The 10 Best Movies in Theaters Right Now

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The 10 Best Movies in Theaters Right Now

Movie theaters are officially back. As the cinematic offerings slowly return to the big screen compared to the streaming services and various digital rental retailers, we’re here to sort out what’s actually the best bang for your buck at the box office.

Awards season is in full swing, which means films like No Time to Die and Dune, though both pretty good, have been dropped for excellent newcomers like Drive My Car and The Summit of the Gods.

Of course, use your judgment when choosing whether to go back to the movies or not, but there’s an ever-growing percentage of vaccinated moviegoers who are champing at the bit to get back in front of the big screen. And I’m very happy to say that we’re back, here to help.

That said, things in theatrical distribution are a little strange right now, so apart from some big recent blockbusters, there’s a mix of Oscar-winners, lingering releases, indies and classics booked—depending, of course, on the theater. But thankfully, there’s been enough good movies actually released recently this year that you should have no problem finding something great to watch.

Check out the 10 best movies in theaters right now:

10. Spencer

specner-poster.jpg Release Date: November 5, 2021
Director: Pablo Larraín
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall, Jack Farthing, Sean Harris, Stella Gonet, Richard Sammel
Rating: R
Runtime: 111 minutes

Throughout Spencer’s two-hour runtime, Queen Elizabeth (Stella Gonet) and Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) only exchange words once. During their brief conversation, the Queen slyly remarks that the press have a particular fondness for taking photos of Diana. She then tells her daughter-in-law that the only portrait that actually matters in a princess’s life is the one that is taken to print on money when she becomes a queen. That moment, she explains, reminds you that you are merely currency. By the time the two finally congregate, the audience has been breathlessly awaiting an encounter between Diana and the mythical, apparently formidable queen for nearly half of the film’s runtime. Paired with Jonny Greenwood’s haunting, ominous score, interactions between Diana and just about everyone in Spencer—the frosty Gonet; Jack Farthing, who plays Diana’s famously unfaithful husband Prince Charles; and the always ornery Timothy Spall as the delightfully inhospitable Major Alistair Gregory—are shrouded with an air of acrimony. Through these performances, not least of which is Stewart’s cowering portrayal of Diana, director Pablo Larraín does not allow us to forget the positions of these characters. Indeed, more than anything, the Queen’s statement draws attention to Larraín’s characterization of Diana herself. In a number of ways, the choices he makes in recreating her character do reduce her to a currency of sorts. Larraín’s depiction of Diana is tragic and not particularly flattering. Set in 1991, Spencer takes place in Sandringham as the Royals congregate to celebrate Christmas. At the time, Diana and Charles’s marriage was publicly crumbling, which placed Diana under a hailstorm of scrutiny. The film’s version of Diana is written to be ripe with vanity and insecurity, her bulimia and self-harm pushed to the forefront. With each fleeting glance, Stewart brilliantly, subtly navigates the paranoia, anger and melancholy that Diana is experiencing. But more than anything, Stewart plays her with trembling fragility. This Diana is presented as a victim: One helpless at the conniving hands of the royals. Still, it is precisely the portrayal of Diana as a damsel-in-distress that allows Larraín to flex his illusory style, which happens to be one of Spencer’s great strengths. But in favoring style, he also flattens a nuanced story. Where in Jackie, Larraín shows the sharp dichotomy between private and public suffering against a political stage, and how unforgiving spectators can be in those situations, in Spencer, he seems to forget what it is exactly he wants to say when unfurling a relentless portrait of torment and discomfort in intense close frames and jarring lines (penned by screenwriter Steven Knight) where Diana alludes to her unhappiness in her day-to-day routine. However, where Spencer’s direction can be confused, its style is clear. For all its flaws, the film interrogates the limits of a biopic. And what better subject to do it with than the most beloved media fixation in recent history?—Aurora Amidon

9. Last Night In Soho

last-night-in-soho-poster.jpg Release Date: October 29, 2021
Director: Edgar Wright
Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomasin McKenzie, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, Diana Rigg, Rita Tushingham, Michael Ajao, Synnove Karlsen
Rating: R
Runtime: 116 minutes

Ever since his career took off two decades ago, Edgar Wright has remained one of the only directors to completely master the art of making movies fun. Indeed, each of his feature films deliver pure, uproarious enjoyment. And in his newest film, Last Night in Soho, he leans into the magnetic quality that reminds us that this is an Edgar Wright film. From the laugh-out-loud zombie hijinks in Shaun of the Dead that makes it impossible to look away, to the flashy videogame effects that make Scott Pilgrim vs. the World a stimulating, immersive experience, Last Night in Soho combines all the components that make his previous films click to create a uniquely engrossing viewing experience. Last Night in Soho follows Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), who moves to 2010s London from the English countryside to study fashion. While there, she begins having vivid nighttime visions that transport her back to her neighborhood in the 1960s. Eloise appears in her visions as Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a glamorous aspiring singer who lived in the same apartment as Eloise in the ‘60s. But what starts as a flashy ode to the dazzling nightlife of old Soho quickly spirals into a riveting, pulse-raising murder-mystery. While all of his films have a distinct visual style—rapid editing, whip-pans, and dolly zooms—Last Night in Soho does something a little different, and pulls from the Italian giallo horror subgenre’s extreme, bright colors and theatrical sets, which gives the films a dreamlike quality. Wright pays homage to the king of giallo himself, Dario Argento, borrowing bold visual elements from his films like Deep Red and Suspiria (the use of knives as mirrors, a fixation on the color red). But he isn’t interested in only riffing on one genre: He also pays tribute to noirs, notably Roman Polanski’s psycho-thriller Repulsion, which also follows a woman who experiences frightening hallucinations rooted in a fear of men. Given the connection Wright makes both with older films and with his audience, when things get scary for Eloise and her dreams start to turn into blood-soaked nightmares, the moments of horror are that much more effective. Wright makes sure that even when we’re watching people get hacked to death, or faceless men chase our protagonist, we’re having fun while doing it. One notable sequence, for example, sees Eloise racing through the streets of London trying to dodge the zombies chasing her—with ‘60s pop music blaring in the background, because why not? Last Night in Soho culminates as a chic and dynamic expression of Edgar Wright at the height of his powers. Even in the moments of the film that don’t quite work, it’s impossible to forget who the filmmaker is, through his signature humor, seductive framing and camerawork, and agile editing. That singularity makes for an experience I don’t think anyone is immune to.—Aurora Amidon

8. Julia

julia-poster.jpg Release Date: November 12, 2021
Director: Julie Cohen, Betsy West
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 95 minutes

Julia Child, whether you have read her books, watched her on television (by way of such modern conveniences as YouTube) or caught the CliffsNotes version of her extraordinary career in Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia, has changed your life. Julia, Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s new documentary, tracks Child’s path from her Pasadena youth, to her courtship and marriage to Paul Child, to her return to the U.S., armed with French cooking techniques and a powerful need to share them with the American public, as if to say she was less a human being and more a meteor. Julia celebrates Child, as it should. Not everyone can reinvent themselves abroad in the midst of a world war, serve her country as an intelligence officer, meet the love of their life, learn the art of cooking at one of the oldest cooking institutions in the world, remake America’s attitude toward food as they see fit, and mold an entirely new idea—the celebrity chef—out of nothing more than a desire to share a passion for roasting chicken, baking pear and almond tarts, or breaking down table-sized fish. It simply isn’t possible to make a movie about Julia Child without making a movie with an intense love of food that lazy types will half-assedly call “porn.” Julia is food passion. West and Cohen’s cinematographers, Claudia Raschke and Nanda Fernandez Brédillard, and editor, Carla Gutierrez, weave together sumptuous, sensual and calming sequences of dishes in progress; that tart in particular showcases the laser-focused craft required of great cooks while also driving home that food can be, frankly, erotic. Child, in her way, made audiences rethink what constituted entertainment in the 1960s. Watching interesting people talk about and teach on interesting subjects in a humble, casual, interesting way adds up to good TV. Likewise, Julia, with all of its intimate, personal and professional accounts of her character and her rise to fame, is an interesting movie: Thoroughly enjoyable, brimming with things to say, constructed in a manner that ducks pretense for relatability.—Andy Crump

7. The Power of the Dog

the-power-of-the-dog-poster.jpg Release Date: November 17, 2021
Director: Jane Campion
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Thomasin McKenzie, Genevieve Lemon, Keith Carradine, Frances Conroy
Rating: R
Runtime: 126 minutes

