SOFT IN THE HEAD
The title of Nathan Silver’s John Cassavettes-like slice of lowlife could apply to any of the characters, but perhaps is meant specifically for Natalia (Sheila Etxeberría), a woman under the influence if ever there was one. In short order she engages in a drunken fight with her boyfriend (shot in assaultive close-up), crashes a Seder at her best friend’s house, and ends up on the sidewalk. That’s where Maury (Ed Ryan) finds her. He invites her to crash at his apartment, an ad-hoc homeless shelter, already boarding a bunch of indigent oddballs who seem like rejects from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Silver divides the film into six truncated chapters, and the whole culminates with a full-stop image reminiscent of Michelangelo’s “Pieta.” (Friday, 7 p.m, Brattle)
Covering much the same picturesque northern England terrain as Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip,” though with more sex and serial killing, Ben Wheatley’s black-comic road movie overdoses on absurdities before reaching its oddly poetic climax. Despite her dotty mother’s protestations, frumpy Tina (Alice Lowe) joins new beau Chris (Steve Oram, who co-wrote the screenplay with Lowe) in a trailer (or “caravan”) touring such attractions as the Crich Tram Village and the Cumberland Pencil Museum. Chris has little patience with rude people, and Tina’s initial disapproval of the subsequent murder spree gives way to avid participation. It’s a Monty Python version of “Badlands,” with a dark heart underlying its inspired, if tiresome, nonsense. (Friday, 9:30 p.m, Somerville)
THE GENIUS OF MARIAN
A year after Pam White started on a book about her mother, Marian, a painter who fell victim to Alzheimer’s, Pam herself was diagnosed with the disease. She was 63. Her son Banker White (with co-director Anna Fitch) records his mother’s fight against the disease, and the equally courageous efforts of Pam’s husband and her children in caring for her; their daily struggle will resound not only with those who face the same situation, but with all who must someday confront the inevitabilities of decline, loss, and grief. The film’s intercutting of scenes from home movies of Pam as a child with similar scenes from the present day, punctuated with shots of Pam’s mother’s paintings, evoke the persistence of memory and identity. In a poignant moment, one of Pam’s friends catches herself using the past tense. “I didn’t want to say ‘was,’ ” she insists. “Because she still is.” (Saturday, 2:45 p.m., Somerville)
An hour or so into Thomas Vinterberg’s drama about a nursery school teacher falsely accused of child molestation, a nagging question persists: Why doesn’t he just call a lawyer? This implausibility only calls attention to the film’s contrivances. Mads Mikkelsen’s cheekbones add intensity to his portrayal of the victim of this witch hunt (and get this — he’s a hunter!) as does Vinterberg’s giddiness-inducing post-Dogme style. The primitive male-bonding rituals do suggest a world where the Dark Ages lurk just around the corner. But the real star is Annika Wedderkopp as the girl who cried wolf: She’s an uncanny looking child, and if she has a twin they could be featured in “The Shining II.” (Saturday, 9:45 p.m, Somerville)
Why hasn’t Hollywood realized that old people are a gold mine of story material? Though Nathan Hansen’s documentary opens with a quote from Simone de Beauvoir about how a society should be judged by the way it treats the elderly, his film is more about what old people can offer than what they need. In a style reminiscent of Errol Morris, he interviews seniors from disparate backgrounds, each with exemplary tales to tell. They include a Japanese-American woman whose dream of becoming a teacher ended when she and her family were put in an internment camp during World War II, and a Native American Vietnam vet with post-traumatic stress disorder who exorcised his demons through carpentry. Asked why he works with old wood, he sums up the film’s theme, explaining that society disposes of used things too quickly, and is the poorer for it. (April 28, 12:45 p.m., Somerville)
Orson Welles made his first film at 26. Xavier Dolan, at 24, has him beat — he’s already made three. Though no “Citizen Kane,” “Laurence” is also a fictitious biopic. Framed by an interview heard in voice-over, the narrative covers in flashback 10 years in the life of the title writer (Melvil Poupaud) following change of genders from male to female. Fred (Suzanne Clément), the woman he loves, complicates the process, but their persistent relationship allows Dolan to explore the ambiguities of gender and desire. Sometimes the imagery overdoes it, such as a scene in which an indoor deluge marks a character’s epiphany. But lapses aside, “Laurence” combines the lacerating melodrama of Fassbinder with the exuberant flourishes of Almodóvar, confirming Dolan as a talent of Wellesian potential. (April 28, 2 p.m, Somerville)Continued...