1. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR | Dir: Abdellatif Kechiche
Read my review here. Regarding the ending, I’ve warmed up to it a lot. I originally felt that it tried to imply too much regarding Adele’s future (her final chapter) after the previous three hours were so delightfully capricious, but I’ve come to appreciate its metaphorical nature. Adele physically turns a corner, walking away from us and Emma, released from our close-up grasp on her. That’s a pleasing conclusion for me, although any conclusion to looking at Exarchopoulos’ face can hardly be pleasing.
2. BEFORE MIDNIGHT | Dir: Richard Linklater
Don’t kid yourself, we all knew that Jesse didn’t make that plane in 2004. What we didn’t know were the repercussions of this on Celine, Jesse, their impending relationship and that of Jesse’s family in America. We hope that every day of the following nine years were filled with the romanticism and delectable sparkle their previous encounters treated us to, but things are more difficult than we would like for our favourite couple as they try to maintain their connection. Journeying from the impulsive youthfulness of Sunrise and the sentimental reunion in Sunset comes the harsh reality of elaborate expectations. This installment has all the free flowing, naturalistic and philosophical conversations we adore but with added comedy and darker tenderness to the relationship. It’s a remarkable achievement by Linklater to maintain such consistency with three films so similar yet profoundly evolutionary. He and his two stars are so in touch with these characters that in 2022 I have no doubt that if we’re treated to another daily glimpse into Jesse and Celine we’ll see a film which adds many more wonderful contours to this proverbial odyssey through life.
A thrill to watch and a thrill to remember. Blending mood and character-driven storytelling, this is a lusciously slow burning Southern drama on the adolescent discovery of love and the desperate need to maintain a belief in it. McConaughey is simply on the top of his game riding a wave of monumental performances. A great way to have spent my birthday!
4. NEBRASKA | Dir: Alexander Payne
Read my review here.
5. FRANCES HA | Dir: Noah Baumbach
While my heart is admittedly too susceptible to quirky black and white indie comedies, Frances Ha is an absolute charmer with successful Woody Allen overtones and the effortlessly loveable Greta Gerwig that Baumbach has finally ticked all the boxes with. In a very congested and easily tedious genre he’s created something with genuine emotional resonance, ingenuity and super duper hipness. It continues to educate, amuse and endear with multiple views.
6. BLUE JASMINE | Dir: Woody Allen
I still really need a girlfriend. Also, read my review here.
7. THIS IS MARTIN BONNER | Dir: Chad Hartigan
If this had the running length of Blue is the Warmest Color, I have no doubt it would replace it in my top spot. It felt like there was eternal enjoyment to derive from the insights into the lives of these two characters as they adjust to their circumstantial changes and seek new purpose. Propelled by brilliantly nuanced performances and a naturalistic aura, it’s a film about ordinary people with extraordinary loveliness that unfortunately feels a little too modest and slender.
8. MISTER JOHN | Dir: Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy
The second feature from the writer/director duo is a terrific Michelangelo Antonioni-inspired character study on identity that gives Aiden Gillen a platform to deliver his best ever work. What some viewers at EIFF found boring and slow, I found as alluring as Gerry for escaping and taking on the life of his deceased brother. It’s a largely relatable idea told with humour and mystery that both tickles and plagues.
9. WHAT MAISIE KNEW | Dir: Scott McGehee
I was pretty certain about this being my favourite film of the the year for several months (along with Smashed, before I realised it was actually released in late 2012). It’s definitely a great film that stirs and impresses but McGehee presents the story in such a manner that makes it inaccurately come off like a even greater documentary. The nature of the parental transformation in Maisie’s life leading to her despair and loneliness is profoundly touching but the same problems at the beginning of the film are there at its conclusion, leaving the brighter ending feeling slightly deceitful. Still, Steve Coogan distances himself from his one-note comedic notoriety (as he has all year outside of a disappointing return to Alan Partridge) with a very satisfying performance and Julianne Moore is peach perfect as always.
10. THE SESSIONS | Dir: Ben Lewin
Middle aged man in an iron lung seeks to lose his virginity with the assistance of his priest and therapist. What sounds like a very bad American Pie knock-off is actually a really touching and uplifting comedy on a sensitive autobiographical subject. It’s narrative is fairly formulaic but its heart is huge. And I have to correct myself – terrific leading performances! Hunt and Hawkes do completely different things extraordinarily effectively. I proudly have a poster of this adorning my bedroom wall.
I also highly enjoyed watching The Impossible, Populaire, Shooting Bigfoot, Stoker(1) (2), Magic Magic, A Story of Children and Film(1) (2), The Place Beyond the Pines(1) (2) (3) (4), Compliance, C.O.G., We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, Monsters University, Trance(1) (2) (3), Svengali, Star Trek: Into Darkness(1) (2), I Am Breathing, Die Welt, Don John(1) (review), Oh Boy, The Sea, and A Long Way From Home.
All films based on UK release dates. Anything noteworthy that I’ve not mentioned has probably escaped my viewing…probably. Interesting to look back at my original reactions to films over the year. A lot weren’t included here due to souring while others grew in appreciation with more consideration.
Do you disagree vehemently with my picks? Did I unforgivably miss out on anything? What were your favourites from the past year?