Based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Thomas Savage, Jane Campion’s long-awaited return to the medium of film—following 2009’s Bright Star and her subsequent years spent working in television—feels apt for a director who has demonstrated prowess at crafting an atmosphere of acute disquiet. And so it goes for The Power of the Dog, a film with a perpetual twitching vein, carried by the ubiquitous feeling that someone could snap at any moment—until they do. In 1925 Montana, brothers Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons) are prosperous cattle ranchers but incompatible siblings. Phil is the ultimate image of machismo, brooding around the ranch ever adorned in his cowboy outfit and a thick layer of grime on his face, a rolled cigarette hanging against his lower lip; a character that acts in defiance of Cumberbatch’s past work. Phil is so opposed to anything even adjacent to what could be considered “feminine” that things like bathing, playing an instrument that isn’t a banjo and just being nice to women are the kinds of activities which might lead Phil to inquire “Fellas, is it gay if…?” on Twitter. From the castration of the bulls on the Burbank ranch, to Phil’s status as the black sheep of his respectable family, to the nature of the western landscape tied to Phil’s performance of masculinity, the subtext is so visually hamfisted that it remains subtextual only by virtue of it not being directly spoken out loud. But the clumsiness in the film’s approach to its subject matter is propped up by the compelling performances across the board—notably from Cumberbatch, whose embodiment of a gruff and grubby rancher is at first sort of laughably unbelievable in relation to the performances that have defined the Englishman’s career. But it is, perhaps, because of this very contrast to his past roles that Cumberbatch manages to fit into the character of Phil so acutely, carrying with him an inherent awkwardness and unrest in his own skin despite the terror that he strikes in the heart of someone like Rose. He’s matched by the chilling score, composed by the inimitable Johnny Greenwood (The Master, Phantom Thread), and impeccable cinematography from Ari Wegner (Zola, The True History of the Kelly Gang), which form a perfect union of tension, intimacy and isolation in a film where the sound of every slice, snip and click evokes the same distressing sensation regardless of the source. What does it mean to be a man? The Power of the Dog considers the question but never answers it. Instead, it is preoccupied with a timeless phenomenon: The suffering endured for the very sake of manhood itself.—Brianna Zigler

6. Drive My Car

drive-my-car-poster.jpg Release Date: November 24, 2021
Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Stars: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Masaki Okada, Toko Miura, Reika Kirishima, Park Yurim, Jin Daeyeon
Rating: NR
Runtime: 179 minutes

The melodic rotating faces of tire rims and cassette reels keep the time in Drive My Car, Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s languorous adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story of the same name. The film’s meticulous commitment to unhurried emotional introspection might appear to be an overindulgence when considering its three-hour runtime, yet Hamaguchi and co-writer Takamasa Oe gracefully unfurl Murakami’s original story into a melancholy meditation of pain and performance that remains ever-enthralling. Renowned theater actor-turned-director Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) and his screenwriter wife Oto (Reika Kirishima) have what seems like a perfect relationship. Apart from sharing considerable marital bliss, they stimulate each other intellectually and sexually—oftentimes simultaneously. Oto will regularly weave narrative webs aloud while mid-coitus with Kafuku, reaching climaxes in literal and figurative senses. Despite the mutual adoration, both harbor a damning secret: Oto sustains a string of lovers as she hops around on productions, while Kafuku silently uncovers his wife’s infidelity without confronting her. Both maintain the facade of a remarkably happy couple that have been together for over 20 years, yet internally struggle with the emotional toll of concealing the extramarital affairs. The situation is only brought to a head years later, after Oto sustains a mortal injury and Kafuku covertly recognizes one of Oto’s past lovers at an audition for his forthcoming multilingual production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Simultaneously consumed by jealousy and intrigue, Kafuku casts his wife’s much-younger former paramour Takatsuki (Masaki Okada) in the titular role. The loneliness inherent in living through guilt-ridden grief is perhaps the most palpable aspect of Hamaguchi’s latest drawn-out feature. However, it is also the open embracing of this desolation that eventually yields the most tender and subtly exuberant results. It is through communal mourning—for lives (and lovers) shared or for the unknowable misfortunes of others—that ultimately binds us as human beings.—Natalia Keogan

