So now that the winners have been announced, the red carpets rolled up and much needed sleep caught up on after a whirlwind of screenings over 12 days at the London Film Festival, Team DN have put our heads together to decide on the ten feature films which most took our collective breath away this year.
Holiday – Isabella Eklöf
With a hefty 11 shorts under her belt Swedish filmmaker, Isabella Eklöf takes a feature length jaunt to the Turkish Riviera for a getaway which despite its luxurious trappings is far from carefree. Starring newcomer Victoria Carmen Sonne as Sascha, a Danish gangster’s trophy girlfriend learning the rules of her new lifestyle by trial and violence punctuated error, Eklöf’s debut is an assured and at times disturbingly unflinching exploration of the damaging appeal of unchecked male power. [MarBelle]
Border (Gräns) – Ali Abbasi
Winner of the Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes this year, I’d purposefully avoided reading anything about Ali Abbasi’s Swedish feature in the hope that I’d get to see it on the big screen this year. A raw, uncompromising fantasy about isolation and loneliness, the film follows a border guard as she struggles to look for a connection in a world she doesn’t quite understand. Expect a few surprises, and one of the best sex scenes you’re likely to witness in cinema, along the way. [Rob]
The Kindergarten Teacher – Sara Colangelo
Maggie Gyllenhaal gives an honest and unfeigned performance as a fascinating anti-heroine in this tender tale of loneliness and the cultivation of genius in today’s society. Taut with psychological complexity, the film forces us to walk a tightrope through unsettling pathways.
Nancy – Christina Choe
Playing alongside a dream cast for any first time feature director, Andrea Riseborough is Nancy, an awkward, mop haired teller of tall tales who, following the death of her domineering mother (Ann Dowd), presents herself as the long missing, believed kidnapped daughter of a grieving couple (J Smith-Cameron & Steve Buscemi) after seeing them on the news. Picking up the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance, Choe’s slow burn psychodrama is a testament to why cinema needs more stories led by complex female characters. [MarBelle]
The Guilty – Gustav Möller
BAFTA winning short Operator proved a film could take place in an emergency call-centre and still be a totally tense and captivating watch – but could the format survive the conversion to the longer duration of a feature? The answer (IMHO) is yes – as Gustav Möller’s debut thriller proves. Boasting a tight run-time and a taut plot, Möller’s film (which won audience awards at Sundance & Rotterdam film festivals) will have viewers on the edge of their seats as his twisting tale follows a police officer on the end of an emergency call from a kidnapped woman. [Rob]
Florianopolis Dream (Sueño Florianópolis) – Ana Katz
Ana Katz has cleverly crafted a feature revealing the reality of living as the wife in a failing marriage and the mother of two teenagers. Ana’s depiction of family dynamics as they take a somewhat forced holiday is not only tenderly told but is wrapped in a cloak of comedic value.
Utøya: July 22 – Erik Poppe
In an emotionally devastating 72 minute single shot Norwegian director Erik Poppe recreates the harrowing massacre by a right wing extremist on the Norway Island of Utøya which claimed the lives of 69 youths and left 110 injured. Written from a mixture of testimonies, known facts and close collaboration with survivors, Poppe’s film is a rightfully harrowing experience, purposely rooted in the perspective of the victims whose experiences are all too often overshadowed by profiles of their attacker. [MarBelle]
The Raft (Flotten) – Marcus Lindeen
Before Big Brother came along and turned social experiments into mindless TV for the masses, Mexican anthropologist Santiago Genovés decided to conduct his own research into the societal behaviour by taking 11 strangers and setting them adrift on a small raft in the Atlantic ocean. With the experiment revisited through archive footage and interviews (cleverly shot on a reconstructed craft in a studio) with the surviving crew members from 1973, this an emotive, insightful look into the human psyche that has some surprising conclusions. [Rob]
Untied Skates – Dyana Winkler & Tina Brown
Roller skating has played a huge part in African American history; connecting communities and bonding families together with customised skates and bright lights, while giving rise to some of the most successful artists of our time namely Dr. Dre, Queen Latifa and Salt n Pepper. Alarmingly, as with so many things throughout modern history, a pervasive desire for segregation rather than integrate from white skaters and rink owners sees establishments close down and black skaters barred, risking the extinguishing of this thriving, community recreation.
Ray & Liz – Richard Billingham
Photographer and artist Richard Billingham mines his childhood for an amazingly personal depiction of life in the Black Country at the lower end of the economic scale during Thatcher’s Britain. As the title suggests, the film focusses on his alcoholic father Ray and chain smoking, battleaxe mother Liz and is a hard, yet relatable (especially for anyone raised on an estate) portrayal of the insidious effects of austerity on family life. [MarBelle]