The Legend of Barney Thomson

Two stars

Dir: Robert Carlyle

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With: Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson

Runtime: 93 minutes

GLASGOW'S Robert Carlyle shows he is no mean force behind a camera in this, his directorial debut and the festival's opening night gala. Adapted from the novel by Douglas Lindsay, the would-be legend of the title is a mouse of a man despised by his mother (a heavily made-up Emma Thompson) and his fellow barbers in an East End establishment. But fate is about to call on Barney, and it is not looking for a short back and sides. Making stylish use of its Glasgow locations, Carlyle's black farce about a serial killer moseys along in fine enough fashion, but it suffers from a fatal lack of laughs. Even more of a problem is a toe-curling performance by Thompson, playing a wee Glesga wumman, that is about as on the money as one would expect from a Londoner.

Opens nationwide July 24

Amy

four stars

Dir: Asif Kapadia

Runtime: 123 minutes

ASIF Kapadia, helmer of the documentary Senna, applies his considerable talents to charting the rise and shocking fall of Amy Winehouse. As with Senna, it is left to the footage and interviews to tell the story of the singer, and as layer is piled on layer the woman, and her outstanding talents, are laid bare. Winehouse was part of the "film me, film me" generation, so there is no shortage of material from her childhood, which makes all that comes later even more heartbreaking. A stunning portrait which it is hard to see ever being bettered. With this and Senna, Kapadia has to be one of the best British documentary profile makers working today. UK premiere.

Tonight, 20.35, Filmhouse; Saturday, 14.30, Filmhouse

13 Minutes

four stars

Dir: Oliver Hirschbiegel

With: Christian Friedel, Katharine Schuttler

Runtime: 110 minutes

DOWNFALL'S Oliver Hirschbiegel is back on outstanding form after the folly that was Diana with this true tale of an assassination attempt against Hitler. Georg Elser planted dynamite in a hall in Munich where the dictator was speaking in late 1939. While the explosion happened, Hitler had left 13 minutes before. Elser was arrested immediately, but his torturers would not accept that he acted alone. As Hirschbiegel travels back and forth between prison and the past he constructs a portrait of a patriot trying to save his country from disaster and a nation rushing headlong into madness. Gripping, shocking, and ultimately very moving, a true equal to Downfall. UK premiere

Tonight, 18.00, Filmhouse; Saturday, 13.10, Cineworld

The Closer We Get

four stars

Dir: Karen Guthrie

Runtime: 88 minutes

KAREN Guthrie turns in a documentary wise beyond its years in this portrait of a Scottish family coping with their mother's stroke. The clan in question is Guthrie's own, and as the siblings and father rally round to care for mum, tensions past and present surface, most of them leading back to the time when dad left to go abroad all those years ago. An honest, beautifully rendered and ultimately heart-breaking reminder that there is no such thing as an ordinary life.

Tonight, 18.10, Cineworld; Saturday, 13.30, Filmhouse

Pirates of Sale

three stars

Dirs: Rosa Rogers, Merleme Addou

Runtime: 78 minutes

IN Sale, Morocco, the children play on the streets because there is nowhere else to go. For girls especially, life is hard and freedom fraught with danger. In such a setting the circus coming to town offers the chance of escape - as a performer. Directors Rosa Rogers and Merleme Addou keep pace with four youngsters as they try to join the country's first professional circus. Next comes the hard part - staying with the training. The surrounding poverty could have made this film a kind of grisly X Factor set in the developing world, but Rogers and Addou, and their young subjects, never fail to rise above the obvious to deliver a heartening tale. UK premiere

Tomorrow, 18.10, Filmhouse

Brand New-U

three stars

Dir: Simon Pummel

With: Lachlan Nieboer, Nora-Jane Noone

Runtime: 100 minutes

CAREFUL what you wish for is the message of this cautionary science fiction tale set in a future Britain where personal reinvention has been taken to extremes. Slater (Lachlan Nieber) cannot face life without his girlfriend, but the price he might end up paying as he tries to find her may be too high even for him. The story runs out of puff long before the end credits but director Simon Pummel works visual wonders with a small budget. A talent to watch.

Saturday, 20.55, Odeon; June 27, 15.50, Odeon

Chuck Norris vs Communism

four stars

Dir: Ilinca Calugareanu

Runtime: 82 minutes

EVEN by the grim standards set by the Soviet Bloc, Ceausescu's Romania was a depressing hell hole. Thank heavens, then, for the underground movie nights where the fortunate few with a VHS played black market movies for friends and neighbours. Ilinca Calugareanu's documentary does a superb job of tracing how the movement grew from a few film lovers to almost an entire nation, rebelling in one of the few ways they could, one Chuck Norris film or Dirty Dancing at a time. Funny, revealing, and a heartfelt tribute to cinema to boot, Hollywood really did save (some of) the world, one crazy, escapist picture at a time.

June 24, 21.00, Odeon; June 25, 18.15, Odeon

Alison Rowat