— Michael O'Sullivan
At first glance, the synopsis of “Hope,” about a longtime couple facing a woman’s cancer diagnosis, might suggest you’ve seen this movie before, most recently in the Liam Neeson-Lesley Manville two-hander “Ordinary Love.” But this finely observed and exquisitely acted drama — Norway’s official Oscar submission, by writer-director Maria Sodahl — takes familiar material to new places altogether. Based in part on her own life, “Hope” chronicles a tense winter holiday week in Oslo when choreographer Anja (Andrea Braein Hovig) gets bad news about the headaches and blurry vision she’s been experiencing; her comfortable home life with acclaimed theater director Tomas (Stellan Skarsgard) and their blended family is suddenly thrown into muted chaos, made all the more upsetting by so many doctors taking vacation. This sounds like a downer, and “Hope” is exquisitely attuned to the nuances of grief, especially when it’s expressed by way of task-oriented dispassion. But it’s also brimming with human life and feeling, from the distance and low-key competition between lovers who are both artists, to the constantly shifting psycho-tectonics between a mom and her teenage daughter. “Hope” earns its title, in every hard-won, emotionally honest sense of the word. Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com, virtualavalon.org, and themiracletheatre.com. Contains sexuality, nudity, smoking and mature thematic material. In Norwegian, Swedish and English with subtitles. 130 minutes.
— Ann Hornaday
The lives of three attention-seeking teens — a theater geek (Shirley Chen), a skater (Jose Angeles) and a gun nut (Will Madden) — intersect in “Beast Beast,” a character study by writer-director Danny Madden (Will’s older brother, making only his second outing at the helm of a feature). Despite some flaws, Variety says the film has enough “promising craft” that Madden “may become an artist himself.” Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com. 85 minutes.
Anyone who appreciated the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s 2018 Bill Traylor retrospective will probably be interested in “Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts,” a documentary about the late, self-taught artist, born into slavery around 1853, who didn’t start painting until his 80s but became a beloved, much collected folk artist. Slant magazine calls the film an “exhilarating” tribute to Traylor: “ ‘Chasing Ghosts’ somehow feels simultaneously focused, covering nearly 90 years of a man’s life in granular detail over the course of a sprightly 75 minutes, and appealingly free-associational.” Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com, virtualavalon.org and themiracletheatre.com. 75 minutes.
The documentary “Brewmance” follows the ups and downs of two start-up craft breweries in California: one run by a Christian father-and-son team and the other by a retired rock star seeking a quieter life. As one of the film’s subjects puts it in the trailer, “We’re artists. We’re making liquid art.” Unrated. Available on Apple TV, FandangoNow, Google Play, Vudu, Microsoft. Altavod, Vimeo and major cable providers. 102 minutes.
Sebastian Stan and Irish stage actress Denise Gough play tourists who meet in Greece and fall head-over-heels in lust in “Monday,” a whirlwind romance that ends with them “riding a motorcycle around Athens naked in December, windmill high and pursued by cops,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. That may sound ridiculous to some, “but anyone else who’s ever been in a relationship like this — especially the kind that starts to feel like a codependent bipolar disorder trapped on a roller coaster by the end — will painfully relate to ‘Monday’s’ sensual, funny and above all honest look at amour fou.” Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 115 minutes.