5. The Summit of the Gods

the-summit-of-the-gods-poster.jpg Release Date: November 24, 2021
Director: Patrick Imbert
Stars: Lazare Herson-Macarel, Eric Herson-Macarel, Damien Boisseau, Elisabeth Ventura, Kylian Rehlinger, François Dunoyer
Rating: PG
Runtime: 95 minutes

Based on Jiro Taniguchi’s early ‘00s manga, which added breathtaking environmental illustrations and sharp, shadow-intensive character designs to Baku Yumemakura’s 1998 novel, The Summit of the Gods is a testament to self-motivation through the intertwined stories of two men: Mountain climber Joji Habu (Eric Herson-Macarel) and journalist Makoto Fukamachi (Damien Boisseau). Director Patrick Imbert’s French anime sees the two cross paths thanks to a legendary Vestpocket Kodak camera belonging to George Mallory, the English mountaineer who may or may not have reached the top of Everest in the ‘20s. Fukamachi sees Habu with the camera, then loses him. Fukamachi wants a scoop; Habu wants to be left alone as he prepares for his own climb. In his search for the recluse, Fukamachi compiles Habu’s life, constructing his obsessive arc event by event through unearthed news clippings. With this intercut structure, The Summit of the Gods is both a great journalism movie and great mountaineering movie—each with a series of technical steps that contain emotional weight impossible to fully explain to an outsider. Why does one seek the peak? Why does one devote themselves to finding all the details of a story? These lonely goals are personal as much as professional. The end result is clear, but the reasoning behind it all quickly becomes murky and existential under scrutiny. The clarity of the animation backs up these large questions with simple answers. The majestic, hazy colors of nature—bright blues and purples—contrast against day-to-day living in condos, barrooms and city streets that’ve lost all romance. The latter are utilitarian in their detail, so richly filled with realistic stuff as to dull you with familiarity. Then the movie takes you out on the expeditions, through the eyes of the people who live for it. The climbing sequences feature shots so stark and layered with slurries and sunbeams that their painterly abstraction will leave your jaw hanging in the snow. And yet, on a moment-to-moment level, it’s a detailed crunch of piton into stone—of clever rope knots and the muscular friction of hands and feet—undertaken by characters that move with a deliberate intent, their animations weighty enough to leave footprints and mini avalanches of pebbles. The Summit of the Gods is a subtle movie, told in shades of white and degrees of silence, but its passion burns hot beneath the icy rime. Its complex storytelling and convincingly lovely vistas make its philosophical case well: Whether you’re risking it all to get to a peak, to get to the bottom of a mystery, or to create a painstaking piece of animation, you’re lucky enough to have something you love.—Jacob Oller

4. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn

bad-luck-banging-or-loony-porn-review.jpg Release Date: November 19, 2021
Director: Radu Jude
Stars: Katia Pascariu, Claudia Ieremia, Olimpia Malai, Nicodim Ungureanu
Rating: R
Runtime: 106 minutes

If you’re reading this, chances are that the festival circuit has already spoiled (or warned) that Radu Jude’s Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn begins with a full-blown unsimulated sex scene. Though it lasts only three minutes, it pretty much runs the gamut of typical sex acts: Fellatio, roleplay, masturbation, dirty talk, penetration, climax. Oh, and one more important detail: The intimate encounter has been filmed, shortly to be leaked on the internet and make its impression on the students and faculty at a private school in Bucharest, Romania. Yet none are more arrested by rabid moral outrage than the schoolchildren’s parents, who are horrified to find out that the woman who dons a pink wig and moans “I’m your slut!” in the video is none other than their kids’ history teacher. The woman who dares straddle the slut/school teacher binary is Emi (Katia Pascariu), who is truly just as horrified that her own private sexual proclivities are now the obsession of local self-righteous, upper-class parents. On top of that, the parents are demanding that the administration hold an informal tribunal to vote on whether Emi should be allowed to keep her job. Divided into three distinct chapters, the self-described “sketch for a popular film” is bookended with two segments following the trajectory of Emi’s plight, the film’s final segment having the pleasure of providing the audience with three wholly different endings for the film, each gradually escalating in its scale of crude cultural commentary. For those who wish to unravel the power dynamics inherent to sex, society and sensual pleasure while experimenting with what we as individuals are comfortable engaging with, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is a masterpiece that stimulates emotionally and philosophically. For those who walk out, well—let’s just be glad they don’t stick around until the film’s final moments, when the prudish parents are forced to understand what it truly feels like having someone else’s morals shoved down their throats.—Natalia Keogan

