a panel discussion after the April 25 screening. (104 min.)

COLIN COVERT

Memories of Summer

½

11:35 a.m. April 22 at St. Anthony Main

Packs more of a punch than the usual coming-of-age story. Brooding ’70s tween Piotrek is spending a rural summer vacation with his hot mom, as their relationship straddles the line between a single-parent dynamic and an almost romantic love. Piotrek undergoes various sweet and traumatic experiences as Mom begins mysteriously stepping out and he replaces her with an older neighbor girl. This kind of low-budget naturalism is why we need an international film fest; a simple scene on a chair carousel is a beautiful visual metaphor. (87 min., Poland)

SIMON PETER GROEBNER

Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry

9:30 a.m. April 22 at St. Anthony Main

The title is a misnomer. This is less a portrait of writer/farmer/activist Berry than a treatise on society’s move away from a life on the land. To be sure, Berry is a passionate advocate for farmers and conservation, and it’s a worthwhile subject, sensitively tackled. But the hypnotic visual montage that opens the movie, accompanied by Berry’s voiceover of his poem “The Objective,” and the closing recitation of the elegiac “Work Song: Part 2” whet the appetite for more on the man and his work. Guess we’ll just have to revisit his prolific writings. (80 min., USA)

CYNTHIA DICKISON

The Fury of a Patient Man

½

9:30 p.m. April 22 and 9:55 p.m. April 28 at St. Anthony Main

A character-driven crime story with a classic look of grimy 1970s realism. After serving eight years for a jewelry heist gone disastrously wrong, the getaway driver is released to rejoin his girlfriend. But amid her conjugal visits to the prison, she has also hooked up with a meek, prosperous lightweight, and a wonderful sense of everyday-life anxiety begins to build and build. This Spanish treasure is the kind of sharply structured film noir that nearly bursts with unexpected twists of fate. The beautifully crafted three-act structure reveals that violent payback is around the corner, but never shows its cards until we’re biting our fingernails to the nubs. (92 min., Spain)

COLIN COVERT

Chavela

½

5 p.m. April 23 and 9:20 a.m. April 29 at St. Anthony Main (USA/Mexico)

This highly entertaining documentary on lesbian Mexican ranchera singer Isabel “Chavela” Vargas has its shares of struggles and defeat too. Growing up in Costa Rica in a very religious and prejudiced time, Chavela relocated to Mexico, where she dressed like a man and became the first woman to sing about another woman. She became a superstar before alcoholism derailed her career for more than a decade. Co-directed by Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi, this expertly detailed film features bountiful live performances, candid interviews (including director Pedro Almodovar) and musicians telling stories about the hard-boozing singer in glorious detail. (90 min.)

JIM BRUNZELL III

Una

½

7:20 p.m. April 24 at St. Anthony Main (USA)

Visceral, raw, and painful, “Una” lives or dies on the strength of Rooney Mara’s performance, and does she deliver. As the title character who confronts a childhood trauma, Mara is by turns childlike, enraged and despairing, conveying a palpable depth of feeling. The film, adapted from David Harrower’s play “Blackbird,” feels like a high-wire act, constantly balancing on the tense edge of a fall into the abyss. It zigs where you think it will zag, and takes its time getting to the payoff, but it’s worth it. Dealing with a complicated and difficult subject, “Una” slowly untangles the past and the present, unraveling a web of secrets and half-truths that keep one waiting with bated breath for the final tightrope trick. (94 min.)

KELSY KETCHUM

The Ornithologist

½

4:45 p.m. April 24 and 9:55 p.m. April 29 at St. Anthony Main (Portugal)

Bird expert Fernando (Paul Hamy) is searching the forests of Portugal for species on the verge of extinction. When he is swept away in a river torrent, he is awakened by two Chinese hikers, only to be tied up and left for dead. Once he frees himself, he must find his way back to civilization in what becomes a mysterious path of self-discovery filled with religious undertones, Lynchian characters, and beautiful scenery. The slow-burn narrative by writer/director João Pedro Rodrigues (who makes a cameo) takes us on a stylish and wickedly funny adventure deep into the strangest unknown. (117 min.)

JIM BRUNZELL III

Norman

½

7:15 p.m. April 25 at St. Anthony Main (USA/Israel)

You don’t find Richard Gere cast against type in a flawlessly human performance every day. His white hair in a Woody Allen tangle, Gere plays a good-hearted, old ambitious Jew, a schmoozing would-be dealmaker who reaches out to promising people with gifts that some might interpret as emotional bribes. He is considered a background extra by New York City’s financial elite until fate introduces him to an Israeli politico (Lior Ashkenazi, outstanding) who becomes a genuine friend and then a world leader. Finally Norman is in the spotlight, and in a great deal of trouble as his tendency to exaggerate spirals out of control. Writer/director Joseph Cedar juggles overlapping storylines, and a solid gold supporting cast, like a pro. (118 min.)

