After concluding an exciting and celebrity-filled first half, the San Francisco International Film Festival is only getting started as it kicks into high gear for its last few days. Celebrating its 56th anniversary and put on by the San Francisco Film Society, the massive event is currently running through May 9 where it will conclude its run with the Bay Area premiere of Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight.”
Movie lovers have had plenty of great films to choose from this year and the lineup continues to impress even as the festival winds down. The following is an alphabetical list of my top recommendations if you’re heading out to the festivities. Keep in mind that tickets go fast (purchasing info is below) but even if shows are technically sold out, there’s always a rush line for dedicated fans.
A movie nine years in the making, this is the continuation of the beloved Before series from director Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Fans have been begging for this follow-up since the last chapter (Before Sunset) hit screens and for the most part, the film doesn’t disappoint. The truthful and witty banter that has sustained two features continues into the third with endless possibilities should the trio continue this journey in another nine years.
‘Before You Know It’
This powerful documentary examines the much neglected topic of aging gay men and how their lives progress under changing surroundings. Conversation with the subjects is frank and the film never manages to be anything short of riveting and eye opening. The world glimpsed in Before You Know It is far from the Hollywood clichés we’re used to seeing when it comes to exploring gay lifestyle onscreen, making this one of the best films of the festival.
David Gordon Green’s return to smaller storytelling is a breath of fresh air, especially since his last few Hollywood spectacles (Your Highness and The Sitter) were anything but memorable. Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch play highway workers in the late 80s whose summer job involves painting centerlines on a long, desolate Texas road. The work is monotonous so to pass the time these two polar opposites attempt to bond, the first of many awkward surprises the film has in store for the duo. The idea of sitting through a movie where two guys paint lines in the road may sound monotonous too but I’ve seen Prince Avalanche twice. The fun and clever journey this film has in store for you is anything but dull.
‘The Spectacular Now’
Lead actor Miles Teller received many justified accolades at this year’s Sundance Film Festival for his breakout performance in this film, playing an alcoholic teenager who gets by on charm without realizing his effect on others. To convincingly play a drunk high school kid is one thing but to also make him sympathetic is something else entirely. It’s a wonderful center to a heartbreaking movie from director James Ponsoldt (Smashed, Off the Black).
‘The Way, Way Back’
Nat Faxon and Jim Rash were last seen at the Oscars winning screenplay awards for The Descendants. In addition to writing, their follow-up also has them stepping behind the director’s chair for a coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of teenage angst and a water park. The ensemble cast includes Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Amanda Peet, Toni Collette and Liam James, who steals the show as our tour guide through this charming story.
Editor’s Note: Read Part 1 of our San Francisco International Film Festival report where we review five other films.