5. Julia (2008)
Due to her artistic vein, Swinton often chooses to act in smaller projects or roles. That’s what happened in “Julia” and that’s why this film is so unknown for some.
In summary, the film is a one-actress show, providing Swinton with an opportunity to demonstrate all her skills with a character that passes by several mutations during the narrative, where a range of emotions are explored and an anti-heroine snatches our attention. The story is highly associated with Bukowski’s writing and that “lowlife” character helped Swinton deliver a memorable performance.
The British actress likes to move between blockbusters and more independent films, and that was visible during this phase of her career; she made “The Chronicles of Narnia”, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Burn after Reading” and “Julia” (the smaller film) in 2008.
Regardless, “Julia” is the perfect example of a role no one would want, but that pays off if the actress has the attributes to do it, as it’s the case of Swinton. She was nominated for Best Actress at several film festivals and won considerable prizes.
4. Michael Clayton (2007)
Having been nominated for seven Oscars, this film needs no presentation. Even so, the film by Tony Gilroy, who is mostly known as a screenwriter, was one of the biggest deception at the 2008 ceremony, winning only in Best Supporting Actress for Swinton’s performance.
After beating her strong competition – the amazing Cate Blanchett was also nominated – Swinton was very surprised and, in her chill-out posture, gave one of the most relaxed speeches of the night, and even said she would give the prize to her American agent.
Today, the topic of the Oscars and Swinton remains a bit controversial, as she was nominated only once and her fans claim she deserves more. Her role in “Michael Clayton” is mostly based on dialogue and shows a polite, charismatic and contained woman who overly values appearances.
It was a completely different role from everything she had done earlier in her career, and it consequently forced her to be a more “common” person on set. Karen Crowder is the type of woman who does everything to achieve her goals and cares more about other’s opinions than herself.
3. Snowpiercer (2013)
“Snowpiercer” is a dystopian film directed by Joon-ho Bong and produced by Chan-wook Park, two of the greatest names in South Korean cinema.
The role Swinton performs was originally for a male character, but Bong changed it from head to toe when he knew Swinton was interested. After more than two hours of makeup, Swinton was ready to give life to Mason, a very energetic and bizarre creature. By the way, this is kind of a perfect role for her, as it offers a certain artful type of acting that is very present in Swinton’s acting repertoire. She’s totally comfortable doing this.
Like “The Road”, this is a picture that evokes despair, disgrace and social criticism, but, in this case, with tons of humor and lots of references about cinema classics. Once more, Swinton shone among all the other actors, and was clearly the most memorable character, despite her secondary role. Regardless, the results were so good that Bong plans to work again with Swinton in “Okja”, a film where she will star alongside Jake Gyllenhaal.
2. I Am Love (2009)
After “The Protagonists” and the short “Tilda Swinton: The Love Factory”, Swinton and Luca Guadagnino collaborated again and the results were superb.
For the role, she had to learn Italian and Russian, which shows her professionalism and abnegation. In “I Am Love”, Swinton offers an organic, complete, rich and very human performance, where she communicates often without verbalization and works as the turntable of the story. Moreover, without her astonishing performance, the film wouldn’t be so epic and captivating.
As an example of a non-commercial incursion, “I Am Love” is all about the senses instead of incited feelings. The movie is a triumph because of Swinton, of course, but also due to its graceful and cold storytelling, and the magnificent musical score that pushes a baroque nebula into action.
Guadagnino’s film is absent of any fireworks or stereotyped codes, so understanding the feelings of Emma Recchi (Swinton’s character) or forecasting her (re)actions is almost an impossible task.
1. We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011)
In “We Need to Talk about Kevin”, Swinton performs the role of a lifetime, reaching an enviable level of amplitude and objectivity.
The film is very well directed by Lynne Ramsay (“Morvern Callar”) and both actors who perform as Kevin – Jasper Newell and Ezra Miller – are amazingly scary, elements that contribute even more toward Swinton’s shining performance.
The film doesn’t try to be unpredictable, since the main issue is clearly identifiable, but Ramsay has the expertise to keep the viewer attached to the screen, always expecting tragedies, redemptions, blood and tears.
The flick brings two other films to mind for very different motives: “The Hunt”, reminding the power children have to be perverse and to manipulate if they have the opportunity; and “Mommy”, because of the very similar performance by Anne Dorval as the mother, and because of the strong mother-against-violent-son concept.
Ultimately, this is a very powerful film empowered by a singular performance that can sum up a career, and it’s maybe the best business card Swinton has to show as an actress. Even if the film lacks extravagances, coolness, and bizarre material (topics related to Swinton), the British actress mastered to totally embody the character and offered one of those performances that occur just once in awhile.
Author Bio: Pedro Bento is a portuguese samurai, who travels with his wakizashi sword into the infinity of his mind, always forgetting his way home. He doesn’t believe in inspirational moments, but he likes to hide in a secret place, where heavy metal is always blasting and no one can bother him, except his apathetic girlfriend Inês. Yes, he’s a loner.