COLIN COVERT

Dolores

7 p.m. April 25 at Founders Hall, Metro State University, St. Paul; 6:30 p.m. April 26 at Rochester Galaxy; 7:10 p.m. April 27 at St. Anthony Main (USA)

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama congratulating labor organizer Dolores Huerta for her political activism are just a few scenes at the beginning of this documentary by Peter Bratt. Growing up in California’s San Joaquin Valley, Huerta came into political consciousness at an early age while witnessing police brutality against Mexicans and people of color. The film is a little talking-head, but overall does a great job of telling Huerta’s story, focusing on her political work as a labor organizer, civil rights activist and co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW) rather than her personal life. (95 min.)

ALICIA ELER

Step

7:20 p.m. April 25 at St. Anthony Main; 5 p.m. April 28 at Capri Theater (USA)

This documentary chronicles the senior year at an all-female Baltimore high school that aims to get its entire graduating class accepted to college. The film focuses on a group of students who started a “step” dance team when they were 12, and hope to finally take home a championship. Director Amanda Lipitz’ irresistible crowd-pleaser deftly balances the kids’ juggling act of heartaches at home and in school, their dedication on the dance floor and their determination to achieve success. (83 min.)

JIM BRUNZELL III

Quest

9:30 p.m. April 25 at St. Anthony Main; 1 p.m. April 29 at Capri Theater (USA)

An intimate portrayal of one family’s day-to-day life through eight years, “Quest” acts more as a series of vignettes than one film. Dealing with issues of poverty, addiction, and violence in a North Philadelphia neighborhood, the film follows the Rainey family, including patriarch Christopher “Quest” Rainey, Christine’a Rainey, and their daughter P.J., as they eke out a living and try to survive. Scenes from the Philadelphia hip-hop community, which the Raineys are involved in, overlap and intertwine with their familial struggles and hopes. The film makes clear to the audience that this neighborhood is ignored by those in power, and attempts to give them some power back in representing their lives on the big screen. (105 min.)

KELSY KETCHUM

A Quiet Passion

½

4:30 p.m. April 26 at St. Anthony Main (Belgium/Britain)

This biopic of 19th century poet Emily Dickinson evokes its title, with a calm surface but an underlying sense of raw and real emotion. Cynthia Nixon magnificently embodies Dickinson’s loneliness, her anger, and her wonder and dismay toward the world. Using Dickinson’s poems throughout reminds us of her brilliance. Superb acting from the rest of the cast and beautiful cinematography add to the power of the film and create a thoughtful and fully realized portrait of a writer’s life. (126 min.)

KELSY KETCHUM

Dean

7:15 p.m. April 26 at St. Anthony Main (USA)

In his directing/writing/starring debut, comedian Demetri Martin knocks a tender little charmer out of the park. He plays the title character, a Brooklyn illustrator emotionally wobbly after the passing of his wonderful mother. His father (Kevin Kline) has more maturity, but no magic spell to soothe his own loss. The film pendulums between Dean, as he finds a potential soulmate in a L.A. business trip, and his dad, who’s selling off the family house and encountering a possible significant other on the East Coast. This is very much the comedy of ordinary life, with perfectly observed moments of awkwardness and embarrassment among delightful, endearing characters. (87 min., USA)

COLIN COVERT

Daguerreotype

9:40 p.m. April 27 at St. Anthony Main

Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa leaves his native Japan for this French-set modern ghost story. Everything else is pretty much as expected from the man behind “Pulse” and “Cure.” Tahar Rahim (“A Prophet”) plays a man just looking for a gig, who strangely lands a good one working for a troubled photographer steeped in the titular outdated style. There are a few genuine creeps that will unsettle, but never outright terrify. When things get twisty in the third act, you’ll either go for it or the film will lose you completely. (131 min., France/Belgium/Japan)

ERIK McCLANAHAN

Window Horses

4:05 p.m. April 28 and 11:45 a.m. April 29 at St. Anthony Main

Rosie Ming wears a pink beret and yearns to travel to Paris. Instead, the twentysomething flips burgers at a restaurant in Vancouver, self- publishing a book of her poetry, “My Eye Full: Poems by a Person Who Has Never Been to France.” In this animated film, that slim volume changes everything — earning Ming (voiced by Sandra Oh) an invitation to a poetry convention in Shiraz, Iran. Writer/director/animator Ann Marie Fleming’s sweet, smart coming-of-age story portrays Ming as a simple stick figure. But at its best, “Window Horses” uses sophisticated, dynamic animation to illustrate what cannot be seen — the sound of the morning call to prayer, the feeling created by a poem. (88 min., Canada)

JENNA ROSS

King of the Belgians

½

7 and 7:20 p.m. April 29 at St. Anthony Main (Belgium/Netherlands/Bulgaria)

Belgium’s mild-mannered, modern, miserable monarch Nicolas III is on a diplomatic mission to EU-hopeful Turkey when his own country’s French half splits from its Dutch half (which could really happen). So in this cleverly candid mockumentary, the figurehead and his handlers are forced onto an unlikely road adventure through poor eastern Europe, while he tries to write the speech that will save his nation, learning some Valuable Lessons about freedom. Is this a sweet satire of ineffective government or a sly way to highlight the contrasts of east vs. west? Both. A run-in with a troupe of female Bulgarian folk singers is priceless. (94 min.)

SIMON PETER GROEBNER