As a film geek, I probably watch at least 50 films a year. After multiple years of watching a wide range of films with genres ranging from action to romance, I’d like to offer my recommendation for a few films that I fell in love with.
Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a fiercely independent teenager, tries to make her own way in the world while wanting to get out of her hometown of Sacramento, California & to get away from her complicated mother & recently-unemployed father. It is Gerwig’s tidy pacing, vividly drawn characters (like Timothée Chalamet’s bit-part as a floppy-haired mobile phone sceptic who smokes roll-ups and “trying as much as possible not to participate in our economy”), and eye for period detail that mark her as a keen observer of the small things that make a good movie great. Her writing is alive with beautiful bon mots, but also an acute sense of class anxiety in post-9/11, pre-financial crash suburban America, with the McPherson family’s worries about Lady Bird’s tuition fees given as much screen time as her romantic exploits.
Ryan Gosling stars as a Los Angeles wheelman for hire, stunt driving for movie productions by day and steering getaway vehicles for armed heists by night. Though a loner by nature, Driver can’t help falling in love with his beautiful neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), a vulnerable young mother dragged into a dangerous underworld by the return of her ex-convict husband Standard (Oscar Isaac). If you are interested in action thrillers, Drive might be your BEST cup of tea. Gosling’s curiously high-pitched, nasal voice make him an unusually sweet-seeming avenger, even when he is stomping bad guys into bloody pulp. And Ms. Mulligan’s whispery diction has a similarly disarming effect. Irene seems like much too nice of a person to be mixed up in such nasty business. Not that she’s really mixed up in it. Her innocence is so obvious and that is a part of the reason the driver goes to such messianic lengths to protect her.
My Left Foot
No one expects much from Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis), a boy with cerebral palsy born into a working-class Irish family. Though Christy is a spastic quadriplegic and essentially paralyzed, a miraculous event occurs when, at the age of 5, he demonstrates control of his left foot by using chalk to scrawl a word on the floor. With the help of his steely mother (Brenda Fricker) — and no shortage of grit and determination — Christy overcomes his infirmity to become a painter, poet and author. As one follows the film, one would feel as if Christy’s soul has been injected into Daniel Day Lewis. With such a realistic performance, it feels as if you are watching a documentary rather than a feature film. If you are interested in theatre, especially acting, this film will give you an example of his mastery of this craft.
The Shape of Water
I watched this film on a flight to Singapore, and without the audio of a movie theatre, the beauty within the film itself was enough to move me thoroughly. Elisa is a mute, isolated woman who works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab’s classified secret: a mysterious, scaled creature from South America that lives in a water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend, she soon learns that its fate and very survival lies in the hands of a hostile government agent and a marine biologist. Guillermo del Toro’s films are often as sensuously contorted as the beasts that lurk within them, but his latest is a pretzel-twist of pure strangeness, even by his standards. Like the best bath you’ve ever had, it sends tingles coursing through every part of you that other films don’t reach.
Following the fall of apartheid, newly elected President Nelson Mandela faces a South Africa that is racially and economically divided. Believing he can unite his countrymen through the universal language of sport, Mandela joins forces with Francois Pienaar, captain of the rugby team, to rally South Africans behind a bid for the 1995 World Cup Championship. As a big fan of Damon as well as rugby (mostly American football), I was naturally drawn into the film, but once I finished it, I realized how the film was not about one actor, or the sport, but it was about a nation’s victory that sparked unity.
Derek Cianfrance’s film is a sombre, painful portrait of a toxic marriage, often touching and sometimes moving, though occasionally contrived and self-conscious in its effects. There are powerfully committed performances here from its stars and executive producers, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams; this is a movie which puts its audience in close, sometimes stifling proximity to a dying relationship. The questions it asks are important: how do relationships fail? Is there a stage at which the unhappy couple can do something, somehow change course? Or do certain relationships have fundamental bad chemistry, do they contain the seeds of their own destruction? Blue Valentine strives to paint that shadow of loneliness and fear which drives many to marriage — only to find themselves more lonely and afraid than ever.
Before the Flood
Climate change is happening. That’s a fact. The science is sound, and in July we just had the hottest month ever on record. Sea levels are rising, ice is melting, and dangerous weather patterns are becoming more and more frequent. It’s no coincidence that we’re seeing more news reports of horrible flooding and violent tornadoes at odd times of the year. But Before the Flood isn’t simply interested in showing how terrible everything is. It also does a fantastic job of highlighting solutions, both short-term and long-term. When asked if a president who doesn’t believe in climate change could undo the policies he’s already put in place, President Obama says the truth has a way of catching up with you. Before the Flood serves as a not-insignificant piece of education that will hopefully spur people to enact their own further research. Hopefully, it will incite some action.