“I want to make the audience active and reflective,” Ruben Östlund has stated. He does just that with this controversial record, inspired by actual court cases, of five Black teenagers harassing white and Asian youths through scams and role-playing. All violence is implied, but the graver implication (which inflamed critics on the home front) is that political correctness debilitates society, as “good people” stand by and do nothing for fear of being thought racist. The two-time Palme d’Or winning director (Triangle of Sadness, The Square), who also won a Swedish Oscar for best director and the Coup de coeur prize at Cannes for this film, imprisons his actors within a frame, not unlike our social mores freezing us in place. Unabashedly impolite, Play offers food for thought and fuel for fury. An NYFF49 selection.
“An acute and layered observation of class and race told through long takes, with a static frame loaded with details.” —Lulu Wang