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Back Roads

⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Rated: Not rated.

Theater: Lakeville

The dysfunctional family at the center of this dramatic thriller, which marks the directorial debut of actor Alex Pettyfer, is so twisted that every 10 minutes or so there is a new revelation meant to shock, and this presumably goes back to Tawni O’Dell’s novel, on which the film is based.

The way this story is told also might have something to do with the participation of Adrian Lyne, who co-wrote the script with O’Dell. This is Lyne’s first film credit since “Unfaithful” in 2002, and the particular emphasis on sex feels like it is his handiwork, so to speak.

Pettyfer also stars as Harley, a young man who has had to take responsibility for raising his three sisters after his mother (Juliette Lewis) was jailed for murdering their father. This information is relayed to us in a slightly awkward title card at the beginning of the film. We then see Harley in a police station answering questions about having murdered an older woman with whom he had been having an affair.

In many other films, these would be the only two points needed to tell a story. But this is so full of secrets that these seeming giveaways at the beginning are only gestures toward the real, sick truth.

This is an accomplished movie from Pettyfer. It shows his interest in the scarier byways of life, which seemed clear in his performance last year in “The Strange Ones,” a disturbing and neglected movie about child abuse that seems now like a companion piece to “Back Roads,” a film that stares unflinchingly at some of the rougher human experiences.

dan callahan, the Wrap

The Last Suit

⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Rated: Not rated; in subtitled Spanish.

Theater: St. Anthony Main

What starts as a dry, suburban “King Lear” comedy segues into a sober Holocaust memory saga in Argentine writer/director Pablo Solarz’s fitfully arresting road-trip movie.

We’re introduced to 88-year-old Buenos Aires tailor Abraham Bursztein (Miguel Ángel Solá) as an irascible, physically deteriorating Jewish patriarch pushing against his grown daughters’ plan to sell his possessions and set him up in a retirement home. Abraham has got his own final-curtain idea: a one-way trip to Poland to make good on a long-unkept promise to once more see the figure from World War II who saved his life when Abraham was a camp escapee on the brink of death.

Along the way there are charged vignettes with an estranged daughter (Natalia Verbeke), a regally attractive, no-nonsense inn owner (Ángela Molina) and a smiling fellow train passenger (Julia Beerhold) whose Germanness is the only reason Abraham needs to treat her open kindness with suspicion.

We might be inclined to look askance at the film’s sentimental premise, considering how many bad, one-last-quest road movies exist. But Solarz, through Solá’s majestically brusque performance, is admirably after something unapologetic and true amid the light comedy of difficult travel: capturing the mind-set of a certain kind of tough, impossible survivor for whom every interaction is an exasperating negotiation, because during one never-forgotten time, circumstances didn’t allow for it. “The Last Suit” is a bumpy ride tonally, but its heart is in the right place.

Robert abele, Los Angeles Times