Christos Tsiolkas

is the author of The Slap, Barracuda and Damascus. He is The Saturday Paper’s film critic.

By this author


Culture December 18, 2021

The sad age of home cinema

Through the second year of the pandemic, watching big films on the small screen became ever lonelier.

Culture November 20, 2021

The Power of the Dog

Flawed but utterly mesmerising, Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog demonstrates her mastery of filmmaking.

Culture October 09, 2021

Nitram

Scrupulously avoiding exploitation, Justin Kurzel’s Nitram allows space for the aspects of violence that escape comprehension.

Culture September 25, 2021

Pig

The dangerous edge of Nicolas Cage’s screen performances finds a generous complexity in the otherwise indifferent film Pig.

Culture August 28, 2021

Annette

Despite a promising beginning, Leos Carax’s Annette becomes a jumble of styles that falls back on stale, melodramatic tropes.

Culture July 10, 2021

Careless Crime

Shahram Mokri’s new film Careless Crime plays with surreal narratives and timeshifts to create a powerful meditation on Iranian history.

Culture June 19, 2021

Martin Eden

Pietro Marcello’s intelligent film adaptation of Jack London’s classic novel Martin Eden investigates the impossible dilemmas faced by a working-class artist.

Culture April 10, 2021

Supernova

Although Harry Macqueen’s Supernova is formally unadventurous, this film about a couple dealing with the onset of dementia features transcendent performances.

Culture March 06, 2021

Another Round

Thomas Vinterberg’s remarkable new film Another Round harks back to his earlier work in Dogme 95.

Culture January 30, 2021

Promising Young Woman

Emerald Fennell’s film Promising Young Woman begins well, but is ultimately betrayed by a lack of courage.

Culture December 19, 2020

A year without cinema

In 2020 we mostly had to watch films at home, and the most exciting possibilities still emerged from independent cinema.

Culture December 05, 2020

The Trouble with Being Born

For all its controversial subject matter, Sandra Wollner’s film is a smart, ethical investigation that doesn’t deserve to be banned.

Culture September 19, 2020

The Translators

A cynical nod to Agatha Christie’s locked-room mysteries, Régis Roinsard’s The Translators fails to recognise the complexities and canniness of that storytelling tradition.

Culture August 15, 2020

First Cow

MIFF opening night film First Cow follows the austere and sophisticated path of director Kelly Reichardt’s previous works but is stymied by its small-screen showing and the underdeveloped ‘buddy’ relationship at its core.

Culture July 11, 2020

A tribute to a great composer

In a career that spanned more than six decades, Ennio Morricone scored hundreds of films, writing music that worked in concert with the directors’ vision.

Culture June 27, 2020

Elia Suleiman’s It Must Be Heaven

In his latest film, It Must Be Heaven, Elia Suleiman continues to explore the absurdity and tragedy of being Palestinian, and weaves in a moving contemplation of the ageing body.

Culture June 13, 2020

Missing that big-screen feeling

While welcoming the Covid-19 lockdown as a chance to catch up on some TV and film viewing, this reviewer found himself craving, with a few notable exceptions, the romance of the cinematic experience.

Culture May 09, 2020

Beastie Boys Story

Forgoing depth and complexity for cheap nostalgia, Beastie Boys Story has little of the vitality that characterised the band’s music.

Film March 07, 2020

Undertow

Miranda Nation’s directorial debut, Undertow, begins with power, promise and tension, but it ends up drowning in its own contradictory styles.

Film February 08, 2020

A Hidden Life

Through the story of a farmer who refuses to swear allegiance to Hitler, Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life reckons with the horrors of the Nazi regime in a quiet, powerful way.

Culture December 21, 2019

Best films of 2019

Streaming services increased their domination of the film industry this year, but the big screen still holds a vital place in cinema.

Culture October 05, 2019

The Souvenir

Joanna Hogg’s autobiographical fourth feature film, The Souvenir, explores the fallibility of memory and attraction, grounded by nuanced performances from Honor Swinton Byrne and Tom Burke.

Culture September 21, 2019

Sophie Hyde’s Animals

Despite some missed opportunities in its storytelling, Animals is sustained by riveting performances from its two leads, and by Sophie Hyde’s generosity as a director.

Film August 24, 2019

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino’s childhood love of cinema again is at the fore in his nostalgic paean Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. But when will the writer-director invest his talents in something fresh and challenging?

Culture August 03, 2019

Diego Maradona

After his excellent documentaries Senna and Amy, Asif Kapadia has turned his attention to another modern icon, Diego Maradona. But this new film is inhibited by its narrow vision.

Film July 06, 2019

Parasite

Bong Joon-ho’s impeccable technical skills are on show in Parasite, his Palme d’Or-winning comic thriller, but the film’s social commentary doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Film April 13, 2019

Transit

In Transit, Christian Petzold transposes a story of World War II refugees into a contemporary setting. By pulling off this feat, he confronts viewers with their complicity in the treatment of asylum seekers today.

