Glass onion: a mystery at loggerheads (directed by Rian Johnson)
2019’s Rian Johnson murder mystery Knives Out was a smash hit that single-handedly revived the all-star thriller onscreen. The second film in the Knives Out cinematic universe is a murderous adventure as intriguing and complex as the puzzle boxes that feature in the plot. Daniel Craig revives his hilarious turn as Southern Detective Benoit Blanc.
Decision to leave (directed by Park Chan-wook)
Korean director Park Chan-wook delighted international audiences with his adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith – retitled The Handmaiden – and now he’s back with another exquisite thriller. Decision to Leave is a sensational black widow romance, starring Chinese star Tang Wei as a mysterious woman whose husband’s body was found at the base of a well-known climbing boulder. Did he fall? Did he commit suicide? Or did his wife kill him?
Living (dir.Oliver Hermanus)
This moving drama is one of the films of the year. Director Oliver Hermanus and screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro remade Akira Kurosawa’s classic Ikiru, or To Live, about the humble civil servant dying of cancer but on a mission to cut red tape and build a children’s playground before death draws near. Bill Nighy is superb as a timid civil servant who wants his life to mean something and Aimee Lou Wood is excellent as his cheerful junior colleague Margaret.
Saint Omer (dir. Alice Diop)
Franco-Senegalese director Alice Diop has won universal acclaim as a documentary filmmaker and for her brilliant film We (We) about the diverse communities around Paris. His fictional feature debut – a no-frills courtroom drama – made waves at this year’s Venice Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize of the Silver Lion. Kayije Kagame plays Rama, a Senegalese writer and academic who attends the trial of a Senegalese woman accused of murdering her 15-month-old child – Laurence, played by Guslagie Malanga. Rama envisions some sort of story revolving around the Medea myth, but she soon realizes that her connection to the accused goes deeper than that.
After Sun (dir. Charlotte Wells)
Young British filmmaker Charlotte Wells makes an incredible debut with Aftersun, starring Paul Mescal as a divorced father taking his young daughter (9-year-old newcomer Frankie Corio) for a summer vacation to a small Turkish seaside resort. budget: a sunny break which is a kind of farewell. Wells’ film ripples and shimmers like a pool of mystery. The details pile up; the images resonate; the sweetness of the central relationship is slowly gaining importance. A quiet miracle of a movie.
All the beauty and bloodshed (director Laura Poitras)
We’re used to dysfunctional super-rich families, from the Murdochs to the fictional Roys on the TV show Estate of Jesse Armstrong. But the most bizarre clan of modern times is the Sackler family, the great American pharmaceutical dynasty, who made a staggering fortune from their addictive opioid painkiller OxyContin, turning millions into junkies, and tried to wash their mark in donating to thousands of art galleries and museums. Laura Poitras’ documentary, winner of the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival, is about photographer Nan Goldin, who became addicted to the pill and then led a campaign to hold the Sacklers to account.
Bodice (dir. Marie Kreutzer)
Here’s a fascinating film about the prominent 19th-century royal superstar: Habsburg Empress Elizabeth of Austria, or “Sissi,” played by Vicky Krieps (co-star of Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread) in this director Marie Kreutzer. The drama centers on his difficult family life in 1877, the year of his 40th birthday. It shows us her luxurious delirium of loneliness, her dissatisfaction with her husband’s infidelities, her agony when entering her bodice ordered by the patriarchy and also her defiance and her imaginary encounters with heroin and cinema.
Empire of Light (dir. Sam Mendes)
Olivia Colman gives a glorious performance in this beautifully watched new drama from Sam Mendes – a film that breathes new life into the “love letter to cinema” genre. She plays Hilary, a cinema manager in Margate in 1981, as Mrs Thatcher’s Britain slips into recession and she herself suffers from depression. His manager (Colin Firth) is a pompous bore and his life seems sad. But then a new ticket seller called Stephen (played with an emotional opening by Micheal Ward) starts working on the site and there is a connection between him and Hilary.
The Banshees of Inisherin (dir. Martin McDonagh)
A macabre comedy about male emotional stagnation, also serving as a parable for the Irish Civil War, Martin McDonagh’s latest is set on the imaginary island of Inisherin off the coast of Ireland in 1923. Colin Farrell plays Pádraic, a milkman who wants very little in life other than his friendship with Colm, played by Brendan Gleeson, whom he calls every day to come down to the pub. But then Colm simply says he doesn’t want to be friends with Pádraic anymore: an almost childish breakup that has hideous emotional consequences.
Dress of Gems (dir. Natalia López Gallardo)
Mexican-Bolivian editor-turned-director Natalia López Gallardo (who has worked with Carlos Reygadas and Lisandro Alonso) is one of the most exciting new talents in world cinema: her film is a complex, disturbing, overwhelming work: a psycho- pathological of a film, a story of crime, class and corruption in modern Mexico. An unhappy married woman has taken her two children with her to live in the abandoned villa owned by her late mother – but the maid is haunted by the disappearance of her sister, whose body may be buried in the park.
A nice morning (dir. Mia Hansen-Løve)
Léa Seydoux sparkles in this beautiful human film by Mia Hansen-Løve; she is Sandra, a single mother who works hard as an interpreter and has dedicated herself to caring for her father who has Benson Syndrome, a dementia-like neurodegenerative disorder. It will be Sandra’s responsibility to place her father in a retirement home. But when she resigns herself to emotional closure, Sandra is attracted to a married man, played by Melvil Poupaud.
White noise (dir. Noah Baumbach)
Noah Baumbach’s White Noise is a terribly stylish adaptation of Don DeLillo’s cult novel: a deadpan comedy of disaster and a sultry apocalyptic reverie based on the assumption that nothing can really go wrong… or can it? Adam Driver plays Jack, an academic with the bizarre title of Head of Hitler Studies; Don Cheadle plays Murray, his campus colleague who directs Elvis’ studies: Slavoj Žižek has nothing on these postmodernist thinkers. But Jack’s wife, Babette (Greta Gerwig), falls ill and the whole neighborhood is shaken in horror when a toxic cloud escapes from a wrecked train carrying nuclear waste: an “airborne toxic event” that brings everyone’s anxieties to the surface.