And so, as the year draws to a close and as tradition demands, the time has come for me to put the films which most captured my attention down in this immutable list for all to see. Looking back over the titles below, it’s become clear that my attraction to stories of hard lives lived on the edge and distorted realities, often descending into chaos, is just as strong as it’s ever been. Fortunately for me, these seem to remain fertile grounds for many of my favourite filmmakers. It’s likely that what follows is far from the most feel good Top Ten list of 2017, unless of course we’re talking about that feel good thought of “There but for the grace of God go I”.
You Were Never Really Here, Logan, Gook, War of the Planet of the Apes, Detroit, Gemini, Winter Brothers, Quality Time, Jane, Ingrid Goes West, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, & Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
10. THELMA | Joachim Trier
More unsettling than down right terrifying , we get to sit alongside Joachim Trier’s odd duck Thelma as she discovers that her nascent abilities to shape the world to her liking are not without devastating consequences for those around her.
9. THE FLORIDA PROJECT | Sean Baker
A mother and daughter’s precarious existence as told from a child’s eye view, set against the backdrop of the land ‘Where dreams come true’. Sean Baker deftly tells what would typically be a grim and unrelenting story with a lightness which nonetheless never shies away from harsh realities of surviving on the poverty line.
8. JEUNE FEMME | Léonor Serraille
From her opening act of self-concussion, I fell head over heels for the abrasive broiling ball of anger at the centre of Léonor Serraille’s Jeune Femme. No Manic Pixie Dream Girl to be found here, but rather a woman discovering, often explosively, that the only person she needs is herself.
7. A GHOST STORY | David Lowery
A beautifully composed and considered rumination on loss, time and love, David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is so much more than the “Casey Affleck under a sheet” movie you’ve probably heard it described as.
6. A CIAMBRA | Jonas Carpignano
Casting the members of a real family living in an Italian Romani community, Jonas Carpignano’s Oscar contender A Ciambra, depicts the less than legal choices available to its 14-year-old mischief-maker as he steps into the role of bread winner after his brother’s arrest. Carpignano’s non-professional cast coupled with its verité style cinematography bring a gritty authenticity to this coming of age tale.
5. MOTHER! | Darren Aronofsky
Polarising and provocative – “Why the hell did you bring me to this?!!” being one of several remonstrations I heard hurled on the way to the foyer – Darren Aronofsky puts Jennifer Lawrence’s nurturing muse and his audience through hell as only he can.
4. RAW | Julia Ducournau
Of the many acts of violence which seem to perpetuate the films on my list year, none of them made me cringe as much as the viscerally brutal, yet intimate chomping featured in Raw. The difficulties of adjusting to life away from the familial nest, sibling relationships and burgeoning sexuality writ large through teeth on flesh.
3. THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER | Yorgos Lanthimos
I should probably just resign myself to the fact that if Yorgos Lanthimos releases a film it’s undoubtedly going to make its way onto my year end list – Dogtooth (2010), Alps (2012) & The Lobster (2015). As with the films which proceeded it, The Killing of a Sacred Deer tilts reality just so, sending its characters into a spiral of consequence which is as compelling as it is disturbing.
2. GET OUT | Jordan Peele
Hopefully putting paid to the film industry’s preconceptions as to what audiences will or won’t engage with at the cinema, Jordan Peel’s Get Out reminded us all that the horror film is the perfect stage on which to engage with society’s uncomfortable questions, whilst also triggering the fear centres of our brains. I suggest you give this one a rewatch as it’s a definitely a film which rewards repeat viewings.
1. GOOD TIME | Benny & Josh Safdie
Completely exhilarating from beginning to end, with a killer score from Oneohtrix Point Never. As I said in Jame’s LFF wrap up, “The Safdie Brothers run us through an unremitting gauntlet of bad decisions and desperate moves in this taut tale of crime and fraternal loyalty.”
Be sure to check out the rest of team DN’s 2017 Top Ten picks