Mill Valley Film Festival celebrates its 41st birthday

11 Oct, 2018

The Mill Valley Film Festival is currently celebrating its 41st birthday by putting together an amazing lineup of movies, parties and celebrity-filled events. Operating out of central hubs in Mill Valley and San Rafael, this exclusive party will be catering to film fans and casual moviegoers alike through October 14th and is a short drive from neighboring San Francisco.

In past years the festival has prided itself on curating an extravagant lineup of films with awards potential and this year is no different. From the opening night successes of the drama “A Private War” to the road-trip dramedy “Green Book,” those two films kicked off a successful first half that has had film fans lining up for screenings all weekend long. Now the fun continues into the festival’s second half with no signs of slowing down. The following list of films are some of the best features the festival still has to offer in its final days.

Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges (“Manchester By the Sea”) returns to Mill Valley with two films this year, the family drama “Boy Erased” and the emotional rollercoaster “Ben is Back.” Directed by Lucas’ father Peter Hedges, “Ben is Back” deals with addiction, family and loss. Anchored by an award-worthy Julia Roberts, the film focuses on a family’s struggle to maintain stability in the midst of confusion and separation. Peter Hedges will be on hand to introduce the film and talk about putting the pieces together.

It’s easy to take Melissa McCarthy for granted, especially when she chooses to focus her time making disposable comedies. Her latest is a step in the right direction and quite possibly her best role to date, playing a washed-up writer who turns to forgery out of desperation and a selfish need of acknowledgement. Her co-star Richard E. Grant is equally strong as McCarthy’s sole ally in this true life tale of a writer’s life gone terribly wrong. Grant will also be in Mill Valley to present the film and receive an award.

The last time Nicole Kidman wore prosthetics in a movie she won an Oscar for “The Hours.” Not only is she equally good in “Destroyer” but she should start clearing her mantle for a possible second trophy. Karyn Kusama (“Girlfight,” “Jennifer’s Body”) directs Kidman as a rogue cop recovering from a failed undercover mission and the movie has style and tension to spare. It’s one of the best films at the festival and should not be missed. Kusama will be at the festival to speak about her experience making the film.

The true life story of 1988 Presidential nominee Gary Hart and his spectacular fall from grace could easily be learned from a quick Google search. What sets director Jason Reitman’s film “The Front Runner” apart from the pack is its need to fill in the missing pieces of what seems to be common knowledge. It also catapults Hugh Jackman to one of the best roles of his career. Jackman plays Gary Hart with all the false swagger and deep insecurity you would expect but also manages to humanize the man and not turn him into a caricature. Supporting actors Vera Famiga and J.K. Simmons also turn in fine work in another can’t miss film from the fest.

The stakes are high for director Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to the award-winning “Moonlight” and while his latest is a deliberate change of pace it is no more affecting than his previous work. Based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name “If Beale Street Could Talk” pulses with energy, anger and love as it weaves several stories together under a powerful narrative. The film will close the festival on Sunday October 14th and Barry Jenkins will be there for an extensive conversation about his long journey making this film.

Maggie Gyllenhaal’s standout performance in “The Kindergarten Teacher” has been making waves since the film’s premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Now she is set to receive an award at Mill Valley while presenting this fierce look at a deeply troubled educator who takes a dangerous interest in one of her star pupils. The film is a remake of the 2014 foreign feature of the same name and both are equally powerful while also carving out their own identity.

Director Alfonso Cuaron’s (“Gravity,” “Children of Men”) latest is a slice of life set in 1970 Mexico City and filmed in luminous black and white. The primary focus is on a put-upon housekeeper dealing with problems of her own while maintaining the daily routine of her job. As the film progresses “Roma” becomes deeper and richer than you might expect at first glance. The film was the centerpiece of the festival but will also have a repeat screening on October 14th.

About the author

Marco Cerritos

Marco Cerritos is a guest writer for Dig In Magazine, a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and a freelance film critic for

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