Call Me By Your Name – Directed by Luca Guadagnino
It’s a bold statement echoed by its’ fans; this film truly is one of the most beautiful films ever made. Based on the novel written by Andre Aciman, Call Me By Your Name was adapted for the big screen by James Ivory and directed by the incredible Luca Guadagnino.
It is ultimately a sexual awakening, coming of age story set in the summer of ’83, taking place in a tiny Northern Italian village, Guadagnino’s hometown of Crema. It explores the visceral longing of first love between it’s characters Oliver and Elio, and manages to escape all of it’s genre trappings in the portrayal of a deep connection between two lovers.
Shot on 35mm film, Guadagnino draws inspiration from his own teenage experiences with love to deliver a ravishment of the senses, in this tenderly relatable story. The entire film is the epitome of sensuality, exciting the deep desire of first love, in exquisite simplicity.
The fact that it is a ‘gay’ film feels to be irrelevant in this beautifully human story, demonstrating that one does not have to identity as LGBT, to be entirely immersed and mesmerised by the films sophisticated sensuality. Amongst all of this, it manages to deliver, undeniably, one of the most astonishing film monologues in modern cinema.
Partnered with an exceptional soundtrack, the film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Chalamet), and Best Original Song, winning the title of Best Original Screenplay at the 90th Academy Awards. An erotic triumph, Luca Guadagnino adds another stunning, desire-laden film to his illustrious career.
Three Billboards Outside Epping Missouri – Directed by Martin Donagh
Written, Produced and Directed by Martin McDonagh, and staring the formidable Frances McDormand, Three Billboards delivers one hell of a powerhouse punch.
The film follows Mildred (Best Actress Winner Frances McDormand), a mother fuelled by guilt and grief, after the brutal rape and murder of her daughter. The unsolved investigation drives Mildred to rent three billboards on a quiet street outside of her small town.
Her three simple messages targeting the local Police Chief (played by Woody Harrison) prompt him to take action, and for the small town to take notice. This sets the stage for a battle between the overall-laden grieving mum, and her worthy rival in the no-nonsense family man, Chief Willoughby.
McDonagh’s ability to throw the audience into a high-intensity, internal battle is profound, making you work some serious ethical and moral muscles you didn’t know you had. You are continually forced to interrogate your own personal reactions to the film – what you’re laughing at and why – in this blisteringly foul-mouthed, wickedly funny and painfully real exploration of rage, grief and injustice.
This film is supposed to hurt, and McDonagh lets no-one off the hook in his uncompromising story of patriarchal conspiracy, damnation and redemption. He executes a wonderfully rich, complex story colliding with surprisingly tender and hilarious moments, and ultimately, the possibility of forgiveness. It’s unmissable.
The Shape of Water – Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Not without controversy, it is well known and extremely rare that science fiction films are given awards of the highest honors, but this truly speaks to del Toro’s enormous talent, in his depiction of this other-worldly fairy tale.
The film is a romantic fantasy drama set in Baltimore, against the Cold War backdrop in 1962. Following a mute custodian at a high-security laboratory run by the government, we watch her fall in love with an amphibious god-like creature at the facility.
It is as weird as it sounds, but more so, a visually stunning, wildly surprising, and passionately inclusive film, that is more than deserving of it’s impressive list of recent accolades.
Del Toro playfully dances with some of his favourite themes, posing the question ‘what if the monster gets the girl?’ while delivering an experience unlike audiences have seen before. The Director pushes you to question true connection, as he submerges the viewer into an adventure that’s part sci fi, part romantic tale, and part Cold War thriller.
Lady Bird – Directed by Great Gerwig
Making her directorial debut in this beautifully observed comedy-drama, Greta Gerwig delivers a semi-autobiographical portrayal of teenage angst, in this refreshingly female-focused coming of age story.
It centers around the unself-conscious conviction of a teenage girl, who with spirited narcissism, self titles herself ‘Lady Bird’. Not only is the film a self proclaimed love letter to Gerwig’s hometown, the true heart of the film lies in the depiction of the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother (played by Laurie Metcalf).
More so, it focuses on the space that exists between the two women. The disconnect and failed communication between the mother and daughter is raw, funny, cruel and tender. Gerwig reveals this space in a confronting, beautiful way, and is successful in piercing the fragility of that crucial relationship – something few films have been able to achieve.
Gerwig’s prolific presence is felt throughout the film, reflecting the awkward struggle of teenage transition, while casting a light on Lady Bird’s acute sense of societal class anxiety, and the financial pressure felt by her family.
Gerwig has an extraordinary ability to create rich emotional environments for women (she wrote the exceptional Frances Ha), and this skill is apparent once again in Lady Bird, earning her a nomination for Best Director at the 2018 Academy Awards.
Dunkirk – Directed by Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan needs no introduction and his though his latest film was met with usual controversy as well as critical acclaim, he delivered a visceral, powerful account of war in Dunkirk.
The film follows a historic evacuation, which saw the rescue of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other allied soldiers from the French seaport of Dunkirk in mid-1940.
The film is presented in non-chronological narrative, a signature theme in Nolan’s film, and focuses on three different viewpoints rather than a singular protagonist – and it’s an assault on the senses.
The film opens by dropping you in the midst of the action and leaves you there, unrelenting, and without pause for a breath. With very limited dialogue, it’s an onslaught of continuous nail-biting, large-scale scenes, against a very powerful, anxiety inducing, and gruelling score.
It’s a brutally overwhelming, sensory experience, and was shown in cinemas on a wide-scale format for greater impact. The film is by far Nolan’s strongest work. To watch Dunkirk is to feel beleaguered, and though it’s something to endure, it is an incredible piece of filmmaking.