6. Captain Fantastic (2016)
Written and Directed by Matt Ross, Captain Fantastic takes the audience on a journey of self-discovery and self-reflection. Viggo Mortensen stars as Ben, the father of a family who have gone completely off the grid, as they live in the wilderness of the Pacific North West. He has six children, ranging from ages 7-18 and has taught them to be completely self-sufficient. He takes his kids hunting and puts them through gruelling physical activities to get their bodies into a perfect physical condition. They also read complex idealistic books of Marxism to promote philosophical thought, providing the children with intelligence beyond their years. However, it becomes apparent that when they take a trip into suburban America, that these children are completely inept on a social level and the movies poses the question whether it was right to raise them in this way.
The film has a constant battle of tone, which works really well. The consistent shift of light and dark allows the audience to make up, in their own mind, whether what this father is doing is actually acceptable. This is expressed very well when the family meets their relatives who have grown up as ‘typical’ Americans. They think what Ben is doing is actually harmful to these children and they make a lot of clear and relevant points, forcing the audience to see another point of view. However, it is also very apparent that Ben’s children are for more gifted intellectually than the children of the relatives, adding another aspect to this film. The movie is regularly thought provoking.
The production design allows the audience to believe in their world and believe what they are seeing could be real life. Without the realistic aspect to the movie, audiences may find this film a bit silly. However, the performances and the way it’s directed allows the audience to be fully immersed into the movie and all these elements make for an extremely interesting watch.
7. Pride (2014)
Based on a true story, this movie gives the audience an insight into the common foes that members of a London based LGBTQ+ group faced when they lend their support to group of striking Miners in Wales in 1984. This is a British film directed by Matthew Warchus and has a great cast. The movie gives us a joyful and uplifting depiction of what was a very dark time in British history, especially for people of the mining communities and the consistent homophobia directed towards members of LGBT groups.
The movie is hilarious and the way it is able to take these complex subject matters and apply comedy into the movie, works supremely well. What allows this movie to work so brilliantly is the fantastic performances. Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix) plays Hefina Headon and gives a show stealing representation of her character. Ben Schnetzer (Warcraft) plays Mark Ashton and he is a fairly unknown actor, but gives a superb presentation of his character and is the movie’s lead protagonist. This film has many well respected actors, but also provides roles for more unidentified talent, which pays off, as it gives some real grit to the movie.
This film does not try to be anything other than what it is and gives a really enjoyable depiction of history. Culturally, it depicts two vastly different groups coming together against a society that oppresses them. It brings to life, in such a vibrant way, an aspect of British history that is not universally explored. Thus for many people who know little about the struggles of the Miners and the abuse LGBT communities went through, it provides a powerful insight into this time. It’s bright and witty and moves you in a way that is truly difficult to do in film.
8. The Lobster (2015)
This social satire could be one of the strangest indie movies of recent times but it is thoroughly enjoyable. The Lobster is an extremely original film and one that shows expert direction from Yargos Lanthimos. In a dystopian society, residents of a hotel must find a partner in 45 days or they will be transformed into an animal of their choosing. For anyone who has not watched Lanthimos’s films then you may be quite surprised in what you see. In this world it is obligatory for people to be in a relationship and this satire stretches this ordinary occurrence as far as it can go. The Lobster is a mix between a sci-fi and a dark comedy and was nominated in the 89th Academy Awards for Original Screenplay.
It’s asking us as the audience what do we actually get from relationships and allows us to question all aspects of being with a partner. It isn’t just the people who live in the hotel that have rules, but there are also a group called “the loners”. They are people who do not find anyone attractive and have their own rules of interaction, and like the hotel, they are very strict in enforcing these rules.
It’s often really funny with a lot of understated, hilarious moments of dark comedy. Each character seems to be devoid of feelings and seems wooden, which makes for some hilarious moments. It has a superior cast which bring to life this absurd world, with Colin Farrell giving one of his best, comedic performances. But intertwined with the comedy is this sense of dread and horror through the film and these themes are expertly interwoven together. It makes uses of some stunning scenery and has this eerie storytelling feel to the movie.
9. American Honey (2016)
This movie is written and directed by Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights), and follows an eighteen-year-old woman who has a troubled background, as she runs away with a traveling sales crew in search of self-discovery. This is Sasha Lane’s first acting performances and plays the lead character and she was actually discovered by Arnold on a beach in Florida. In joining the crew, they go door to door selling magazines to people which Star (Lane), does not enjoy at first. However, the audience begin to see her start to fully let go as she gets more involved in the groups lifestyle as the movie depicts law-bending citizens and young love.
This is a tangible and lively movie that feels increasingly realistic and gritty. Like many of the indie movies in this list, realism plays a huge role and that comes through in the acting. All of the actors are really brilliant, Riley Keough is superb and Shia LaBeouf gives one of his best performances to date. However, for Sasha Lane to play the main protagonist, in her first acting role, she deserves a lot of credit for the realism she brought to the role.
In typical Arnold fashion, the cinematography and the way it’s shot is fantastic. Shot in the 4:3 aspect ratio by Robbie Ryan, he still manages to make the film feel big and tall, even though the film is made using a narrower frame. It’s a rare quality to have and allows such beautiful shots of the sky and an amazing use of colour palette. The film represents some real beauty of the urban life that these characters live in and it’s aesthetically beautiful. Arnold shows off all her skills in this movie, which at times is so realistic, it feels as if you’re watching a documentary.
10. Krisha (2015)
This is the second instalment, in this list, for Trey Edward Shults and this was his feature-length directorial debut. It stars Krisha Fairchild, who actually plays a character called Krisha, as she goes to visit her family that she has closed herself off from. Everyone is really excited to see her but as time goes on, old tensions and prior instances to start to play a factor, as all hell starts to break loose. Also, much of the cast in this movie are actually relatives of Shults and Krisha is his real life aunt.
This movie increasingly wants to make the audience feel uncomfortable. The family members consistently talk over each other and that creates very unnerving scenes, where we do not know where the movie is taking us. It feels really raw, as many of the actors have had no prior experience in cinema and that adds a really different dynamic to the movie. Like some of the other films, it has a documentary type feeling to the film.
Shults really shows off the diverse ideas he has for camerawork, as there are some stunning visuals. Like Waves, the camera feels very organic and it doesn’t feel as if it is fixated in one place. There are a lot of elements in Krisha, that can be seen in Shults’s more recent films. This has a psychologic thriller feel to it, but in the setting of a family home. With Krisha Fairchild, brilliantly capturing her character’s internal demons and how she is trying to control them.