3. Belfast

belfast-poster.jpg Release Date: November 12, 2021
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Stars: Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds, Jude Hill
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 97 minutes

In his early acting years, Branagh judiciously explored his Northern Ireland roots in theater. In the decades since, he hasn’t dipped back into his heritage on the stage or screen much since those plays or his autobiography. With Belfast, it feels like Branagh spent those interim years ruminating heavily on his past in the ways only time and distance can afford, and he’s poured those rich sense memories into all 97 minutes of this deeply personal film. Collecting some of his longtime acting collaborators like Judi Dench and Gerard Horan, and some of the best Irish actors working today including Ciarán Hinds, Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dornan, Branagh forms them into semi-autobiographical versions of his family, friends and neighbors back in the day. They represent three generations of Belfasters, the backbone of his intimate snapshot of late ‘60s Northern Ireland, with Hinds and Dench as Pop and Granny, and Balfe and Dornan as Ma and Pa to young Buddy (newcomer Jude Hill). Initially introducing audiences to a color-drenched montage of aerial views of Belfast today, Branagh’s camera then slips over a fence and back in time to a black-and-white past seen mostly from Buddy’s point of view. He exists in a seemingly carefree childhood, comforted by his tight knit community. But his peaceful play is quickly shattered by the Troubles invading his mixed religion, middle class street. Housing both Catholics and Protestants, the street becomes a literal war zone that erupts in the middle of the day as Protestants try to physically oust the Catholics from their homes. By following the mercurial, butterfly existence of a small child, Branagh is able to keep an innocence to this slice of life story as the bigger issues behind the Troubles are kept at bay. They simmer and threaten at the fringes of Buddy’s existence, an encroaching threat that is made understandable for audiences not seeped in the complexities inherent in Irish politics and religion. And by keeping the camera and the story kid-oriented, everything is more emotionally tangible, from the violent skirmishes that flare to the emotional meltdown of a child facing the possibility of leaving the only place they’ve ever known. Hill carries those moments on his little shoulders with weight and truth. And he’s supported by achingly intimate performances from Dench, Hinds, Balfe and Dornan. They portray couples who know and show love, disappointment, laughter, anger and frustration which adds a gravitas to the world hovering around Buddy. And it’s terribly refreshing not to see the film devolve into the oft-seen Irish clichés of alcoholism or bitterness within marriages. They have flaws, but try to sing and dance and sacrifice for one another with quiet nobility. Experiencing Branagh come full circle with Belfast is like getting an invitation to observe an artist come to terms with his roots. There’s the expected nostalgia, but also the graceful observation of the wisdom and clarity acquired with the power of hindsight. Buddy’s experiences feel infinitely relatable, but also inexorably tied to his Irishness, making him the rare conduit that connects us to ourselves while introducing us to a time and place only those born to it will truly know.—Tara Bennett

2. The French Dispatch

the-french-dispatch-poster.jpg Release Date: October 22, 2021
Director: Wes Anderson
Stars: Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson
Rating: R
Runtime: 108 minutes

