SBIFF gets underway in California

The 31st annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival kicks off this weekend in the glorious American Riviera, with awards, special guests, celebrity tributes to the likes of Sylvester Stallone and Johnny Depp and, of course, films galore. While it’s impossible to see absolutely everything on offer (trust me, I’ve tried), here are some films to keep an eye out for that I’ve had a chance to take a look at. I’ll be updating the coverage as the fest goes on.

Director Rebecca Daly ventures where few dare to trod in the Oedipal nightmare “Mammal,” featuring an outstanding Rachel Griffiths (“Six Feet Under,” “Hillary and Jackie”) as Margaret, a divorced Dubliner who is rocked by the news that her long-missing teenage son has been found dead. In her subdued grief, Margaret develops an odd friendship of sorts with a homeless young gang member named Joe (Barry Keoghan). While at first her offer to allow Joe to use her son’s abandoned room seems borne from a need to turn tragedy into goodness, Margaret gradually veers into twisted “Vertigo” territory, dressing Joe in her son’s clothes as prelude to a twisted sexual draw and a means to assuage the torment of loss.


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