An interminable family war comes to a head in writer-director Piotr J. Lewandowski’s Jonathan, in which ailing health and emotional entrapment has a stranglehold on a feuding father and son (André Hennicke and Jannis Niewöhner, giving blistering performances). Jona is a tireless caretaker, feeding pills to a father dying violently of skin cancer while juggling farm duties in the German countryside, a budding talent for design, and a distant, tormented aunt (Barbara Auer) who refuses to divulge the family’s past. Anka (the downright effervescent Julia Koschitz, who appears in a cloud of smoke and flirtation, like a cuddly femme fatale) arrives to assist with Jona’s father, Burghardt, and soothe Jona’s wounds (and libido) along the way, but even she is no match for the firestorm. Burghardt is harbouring a secret intimately tied to the homosexuality he keeps from his son, and the truth threatens to scorch through their tenuous attempts at connection. Spiders snare butterflies in cobwebbed corners and figures bend over sickbeds like saints in this visual and emotional stunner, which proceeds with quick, incisive scenes towards a finish that confronts the film’s central inquiry: “Can you go on?” – Michael Belcher
Sometimes the biggest conversations happen over voicemail. A surprising father-son tale played across an answering machine.