As was the case with 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, The French Dispatch is a story within a story—or, in this case, multiple stories within a story, and there are stories within those stories as well. Wes Anderson remains a creative force to be reckoned with. Frequently rebuked by naysayers for his commitment to his finely-tuned, “quirky” filmmaking style, The French Dispatch proves he is more interested than anything in how to play around with the medium of film and find new ways to tell his stories. Here, he challenges himself to a far more intricate means of storytelling, which is occasionally convoluted but fosters an eagerness to return to the film—to revisit and discover something new. Additionally, he trades previous forays in stop-motion animation for an extended 2D animated chase scene, and even briefly swaps his prototypically stationary, symmetrical camerawork for a dinner table sequence in which the camera slowly revolves around the seated characters, creating a novel and striking dimensionality to his cinematography. Timothée Chalamet, Jeffrey Wright and Benicio del Toro, in their respective first collaborations with the director, could not have been more perfectly attuned to Anderson’s highly specified wavelength. Even minor roles from new Anderson inductees like Elisabeth Moss, Henry Winkler, Christoph Waltz and Rupert Friend are, as could be expected from a perfectionist like Anderson, a snug fit. The precision with which Anderson once effortlessly deployed anguish, familial strife, love, insecurity and, perhaps above all, loss, within his carefully constructed signature filmmaking is largely absent from his newest endeavor. The various storytelling gimmicks take center stage, while the characters are forced into the back seat. The film becomes a wry showcase for the director’s evolution as a creative who has been refining an unparalleled style for over two decades, with a sharper humor but without the more deeply felt pulse of films like The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox or most recently, and most effectively, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Still, it’s not to say that The French Dispatch’s bones are absent of any meat at all. “What happens next?” ends up a proportional sentiment to that of the film’s titular publication, the disappearing town it’s set in and the overall theme within Wes Anderson’s tenth feature: The eternal battle between art and capital. The question of “What happens next?” is less an inquiry as to the future of a shuttered, fictitious publication than a worrying, real-life prophecy, and The French Dispatch acts as a dialogue with this fear of the future of art. In this respect, it’s hard to argue that this latent dissolution of character depth is a net negative, when Anderson is clearly interested in, more than anything, growing and evolving as an artist.—Brianna Zigler

1. C’mon C’mon

cmon-cmon-poster.jpg Release Date: November 19, 2021
Director: Mike Mills
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffmann, Woody Norman, Scoot McNairy, Jaboukie Young-White, Molly Webster
Rating: R
Runtime: 108 minutes

While continuing to mold his protagonists after his immediate family members—in C’mon, C’mon’s case his (and fellow filmmaker Miranda July’s) nine-year-old son—writer/director Mike Mills presents a picture of sincere sentimentality rooted not in previously occupied states of nostalgia or raw lived experience, but rather forward-looking hopefulness for an ostensibly fraught future. A year after the death of their mother, broadcast radio journalist Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) reaches out to his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann) to amend a recent lack of communication. While catching up, Viv reveals that her ex-husband Paul (Scoot McNairy) is in the midst of a bipolar episode in the Bay Area, and she feels compelled to go and convince him to seek inpatient care. Johnny has only one question: Who is going to watch her son Jesse (Woody Norman) while she’s away? Though originally tasked with watching his nephew for only a few days, extenuating circumstances lead to Jesse accompanying Johnny on an extensive city-spanning reporting project. Fittingly, the assignment finds Johnny and his colleagues conducting audio interviews with children across the country, gauging their thoughts on matters of the heart, mind and soul—specifically, what do they think the future will look like? Despite undertaking an intimate story about the oft-overlooked interiority and intelligence of American adolescents, Johnny finds himself wholly unsure about his ability to assume the role of caretaker for his own relative. While it’s true that a slew of films have previously explored the clash between children and impromptu guardians when assimilating to their newfound roles (John Cassavetes’ Gloria, most notably, as well as the Phoenix-starring 2017 Lynne Ramsey film You Were Never Really Here), C’mon C’mon differs from its predecessors by maintaining the innate innocence of the children involved. It’s hard to imagine the film’s success without the dynamic chemistry between Phoenix and Norman, with the two seamlessly playing off one another’s dialogue and an air of childlike spontaneity permeating every interaction. Norman’s performance is a rarity in that it displays obvious talent while preserving a childlike playfulness that never feels over-acted. Though the central radio piece that Johnny and his colleagues gradually construct during the film is initially depressing in its assertion of just how cognizant young people are to the perils of the world that await them in adulthood, it is also heart-wrenching and hopeful in its honesty. Virtually none of the subjects interviewed perceive the future as entirely void of opportunity for improvement—and if at least some children truly believe that things can turn around for their generation, wouldn’t dismissing that tender optimism be the same exact brand of condescension that many of the kids express frustration with? In amplifying the diverse voices of American children through the film’s radio vérité subplot, C’mon C’mon proves that kids have some pretty insightful advice to impart, if only we’d just listen.—Natalia Keogan