Freeze Frame: “Emancipation” (R), “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (PG), “Aftersun” (R)

Oscar-winner Will Smith returns for yet another powerful performance in the harrowing historical drama “Emancipation,” now in theaters and on Apple TV+. While somewhat fictionalized, “Emancipation” tells the heart-wrenching story of Peter, a Louisiana slave who escaped his brutal masters in 1863. When photos of his whip-scarred back were published in Harper’s Weekly, it ignited public sentiment against slavery and helped to turn the tide of the Civil War. The scenes of degradation and war are unsettling, “Emancipation” works as a disturbing reminder of a dark chapter in American history.

“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” on Netflix is not to be confused with the Disney+ version released a few weeks ago. del Toro’s adaptation is a visually stunning stop-motion animated musical drama with a dark, macabre tone. It adds sharp edges that the Disney version smoothed out. The timeline has been moved to the WWII era and adds an uneasy commentary on Italian fascism to the time-worn story. While it’s overlong and sometimes off-putting, “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” shows that new twists can still be added to old wooden tales.

At the other end of the cinematic spectrum is the very low-key drama “Aftersun.” A British woman reminisces about a Turkish vacation she took with her dad when she was eleven. Much of the film is home video taken by the girl as she and her dad share rare time together. Paul Mescal and young newcomer Frankie Corio are terrific in “Aftersun” a deceptively simple film that requires patient viewing. It’s a complex and affecting drama about the vagaries of memory and the uncertainties of family dynamics.

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