6. The Light Between Oceans
The Light Between Oceans received mixed reviews upon release, with many criticising its oversentimentality. Although The Light Between Oceans does tend to tug on the heartstrings, it is a well shot, well-acted and incredibly moving film.
The film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name, and tells the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who raise a baby that they rescue from a drifting rowing boat. Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander take the lead roles, and they have great chemistry together. They both put in strong performances, with Alicia Vikander being especially noteworthy, as a mother desperate for her own child.
The film does start off slowly and takes a while to draw you in, but once it does, it is absolutely captivating and engrossing. The locations are breathtakingly beautiful, and the score fits perfectly. There are many important issues addressed in the film – bereavement, the longing for a child and morality to name a few. But ultimately it is a film about the importance of forgiveness, and the effect that it can have on your life. The impact of that message is what really stays with you after you watch it.
7. Midnight Special
This science fiction film from Director Jeff Nichols was inspired by Steven Spielberg’s E.T and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and you can see these influences when you watch it.
A father and his son are forced to go on the run, from the government and a cult, when the boy’s special abilities are brought to light. The film combines supernatural elements, with family issues and relationships. And although it is first and foremost a sci fi film, it comes down to an incredibly relatable principle – how far will a father go for his son? And would you be willing to give up a child, if it meant saving them?
There are some great central performances, Joel Egerton, Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst and Adam Driver are all brilliant. But Jaeden Lieberher is exceptional as eight-year-old Alton. He is wide eyed and innocent, yet also deeply mature and wise.
Visually the film is really engaging, the special effects are very good for an independent film, and the locations draw you in. Midnight Special is a film that doesn’t rely on exposition, it treats the audience with respect, and the mystery keeps you watching.
The story is not particularly new, but Midnight Special feels original and fresh. It is definitely a film that sci fi fans should check out.
Paterson (played by Adam Driver) is a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey, and every day he gets up and goes about his simple daily routine. In between spending time with his wife Laura, and driving his bus route, he writes down poetry in his notebook.
The synopsis for this film may not sound like it would be riveting to watch, but there is something oddly beautiful and engrossing about watching the minutiae of everyday life being played out in front of you. Paterson is a film which quietly observes and invites the audience to quietly observe too.
The pacing is slow and deliberate, and the film calmly unwinds as you watch it. Almost as if lulling you into a hypnotic trance, Paterson has a poetic and literary quality to it. Although the film has a firm base in realism, and the grind of daily life, there are some fantastical qualities to it as well.
There are repeated shapes and symbols, which are never quite explained, leaving the audience as intrigued with them as Paterson himself is. These contribute to the film’s overall visual appeal – it is shot beautifully, and there is so much to notice. Like life itself, sometimes the beauty is in the small things that we observe every day. Paterson is a film for dreamers and realists alike.
9. The Handmaiden
This South Korean thriller from Director Park Chan-wook has twists and turns aplenty and is drenched in eroticism and passion. Inspired by the novel ‘Fingersmith,’ the setting is changed from Victorian England to Japanese colonial ruled Korea. A setting which works brilliantly both narratively and visually.
The story is told in three parts and the storytelling unfolds in labyrinthine fashion. The Handmaiden is a complex maze of deception, double crosses, and battle of wills. As soon as you think that you have worked out one facet of the story, or a certain character, the rug is pulled out from under you. The same can be said for the reveals, which are continuous throughout the film.
Director Park Chan-wook’s style is incredibly distinctive. There is an element of depravity, and perverseness in this film, but the cinematography and visuals are engaging and satisfying. The film is reasonably long at 147 minutes, but you want to keep watching – sometimes in awkward disbelief, other times in shocked realisation.
Ultimately, this elaborate and disturbing tale of love and hate is a piece of pure cinema, that is sure to illicit a strong response.
10. American Honey
American Honey offers a window into life on the road for teenager Star, who has run away from her troubled home. This window feels actual, as American Honey is shot in an aspect ratio of 4:3, which gives an even more intimate view of the characters and the various scenarios they find themselves in. The close-ups appear even closer, the shots even more personal.
The narrative is sprawling, and sometimes seems directionless, but as is life when you are coming of age and learning about the world. American Honey is an homage to so many things – unconventionality, life on the road, and being young and hopeful. American Honey is also a road movie, and the audience is treated to an honest view of Middle America, its landscape, and the divides that exist there.
The cast feels like Director Andrea Arnold brought them in off the street – they feel real, and are utterly convincing as a bunch of partying, fun loving misfits, brought together by a need to be free and not tied down by responsibilities. Sasha Lane, who plays Star, is particularly magnetic and convincing. You want the best for her, you are driven mad by her, but she invokes a need in the audience for them to know her journey, and where it takes her. When the hazy, almost dreamlike quality of American Honey is done, you feel like you have been part of the ride.
Author Bio: Cara McWilliam-Richardson is a writer with a passion for films and filmmaking. She has written several screenplays, and is currently working on her first novel. Her favourite genre to write is fantasy and science fiction.