As “Wonder Woman” becomes the highest-grossing live action film directed by a woman, July promises to bring even more interesting, powerful women to the big screen — whether they are in front of camera or behind it. July starts with a fascinating documentary from director Lara Stolman. “Swim Team” follows swim athletes on the autism spectrum and explores how the team gives its young men a chance to feel included and in control, sometimes for the first time ever.
The second weekend in July brings a pair of noteworthy women-centric films. Netflix’s “To the Bone” is inspired by writer-director Marti Noxon’s own struggles with anorexia, and charts her unconventional road to recovery. And Shakespeare gets an update from writer Alice Birch in “Lady Macbeth,” whose titular character discovers her own power after engaging in a dangerous affair.
Things get a bit lighter on July 21, with a pair of comedies about the complex ties between women. In Gillian Robespierre’s “Landline” two sisters unexpectedly bond after discovering their father’s affair. “Girls Trip” sees four lifelong friends reconnecting at a rowdy, unforgettable weekend in New Orleans.
The month closes with a female-led action flick, and an urgent documentary sequel. Charlize Theron stars in “Atomic Blonde,” the story of an extremely talented MI6 agent who is sent to deliver a sensitive dossier to the destabilized city of Berlin. “An Inconvenient Sequel,” a follow-up to 2006’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” is a potent reminder of the imminent danger of climate change, greed, and the apathy of those in power. Co-director Bonni Cohen follows Al Gore as he makes climate change’s dangers known to the entire world — and the film is being updated to include the United States’ decision to retreat from the Paris Climate treaty.
Here are all of the women-centric, women-directed, and women-written films debuting in July. All descriptions are from press materials unless otherwise noted.
“7 From Etheria” (Anthology) — Written and Directed by Karen Lam, Heidi Lee Douglas, Arantxa Echevarria, Martha Goddard, Anna Elizabeth James, Barbara Stepansky, and Rebecca Thomson
Etheria is the world’s most respected showcase of the best new horror, comedy, science fiction, fantasy, action, and thriller films made by emerging women directors. Terrifying home invasions, unexpected carjackings, and hilarious jelly wrestling are just the start; before you’re through watching this anthology, you’ll visit a Tasmanian penal colony in 1829, prove Kurt Gödel’s time-travel theorem, be victimized by strange alien substances, and dare to venture out into a devastated nuclear wasteland. “7 From Etheria” is a wild ride, so please strap on your seat belt for your own safety.
“Swim Team” (Documentary) — Directed by Lara Stolman (Opens in NY; Opens in La July 21)
In New Jersey the parents of a boy on the autism spectrum take matters into their own hands. They form a competitive swim team, recruiting diverse teens on the spectrum and training them with high expectations and zero pity. What happens next alters the course of the boys’ lives. “Swim Team” chronicles the extraordinary rise of the Jersey Hammerheads, capturing a moving quest for inclusion, independence, and a life that feels winning.
“Austin Found” — Co-Written by Brenna Graziano (Also Available on VOD)
Leanne Miller (Linda Cardellini, “Freaks and Geeks”) is a 36-year-old wife and mother whose hunger for fame and fortune leads her down a dangerous path. A former beauty queen and prom queen, Leanne is fed up with her unglamorously average lifestyle and decides to take matters into her own hands by plotting a scheme to make her family instant celebrities. Teaming up with her ex-boyfriend, Billy (Skeet Ulrich, “Riverdale”), and his ex-con buddy, Jebidiah (Craig Robinson, “The Office”), Leanne conspires to have her 11-year-old daughter, Patty (Ursula Parker, “Louie”), kidnapped for just a month or two. All Leanne has to do is keep the local press (Kristen Schaal, “Bob’s Burgers”) and Sheriff (Patrick Warburton, “A Series of Unfortunate Events”) focused on the case at hand and off hers. What could go wrong?
“The Rehearsal” — Directed by Alison Maclean; Written by Alison Maclean and Emily Perkins
New York-based filmmaker Alison Maclean returns to her native New Zealand to tell this potent, emotionally textured coming-of-age story set among a group of budding acting students. Stanley (James Rolleston), a naïve first-year student, meets Isolde (Ella Edward) and begins a sweet, first love affair. Goaded by Hannah (Kerry Fox, “An Angel at My Table”), the charismatic, domineering Head of Acting, Stanley uncovers a talent and ambition he didn’t know he had. When his group hits on a sex scandal that involves Isolde’s tennis prodigy sister as fertile material for their end-of-year show, Stanley finds himself profoundly torn.
“500 Years” (Documentary) — Directed by Pamela Yates (Opens in NY)
“500 Years”: Daniel Hernández-Salazar
From a historic genocide trial to the overthrow of a president, “500 Years” tells a sweeping story of mounting resistance played out in Guatemala’s recent history, through the actions and perspectives of the majority indigenous Mayan population, who now stand poised to reimagine their society.
“Bronx Gothic” (Documentary) (Opens in NY; Opens in La July 28)
An electrifying portrait of writer and performer Okwui Okpokwasili and her acclaimed one-woman show, “Bronx Gothic.” Rooted in memories of her childhood, Okwui — who’s worked with conceptual artists like Ralph Lemon and Julie Taymor — fuses dance, song, drama, and comedy to create a mesmerizing space in which audiences can engage with a story about two 12-year-old black girls coming of age in the 1980s. With intimate vérité access to Okwui and her audiences off the stage, “Bronx Gothic” allows for unparalleled insight into her creative process as well as the complex social issues embodied in it.
“Julius Caesar” (Filmed Stage Production) — Directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Opens in the UK)
“Julius Caesar”: donmarwarehouse.com/Helen Maybanks
“Julius Caesar” depicts the catastrophic consequences of a political leader’s extension of his powers beyond the remit of the constitution. As Brutus (Harriet Walter) wrestles with his moral conscience over the assassination of Julius Caesar (Jackie Clune), Mark Antony (Jade Anouka) manipulates the crowd through his subtle and incendiary rhetoric.
“To the Bone” — Written and Directed by Marti Noxon (Available on Netflix)
“To the Bone”
Based on the real-life experiences of writer-director Marti Noxon, “To the Bone” shares the story of 20-year-old Ellen (Lily Collins) and her battle with anorexia. Ellen enters a group home run by an unconventional doctor (Keanu Reeves) where she and the other residents go on a sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing journey — navigating their addictions and finding the path to choosing life.
“Lady Macbeth” — Written by Alice Birch
Rural England, 1865. Katherine (Florence Pugh) is stifled by her loveless marriage to a bitter man twice her age, whose family is cold and unforgiving. When she embarks on a passionate affair with a young worker on her husband’s estate, a force is unleashed inside her, so powerful that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
“Birthright: A War Story” (Documentary) — Directed by Civia Tamarkin; Written by Civia Tamarkin and Luchina Fisher (Opens in NY; Opens in La July 28)
“Birthright: A War Story”
“Birthright: A War Story” is a feature length documentary that examines how women are being jailed, physically violated, and even put at risk of dying as a radical movement tightens its grip across America. The film tells the story of women who have become collateral damage in the aggressive campaign to take control of reproductive health care and to allow states, courts, and religious doctrine to govern whether, when, and how women will bear children. This is the real-life “Handmaid’s Tale.”
“Wish Upon” — Written by Barbara Marshall
Twelve years after discovering her mother’s suicide, 17-year-old Clare Shannon (Joey King) is bullied in high school, embarrassed by her manic, hoarder father Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe), and ignored by her longtime crush. All that changes when her father comes home with an old music box whose inscription promises to grant its owner seven wishes. While Clare is initially skeptical of this magic box, she can’t help but be seduced by its dark powers, and is thrilled as her life radically improves with each wish. Clare finally has the life she’s always wanted and everything seems perfect — until the people closest to her begin dying in violent and elaborate ways after each wish. Clare realizes that she must get rid of the box, but finds herself unable and unwilling to part with her new-and-improved life — leading her down a dark and dangerous path.
“The Midwife” (Opens in NY)
Two of French cinema’s biggest stars shine in this bittersweet drama about the unlikely friendship that develops between Claire (Catherine Frot), a talented but tightly wound midwife, and Béatrice (Catherine Deneuve), the estranged, free-spirited mistress of Claire’s late father. Though polar opposites in almost every way, the two come to rely on each other as they cope with the unusual circumstance that brought them together in this sharp character study from director Martin Provost (“Séraphine”).
“Footnotes” is a whimsical and original musical comedy about Julie (Pauline Etienne), a young woman struggling to make ends meet in France’s radically changing economy. Living out of a backpack, Julie spends her days jumping from job to job until she’s finally offered a temporary stockroom position at a women’s luxury shoe factory. After making friends with the boss’s spunky receptionist Sophie (Julie Victor) and the ever-charming factory truck driver Samy (Olivier Chantreau), Julie thinks the hard times are behind her. But Julie’s dreams of stability collapse when management threatens to close down the factory.
“Chasing Coral” (Documentary)— Co-Written by Vickie Curtis (Available on Netflix)
Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers, and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.
“False Confessions” — Co-Directed by Marie-Louise Bischofberger (Opens in NY; Opens in La July 21)
Isabelle Huppert commands the screen as Araminte, the wealthy widow who unwittingly hires the smitten Dorante (Louis Garrel) as her accountant. Secrets and lies accumulate as Dorante and his accomplice, Araminte’s manservant Dubois (Yves Jacques), manipulate not only the good-hearted Araminte, but also her friend and confidante, Marton (Manon Combes). Dorante, by turns pitiable and proficient, but always deferential to his social better, walks a fine line in his quest to arouse an equal desire in the object of his affections.
“Blind” — Co-Written by Diane Fisher
A novelist blinded in the car crash (Alec Baldwin) that killed his wife rediscovers his passion for both life and writing when he embarks on an affair with the neglected wife (Demi Moore) of an indicted businessman (Dylan McDermott).
“Desert Hearts” (Theatrical Re-Release)— Directed Donna Deitch; Written by Natalie Cooper (Opens in NY)
Based on Jane Rule’s 1964 novel, Donna Deitch’s narrative feature debut centers on a burgeoning lesbian romance between libertine casino worker Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau) and repressed university professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) in Reno, Nevada in the late 1950s, a climate wherein being queer was… complicated. Landmark in its positive portrayal of sapphic romance and celebrated for its passionate, sensual bedroom scenes that nearly fog the camera’s lens, Deitch’s vision for Cay and Vivian’s nuanced onscreen relationship explores the tension inherent in a sheltered woman accepting her newfound sexual self.
“Landline” — Directed by Gillian Robespierre; Written by Gillian Robespierre and Elisabeth Holm
When two sisters suspect their father (John Turturro) may be having an affair, it sends them into a tailspin that reveals cracks in the family façade. For the first time, older sister Dana (Jenny Slate), recently engaged and struggling with her own fidelity, finds herself bonding with her wild teenage sister Ali (Abby Quinn). The two try to uncover the truth without tipping off their mother (Edie Falco) and discover the messy reality of love and sex in the process. Set in 1990s Manhattan, “Landline” is a warm, insightful, and comedic drama about a family united by secrets and lies.
“Girls Trip” — Co-Written by Tracy Oliver
When four lifelong friends — Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tiffany Haddish — travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered, and there’s enough dancing, drinking, brawling, and romancing to make the Big Easy blush.
“The Untamed” (Opens in NY)
Alejandra (Ruth Ramos) is a young mother and housewife who raises her children with her husband, Angel (Jesús Meza), in a small town. His brother Fabian (Eden Villavicencio) is a nurse at a local hospital. Their provincial lives are altered with the arrival of the mysterious Veronica (Simone Bucio). Sex and love are fragile in certain regions where family values exist and hypocrisy, homophobia, and sexism are strong. Veronica convinces them that in the nearby forest, in a secluded cabin, there is something that is not of this world but that is the answer to all their problems.
