From the opening upside down cinematography, you sense American Animals is going to be something wildly unique. Following the contradicting accounts of the four real life members of one the strangest heists to ever occur, this crime drama weaves in and out of being a semi documentary and deliver one of the best edge of your seat rides to grace cinema screens all year.
Starting in Jamaica 1973 and taking us all the way to Hackney 10 years later, Idris Elba’s directorial debut follows D (played by the insanely impressive Aml Ameen) who grows up in the midst of a gang war in Kingston. After suffering first hand through this war, he soon becomes involved with King Fox (Sheldon Shepard), a music producer and don of Kingston. D is sent to London to finalise a drug deal, but things begin spiralling out of control and with the reappearance of his childhood love, D must choose which path he wants to walk down.
Winner of Best First Feature at this year’s Independent Spirit Awards, Ingrid Goes West was a film I really wanted to see last year. But, as is always the case with independent films, it wasn’t on at any of my local cinemas. Almost a year later, I finally managed to catch Matt Spicer’s directorial debut. I was very, very impressed.
Winner of Best Director at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Pawel Pawlikowski’s latest is a glorious love story that follows Zula (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor (Thomasz Kot), who begin a passionate relationship during the 1950’s Cold War in Poland. Due to politics, mistakes and unforseen circumstances, they are separated and reunited many times. It’s an impossible love story set during an impossible time that takes us all over Europe with a score and cinematography to die for.
Set on a family farm in France during 1915, Xavier Beauvois’ films sees the men of the family leave to go and fight whilst the women are left behind to care for the farm. When the workload gets too tough, Hortense Sandrail (Nathalie Baye) decides to hire a farmhand named Francine Riant (Iris Bry) to help during the harvest season. Once Hortense’s son returns from the war, he begins to fall in love with Francine. The Guardians is proof that there’s still life in the overused “love story during the war” trope and also tackles the impact returning from the fight has as well as articulating the strength and resolve of the women left to tend the farm perfectly.
Daniel Kokotajlo’s striking debut is a harrowing insight into the way Jehovah’s Witnesses have their lives controlled by the religion’s rules. To many people, the rules that are well known seem absolutely bizarre and cruel. Apostasy highlights many of the more unknown requirement of being a Jehovah’s Witness, only causing the film to become more and more shocking as it goes on. It’s a bold debut by Kokotajlo, with some stunning central performances.
Deborah Haywood’s debut is a remarkable look at the effects bullying can have at school and all the way through to adulthood. The phycological harm inflicted on its victims is never shyed away from and the film is unrelentingly upsetting but, more importantly, Pin Cushion feels raw, visceral and unlike anything I’ve seen for a long time.
Iona (Lily Newmark) and her mother Lyn (Joanna Scanlan) move to a new house which in turn means Iona has to start a new school. Both of them have a super close relationship to one another and because of Lyn’s hunchback, it means Iona has lived a very sheltered life, meaning she’s an easy target. Pin Cushion presents them exactly as most other films would, only it manages to not poke fun at their eccentrics and instead makes you see the best in them. One of the key elements to do with Pin Cushion’s success is down to the fact you are not only believing in the characters, but also feeling every single moment of their pain.
Netflix may get a lot of stick for releasing generic rubbish, but I really think ‘Cargo’ would’ve struggled to get funding or a wide release through any other studio. For one, it’s a zombie film with a real lack of action, instead focusing on the harrowing task of survival. Setting it in an empty Australia as well as having an indigenous tribes involved may have put studios off as it’s very different from any zombie film that’s fine before. But, as we all know, when something new comes along and works, it really stands out.
Nominated for an Academy Award but only now gracing our screens, ‘The Breadwinner’ follows the remarkable story of Parvana who disguises herself as a boy to help provide for her family when her Father is captured by the Taliban. Set during 2001 at the height of the Taliban, the film explores how women, no matter what age, were treated as nothing, to the point they couldn’t leave their own house without a male accompanying them. The film may sounds extremely harrowing, but it’s biggest strength is how the events unfold and will affect everyone emotionally, no matter of age or gender.
Aaron Sorkin has a tendency for writing great, fast talking scripts based on subjects that I tend to know jack about. ‘Steve Jobs’ and ‘The Social Network’ were two films I really didn’t think I needed in my life and both were highlights of their respective years. Now, with his directorial debut, Sorkin may have delivered his best piece of cinema yet.