Film March 30, 2019

Destroyer

Despite a valiant performance from Nicole Kidman in Destroyer, Karyn Kusama’s feminist take on film noir ultimately shies away from true darkness.

Culture March 09, 2019

Everybody Knows

After a shift in setting to Spain for Everybody Knows, Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi squanders a brilliantly tense kidnapping drama in an attempt to provide social commentary.

Film January 26, 2019

Roma

The unequal but loving relationships in Roma, Alfonso Cuarón’s film set amid the political turmoil of 1970s Mexico, deliver some of the most powerful scenes in recent cinema.

Film December 07, 2018

Climax

What starts as a dance film to rival Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz switches to giallo horror as the diverse cast of Gaspar Noé’s Climax descend into a lysergic hell.

Film November 03, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody

While Rami Malek shines as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody plays it so safe and is so sexually sanitised it fails to truly rock us.

Film September 29, 2018

Ladies in Black

Bruce Beresford’s Ladies in Black is not just a homage to classical filmmaking and 1950s Sydney, it is also a window into the cultural richness brought by post-World War II refugees. If only it had pushed darker themes further.

Film August 18, 2018

Spike Lee’s ‘BlacKkKlansman’

Where Spike Lee’s films usually brim with passion and intellect, his portrayal of black activism and racism in BlacKkKlansman becomes more slapstick than sinister.

Film June 23, 2018

‘Disobedience’

Through subtlety and its refusal to out a villain, Disobedience sees its three stars radiate passion and intensity – for their faith and each other – under the masterful direction of Sebastián Lelio.

Film April 28, 2018

‘Loveless’

In Loveless, the tale of a lost boy and a marriage in tatters, Andrey Zvyagintsev delivers a tragedy that is also a masterpiece and the best film of the past few years.

Film March 31, 2018

‘The Other Side of Hope’

Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki’s The Other Side of Hope revisits worthy themes close to the director’s heart, but lacks the daring to take his filmmaking to new heights.

Film February 17, 2018

‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’

As a fading diva in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, Annette Bening reminds the reviewer of why he fell in love with film in the first place.

Film January 27, 2018

Warwick Thornton’s ‘Sweet Country’

Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country joins the canon of Australian westerns probing violent colonialism and Indigenous dispossession.

Film December 23, 2017

‘Call Me By Your Name’

In Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Call Me By Your Name’, Timothée Chalamet provides an outstanding portrait of a swooning teen’s sexual awakening.

Film November 24, 2017

‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’

Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a dark parable about eye-for-an-eye justice. But at the heart of the film is the view that children are never innocent.

Film October 06, 2017

‘Blade Runner 2049’

Thirty-five years ago, Blade Runner was a thrilling and potent sci-fi offering. But while its sequel is just as visually inviting, the film’s storyline is more replicant than cutting edge.

Film September 02, 2017

‘God’s Own Country’

While Yorkshire-born director Francis Lee brings authenticity to the screen with his depiction of rural labours, he fails to find honesty in God’s Own Country’s idealised central relationship.

Film July 15, 2017

Sofia Coppola’s ‘The Beguiled’

In remaking The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola has captured some beautiful and atmospheric moments of the antebellum south. But, the film fails to confront the defining issues of the time.

Film June 24, 2017

‘A Quiet Passion’ and ‘Whitney: Can I Be Me’

A film about Emily Dickinson and a documentary on Whitney Houston may seem worlds apart but both address – with varied success – the notion of divine gifts.

Film May 13, 2017

Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’

Jordan Peele’s satirical horror Get Out fails to frighten by addressing America’s race politics on the surface rather than probing its subconscious fears.

Film April 15, 2017

Kristen Stewart and Olivier Assayas’s ‘Personal Shopper’

Although at times a slightly confused ghost story, Personal Shopper trades on the talent of Kristen Stewart and her connection with director Olivier Assayas.

Film March 11, 2017

Jeff Nichols’ ‘Loving’

Made with fidelity and care, ‘Loving’ re-creates history without lapsing into histrionics.

Film February 04, 2017

Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’

In his tale of Portuguese Jesuit priests travelling in Japan at a time when Christianity was outlawed, Martin Scorsese returns to the complexities of faith, and makes his best film in 20 years

Film December 24, 2016

Damien Chazelle’s ‘La La Land’

Whiplash director Damien Chazelle has sought to deliver a classic Hollywood musical, but La La Land fails to spark.

Film November 05, 2016

Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Elle’

Isabelle Huppert’s masterful turn in Elle, Paul Verhoeven’s latest skewering of middle-class concerns, is let down by a psychosexual bent with no convincing basis.

