The Oscar-nominated ‘Io capitano’, a searing, compelling survival drama; Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2′ a passable slasher sequel; ‘Immaculate’, a dull nun horror

Adrift: Lost in a sea of trouble in survival drama ‘Io capitano’.

IO CAPITANO **** (121 minutes; subtitled) MA
Blind optimism is comprehensibly crushed by harsh reality as the pursuit of a dream corrodes into a nightmare in Io capitano, a compelling, searing survival drama about two Senegalese teenage boys who secretly leave their impoverished village hoping to make better lives in Europe.

Ignoring strong advice about the dangers involved, their initial excitement quickly evaporates as the terror-filled trek engulfs them in a punishing swirl of theft, deceit, betrayal, prison and torture.

Director Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah) elicits excellent performances from his two young leads Seydou Sarr and Moustapha Fall (both first timers) who vividly register the fears involved on their sojourn, the value of their friendship being the only thing giving them the strength to endure.

The film’s third act, as they find passage on a decrepit boat intended to take them across the Mediterranean to Italy, is emotionally wrenching; naivety collides with the heartless insouciance of people smugglers as one of the boys is confronted with a morally painful dilemma.

The film was justly Oscar-nominated for Best International Feature – it must have lost out to The Zone of Interest by only a few votes – yet has landed with very little fanfare. It’s getting limited exposure on the arthouse circuit and is unlikely to run for long.

Those looking for a quality dose of counter-programming amidst all the blockbuster offerings (especially over the Easter long weekend) should find Io capitano an engrossing experience.

Trouble brews in ‘Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2’.

WINNIE-THE-POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY 2 **1/2 (95 minutes) MA
Not much to say, really. More slashing. More blood. More women screaming. Slightly better production. Those who enjoyed the unfairly maligned first low-budget slasher lark will enjoy the frenzied shrieks and heightened bloodbath of this quickly-made, reasonably passable follow-up frolic through the 100 Acre Wood.

Expectations from slasher films are generally pretty low and this one meets all the requirements for cheap scares and excessive violence demanded by undemanding genre fans.

Though it doesn’t have all the Instagram fun, this one is a few notches better than the first Winnie – which received an inexplicably savage critical reaction – with noticeably better production values and slightly better direction from Rhys Frake-Waterfield, a prolific British producer and diehard fan of exploitation horror.

Sister Sydney Sweeney in ‘Immaculate’.

IMMACULATE *1/2 (88 minutes) MA
All kudos to Sydney Sweeney for throwing herself so wholeheartedly into the role of an American nun seeking purpose in an Italian convent, but Immaculate (which she also produced) unspools as a dull, derivative, decidedly unscary affair that riffs on Rosemary’s Baby as the virginal Sister Cecilia (Sweeney) finds herself gestating.

Apart from being free of any frights, the film’s biggest snag is that it ends at the point where it starts to get vaguely interesting, Sweeney’s admirably committed performance notwithstanding.

Of passing interest is that director Michael Mohan also directed Sweeney in The Voyeurs, a nifty 2021 erotic thriller, which he also wrote. Check it out on Prime.

And a handy note for the time-stressed: The feature itself runs a scant 80 minutes before the credit crawl kicks in. Barely enough time for a choc top.