5 Movies Like Stranger by the Lake (2013)

Staff & contributors

You’ll recognize more than a few faces in Uncle Frank. There are no mega-stars but the caliber of acting in this 70s story is truly impressive.

Beth is an 18-year-old in rural South Carolina who grew up admiring the family member she could relate to the most: her uncle, a college professor living in New York.

When she finishes high-school, she makes the move to the city her beloved uncle told her so much about. Once there, she discovers that he has been living a double life which he kept a secret from the family.

This is the perfect holiday movie for those looking for a story that’s not about the actual holidays. It’s sweet, often funny, and packs a heartfelt and genuine story without being too predictable.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Banks Repeta, Britt Rentschler, Burgess Jenkins, Caity Brewer, Christopher Speed, Cole Doman, Colton Ryan, Hannah Black, Jane McNeill, Judy Greer, Lois Smith, Margo Martindale, Michael Banks Repeta, Paul Bettany, Peter Macdissi, Sophia Lillis, Stephen Root, Steve Zahn

Director: Alan Ball

Rating: R

, 2019

Girl won four awards at the Cannes Film Festival last year and was nominated to 9 Magritte Awards. It was also Belgium’s entry to the Oscar for best foreign-language film. When a dance school accepts her, Lara has the opportunity to realize her dream and become a professional ballerina. The dancing takes a toll on her body, but her biggest obstacle is that she was born into the body of a boy. Girl illustrates the trans teenage experience with sensitivity, slowly and humanly making Lara’s anguish become the viewer’s. Based on a true story.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alexia Depicker, Alice de Broqueville, Angelo Tijssens, Arieh Worthalter, Chris Thys, Daniel Nicodème, Els Olaerts, Hélène Theunissen, Ingrid Heiderscheidt, Katelijne Damen, Lukas Dhont, Magali Elali, Naomi Velissariou, Nele Hardiman, Oliver Bodart, Pieter Piron, Rilke Eyckermans, Steve Driesen, Tijmen Govaerts, Valentijn Dhaenens, Victor Polster

Director: Chad Faust, Lukas Dhont

Rating: N/A, R

This quiet French coming-of-age romance is about two boys who live in the Pyrénées mountains in the south of France. Getting to school is an ordeal for both of them but more so for Thomas, the son of shepherds, who has to travel for two hours each way. Damien, the other teenager, lives closer to the school in a big home with his mother who is the town's doctor. 

The two boys initially fight at school, taking turns at bullying each. Damien's mother intervenes, inviting Thomas to live with them so that he can be closer to school.

Co-written by Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) and the movie's legendary director André Téchiné.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alexis Loret, Corentin Fila, Jean Corso, Jean Fornerod, Kacey Mottet Klein, Mama Prassinos, Sandrine Kiberlain

Director: André Téchiné

Xavier Dolan’s emotionally charged directorial debut centers on the complex relationship between 16-year-old Hubert and his mother, brought to life by Dolan himself and Anne Dorval, respectively. The film paints an authentic and all-too-familiar picture of two people who love each other yet clash in similarly self-centered and stubborn ways.

The mother-and-son duo vacillate between love and hate in a screenplay full of drama. The cinematography, relying much on negative space, perfectly evokes a sense of disconnect and animosity. However, there is little subtlety to be found here, much like Hubert’s sexuality being embodied by a poster of River Phoenix displayed in his bedroom. The rawness and heightened telling of events indicate that this story is as fresh and unpolished as then 19-year-old Dolan’s own feelings about family dysfunction, particularly mommy issues. The heavy-handedness and moments of exaggeration in his quasi-autobiography are obvious, a fault of execution that one can attribute to lack of experience.

Still, the powerful visuals and dialogue hint at a vision of what more to expect in Dolan’s now-celebrated career. I Killed My Mother, by all accounts, fulfills its role as his promising directorial debut.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anne Dorval, Benoît Gouin, Émile Mailhiot, Francis Ducharme, François Arnaud, Hugolin Chevrette, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Laurent-Christophe De Ruelle, Manuel Tadros, Marianne Verville, Monique Spaziani, Niels Schneider, Patricia Tulasne, Pierre Chagnon, Suzanne Clément, Xavier Dolan

Director: Xavier Dolan

What happens to genius and complex filmmakers once they reach old age? Agnès Varda at 89 is one example. She maintains an interest in the same deep questions but portrays them in a casual way - basically tries to have a little more fun with things. She finds a friend in JR, a young artist with a truck that prints large portraits. Together they go around French villages (the French title is “Visages Villages”), connecting with locals and printing their photos on murals. Their interactions are researched, but not worked. In fact, they are deeply improvised. Because of this and because the movie is structured in an episode format, it will completely disarm you. And when you least expect it you will be met with long-lasting takes on mortality, loss, but also gender, the environment and the evasiveness of life and art.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Agnès Varda, Amaury Bossy, Jean-Paul Beaujon, Jeannine Carpentier, JR, Yves Boulen

Director: Agnès Varda, JR

Rating: PG