2017 has seen a great number of films released: big-budget blockbusters, sleeper hits, indie masterpieces, and (of course) a few truly terrible films. But there is only so much time in the day to watch movies, and watching new films, in particular, can end up being rather expensive.
But which films truly deserve your hard-earned money and time? After all, going into a film blind is always a dicey prospect, and–more often than not–films end up being only so-so instead of living up to one’s expectations. To help steer you in the right direction for which latest films are worth your time, here are 10 great movies from 2017 you may have missed so far this year.
1. A Ghost Story
A musician dies and finds himself as a ghost taking the form of a white sheet with two eye holes, like a low-budget Halloween costume. Instead of moving on to the afterlife, he returns to his home and watches over his grieving wife. But time moves faster for ghosts relative to the living, and soon enough the wife moves out of the house and new occupants take over.
The ghost watches their lives in the house as time moves forward at an accelerated rate. Eventually it’s the distant future and the ghost is suddenly back in the 19th century, in the same spot where his house would be built. Standing there for decades, he waits until he and his wife move into the house, where he watches their relationship play out.
A Ghost Story is a fascinating, unique film that hasn’t quite been done before. With the narrative following a mute ghost in the shape of a featureless white sheet (played by Casey Affleck) and speeding back and forth through time, A Ghost Story is a meditation on loss, love, and time. Having garnered critical acclaim and making a tidy profit at the box office, this low-budget indie is something unexpected and terrific to watch.
2. Lady Bird
Coming-of-age films are practically their own genre: stories that detail the awkward ups and downs of adolescence and growing up have been around for decades and often become variations on a theme. But Lady Bird is unique in many respects. Christine (who demands to be called Lady Bird) is a high school senior struggling with poverty and her difficult family as she tries to find a way out of her unsatisfactory situation in life.
Tinged with a bittersweet sadness, Lady Bird’s emotional core is the strained relationship between mother and daughter, who love each other but are both similarly strong-willed, coming into conflict between Lady Bird’s ambitions for her future and her mother’s realistic and even bitter realism. Portraying a poverty-stricken teenager in coming-of-age films is a rarity, Lady Bird deals with the socio-economic realities teenagers commonly find themselves in but are scarcely portrayed on-screen.
Lady Bird is actress Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut and on her first try she made one of the most memorable films of the year. With a winning performance by Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird and Laurie Metcalf as her mother, and featuring bracing scenes of drama that highlight the strain economic circumstances can put on a family’s relationships with each other, Lady Bird is a coming-of-age drama unlike any other before.
Starting in 1939, Mudbound is the story of two men—one white, one black—and their experiences before, during, and after World War II in rural Mississippi. While in Europe during the war, Ronsel Jackson appreciates how he is treated as an equal by the white population, while Jamie suffers from PTSD from battle.
Upon returning home, Ronsel is disgusted by how he’s treated as a second-class citizen once again while Jamie struggles to readjust to life, becoming an alcoholic in the process. He and Ronsel become friends, which displeases Jamie’s racist father, while Ronsel learns his girlfriend in Germany has given birth to their child. These events culminate in both tragedy and release.
Mudbound is a detailed snapshot of a particular period in American history, the post-WWII South, where returning black soldiers found themselves facing the same discrimination and hatred they had left behind, only now with the experience of being treated as an equal in wartime Europe. Well-acted and directed with first-rate finesse, Mudbound is a drama that uncovers some unsettling truths of recent American history that most would rather forget entirely.
4. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
A cardiac surgeon develops a mentor-like role to Martin, a troubled young man whose father had died a few years before. Although the surgeon does not know much about the boy, he seems driven to help him in some way.
As Martin becomes more familiar with the surgeon’s family, including beginning to date his daughter, the members of the family all begin to suffer from odd symptoms, including losing their ability to use their legs and suddenly being unable to ingest food. Martin then reveals that his father died during surgery that the surgeon had performed on him, and that the surgeon must choose one of his family members to die to “balance” things out. This leads to the disintegration of the family as the choice is made.
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, whose previous films Dogtooth and The Lobster had placed him firmly as the lead director in the “weird wave” of Greek cinema, The Killing of a Sacred Deer continues to follow the director’s idiosyncratic style, with the family suffering from some sort of degenerative curse that’s put on them and the extreme choice the surgeon father has to make to save the rest of his family.
The film’s odd style, which includes strange patterns of speech and the series of bargains and transactions that the characters communicate through, is unnerving, which is appropriate for one of the most unnerving films of the year.
5. God’s Own Country
Johnny is a young man that works his family’s farm in Yorkshire, England. With his friends away at university, he has little to do but work, drink at the local pub, and engage in random sexual encounters. But this all changes when his family hires extra help for the upcoming lambing season and a Romanian man named Gheorghe comes to work on the farm. The two strike up a romance, with Gheorghe breaking down the emotional walls Johnny had built up around him. However, Johnny’s father doesn’t approve of the relationship, and Johnny is also conflicted at the prospect of love in his life.
God’s Own Country was the only UK-based film represented in the world drama category at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and it’s one of the year’s finest films. Quiet and meditative, God’s Own Country takes its time detailing loneliness and intimacy, creating a moving film and–a relationship worth giving a damn about to watch–in the process.