From peak Nic Cage madness to “this year’s Moonlight“: 8 films not to miss at MIFF

Tomorrow, the Melbourne International Film Festival kicks off, running through to August 19th. As every year, there are hundreds of screenings – but here are just 8 we think are unmissable this year:


When Red Miller (Cage) met Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) he instantly fell in love. Unfortunately, so did Jeremiah (Linus Roache). And when this telekinetic bikie messiah lets loose his dedicated followers to kidnap Mandy, Red is spurred into frenzied action as he seeks retribution – using his best lumberjack skills – against the Children of the New Dawn.

In a midnight movie experience like no other, this blood-splattered hit of the Sundance and Cannes film festivals blends romance with chainsaws as it lets Nicolas Cage be his most Nicolas Cage. Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) throws everything plus the kitchen sink into this maniacal, bloody thriller. A psychedelic visual bender with a deliberately disorienting score from the late, Oscar-nominated composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, Mandy is a frenetic explosion of genre’s greatest hits that swings from crazed horror to devilish comedy, while providing a perfect platform for Cage to indulge his wildest excesses.

Also will be part of the epic Nic Cage Marathon! Get tickets, session times and more details HERE.

You Were Never Really Here

Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) does a job no one else will: a war vet and ex-FBI agent turned hitman, his new line of work includes rescuing children from paedophile rings. The confronting task takes a considerable psychological toll but that’s just one of his worries after he’s hired to save a senator’s daughter. When the situation goes south, the duo is soon caught in an unrelenting conspiracy of corruption, violence and abuse.

Adapting the novella by Bored to Death’s Jonathan Ames and winning Cannes’ best screenplay prize last year for her efforts, Ramsay’s (Morven Callar, MIFF 2003; Ratcatcher, MIFF 2000) long-awaited fourth feature takes a hammer to the revenge genre, approaching its brutally resonant tale with astonishing economy – and with a pitch-perfect Jonny Greenwood  (Radiohead) score to match.

Get tickets, session times and more details HERE.


Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal and Australia’s Ed Oxenbould star in the directorial debut of actor Paul Dano, an intelligent and empathetic adaptation of Richard Ford’s novel about a teen dealing with his family falling apart in 1960s Montana.

Get tickets, session times and more details HERE.

We the Animals

In a decrepit house deep in the woods of upstate New York, Jonah and his two older brothers live a seemingly idyllic existence of wildness, exploration and adventure, overseen by their doting white mother and domineering Puerto Rican father. But there is a darkness behind the façade and as the long summer stretches on, Jonah will have to come to terms with the violent fractures in his own family, and a simmering self-awareness that will forever set him apart.

Hailed as ”this year’s Moonlight”, Acclaimed documentarian Jeremiah Zagar makes a remarkably assured transition to feature filmmaking in the lush and dream-like We the Animals. Adapting Justin Torres’ semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, Zagar coaxes entrancingly natural performances from a cast of non-actors as he delivers a bold and mesmerising reverie on family, identity and the forever tangled path into adulthood.

Get tickets, session times and more details HERE.

Happy Sad Man 

Consider this: if you’re an Australian male between the ages of 15 and 44, you’re your own biggest threat.

This disarmingly honest documentary draws back the curtain on the complex inner worlds of men from across Australian life – from Bondi Beach to the outback, farmers to war photographers – and challenges the way we think about masculinity today.

From acclaimed documentarian Genevieve Bailey (I Am Eleven, MIFF 2011) comes another eye-opening, heartwarming ensemble character study, Happy Sad Man. Bringing together the vibrant personalities and perspectives of five very different men – taking in their hopes, anxieties, joy and darkness – Happy Sad Man gives unforgettable voice to the complex emotional landscapes of modern masculinity and acts as a crucial clarion call for the eternally misunderstood world of mental health.
Get tickets, session times and more details HERE.

Leave No Trace

Will (Ben Foster, last seen at MIFF in Hell or High Water, our 2016 closing night film) and his 13-year-old daughter Tom live an idyllic, off-the-grid life deep in the forests of Oregon. It’s not the most typical family set-up, but Will is tormented by the horrors he endured in Iraq and the quietness of the woods is the only thing that stills them. But when their home is discovered, the pair are forced to return to mainstream society, where they’ll have to adapt and learn to rely on the kindness of strangers.

Led by a star-making performance from New Zealand’s Thomasin Mackenzie as Tom, Leave No Trace is the warm and compassionate new outing from award-winning writer/director Debra Granik. (Winter’s Bone). Taking on difficult subjects with nimbleness and light, it shows why she remains such a pivotal and compelling voice in American independent cinema.

Get tickets, session times and more details HERE.

The Cured

Ellen Page stars in this bracingly original post-zombie apocalypse drama that imagines what would happen if the infected were cured and returned to normal lives.

Get tickets, session times and more details HERE.

First Reformed

In a remote part of upstate New York, Ernst Toller (Hawke), a reverend haunted by the death of his son, becomes inescapably drawn into the lives of new parishioners Michael (Phillip Ettinger) and Mary (Amanda Seyfried). The young couple’s marriage is being wrenched apart by Michael’s fixation on the coming environmental apocalypse and when Ernst realises the true depth of Michael’s fervour, he is set on a path he never expected.

From revered filmmaker Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, American Gigolo, Raging Bull) comes First Reformed, another discomfiting portrait of life on the American margins. Channelling the environmental anxieties of our modern age through his own inimitable lens – with overt references to Ozu, Bergman and Bresson (specifically, Diary of a Country Priest) – First Reformed is a giddy, tantalising reminder of the skills of one of America’s greatest auteurs.

Get tickets, session times and more details HERE.

For more films and details about the festival, which runs from the 2nd to the 19th of August, head to


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.