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Tuesday, 2 January 2018

My favourite films of 2017 #20-11

Take the leather with you: The Villainess is full of twists and crazy action
20. Certain Women
Director: Kelly Reichardt  UK release date: 3 March
The Meek's Cutoff director presents three loosely-linked stories about the lives of four very different women, the best of which sees a naïve young Native American (Lily Gladstone) desperately trying to forge a romantic connection with Kristin Stewart's oblivious teacher. Gorgeous-looking, low-key, and poignant, just as you'd expect from director Reichardt.



19. God's Own Country
Director: Francis Lee  UK release date: 1 September
Yorkshire-set love story in which Josh O'Connor's disillusioned young farmer falls for Alec Secareanu's Romanian migrant worker. There's more mud, sex and beautifully-photographed scenery than you can shake a stick at, but it's the growing tenderness of the two men's relationship that is the real star here. Beautifully written, beautifully acted.


18. Lady Macbeth
Director: William Oldroyd  UK release date: 28 April
The title's a warning about what to expect in this merciless Victorian-set drama about a young woman (Florence Pugh) sold to a wealthy landowner as his wife. While he's away, she commences an affair with a stable-hand and, soon emboldened, her thoughts turn to darker matters. A blisteringly bleak meditation on class, race and sex, based on Nikolai Leskov's 1865 novella.


17. City Of Ghosts
Director: Matthew Heineman  UK release date: 21 July
Cartel Land director Heineman returns with another visceral, eye-opening documentary, this time focusing on citizen journalists in the Syrian city of Raqqa, which was seized by ISIS in 2013. It's horrifying and inspiring by turn, our band of journos risking life and limb (quite literally) to bring the world news from inside the city, as ISIS strengthen their grip on its populace and infrastructure.


16. The Villainess
Director: Byung-gil Jung  UK release date: 15 September
Cracking revenge thriller from South Korea that doubles as the year's maddest action film. A twisty plot sees assassin Sook-hee (Ok-bin Kim) on the trail of the man who murdered her father, but it's the film's numerous action scenes that remain in the memory, particularly the climactic chase and confrontation on a fast-moving bus.


15. I Am Not Your Negro
Director: Raoul Peck  UK release date: 7 April
Narrated by Samuel L Jackson, Peck's documentary about black novelist, playwright, poet and activist James Baldwin focusses mainly on an unfinished book featuring his memories of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. "The story of the negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story," writes Baldwin. Peck shows us how and why that story hasn't got any prettier.


14. The Levelling
Director: Hope Dickson Leach  UK release date: 12 May
Compellingly dark British drama about a young woman (Ellie Kendrick) returning to her family's farm following the suicide of her younger brother. Director Leach conjures an atmosphere of dread and claustrophobia in which grief is a palpable ingredient. These are helpless people caught in life's vicious crosshairs. David Troughton – as shattered patriarch Aubrey – is immense.


13. A Ghost Story
Director: David Lowery  UK release: 11 August
There's rather more to Pete's Dragon director Lowery's film than Rooney Mara's famous pie-eating scene and Casey Affleck dressed in a white sheet. It's actually a powerful, poetic exploration of love, grief and the impermanence of life. We die but the world keeps turning, our loved ones move on, our legacy is small and soon fades. Rarely has so harsh a notion been so elegantly expressed.


12. Mudbound
Director: Dee Rees  UK release date: 17 November
A boldly ambitious and all-too-resonant tale of two American families – one white, one black – in the years before, during and after WWII. Despite its large cast and multiple narrators, Rees' film is perfectly paced, with the climactic melodrama and its fallout providing scenes both memorable and horrifying. Breaking Bad's Jonathan Banks, as racist patriarch Pappy, is the personification of toxic hatred.


11. On Body And Soul
Director: IIdiko Enyedi  UK release date: 22 September
Unconventional love story in which two abattoir workers – Géza Morcsányi and Alexandra Borbély – share dreams of being together in an Eden-like forest as deer, and slowly grow closer in the real world too. You quickly come to care about Enyedi's characters, especially lonely, vulnerable Maria (Borbély), whilst marvelling at the sheer chutzpah of the film's setting and storytelling.


**Next up: The countdown concludes with #10-1**

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