I’ve only seen 69 movies released in 2018, with a bunch of the big ‘uns missing at this point. However, this does not limit my ability to string together a bunch of pics I enjoyed the heck out of and – as it so happens – their number stands at six, including some almost ineligible 2017 entries. No particular order, in spite of their different ratings.
But if I were to have a favourite, a most engrossing experience? The Tale.
Parenthood part x+2
- Leave No Trace (2018): From the visionary director of Winter’s Bone (2010), wherein Jennifer Lawrence had her breakthrough performance, comes another tale of surviving in the wilderness. A father-daughter couple (didn’t we leave on this note all those weeks back?) survive together in a wildlife park near Portland in a rugged woman’s take on Captain Fantastic (2016). But this is no Captain Fantastic – no lush fairytale of happy hippies. It’s the story of a troubled war veteran who cannot adapt to society any more and now faces his daughter’s longing for a community. Thomasin McKenzie’s piercing glare will stay with you long after the movie is over, in a narratively austere, yet emotionally rich adventure into anti-modern America. Unlike Captain Fantastic’s bohemian pandering, Leave No Trace is a testament both for and against modern society, a taut and uncompromising coming of age story like few others. Have I used all the right buzzwords? 9/10
The real truth
- The Tale (2018): Wow. Just wow. I don’t usually appreciate movies about abuse at all (well, you know what I mean), but The Tale approaches this semi-autobiographical story in an original, inspiring manner that I’ve never seen before. When our lead is faced with letters from her youth, her perception of how she grew up and the people she met along the way take a big hit. The way in which Jennifer sets out to rediscover the truth and cope with it is presented with so much tact and care, both narratively and cinematically, that I couldn’t help being enthralled with it. Director Jennifer Fox, upon whose experiences the movie is (loosely?) based, captures the evanescence of youth with great flair, while finding a perfectly suitable contrast to make it stand out against without becoming more grotesque than it is. The Tale proves to be one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, without a doubt. 9/10
Happy Go Lucky
- Won’t You Be My Neighbor (2018): There was a lot of buzz surrounding a couple of unexpected documentaries this summer – the one about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and this, starring Fred Rogers. It’s not only the unexpected characters leading them that embrethrens them, but also their approach to the wider theme of how we build society and foster particular ways of thinking. More on RBG next week, because Mr. Rogers deserves a LOT of attention. The documentary is, really, a great piece of filmmaking, which reconstructs a man and his singular vision of how television can be used to teach children about the complexities of life. It’s an intricate story with surprising emotional heft, stemming from director Morgan Neville’s ability to bring Rogers into your living room. It doesn’t matter if you agree with everything (and the movie does shy away from controversy), because the overall experience is such a wholesome, uplifting one, that it will, in the least, change your day. That’s not a simple feat from a movie about an awkward man playing around with puppets. 9/10
Why are horses so resplendent?
- The Rider (2017): What a glorious, heartfelt movie about passion and struggling against the odds! The Rider treads the thin-red-line between reality and fiction to paint this stern, yet touching story about Brady, a cowboy who suffers a head injury that impairs him from doing what he’s best at – riding and taming (breaking in) wild horses. You can sense the potential for metaphors and drama right there, and director Chloé Zhao manages to milk it to the very last drop without ever becoming melo. Great cinematography helps in creating the setting, while perfect pacing makes for one of the best Western-themed movies I’ve seen in a while. 8/10
- Sorry to Bother You (2018): The trailer to StBY is intriguing, but it’s greatest achievement lies in saying something while withholding the movie’s essence. What starts out as a corporate ladder climb dipped in racial observations, becomes a full blown social dissection by the end. It’s a no holds barred kind of experience – nothing’s off limits. Which also means that it might not be everyone’s cup of hot tea, but it felt pretty good to me. So as not to spoil anything, just go ahead and give it a try. 8/10
‘Good breeding gone bad’
- Thoroughbreds (2017): In his very first movie, which Corey Finley wrote and directed, the filmmaker manages to create and capture a spectacularly tense atmosphere, vividly portrayed through the eyes and souls of two emotionally dejected youths. The atmosphere borrows articulately from Chan-wook Park’s Stoker (2013), but Finley’s characters stand out more. Amanda, a girl devoid of emotions, is sent by her mother to get tutored by Lily, an emotionally ambivalent character, with both treading deeply into dysfunctional territory. The movie wraps around your throat with the ominous delight of white privilege and a boa constrictor, without making any concessions. Might need a rewatch to promote it to ‘delight’ level, but it’s really close regardless! 8/10