2015 – The Year in Films – August & September

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50: The Prestige – In which Christopher Nolan makes his best film ever. Christian Bale is, as per usual, fantastic and Hugh Jackman is cast to perfection as the showman who hasn’t got as much show as he’d like. The Prestige feels like a wonderful cinematic treat and on what is perhaps the fourth viewing, the magic is still very much there.

51: The Squid and the Whale – As films about dysfunctional family break-ups go, The Squid and the Whale is among the more toxic. Jeff Daniels is suitably vile as a husband who finds his fame in and out of the household is fading, while his wife, played by Laura Linney, is finding her feet as a writer. Jesse Eisenberg plays a son without any ideas of his own, parroting whatever his dad says. It renders him a detestable soul but perhaps the most interesting person in the film as you can so clearly see how the negative family life is ruining his own chances of ever growing up to be a good person. The script is at times vicious and a reminder that break ups are hard, and everyone’s best intention to be the bigger person in a break up is veneer-thin. If you watch this and think there are similarities with your own life, run.

52: Myth of the American Sleepover – Clearly, It Follows is one of the gems of 2015, and in the debut film by David Robert Mitchell, you see his style developing. The plotlines that don’t really go anywhere, because they don’t have to, they’re here. Young people that may be on multiple medications that make them bleary, yup. The film revolves around a bunch of parties – some wild, some not – and a cast of teens that sorta, wanna, y’know, make out and stuff. It is in these moments, these parties, where we grow up and find out who we are. There are fallings out, unrequited loves and it’s all more important than anything else, for a moment. And then the moment is gone. This film captures some of those moments and does so beautifully. It is wonderful to see a director come along who seems to have such a pronounced style that he could immediately be described as an auteur. A marvellous thing indeed.

53: Volver – I’m drawn back to the films of Almodovar often, for the style, the stories and that chance to slip into his world that is as full of madness as it is heart. If All About My Mother, Talk to Her and Bad Education could be seen as one distinct trilogy, then Volver, Broken Embraces and The Skin I live in is the next cycle. From Volver onwards the same themes are in play – women, betrayals, visitors from the past – but there is a renewed sense of purpose here that really appeals to me and the central characters are all compelling. It helps that Penelope Cruz’s performance here is a perfect blend of woman on the verge and strong mum who will do anything for her daughter. Volver is among my favourite films for the use of colour. Here, Red is used repeatedly and the whole film is steeped in glorious technicolour. The story twists and turns, leaving a dead body a mere side note in a film that is really about the interaction between women and it’s all the better for it.

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