Thursday 9 July 2015

My top 20 films of the year... so far (Part #2)

Numbers 10-1 on the countdown of my favourite UK cinema releases (January 1-June 30)...

10. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief 
(Director: Alex Gibney UK release date: June 23)
This enthralling and forensic take down of the L Ron Hubbard-founded religion cult is a real eye-opener from which Tom Cruise ("the nicest man in the world", according to TV's Graham Norton) does not emerge well.

9. It Follows
(Director: David Robert Mitchell UK release date: February 27)

It might owe a debt or two to John Carpenter, but Mitchell's second feature is a genuinely unsettling horror with a single, brilliant idea at its core. The director is mostly concerned with conjuring an oppressive atmosphere but when the scares arrive they don't disappoint.

8. Appropriate Behaviour
(Director: Desiree Akhavan UK release date: March 6)

Hilarious relationship comedy/drama following the travails of a bisexual Iranian woman in New York. First-time writer/director Akhavan delivers razor-sharp one-liners, one after the other, like her life depends on it.

7. White Bird in a Blizzard
(Director: Gregg Araki UK release date: March 6)

Criminally-underrated coming of age/missing person drama which boasts a sharp script and terrific performances from Shailene Woodley (below) and Eva Green. Perhaps not quite as essential as Araki's wonderful Mysterious Skin but certainly in the same ballpark.

6. Girlhood
(Director: Celine Sciamma UK release date: May 8)

Excellent French-language drama set in and around a tough Parisian estate and focusing on the members of a black girl gang. Karidja Touré is splendid as Marieme, a strong, determined and resourceful young woman who simply refuses to buckle under the weight of a difficult life. 

5. A Most Violent Year
(Director: JC Chandor UK release date: January 23)

A moody, slow-burning crime drama from Chandor (Margin CallAll is Lost) that somehow makes the business of selling heating oil utterly compelling. Its leads - Jessica Chastain and the ubiquitous Oscar Isaac - are both superb.

4. Whiplash
(Director: Damien Chazelle UK release date: January 16)

Abusive music teacher Terence Fletcher (Oscar winner JK Simmons, below) pushes talented young musician Miles Teller to the edge in a punishing drama. Who knew the world of jazz drumming could be so brutal or so entertaining?

3. Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
(Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu UK release date: January 1)

A great big strutting peacock of a movie that puts the satirical boot into actors, acting, ego, hubris and superhero franchises. Did it deserve the best picture Oscar? Who cares, it's a hoot from start to finish and Michael Keaton (pictured, top of page) has never been better.

2. The Look of Silence
(Director: Joshua Oppenheimer UK release date: June 12)

Jaw-dropping follow-up to The Act of Killing, Oppenheimer’s documentary about the 1965 Indonesian genocide of alleged communists. Here, the brother of one of the death squad’s victims confronts his murderers. 

Drumroll, straightens bowtie, opens envelope... and my favourite film of 2015 so far is...

1. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night 
(Director: Ana Lily Amirpour UK release date: May 22)

Utterly beguiling ‘Iranian vampire western’ that quickly transcends its influences to deliver something quite unique. Playful, funny and romantic at times it may be, but writer/director Amirpour's full-length debut never loses sight of its sinister horror edge. Superb soundtrack too.

Read my full review here.


  1. Good reviews! Despite going to the cinema this year a lot more than usual, I've only seen a few on your list. Whiplash was disturbing, but so watchable, and I fell in the love with the music. Birdman was a 'no' when I saw the previews, but whe it was nominated, that turned into a 'yes' and I loved it - especially the soundtrack.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment Kate - much appreciated. Birdman is a strange film and I understood why some people really didn't like it - they're wrong though! :-)