Four new films to see this week

The Book of Clarence, All You Need Is Death, The Sweet East, Abigail

The Book of Clarence ★★★★☆

Directed by Jeymes Samuel. Starring Keith Stanfield, Omar Sy, RJ Cyler, Anna Diop, David Oyelowo, Micheal Ward, Alfre Woodard, James McAvoy, Teyana Taylor, Caleb McLaughlin. 15A cert, gen release, 123 min

In Life of Brian, the reluctant hero is mistaken for the messiah. This inventive parallel history to the New Testament flips that narrative. There is something of Garth Jennings’s underrated Mary Magdalene in The Book of Clarence’s historically spot-on depiction of numerous cults carousing and competing around Palestine. Inspired by his twin brother and committed disciple Thomas, Clarence, essayed by the double-jobbing Stanfield, is a chancer with gambling debts who latches onto the upcoming Christian movement. The script carefully draws details from the gospels as it journeys toward an ending that is miraculous in every sense. TB

All You Need Is Death ★★★★☆

Directed by Paul Duane. Starring Simone Collins, Charlie Maher, Olwen Fouéré, Barry McKiernan, Nigel O’Neill, Catherine Siggins, Barry Gleeson, Vinny Murphy. 16 cert, gen release, 97 min

Surprising, musty Irish horror concerning a pair of folklorists who unleash all hell when they discover a possessed song. It matters that Ian Lynch, founder member of Lankum, has written the significant score. All You Need Is Death joins that band in winding the macabre into retoolings of ancient shapes and shadows. This stuff was always there in folk art. But it is increasingly being dragged downstage. Some viewers will, no doubt, find the derangement a tad frustrating. But the growing sense of being lost in a Celtic variation on Hieronymus Bosch is stirring in the most creatively disagreeable fashion. Full review DC


The Sweet East ★★★★☆

Directed by Sean Price Williams. Starring Talia Ryder, Earl Cave, Simon Rex, Ayo Edebiri, Jeremy O Harris, Jacob Elordi. Limited release, 104 min

Talia Ryder turns up as southern schoolgirl who becomes separated from her classmates while on a trip to Washington DC. She is then buffeted from one set of oddballs to the next. This madcap picaresque plays like an effusion of the late 1960s counterculture. Making his directorial debut, Sean Price Williams, cinematographer for the likes of Alex Ross Perry and the Safdie Brothers, shoots in grainy blurs that increase our sense the action is being improvised at breakneck speed. The actors embrace the off-the-cuff aesthetic. All is buzz, glow and funk. There is nothing else like it out there. Full review DC

Abigail ★★☆☆☆

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Starring Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton, Giancarlo Esposito, William Catlett, Kevin Durand, Angus Cloud. 16 cert, gen release, 109 min

A ridiculously over-staffed kidnap gang abducts the ballet-dancing girl of the title (Dubliner Alisha Weir) and whisks her away to a gothic-looking hideout. Barrera, playing the Kind One, assures Abigail that she’ll protect her from her associates. Unhappily, no one is able to protect her associates from Abigail, who is swiftly unmasked as a ravenous vampire. Comedy grand guignol ensues. Weir brilliantly channels Linda Blair as she rampages en pointe. It’s not her fault that the ballet murder and spinning camera gets very old very quickly. The many 360 turns eventually feel like watching a washing machine on spin. Full review TB

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Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic