We are only halfway through 2019 and already the year has given audiences some great films in all genres. At this halfway point, many critics and publications are choosing their best and worst films of the year so far and these lists include some choices that are not at all surprising – films that have big names and studios attached to them or are the latest instalments in massive franchises.
But what about those films that take us by surprise? Whether they are documentaries, directorial debuts or films featuring lesser known actors, there are some films that aren’t as certain to appeal to audiences. So, with that being said, when these films turn out to be appealing and popular, it is all the more surprising.
Amy and Molly have worked hard throughout high school to make sure that they have an academic advantage over their peers. But on the eve of graduation they suddenly learn that they don’t have the leg up on their peers that they presumed and actually they may have missed out on all the crazy and carefree moments of their teenage years. Determined to make up for lost time, they head out to cram four years of fun into one momentous night.
Actress Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut was met with critical acclaim upon its release and marked Wilde as an upcoming director to watch. Featuring a great cast of characters that are both over the top but also incredibly relatable, Booksmart is a coming of age film that has lots of commonly used elements of the genre but somehow also manages to feel unique and original. It’s like Superbad was given an intelligent and feminist twist and it just works on every level.
A brilliant soundtrack and a cast of great up and coming actors adds to Booksmart’s appeal and leads Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are superb, inhabiting their roles flawlessly. Booksmart is one of the most fun watches of the year so far.
2. Fighting With My Family
Paige and her brother Jack come from a wrestling mad family and have grown up fighting together. When they get their dream chance to try out for the WWE, they are ecstatic. But things become tense when only Paige earns a place in the competitive training programme and Zac is left behind. Now alone in this cutthroat world, Paige must decide if she has got what it takes to succeed and become a star.
Any film with Dwayne Johnson attached to it and you can bet that it will be a film that audiences will go and see and enjoy, though it doesn’t necessarily mean that the film will be a critical hit. But in the case of Fighting With My Family, the film proved to be both enjoyable and a critical success.
Filled with heart, inspiring and an easy watch, Fighting With My Family is a crowd-pleasing film that all ages can enjoy. The film taps in to so many appealing to audience elements – the underdog story, the importance of family and the challenges and obstacles that we face in trying to achieve our dreams.
Boasting a great British cast with names such as Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Stephen Merchant and newcomer Florence Pugh, Fighting With My Family has captured the hearts of audiences and looks sure to be one of the surprise hits of the year.
3. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Based on the true story of William Kamkwamba, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind follows a thirteen-year-old boy who is devastated when he is thrown out the school he loves attending after his family can no longer afford to send him there. Sneaking into the library, he learns how to build a windmill to help his village and save them from famine.
Even without its impressive real-life roots, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a highly inspirational story. And as well as being a real life, inspirational story, it is so many other things as well – a story about survival, a story about family and a story about a father and son relationship. It also throws in the importance of eco technology and education. Overall, it speaks to so many subjects and as such has mass appeal. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a film you can watch regardless of age or circumstance.
Considering this is actor Chiwetel Ejiofor’s directorial debut, it is a very accomplished film. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind may not be incredibly unique in its storytelling and act structure, what elevates it above similar films is its attention to detail. Because the film was filmed on location, everything about it feels authentic and helps the tone of the film feel believable and the audience to feel almost as if they too are experiencing life in William’s village.
4. Knock Down the House
Knock Down the House follows four women who decide to fight back against the political system. Without any experience or money to find their campaigns, they build a movement in an attempt to challenge longstanding powerful incumbents in Congress, which leads to one of the most shocking political upsets in recent American history.
Knock Down the House currently holds the accolade of being the best film of the year so far, according to Rotten Tomatoes on which it holds a 100% rating. It is somewhat surprising that a political documentary has become one of the best films of the year, as politics is a notoriously divisive subject, for every person who finds it fascinating you seem to find two that have never even voted and declare that politics is “boring.”
Fortunately, there is nothing boring about Knock Down the House. For those who already know the outcome then it is really interesting to watch where it all started and the passion behind the campaigns. And for those not familiar with the outcome then it is compelling to see the momentum of the campaign build and wait for the results to come in.
At around ninety minutes, Knock Down the House is a well-paced film that never has time to stagnate and is an inspiring film that has mass appeal.
5. I Am Mother
Raised by Mother, a robot designed to repopulate the Earth after an extinction event, Daughter lives in an enclosed facility and has never seen another human being. With only each other for company, the pair have formed a unique bond. This bond is threatened when an injured outsider arrives and throws everything that Daughter had ever believed to be true into question.
Considering its lower budget when compared directly to its peers in the genre, I Am Mother boasts amazingly effective production design, giving audiences a slick looking set and a highly convincing sci-fi setting. Taking place in a limited number of locations allows the audience to feel utterly ensconced within this settlement with Daughter and when the tension starts to increase, this feeling is intensified because of the setting.
With limited characters, it was vital that I Am Mother was well cast and thankfully it was, with newcomer Clara Rugaard more than holding her own against Academy Award winner Hilary Swank. Together, with Rose Byrne as the robot, they are engaging enough so that the limited number of characters never matters at all. Overall, I Am Mother is certainly one of the more successful Netflix original films, not only of this year but of all time.