Current track



The Reel Critic: Mini Reviews From The Chicago International Film Fest

Written by on October 13, 2023

Resident film critic Reggie “The Reel Critic” Ponder brings his feedback on four films screening at the Chicago International Film Festival.

The 59th Chicago International Film Festival is in full swing, and The Reel Critic has had the chance to attend a few screenings. He brings listeners mini reviews on four standout films he viewed: Bike Vessel, All Happy Families, Departing Seniors and We Grown Now.

The festival runs through Oct. 22; find more information and a full list of films on

Bike Vessel

Bike Vessel documents the incredible true story of Donnie Seals Sr. and his son, Eric Seals. After a lifetime of poor health choices and eventually three quadruple bypass surgeries, Donnie Seals Sr. decided to change his life around through cycling. His son, Eric, challenged him to a bike ride from St. Louis to their home city of Chicago. The documentary highlights topics such as Black health disparities, father-son relationships and the importance of personal health.

Bike Vessel will have in-person screenings Oct. 14 and 21 at AMC NEWCITY 14, plus a free screening at Hamilton Park on Oct. 20, and will be available for virtual screening from Oct. 16-22.

All Happy Families

Chicago director Haroula Rose’s new film All Happy Families tells the story of a man named Graham, played by Josh Radnor (of “How I Met Your Mother” fame). The film shows Graham’s family dynamic as well as his desire to make something of his life. Graham’s brother is an aspiring actor whom he is always compared to, and his mother is harboring secrets from the family. The film also tackles issues regarding LGBTQ+ acceptance. The film is packed full of drama, comedy, romance and more.

All Happy Families is screening at the Gene Siskel Film Center for the festival on Oct. 13.

Departing Seniors

Departing Seniors is a horror film centering a queer Mexican-American high school student named Javier. Despite not fitting in with the kids at school, he may be the only one who can save them from a serial killer who is terrorizing the student body. After an act of bullying lands Javier in the hospital, he begins seeing premonitions of horrific murders at his school. Now, Javier (Ignacio Diaz-Silverio), and his best friend Bianca (Ireon Roach) must unmask the killer before he strikes again. 

We Grown Now

Minhal Baig’s new drama We Grown Now follows 10-year-old best friends Malik (Blake Cameron James) and Eric (Gian Knight Ramirez) as they come of age in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing complex.

The film opened the Chicago International Film Festival on Oct. 11 and was recently picked up by Sony Pictures Classics. Sony has not announced details of the film’s wider release, but Baig told the Sun-Times she is looking into possible free community screenings in Chicago.


“The Reel Critic” is hosted and produced by Reggie Ponder

Introduction written by Abigail Harrison

More from Vocalo: