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7 Fantastic Films Available Now on SBS On Demand

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by Nicholas Gordon (subscribe)
Freelance writer based in Sydney.
Published June 8th 2020
Recent gems to stream at home
It won't be long before cinemas across the country can once again welcome patrons back. But until then, movie lovers will have to continue to make do with streaming films at home. Fortunately, SBS On Demand offers a stellar library of over 650 free movies drawn from all over the globe. Here are seven great films you can stream on the platform right now.

Shoplifters



Winner of the 2018 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Shoplifters is a delightful film about kidnapping and forcing children to steal, at least on the surface. It's more about family, and how family is whatever you want it to be. The Shibata family live a meagre existence in a crowded house in Tokyo. Patriarch Osamu (Franky Lily) has taught his young son Shota (Jyo Kairi) well and the duo operate as a crack team, stealing food from local supermarkets. One night Osamu and Shota happen upon a young girl alone and freezing on a balcony. Osamu brings the girl home for a hot meal, telling his wife Nobuyo (Ando Sakura) that he will try to locate the girl's parents. But at the Shibata home, scars are found on the girl's body, so Osamu and Nobuyo decide to keep the girl. Bizarre, funny and ultimately very touching, Shoplifters is a must-see.

Read my review of Shoplifters.

Leave No Trace

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Bewilderingly unrepresented when it came to awards, publicity, or box-office receipts (it was shown only in a few cinemas across the country), Leave No Trace was a great unheralded release of 2018. Directed by Debra Granik, the film follows a father and daughter who are living rough in a forest outside Portland, Oregon. Will (played by Ben Foster) is a troubled veteran but he loves his daughter Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) and is trying his best to raise her. Will and Tom's lives are interrupted when a jogger stumbles upon their camp and alerts authorities. Kind-hearted social workers try and integrate Will and Tom back into conventional society, but transition into normal society for Will is fraught, and he soon struggles. A movie that perfectly captures the consequences of war, all without showing a single shot fired, Leave No Trace is moving and powerful.

Read my review of Leave No Trace.

Loveless



You've heard of a feel-good movie? Well, this is the opposite. As far as opposite as you can possibly imagine. But it's worth persisting with because it's a magnificently constructed and haunting film. Set in Russia, Loveless (2017) tells the story of Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin) who are finalising their separation by selling their apartment. Both have new partners: Zhenya a wealthy, older man and Boris a younger woman who is pregnant. But Alyosha (Matvey Novikov), Zhenya and Boris' son, doesn't figure much in the former couple's plans - he is unwanted. Overhearing his parents arguing over who will take him, Aloysha runs away, forcing his estranged parents back together, as police and a volunteer-run group struggle to locate the boy. As much as a comment on family breakdown as a comment on the breakdown of Russian society, Loveless is one of the most important Russian films of recent times.

The Square

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The Cannes Palm d'Or winner of 2017, The Square is a sly send-up of the sometimes silly posturing that takes place in the contemporary art world. Christian (Claes Bang) is presiding over the installation of an artwork in the forecourt of the Swedish art museum he oversees when his life slowly begins to become untethered from its comfortable normalcy. It begins one morning when Christian rushes to the aid of a woman in distress and finds himself dispossessed of his valuables. It's all hard work from then on. Christian must try and retrieve his possessions all while dealing with air-headed artists, management questioning his ability, and even a visit from American journalist (played by Elisabeth Moss). Christian's inability to regain control is highlighted best when at a fundraising dinner a piece of performance art goes spectacularly (and hilariously) wrong.

Read my review of The Square.

Paterson

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In Jim Jarmusch's quiet and understated film from 2016, Adam Driver plays a bus driver named Paterson, who lives in a city in New Jersey also named Paterson. Paterson's normal routine is uneventful, even mundane: every day he drives his bus route, returns home to his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and then takes the couple's bulldog for a walk before stopping at a bar. Paterson is also a poet, but this side of him is largely hidden from the outside world, save for Laura, who also dabbles creatively (largely in home renovations). The pair lead a quiet, very loving existence in a city long removed from its industrial heyday. Over the course of a week, unsettling events leads to change for Paterson and Laura. Exquisitely composed, Paterson is a gentle masterpiece of filmmaking.

Read my review of Paterson.

Woman at War



An Icelandic film from 2019, Woman at War gleefully delves headlong into several issues, including environmental terrorism and adoption. Halla (played grandly by Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) appears to the outside world as an entirely unremarkable middle-aged choir teacher. But in private her major hobby is rather epic environmental vandalism: she destroys electricity lines to an aluminium factory. The Icelandic government, hosting visiting investors, resolves to find the saboteur by any means. As if being hunted by the police isn't enough, Halla learns her application to adopt a child has been granted - a little girl in Ukraine is waiting to be picked up. Quirks in the storytelling abound: the film's score is performed on-camera by musicians who eventually become (loveable) characters. Director Benedikt Erlingsson's film is a surprising delight, and you can't help but cheer for Halla as she navigates the damp tundra, trying desperately to hold her life together.

Ali's Wedding

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An affectionately told true-life story, Ali's Wedding is based on the life of Osamah Sami, who co-wrote the script and stars as Ali. The lead character is the son of a cleric who lives with his family in Melbourne. Due to his father's prominence within the community, Ali feels extra pressure to succeed. Though he has little interest in the profession, he sets out to become a doctor. Unfortunately, he fails the entrance exam. Not wanting to disappoint everyone, Ali lies and then pretends to study medicine at Melbourne University. It all, predictably, goes downhill from there, as Ali tries to escape his lies. Directed by Jeffrey Walker, Ali's Wedding offers fresh fare, bringing to the big screen some much-needed diversity in the process.

Read my review of Ali's Wedding.
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