"Mud" is set in the American deep south and centered around something even more mystifying, namely a young man's passage to adulthood. Writer/director Jeff Nichols displays a superior grasp on the outward atmosphere as well as the inward turmoil of the boy as he finds a role model, falls in love and has a taste of heartbreak all for the first time. At no point does the film seem affected or patronizing, instead it's characterized by a lucid perceptivity and genuine tenderness that throws you back to the time of innocence. Matthew McConaughey and Reese Withersppon both shine in memorable supporting roles but the revelation in the excellent ensemble cast is Tye Sheridan, who carries the movie on his slender shoulders with the assurance and emotive prowess of a seasoned pro.
"Les garçons et Guillaume, à table!" chronicles French writer/director/lead actor/actress Guillaume Gallienne's long-winded journey to the discovery of his sexual identity with a candor and a persistent sense of innocence that make the humor work. Unlike cross-dressing roles played by Eddie Murphy or Tyler Perry, the mother figure here is not broadly caricatured just for comedic relief but serves as a central plot element throughout, which is also refreshing. The movie doesn't quite click as a whole though, mostly because it suffers greatly under a feebly episodic structure typical of autobiographical stories and also the somewhat abrupt left turn the ending takes comes off strangly condescending, not to mention anti-climatic.
"Museum Hours" is not so much a narrative feature as a documentarian portrait. Director Jem Cohen's ambition of mixing up the two art forms, of letting the passion and the message bleed into the still, nonjudgmental images unnoticed, is palpable but only partially effective. In the final frames of the movie, when the familiar voice of the Viennese museum guard directs our attention not to the details of some medieval painting but the overlooked beauty of the everyday, the momentary stupor and the gentle tug on the heart it causes is quite delightful. However, for the majority of its running time, the film is hurt by its overriding compulsion to show faces, artefacts and street views exactly as blank and indifferent as they are. It's true to life, yes, but also bare, pedestrian, soporifically monotonous.
"Fack ju Göhte" inherits the customized package that helped a slew of German comedies in the past decade become box-office hits- from the glossy commercial look, the frenzied edit down to the pop-radio soundtrack. Like its fellow alumni from the Til Schweiger-School of Filmmaking, the direction (by Bora Dagtekin) is heavy-handed and the physical humor crude, but the high school setting, the focus on the delinquent adolescents and the talented, well-balanced cast gave it a refreshing hipness and sweetness that rendered the prevalent profanities and toilet jokes surprisingly inoffensive. As the winning criminal-turned-teacher, Elyas M'Barek proves he's leading man material and the supremely stupid student Chantal, as played by Jella Haase, is a heavenly creation.