“Scales: Mermaids Are Real”
Siren Phillips (Emmy Perry) has lived her life thinking she’s an ordinary girl, in an ordinary town. On the eve of her birthday, however, she learns that she is far from ordinary. Destined to turn into a mermaid at the age of 12, Siren must struggle with her new reality, saying goodbye to her mother and friends, while she transitions into the water. To make matters worse, a group of hunters are after her. When Siren’s mother is taken, the town must rally behind her and help her make a peaceful transition into the water, before the hunters can find her.
“The Fencer” — Written by Anna Heinämaa
A young man, Endel Nelis (Märt Avandi), arrives in Haapsalu, Estonia, in the early 1950s. Having left Leningrad to escape the secret police, he finds work as a teacher and founds a sports club for his students. Endel becomes a father figure to his students and starts teaching them his great passion — fencing. Fencing becomes a form of self-expression for the children and Endel becomes a role model. The children want to participate in a national fencing tournament in Leningrad, and Endel must make a choice: risk everything to take the children to Leningrad or put his safety first and disappoint them.
“Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World” (Documentary) — Co-Written and Co-Directed by Catherine Bainbridge
“Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World”
“Rumble” tells the story of a profound, essential, and, until now, missing chapter in the history of American music: the Indigenous influence. Featuring music icons Charley Patton, Mildred Bailey, Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Ed Davis, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, and Randy Castillo, “Rumble” shows how these talented Native musicians helped shape the soundtracks of our lives.
Oscar-winner Charlize Theron explodes into summer in “Atomic Blonde,” a breakneck action-thriller that follows MI6’s most lethal assassin through a ticking time bomb of a city simmering with revolution and double-crossing hives of traitors. The crown jewel of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, Agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is equal parts spycraft, sensuality, and savagery, willing to deploy any of her skills to stay alive on her impossible mission. Sent alone into Berlin to deliver a priceless dossier out of the destabilized city, she partners with embedded station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) to navigate her way through the deadliest game of spies.
“The Incredible Jessica James” (Available on Netflix)
“The Incredible Jessica James”
Jessica Williams (“The Daily Show”) stars as a young, aspiring playwright in New York City who is struggling to get over a recent breakup. She is forced to go on a date with the recently divorced Boone, played by Chris O’Dowd (“Bridesmaids”), and the unlikely duo discover how to make it through the tough times in a social media obsessed post-relationship universe. Lakeith Stanfield (“Atlanta”, “Get Out”) and Noël Wells (“Master of None”) co-star.
“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” (Documentary)— Co-Directed by Bonni Cohen
“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”: Paramount Pictures and Participant Media
A decade after “An Inconvenient Truth” brought climate change into the heart of popular culture comes the riveting and rousing follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight, traveling around the world training an army of climate champions and influencing international climate policy. Cameras follow him behind the scenes — in moments private and public, funny and poignant — as he pursues the empowering notion that while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.
“Strange Weather” — Written and Directed by Katherine Dieckmann (Also Available on VOD)
Academy Award winner Holly Hunter gets behind the wheel in this engrossing story of a woman’s quest for rectitude in the wake of harrowing loss. Steeped in a strong sense of place and peopled by convention-defying characters, Katherine Dieckmann’s “Strange Weather” draws you into its sultry Southern milieu and takes you on a backroads trek you won’t soon forget.
“From the Land of the Moon” — Co-Written and Directed by Nicole Garcia
“From the Land of the Moon”
In 1950s France, Gabrielle (Marion Cottilard) is a passionate, free-spirited woman in a loveless marriage, and falls for another man when she is sent away to the Alps to treat her kidney stones. Gabrielle yearns to free herself and run away with André (Louis Garrel).
“It Stains the Sands Red”
“It Stains the Sands Red”
In the throes of a zombie apocalypse, Molly (Brittany Allen) — a troubled woman from Las Vegas with a dark past — finds herself stranded in the desert with a lone and ravenous zombie on her tail (Juan Riedinger). Easily able to outpace her un-dead pursuer at first, things quickly become a nightmare when it dawns on her that the zombie will never need to stop and rest. This is the epic story of one woman’s journey to outrun not only the immediate threat that follows her, but the demons who have chased her all her life.
July 2017 Film Preview was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.