6. Love is Strange (2013) – Ira Sachs
A quiet New York indie that received wonderful reviews and acclaim must not go away quietly as its characters. With stunning, nuanced performances by Alfred Molina and John Lithgow as a married couple forced to live apart due to financial and societal reasons, Ira Sachs makes an adult drama that is sadly forgotten in American cinema today.
As the film shows diverse settings and feelings for both characters, we see the opposing sides of all the people involved and the true dilemma of the film. How can two people love each other stand being away from each other? Well, they surely can’t as Sachs explores this notion tying in family and generational relationships, the housing market, and the shifting times of today. Sachs has explored gay relationships before, but here its simply about two people fighting and trying to stay together.
Therefore, this film is certainly not underappreciated, but with lesser films exploring similar themes but widely released or with more starts at play or more action at stake, the film has dwindled away. Let’s just not forget about this beautiful film as much the city of New York forgot about these two characters.
7. Exhibition (2013) – Joanna Hogg
A fascinating portrait of two artists, whose work is never clearly stated, trying to continue their respective life after their house is put up for sale. Joanna Hogg has explored middle to upper class British society for the betterment of her films, but here, with its static long and wide takes, we truly allowed to observe the inside of a relationship.
With non-professional actors with the exception of her muse, Tom Hiddleston, she creates a world of observance, patience, and suppressed feelings. Even after repeat viewings, the audience will need to discover more subtle connections and themes of the film.
Possibly due to the release of her recent film “The Souvenir,” the film is starting to be revisited. With her previous films exploring families in crises in the outside world, Hogg finds more comfort with the inside world because it boils down to the people. Much of the film is unspoken and left for us to decide, and that’s another reason why we must continue to appreciate this work of art.
8. Poetry (2010) – Lee Chang Dong
A film made at the start of the decade and the last for eight years before “Burning,” Lee Chang Dong’s subtle masterpiece of South Korean cinema is truly something to behold. Building off of previous narratives and the obsessive themes of outsiders in society, struggling to accept fate, and people simply trying to survive, the film explores all of the above.
Yoon Jeong-hee plays a woman struggling with Alzheimer’s disease who takes an interest in poetry while dealing with her immature grandson, which already sets up the potential poetry of the film. Without spoilers, the film certainly takes its twists and the characters truly develop an arc to a simmering finale.
However, maybe the gap between films, or since it was the start of the decade, despite much acclaim the film slowly started to settle in the filmography of Dong, South Korean films, and women-led films. Thus, the film has certainly received praise, but hopefully it continues to receive praise as standout of the decade of under-appreciation.
9. Bastards (2013) – Claire Denis
The first film (of three) of Claire Denis in this decade showed her more in control of her native with camera movement, but still invited us for an elliptical nightmare of dread and regret. Denis has famously said she “doesn’t know what her films mean.” Therefore, one can label this film a neo-noir or family drama or fever dream, but that’s possibly why critics and audiences can never truly appreciate the film at hand.
The film tells the story of man returning to Paris to find the truth behind a suicide in the family by getting close to the prime suspects. However, with minimum dialogue and emotions expressed through glances and gestures, we truly play a detective in the film as well.
With the Tindersticks score, Agnes Godard’s photography, and performances of Lindon and Mastroianni, it’s a hard film to dismiss. Despite making a lighter comedy of sorts with “Let the Sunshine In” and with sci-fi English language in “High Life,” this film deserves more attention for the craft, storytelling, and overall presentation of a master filmmaker making films the only way she can.
10. The Past (2013) – Asghar Farhadi
After the worldly-acclaimed “A Separation,” all eyes were on Farhadi’s follow up with this film. Operating outside his native Iran for the first time and in French nonetheless, “The Past” certainly delivers with family-layered dilemmas based on characters in flux, but sadly was overshadowed by the filmmaker’s previous film.
Despite glowing reviews and awards, specifically for the performance of Berenice Bejo, the film stands as one of Farhadi’s best. It tells the story of an Iranian man returning to France to give the divorce to his wife so she can marry someone new. Thus, secrets, tragedy, and drama are at the forefront of this narrative, which takes its time and place to slowly unfold. Farhadi manages to craft a drama with thriller aspects of tension simply due to the emotional states of the characters.
Maybe because it wasn’t an Iranian film or simply following “A Separation,” but the film deserves to be seen more. Especially after more acclaim with his next film, back in his native Iran nonetheless, “The Salesman,” it is quickly labeled as the European film he made between his two greatest native Iranian films. That simply isn’t the case and needs to be discussed in more depth, much like the characters here unfolding the hidden emotions themselves.