Preview: Chicago’s Film Critics Present a Film Festival Packed with Crowdpleasers

If seven is a lucky number, the Chicago Critics Film Festival has surely hit the jackpot with the line-up just announced for their next festival, happening May 17-23 at the Music Box Theatre. Now in its seventh year, the festival is unique as it’s the only film festival curated by film critics. Rather than a formal submissions process, a programming committee from the Chicago Film Critics Association (of which this writer is a member) gathers a couple dozen of the best films they’ve seen so far this year at festivals around the country (Sundance, SXSW, etc.) and presents them all to hungry Chicago audiences in the span of one wonderful week.

Saint Frances
Image courtesy of Chicago Critics FIlm Festival

Last year, the festival boasted the Chicago premiere of films like First Reformed, Eighth Grade, Three Identical Strangers and more, all films that found plenty of success in their theatrical releases that followed. While it’s always nice to head out to a festival filled with micro-budget indies and local productions, there’s something particularly fantastic about joining 700 of your closest friends at Chicago’s coolest theater for a few films already generating buzz. With over two dozen selections (including two short film programs) and several filmmakers and stars making appearances, the 2019 edition is an eclectic, exciting program. Highlights include:

An opening night selection of Saint Frances (pictured above), a Chicago-set indie about a young woman (writer Kelly O’Sullivan) who, shortly after getting an abortion, starts a new job as a nanny for a challenging charge. O’Sullivan and director Alex Thompson will be in attendance for the 7pm screening on Friday, May 17.

A 40th anniversary screening of Ridley Scott’s Alien, the sci-fi classic about a crew on a merchant spaceship who discover they’ve got unexpected company. Actor Tom Skerritt will be in attendance for the 6pm screening on Saturday, May 18.

The Nightingale, the second feature from Jennifer Kent, the writer/director of 2014’s smash hit horror film The Babadook. Actress Aisling Franciosi (“Game of Thrones”) will be in attendance for the 7pm screening on Sunday, May 19.

The Farewell, Lulu Wang’s Sundance smash (hit-maker A24 picked it up for something like $6M) about a Chinese family that throws an impromptu wedding rather than tell their matriarch grandmother that she’s dying. Wang will be in attendance for the 7:15pm screening on Monday, May 20.

A closing night selection of Paul Harrill’s Light From Light, about a single mother and part-time paranormal investigator who travels to Tennessee with her son for a new case. Harrill and star Jim Gaffigan will be in attendance for the 8:30pm screening on Tuesday, May 23.

While a few films receive an encore screening, most only screen once, so don’t sleep on anything you’re itching to see. The best bet is to pick up a festival pass ($150) for access to everything; or you can purchase single tickets directly through the Music Box website. A full schedule and more on all the films is online here.

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Lisa Trifone
Lisa Trifone