Film October 08, 2016

Joe Cinque’s Consolation

In examining Australian society via a heinous true crime, Joe Cinque’s Consolation forces us to look at ourselves.

Film August 27, 2016

Ben Wheatley’s ‘High Rise’

Director Ben Wheatley is too faithful to J. G. Ballard’s simplistic prose in High-Rise, missing the opportunity to refine its class politics for the present day.

Film July 23, 2016

Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig Ghostbusters falls into same traps as original

The reboot of Ghostbusters stifles a group of fine comic actresses with an unadventurous script.

Film June 04, 2016

Werner Herzog’s ‘Queen of the Desert’

Queen of the Desert plays it safe and fails the story of Gertrude Bell, the pioneering woman who guided the British during the emergence of the modern Middle East.

Film May 14, 2016

Fear and compromise in ‘Bastille Day’

In trying to be everything to everyone, the emasculated thriller Bastille Day typifies the fearful filmmaking of our time.

Film April 09, 2016

Michael Moore’s ‘Where to Invade Next’

As a maker of documentaries, Michael Moore has already formed an opinion, ruining any chance for insight.

Film March 05, 2016

Stephen Page’s ‘Spear’

Stephen Page’s feature film debut, Spear, presents an all-too-rare onscreen examination of Aboriginal masculinity.

Film January 23, 2016

Mother nature in ‘Carol’ and ‘Room’

After Carol’s tender yet suffocating tale of sexual repression, comes Lenny Abrahamson’s emotionally dishonest Room.

Film December 05, 2015

Joshua Oppenheimer’s ‘The Look of Silence’

A documentary examining Indonesia’s anti-communist purges in the mid-'60s highlights the repression of the nation’s history and its lasting effects.

Film October 24, 2015

Colin Farrell and Léa Seydoux in Yorgos Lanthimos’s ‘The Lobster’

Yorgos Lanthimos’s surrealist film The Lobster, punctures cherished myths about love and marriage in an absurdist alternative universe.

Film September 26, 2015

Michael Fassbender in Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth

Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth falls short in exploring the true depths of ‘black and deep desires’.

Film August 01, 2015

Nouveau western ‘Far From Men’ hits close to home

Viggo Mortensen crosses the desert mountains with an Arab prisoner in 'Far From Men', set during Algeria’s war of independence.

Film June 27, 2015

Vinterberg’s Far from the Madding Crowd misses mark

The splendid cast of Thomas Vinterberg’s adaptation Far from the Madding Crowd can’t make up for the director ironing out the nuance.

Film May 09, 2015

Binoche and Stewart in Clouds of Sils Maria

Like Bergman and Antonioni, Olivier Assayas focuses on the experience of women, as in his latest, Clouds of Sils Maria.

Film March 28, 2015

Feeling the Pynchon in Anderson’s Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson’s efforts to stay true to the novel Inherent Vice leave this film noir floundering in the dark.

Film February 21, 2015

Citizenfour’s Edwardian drama

Laura Poitras’s Snowden film, Citizenfour, is a welcome return to documentary that doesn’t tell us what to think.

Film January 24, 2015

Foxcatcher’s charm wrestling

Foxcatcher’s fearless stars score all the points in a takedown of naked narcissism and searing sociopathy.

Film December 20, 2014

Timothy Spall a vivid J.M.W. Turner in Mike Leigh’s latest

Timothy Spall embodies Turner in a virtuosic performance of an artist in pursuit of the ethereal and elemental.

Film November 29, 2014

The depth of winter sleep

Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s meditative but tightly wound Winter Sleep.

Film November 01, 2014

Wanting more from Brad Pitt’s latest film, Fury

Fury wins the battle as a buddy film, but too many punches are pulled for it to win the war.

Film September 20, 2014

Faulty shades of Gray leaves The Immigrant lacking

The Immigrant joins a long line of films tracing new beginnings in a foreign land. Sadly, this one fails to truly arrive.

Film August 23, 2014

How Robin Williams became lost in Hollywood

Robin Williams was on our screens for more than 30 years, but his genius for creative mayhem was quashed in film.

Film July 19, 2014

"All This Mayhem" documents a long grind

Documentary about champion skateboarding brothers sidesteps some home truths.

Film June 14, 2014

Scarlett Johansson’s loving the alien in Under the Skin

With Kubrick and Cocteau in its DNA, Under the Skin stars Scarlett Johansson as the man-eater who fell to Earth.

Film May 10, 2014

Saved by Rogen’s joshing

If only Bad Neighbours were better, funnier, more inspired. At least the stars shine.

Film April 05, 2014

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Nymphomaniac remain faithful to the flesh

Compulsive and compelling, Lars von Trier’s latest is as much about the nature of sex as the nurture of its telling.

Culture March 01, 2014

Blue Is the Warmest Colour

Obsession is ready for its close-up in this poignant tale of potent desire and despair.