It’s not really a new thing, but in 2018 drama movies seemed to have been even more buried under the never-ending pile of action blockbusters (sequels, reboots and remakes included). Apart from the music-filled “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Star Is Born” or – to a lesser extent – “First Man” or “Creed II”, drama films weren’t really a center of attention this year. Fortunately for the film buffs out there, there are still a lot of “hidden gem” dramas to discover, but getting to know about them implies doing a lot of digging around and even then you might miss some.
With this list, we tried to shine some light on ten of the best dramas of 2018 that most viewers might have missed. They’re not all obscure films, but for what it matters, they are still far from being popular. Let us know in the comments if you know other lesser-known 2018 great drama films.
Note: “The Rider” and “Lean on Pete” are two other great dramas which were at first included on this list as they had their general release in 2018. However, they are technically 2017 films as they initially premiered at film festivals from last year, so we decided to skip them.
10. The Hate U Give
Based on Angie Thomas’ bestselling young-adult novel of the same name, “The Hate U Give” follows Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), a 16-year-old black girl who lives in a poor black neighborhood, but attends a wealthy, mostly white private school. Starr’s life gets turned upside down after a party when, while driving home with her childhood best friend Khalil, she witnesses him being fatally shot by a white policeman in an unfortunate turn of events.
“The Hate U Give” touches on important topics such as institutional racism and gun violence but is at the same time an emotional coming-of-age story about a young girl who is trying to find a voice for her and her community. Amandla Stenberg’s performance as Starr Carter proves her to be one of the most promising actresses of her generation.
9. Skate Kitchen
“Skate Kitchen” follows Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), an introverted 18-year-old teenage girl from New York City who enters a group of female skateboarders.
The most impressive thing about this film is its cast: the all-female skaters group from the film are actual friends and part of a real NYC skate crew after which the film earned its name. Director Crystal Moselle took a risk with this casting choice, but “Skate Kitchen” turned out as one of the most authentic coming-of-age dramas we’ve seen in the last years.
8. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Based upon the 2012 novel of the same name, this film stars Chloë Grace Moretz as Cameron Post, an orphaned teen who is sent by her conservative aunt to a gay conversion therapy center. However, spending her time in this new community has the opposite effect on Cameron as she befriends other outcast teenagers and becomes more confident with her sexuality.
While not without its flaws, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is an LGBT drama whose hopeful vision and youthful characters manage to differentiate it from other less optimistic similarly-themed movies and a great addition to Chloë Grace Moretz’s career.
7. The Kindergarten Teacher
Based on the 2014 Israeli film of the same name, “The Kindergarten Teacher” stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as Liza Spinelli, a woman in her 40s who divides her time between teaching at a Staten Island kindergarten and taking poetry lessons in hopes of improving her mediocre writing aptitudes.
One day, Spinelli discovers that one of her students, a five-year-old boy named Jimmy, is a child prodigy with poetic skills way beyond his years. Curious about how the kid’s work would be appreciated, she decides to read his poems at her poetry class and, eager for admiration, sets herself down as their creator.
The enthusiastic response to Jimmy’s poems gets Spinelli (even more) frustrated with her middling talent, but at the same time makes her obsessed with nurturing the kid’s natural gift.
Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance is the film’s greatest strength. Her character starts off as a dull yet well-intended and likeable person but slowly veers into the creepy as she becomes more and more fixated on Jimmy and his talent. Concurrently with her character’s transformation, the film nearly evolves into a thriller but is cut short with an abrupt yet full of meaning ending.
6. Private Life
“Private Life” marks Tamara Jenkins’ return to filmmaking after an absence of over a decade (her last film, the acclaimed comedy-drama “The Savages”, was released back in 2007).
The film’s plot is simple, yet it totally draws you in. Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn play Richard and Rachel, a middle-aged New York couple who are facing fertility problems. In hopes of becoming parents, they are willing to try any possible solution, but every time something gets in the way of their dream.
Giamatti, who was Jenkins’ original choice for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character in 2007’s “The Savages”, is really charismatic in the role of the kind-hearted but overly compliant husband. Kathryn Hahn’s pretty authoritarian Rachel is maybe not an as likeable character, but her performance is nevertheless praiseworthy.
With its quirky characters and its subtle mix of family drama with more comedic moments, “Private Life” will probably remind you of Woody Allen films. However, if Allen’s last couple of films weren’t his best, we can assure you that Tamara Jenkins’ return to cinema is a great movie.