5. 7 años
Directed by Roger Gual, 7 años is a psychological drama produced by Netflix Spain. The film follows the intense debate between four friends who need to decide who goes 7 years to prison for a fraud crime that they are all guilty of.
7 años is a film with a very well-written story that relies fully on the characters’ dialogues to evolve, an aspect that is difficult to achieve or can easily become boring. In the case of this film, although the action takes place in the same room and with a small number of characters, the suspense is increasing while the characters’ backgrounds are slowly revealed. This effect was achieved with the help of clever dialogues that not only show the real intentions of the characters but also provide a space for debating morality and justice.
Roger Gual’s film is a clever criticism of our society’s values and principles that questions the validity of notions like trust, sacrifice and friendship. With great acting and realism, 7 años ultimately shows the complexity and unpredictability of human relationships.
4. First They Killed My Father
One of the few films that discuss Khmer Rouge’s regime in Cambodia, First They Killed My Father is an impressive story about the loss of childhood in front of one of humanity’s most terrible chapters from last century.
The film is based on the biography and book of Loung Ung, who co-wrote it with Angelina Jolie, the film’s director. It tells the childhood story of Loung, who just like millions of other children, was caught in a conflict that forever shaped her destiny when Khmer Rouge’s regime began in her home country, Cambodia.
She is a five-year-old, living with her six brothers and sisters, mother and father, who works for the former governement, when she is forced to flee a comfortable and happy life. In a new political context defined by chaos, fear and revenge, she becomes separated from her family and needs to learn how to survive under an unforgivable regime that has transformed fellow citizens into enemies.
The fact that the story is told through Loung’s eyes and perspective makes the film even more impactful, although the story in itself is already very emotional. The child perspective shows the level of dehumanization that the regime brought in Cambodia but also offers a chance to find hope in the story.
First They Killed My Father is a film about a powerless girl who needs to confront her fears and let go of old habits in order to be able to survive the new society. She will have to live with terrible traumas that might never be fully healed, but even with this depressing premise, she is a survivor and someone who can adapt and who still keeps the important values her family had taught her. At the moment, Loung is fighting for human right as the spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine-Free World.
Tallulah is a 2016 film directed by Sian Heder and starring Ellen Page and Allison Janney in one of their most remarkable performances.
Set at the boundary between comedy and drama, Tallulah is a captivating film about youth. It tells the story of a free-spirited girl who takes the child of an irresponsible mother and pretends it is her own in front of her former boyfriend’s mother.
A protagonist that is far from perfect, Tallulah is a troubled young woman who usually acts without caring about the consequences of her own deeds. She manipulates the people around her, lies and steals. But she is also funny, in need of help and genuinely helps little Madison whom she saves from a hotel room when seeing the mother’s inability to care for her own child. Taking Madison is a reckless act, done with the impulsiveness that characterizes Tallulah, but taking care of her, even with clumsiness, shows her true nature.
A strange but strong relationship forms between Tallulah and her ex-boyfriend’s mother, Margo, a New Yorkish independent woman who craves for her son’s attention. Their relationship is not based on trust, but actually on the lack of it, a strange aspect, but one that is skilfully developed by Sian Heder to offer some of the film’s funniest moments, as well as most intense scenes.
The story in Tallulah is based on events that are quite unrealistic, but the dynamics between Tallulah and Margo are superbly depicted, bringing the right amount of emotion, laughter and wonder.
After his two horror short films (The Gas Man and Island), director Matt Palmer released Calibre, an impressive and provocative thriller about the ethics of responsibility and the limits of friendship.
The plot takes place in the Scottish Highlands, where Marcus takes his friend Vaughn for a hunting weekend before Vaughn’s wife gives birth to their first child. Their trip is supposed to be about revisiting old memories from their boarding school days, drinking and hunting, but when Vaughn accidentally kills a local child while hunting, their friendship, safety and moral values are put to a tough test.
The unfortunate accident opens an intense and engrossing journey of survival, filled with violence, guns, dark woods and shabby locals. But more than this suspense – which is greatly conceived and keeps the audience to the edge of their seats – the film is about morality and the way we deal with the consequences of our own deeds. The lies and moral principles of all those involved transform the film into a captivating and suspenseful thriller.
The nerve-wracking mood and emotional intensity of Calibre are expressed more by the way Vaughn deals with the consequences of his actions than by the way he fights to escape from the gang of furious locals. Jack Lowden, who plays Vaughn’s role, does an extraordinary job at reflecting his character’s interior struggle through gestures and expressive looks.
A balanced intermingling of fast-paced action and of contemplative moods, Calibre is emotionally and morally provocative, delivering a frightful lesson about impulsiveness and life’s chaos.
1. Private Life
Private Life is one of Netflix’s most impressive films, discussing infertility and its effect on family life in an original and impactful manner.
The plot is centred on a middle-aged couple, formed by Richard and Rachel, who struggle to have a baby. They have both undergone physically and mentally painful fertility procedures that are starting to affect their intimacy and family life. When Richard’s niece, Sadie, moves with them, she becomes a potential salvation for their fertility issues. At the same time, the presence of the young aspiring writer in their lives shows the young generation’s attitude towards motherhood.
The style of the film, with the intellectual characters and the New York setting, reminds us of Woody Allen’s cinematography. But in Tamara Jenkins’ film, the discussion is not focusing solely on the middle-aged depressed intellectual, but on all three characters’ existential fears. The female perspective offers originality and makes the story even more relevant.
The humour in the film, deriving mostly from clever replies, gives an essential touch to the situation. In this journey from resignation to hope and from sadness to enjoying life’s small pleasures, the characters give realistic and remarkable performances.
With Tamara Jenkins’ vision and the stunning acting of Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti, Private Life is a powerful story about modern-day family life and issues.