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PONETTE (PG)

Director: Jacques Doillon

Starring: Victoire Thivisol, Marie Trintignant, Claire Nebout (subtitles)

Ponette is a precociously intelligent four-year-old girl whose mother dies in a car accident. As the implications of mortality begin to dawn on the child, she takes some comfort in the titbits of religion which she has absorbed, and accordingly awaits her parent's imminent resurrection. While tenderly photographed, the film has nothing very sophisticated to say about grief or childhood.

JOURNEY TO THE BEGINNING

OF THE WORLD (U)

Director: Manoel de Oliveira

Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Jean-Yves Gautier, Leonor Silveira (subtitles)

Featuring Marcello Mastroianni's final performance, this seasoned picture's lament that "the mind can be fine, but the wrapping deteriorates" doesn't apply to the man himself. His disposition, wise and sunny but flecked with both mischief and weariness, is unchanged, but the picture, by the 90-year-old film-maker Manoel de Oliveira, is a grave disappointment.

THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION (15)

Director: Nicholas Hytner

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Alan Alda, John Pankow

The heroine of Clueless realised that she was in love with her stepbrother, played by Paul Rudd, only after her first choice of boyfriend turned out to be gay. Now it's Rudd's turn to play "Crush the Straight Girl" for this new romantic comedy, in which he confounds his flatmate's dreams of wedding vows and joint burial plots by going and dancing at the other end of the ballroom, so to speak.

The film is like a primer for viewers who don't think they know what makes gay people tick, and though it can be very funny and charming, it has all the subtlety of a party political broadcast.

Rudd is fine as the beleaguered hero, but the real joy is in the supporting players, including Alan Alda as a self-absorbed literary agent.

GOING ALL THE WAY (15)

Director: Mark Pellington

Jeremy Davies, Ben Affleck, Amy Locane, Rachel Weisz, Rose McGowan

This is an occasionally moving rites-of-passage drama with committed performances from Jeremy Davies and Ben Affleck as two soldier buddies returning to their home town.

PALMETTO (15)

Director: Volker Schlondorff

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Elisabeth Shue, Gina Gershon

Each week seems to see the release of yet another ironic modern film noir, the latest edition to the genre being Palmetto, directed by Volker Schlondorff (The Tin Drum), but badly missing the wit and precision of John Dahl. Harry Barber (Woody Harrelson) is the ex-writer and ex-con who gets mixed up with a pair of duplicitous women.

MIMIC (15)

Director: Guillermo Del Toro

Starring: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Josh Brolin

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GIRLS' NIGHT (15)

Director: Nick Hurran

Starring: Julie Walters, Brenda Blethyn, Kris Kristofferson

Shameless tearjerker with Brenda Blethyn as the cancer-suffering bingo winner who jets off to Las Vegas for a last-chance holiday with her sister- in-law (Julie Walters) and meets a wrinkled rodeo-rider (Kris Kristofferson). Initially bubbly, the picture soon turns grossly manipulative.

THE WAR AT HOME (18)

Director: Emilio Estevez

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, Kathy Bates, Kimberly Williams

Adapted from James Duff's play, Homefront, The War at Home is about a traumatised Vietnam veteran returning home to his traditional family.

Ryan Gilbey

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