The Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock will starts its annual fall festival on Friday with an Oktoberfest-theme opening night for “Puzzle” and “Boundaries.” With more than 20 titles playing over three weeks, there are art and independent films that will attract nearly every film lover. Here are quick reviews for three selections in the batch.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
If you grew up watching PBS, returning home from school and watching lessons of civility and kindness from Fred Rogers, this engulfing documentary about the television icon is worth watching. From a man who wanted to be a minister to becoming one of most beloved pop culture figures, Rogers is an even more human figure from what he presented inside the so-called idiot box. Director Morgan Neville interviews dozens of people who worked and loved Rogers and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” including his widow, Joanne Rogers, and his sons, Jim and John, and his co-stars on the children’s show.
The documentary dives into Rogers’ philosophy behind his lessons, from offering comfort to children and their parents during times of national tragedy like Robert Kennedy’s assassination and 9/11 to illustrating racial equality. The film also explores Rogers’ humor and times when he was challenged. For Generator Xers and millennials, it’s a nice walk down memory lane that is heartwarming and comforting. Even if you may have found Rogers a bit creepy, the doc addresses that as well.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is part of a wave of documentaries hitting the theaters, in addition to “Three Identical Strangers,” “Whitney” and “Generation Wealth,” all of which are part of the film festival. Get a dose of the familiar and loved with this moving film.
Four stars out of five.
“Leave No Trace”
Writer/director Debra Granik surprised audiences and introduced a new star in Jennifer Lawrence in 2010’s “Winter’s Bone.” Eight years later, she strikes gold again with Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie in the father/daughter drama “Leave No Trace.” McKenzie stars as Tom and Ben Foster is her father, Will, who is raising her on his own in a public park in Oregon. Will is also a military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and chooses not to take his medication. The two live off the grid until authorities catch them living illegally inside the park. Social services and strangers help them with food, shelter and education, but Will’s psychological state feeds into his need to be a nomad.
The elements, environment and law are no match for Will’s PTSD, but Tom grows with maturity and need to be with others. Tom’s progress appears naturally, as she sees how others live and wants to be a part of society. It sadly builds a separation between father and daughter. Foster gives a quiet but realistic performance as a survivalist, and McKenzie shows promise as a young actress. The film touches on multiple hardships, from post-war life and treatment of veterans to homelessness. Plus, the Northwest is the third star of the movie, providing beautiful backdrops for a family in conflict.
Three and a half stars.
“Let people know the real you.”
It’s the recurring theme throughout the drama “Eighth Grade.” It’s also unfair to call it a teen drama. While most teen flicks are about getting into the year’s biggest party, going to the prom or finding a date, the film written and directed by Bo Burnham gets real. Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is about to finish eighth grade, and her place among her peers is not where she wants it to be. The pressure to stay relevant on social media and break away from her shyness is all around her. Her dreams are up and down, and her father, Mark (Josh Hamilton), tries to boost her self-esteem. But in typical dad fashion, he is not cool.
“Eighth Grade” is one of the few teen-centered movies that take away the filter that others like “Clueless” and all those Netflix examples have. Kayla has acne, not just one pimple. The mall is still the place to meet, and fashion continues to be important. There’s a guy she likes, but his demands are disgusting. Dating is actually awkward. Yet, the dangers that we see in the news are part of Kayla’s reality. The one she wants is filmed through her YouTube channel, and as the audience, we wish the same for her.
Four stars out of five.
The Dietrich Theater’s fall film festival starts Friday and runs through