You Were Never Really Here (dir. Lynne Ramsay)

Perhaps the best film of the festival thus far, Lynne Ramsay's lean, mean hitman thriller is a psychologically rich dreamscape of alarming violence and latent human pain. Refusing easy directions and the testosterone-driven narratives of violent revenge fantasies, Ramsay instead investigates the damage of life-long trauma in short, sharp bursts.

Custody (dir. Xavier LeGrand)

A horror film masquerading as a family separation drama, Custody is arguably the most frightening film of the festival. An examination of toxic masculinity told through the story of a family fighting to keep their children away from their abusive father, the film is almost unbearably tense throughout.


Skate Kitchen (dir. Crystal Moselle)

An examination of a girl skate gang in urban New York, Skate Kitchen is an exhilarating shot of youthful abandon. As a snapshot of the way young people converge and interact, it is a fascinating, funny, warm experience, capturing the varied complexities of its young women in bold colours.

Madeline's Madeline (dir. Josephine Decker)

This vivacious, New York-set experimental film conveys the nightmarish psychological landscape of a troubled young theatre student caught between her neurotic mother and manipulative teacher. Questions of cultural and personal appropriation and mental health are explored with care, occasionally drowned out by the many cinematic flourishes the director drenches us in.

3 Faces (dir. Jafar Panahi)

Zen Iranian filmmaker and political prisoner Jafar Panahi's latest melds documentary and fiction to present a story of an actress (Behnaz Jafari) who travels with the filmmaker to a remote Iranian town to investigate the supposed suicide of a fan. More concerned with mood than plot, the observational film carries impassioned feminist undertones.

Ash is Purest White (dir. Jia Zhangke)

A purposefully vast, character-driven saga about the wife of a crime-lord (Zhao Tao, utterly enthralling) who takes the fall for her boyfriend after a gun is fired during a fight. Occasionally dream-like and frequently transcendent, the film brilliantly portrays an ever-evolving Chinese landscape struggling with the many changes of the 21st century.

Three Identical Strangers (dir. Tim Wardle)

David Kellman, Eddy Galland and Bobby Shafran in Three Identical Stangers. Photo / supplied
David Kellman, Eddy Galland and Bobby Shafran in Three Identical Stangers. Photo / supplied

Don't watch the trailer; it's better not to overhype this fascinating story of three identical strangers who met at age 19. Though it often uses hammy exaggerations to make its points, it's a gripping story which takes a surprisingly dark turn – and asks some lofty questions about nature versus nurture.

Ex Libris: The New York Public Library (dir. Frederick Wiseman)

Documentarian Frederick Wiseman returns with his three-and-a-half-hour document of the New York Public Library system. If that sounds especially dry, the film instead feels vibrantly alive and vital throughout; quietly political in the way it champions intellectualism and public institutions, Ex Libris is anything but boring.