Unless otherwise noted, all films reviewed below are at St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis.

  

FRIDAY

 

Leave No Trace
★★★½ out of four stars
7:05 p.m. April 20 (U.S.)

After a major success with the extraordinary “Winter’s Bone,” which launched Jennifer Lawrence’s career and earned four Oscar nominations, writer/director Debra Granik returns with a wonderfully calibrated follow-up. Her new star of tomorrow is teenage New Zealand actress Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, playing the daughter of a troubled military vet (Ben Foster). Homeless by choice, he raises her in a shared tent in beautiful but challenging parkland woods. The pair’s devoted connection in their hidden life is threatened as they are discovered by authorities and the girl’s maturity makes her appreciate the promise of other paths. The film teems with soft-spoken emotion, rich character acting and a deep humanist perspective. Granik will attend Friday’s screening and a free party afterward celebrating Minnesota filmmakers at FilmNorth, 550 Vandalia St., Suite 120, St. Paul. (108 min.)
COLIN COVERT

 

The Charmer
★★★½ 
9:45 p.m. April 20; 2:10 p.m. April 27 (Denmark)

While he’s not a gigolo, Esmail is looking for love with dubious intentions. A regular at chic Copenhagen wine bars, the young Iranian has a visa expiring soon and will be forced back to Teheran unless he gets a marriage commitment from a local. The drama wrings psychological suspense as well as sexual tension out of Esmail’s quest. As courtships misfire, candidates withdraw and deportation approaches, his doomsday clock is ticking, a plight he can’t disclose without breaking the women’s trust in him. Ardalan Esmaili is deeply impressive in the role, blessed by the young George Clooney’s magnetism, acting chops and good looks (they could be half-brothers). While negotiating a promising match with a Persian beauty born and raised in Denmark, Esmail’s person-to-person charisma barely disguises his hidden anxiety. As carefully as he reinvents himself for the public, he can’t erase the past. In fact, he’s creating a scarred new history he will never be able to ignore. (100 min.)
C.C.

 

SATURDAY

  

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts
★★★★
Noon April 21 at Uptown (Indonesia)

 

The first man arrives at Marlina’s house by motorbike, matter-of-factly telling her what will happen that night. He and his gang will take newly widowed Marlina’s money. Her livestock. “And if we have time, we’ll sleep with you. All seven of us.” But Marlina has other plans. She unsheathes her machete, and the film transforms into a taut tale of revenge. It’s funny, too. Director Mouly Surya, a master of tension and release, tracks Marlina’s mission — by foot, by bus, by horseback — across the sloping roads and sweeping plains of rural Indonesia. But this western’s most stunning moments are intimate, capturing the strength in women’s eyes. (93 min.)
JENNA ROSS

 

Under the Tree
★★★★
7:25 p.m. April 21; 9:45 p.m. April 25 (Iceland)

Things are not going well for Atli. His wife just kicked him out, so he moves in with his parents, Baldvin and Inga. Their life is even more convoluted — they are feuding with neighbors over a tree. What happens between the two families becomes an escalated game of unwanted comeuppances involving pets, garden gnomes and a chainsaw. Writer/director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson’s brilliant domestic satire is wickedly funny and boldly shameless, leading to a diabolical and surprising conclusion. (89 min.)
JIM BRUNZELL III

Silicone Soul
★★½
6:45 p.m. April 21; 2:15 p.m. April 22 (U.S.)

 

Minnesota filmmaker Melody Gilbert brings us this thought-provoking documentary about Americans who own and even “marry” their silicone sex dolls. There’s the nerdy “synthetic activist” in Detroit, the New Jersey man who keeps sex dolls with full support from his cancer-stricken wife, the married New York City artist (a woman!) who owns dozens of dolls, posing them for provocative photos, confessing to a painful lack of female friendships in her life. The most likable of all is a Chicago area “working stiff” whose 10-year-old doll is falling apart. We see close-ups of the warped fingers, the detached leg. He scrimps and saves for her $6,000 replacement, happily wheeling her shabby body about the neighborhood. Just when a viewer is tempted to render harsh judgments, Gilbert introduces a new silicone enthusiast to bust our assumptions. (71 min.)
CHRISTY DeSMITH

Who Killed Cock Robin?
★★½
10 p.m. April 21, 10 p.m. April 27 (Taiwan)

Second-time filmmaker Cheng Wei-hao would do well to heed Agatha Christie’s rule that each story can have only one coincidence (his has about 10) but this time-jumping thriller is so nervy and energetic it’s possible to overlook its unlikelier elements. It’s about a disgraced journalist who tries to redeem himself by investigating a murder that may be linked to government corruption. Nobody is on the side you think they are and everybody is a terrible driver in an action-packed movie that may have even more car accidents than it does coincidences. (118 min.)
CHRIS HEWITT

 

SUNDAY

 

The Guardians
★★★½
11:40 a.m. Sun.; 6:50 p.m. Thu. (France)

 

The steely matriarch of a French farm family (the redoubtable Nathalie Baye) struggles to keep the operation going while the menfolk are off fighting the Great War. Her only option for help is the fresh-faced Francine, an earnest, hardworking girl who becomes a loved and essential member of the Paridier household. Welcome though it is, Francine’s presence stirs undercurrents even before the soldiers return — and that’s when trouble really begins. This is a lovely and pastoral film, with long, quiet stretches of tilling, sowing, gleaning and milking that serve as counterpoint to the emotional turbulence. (135 min.)
CYNTHIA DICKISON

 

MONDAY

 

 

Narcissister Organ Player
★★★
7:05 p.m. April 23; 9:30 p.m. April 25 (U.S.)

American performance artist Narcissister is known for her brave, exotic and controversial expressions on gender, race and political issues through explicit and mesmerizing shows that employ absurdity and provocation. From wearing a dummy-like mask, going through various wardrobe changes and challenging viewers throughout, this hybrid documentary also goes beyond the stage. On-screen interviews, albeit with her face still covered, reveal a more personal side as Narcissister discusses her childhood and parents, intellectuals who gave her the courage to exercise her talents. (92 min.)
J.B.

 

TUESDAY

 

Three Identical Strangers
★★★½
4:45 p.m. April 24; 9:55 p.m. April 27 (U.S.)

On his first day of college in 1980, Bobby Shafran was mistaken for another student, Eddy Galland. They soon realized they had been separated at birth. Then another 19-year-old, David Kellman, saw a newspaper story about the twins, and thought he, too, was seeing double. Suddenly, all three strangers — now reunited triplets — had their lives forever changed as they became a media sensation. Beautifully crafted and exquisitely examined, director Tim Wardle’s wildly unpredictable and controversial documentary is filled with unfortunate revelations on how the brothers’ lives and families became more complicated. (95 min.)
J.B.