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The Duke of Burgundy (2014): Peter Strickland wowed me with his 2018 feature In Fabric, but his best received movie was this surreal relationship drama starring Sidse Babett Knudsen and Chiara D’Anna. The two play a pair of lovers with a tendency towards roleplay and domination, but the story really plays to the heart of what makes relationships tick and tock. The Duke of Burgundy is pretty much the poster child of esoteric filmmaking, with an esoteric couple that proves more relatable than you would expect. You can’t just dip your toes into it, you have to be willing to let it swallow you whole. Truly memorable. 9
The Killing of Two Lovers (2020): A perfectly tuned drama about a marriage close to crumbling, TKoTL captures an image of rural America that feels in touching distance. Clayne Crawford’s David is an evolution from his role in Rectify, feeding on familiar insecurities, while maintaining an unexpected balance given the state of things. It’s hard not to root for him, in spite of some obvious disfunction, as a faltering man trying to relearn what it means to be a man, a parent, a partner. How much you’ll enjoy it comes down to your squirming tendencies at the sight of awkward and uncomfortable moments. 8
Limbo (2020): An exploration of the asylum-seeker experience in Scotland – an apparent purgatory, seemingly perpetual limbo – Ben Sharrock’s movie finds both the drama and the humor to his characters’ predicament. It’s a bunch of relatable guys, some quirky to a fault, some sheltered and reserved, all looking for a better life. The rough edges of their soul-shatteringly mundane wait seem almost surreal at times, but ultimately they are inexplicably tragic. 8
Together Together (2021): A soft little movie about a guy in his 40s looking to become a single father with the help of a surrogate mother, TT tells a story of our connectedness. Ed Helms and Patti Harrison star in Nikole Beckwith’s film, and the two leads share a strong chemistry underpinned by their shy awkwardness, which makes for a compelling and likable bond. It’s all a bit too safe to be a standout, but TT proves a heartwarming and engaging take on modern parenthood. 7
Two Distant Strangers (2020): The Oscar for Best Short went to a time-loop movie with a BLM spin – Carter, a successful graphic designer, wakes up after an “overnighter” with a Perri and wants to get home to feed his dog. Only problem is he gets murdered by the police time and time again. It’s an interesting take on a familiar concept, which still leaves room for commentary and interpretation in spite of being outright blunt and, naturally, political. Not a spectacular piece of filmmaking, but one that’s very topical about present day struggles in the US. 7