The Painted Bird (4 stars)

Notorious for multiple walkouts since its first festival screenings last year, this visceral, hugely challenging wartime drama rises above the horrific nature of its content to emerge as a deeply profound experience. It’s a parable-like journey set somewhere in Eastern Europe - many details remain unspecified - as an unnamed young Jewish boy tries to survive World War II while being bounced from home to miserable home by the forces of fate, brutalised by most of the people he encounters as those around him face the surrounding threats of the Nazis and the Russians. If you have the stomach to make it through from one unspeakable atrocity to the next, you may reach a destination that just about rewards the agony of the journey.

Arracht (3 stars)

For such a notorious and oft-referenced event, the Irish potato famine of the mid 19th century is oddly lacking in cinematic coverage, possibly because it’s much too broad an area to tackle without recourse to some expensive miniseries. Best then to drill into it in microcosm, as done in this lyrical tale of a Connemara tenant farmer whose crop faces the blight just as the landlord threatens to raise their rates to unaffordable levels. Performed almost fully in the Irish language and humming with authenticity, it nevertheless covers a lot of the same ground over and over, and it does feel stretched even over its brisk running time. But it’s a story that can resonate through the centuries, finding parallels in our own Clearances as well as modern day social injustices, so it’s just a shame it’s attached to such a modest production.

The Translators (4 stars)

When a group of multilingual translators are gathered together in a high security bunker to each write their own language’s version of the latest in a bestselling series of crime novels, the scene is set for a craftily plotted thriller featuring a strong international cast including Olga Kurylenko, Lambert Wilson and Alex Lawther. The shifting time frame allows for key reveals to be portioned out at just the right moment, as suspicions are raised about someone in the group perhaps stealing the top secret manuscript, leading to no shortage of clever scenes and delightful developments in a film that celebrates the power of language and diversity even as it’s thrilling us with its twists.

Vivarium (4 stars)

There’s a touch of the madness of Charlie Kaufman hanging over this brilliantly conceived dark comedy horror, as a couple (Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg) get drawn into a nightmarish alternate reality while looking for a new house. Going from the everyday to the outlandish in double quick time, they find themselves trapped in a sickly green suburbia where they seem to be the only residents, while being required to raise a demanding young boy who appears from nowhere. All human life is here in a film that could be about the mundanity of work or the futility of existence or anything in between, building stealthily upon its initial premise and managing to do so in ways both eerie and hilarious.

Moffie (3 stars)

Apartheid era South Africa in the early ‘80s is the setting for this well made slog of a drama told from the point of view of Nick, a young man going through compulsory national service while his country fights a border war with Angola. Most of the film is the sort of boot camp tribulations we’ve seen plenty of in the past, given something of a change-up through a focus on Nick’s sexuality and the absolutely forbidden nature of such feelings in this despicable regime. There’s not really much to be taken away from what we’re presented with, other than as a grim chronicle of a time and place, but there are occasional moments of impact and it’s beautifully shot if nothing else.