Here’s a quick round-up of the best films of 2017 from our resident critic, Kevin Michael Boyle.
Oliver Assayass’ second collaboration with Kristen Stewart doesn’t quite meet the dramatic heights of Clouds of Silas Maria, but it does give Stewart the opportunity to carry a film that is a match for her considerable talents. Stewart plays the titular shopper, who is also a medium looking for proof of life after death after the sudden death of her brother. Personal Shopper is packed with atmosphere as Assayass updates the conventions of Victorian Gothic tales for the modern audience.
A Ghost Story
Another indie film that is based beyond the grave, A Ghost Story is a perfect companion piece to Personal Shopper, this time the story is from the ghost’s perspective. An unnamed man (Casey Affleck) dies in a car crash only to haunt the house that he shared with his wife, played by Rooney Mara. Director David Lowry (Pete’s Dragon) manages to overcome the inherent silliness of a ghost personified by a man under a white sheet to tell a story about the way people and their memories live on in the places they inhabit.
Darren Aronofsky doesn’t make films that are easy to quantify. mother! Is no different as the director uses the framework of an artist (Javier Bardem), and his muse, played by Jennifer Lawrence, as symbols of religious allegory. Told you it wasn’t simple. Mother! Is one of 2017s most controversial, and polarising films, but its worth seeing for Jennifer Lawrence alone in a performance that bafflingly earned her a Razzie nomination. What do they know?
The Florida Project
Perhaps the most emotionally moving film of 2017, The Florida Project is a showcase for director Sean Baker as he crafts another tale about disenfranchised Americans. A lighter version of Italian neorealist films, The Florida Project soars thanks to the performance of 6 year old newcomer Brooklynn Prince, and her story of her impoverished childhood.
A new Paul Thomas Anderson film is always something to be excited about, but Phantom Thread is a lot more special than that. It marks the second collaboration between Anderson and Daniel Day Lewis, their last film, There Will Be Blood is considered to be one of the best films of this century, but it’s also Day Lewis curtain call as an actor. As retirement gigs go, Daniel Day Lewis has never been better as Reynolds Woodcock, an obsessive dressmaker who falls in love with his would-be muse, played by newcomer Vicky Krieps. Phantom Thread doesn’t take the obvious route here, as the central relationship reveals itself to be more complex than your average romance film. A fitting end.
It’s amazing that people still demand proof that Robert Pattinson is a great actor. Ten years after making his name in Twilight, by way of The Goblet of Fire, Robert Pattinson has garnered some truly excellent performances in films such as: Cosmopolis, The Rover, The Lost City of Z, and his latest film, Good Time. Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, Good Time is a frenetic, unpredictable crime caper with Pattinson’s frenzied performance as its anchor. It’s an unpredictable film that makes other films of its type feel lazy and prosaic by comparison. Any debate about Pattinson’s talent should be laid to rest by Good Time.
As a coming of age drama, Lady Bird doesn’t do anything particularly new. What Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut does do is give us a story of a high school girl that is achingly relatable whether you share her circumstances or not. Much of this is down to the naturalistic performances from Saoirse Ronan in the title role, eye-catching up and comers like Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet (who are making headlines in other Awards contenders), and Laura Metcalf’s performance as the titular characters mother. Lady Bird is a sweet, funny, and absorbing dramedy that proves that coming of age dramas come in many forms.
The success of Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is all the more heartening due to the quality of the film itself. With news of its four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, proving that the Academy still recognises quality filmmaking outside of the too-well defined Oscar bait is a victory for cinema, even if it doesn’t win the top prizes. It takes a special film to not only put the horror genre back into the Oscar conversation but also use its sharp satire to entertain and inform as much as it makes its audience uncomfortable. Get Out is deservedly the defining film of 2017.
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