When people ask me what I like about European film, a film like Holland’s Stricken (or A Woman Goes to the Doctor) comes pretty close to hitting the mark. The film by Reinout Oerlemans has got it all. It’s slickly-made, has a pace that doesn’t let up, a more-than-absorbing storyline and, contrary to what one might think about a topic with cliché written all over it – breast cancer – delivers in a completely unconventional way. With an electronica soundtrack this story (from the Dutch novel Love Life by Ray Kluun) chronicles the lives of hip professionals Stijn (Barry Atsma) and wife Carmen (Carice van Houten). The movie places the disease at the centre of what is otherwise a trendy, cutting edge lifestyle in Amsterdam’s advertising and party scenes, where the central characters’ relationship is defined on more than one level. If Hollywood had made this the movie would have been sappy and message-driven. You can find messages in this, I suppose, but they’re subtle and come at you in numerous indirect ways. This is first-rate filmmaking.....Spanish film Plans for Tomorrow (d. Juana Macías) might be considered a “women’s film” by a female director (there are other films in the festival like this). It explores the characters of a couple of women where on one day their lives coincidentally become intertwined. These women are struggling against the limitations of age, the balancing of careers, and the desire for freedom from limiting or dominating men. It’s not as slick as Stricken but features strong performances, characters and stories we care about.