6. Sophie Jones
Sophie Jones gives viewers a fly-on-the-wall look into the life of a grieving teenage girl. Throughout the brief runtime, you will get to watch the titular character make enormous decisions while simultaneously fighting to remain sane following the loss of a loved one. It’s not exactly optimistic, but it’s undeniably memorable as long as you are open to slower, more unconventional storytelling.
The Barr cousins, who co-wrote the film, don’t exactly follow a traditional five-act structure. There’s not some grandiose climax or neatly wrapped resolution. Instead, Sophie Jones just kind of moves along at its own pace. You’ll still find conflict and character development, but you might not find it where you’d expect it.
As a result, it hasn’t exactly sat well with mainstream audiences. With so many coming-of-age films following the same formula, it’s easy to see why this one might rub people the wrong way. It’s far more leisurely and unfocused, but if you dig into the layers, there’s actually a lot here.
The storytelling zigzags because it’s not the central focus. Beyond all else, Sophie Jones is a character study. Viewers are encouraged to focus on how the protagonist deals with grief when she has her whole life ahead of her. This character-first approach is not going to appeal to everyone, but there is still so much that will resonate with certain types of viewers.
Lapsis warps viewers into a parallel present similar to our own. In the film’s version of America, a tech company called CABLR employs a large chunk of the population. Working conditions are less-than-ideal, but that doesn’t stop people from taking a job. After all, they need to pay the bills somehow.
Ray, the film’s protagonist, agrees to work for the company so that he can help his brother, who is afflicted with an illness known as Omnia. When he arrives for his first day on the job, things get weird. Working as a CABLR is shady business. This is made crystal clear when numerous strange occurrences begin happening in relation to the cabling bots. As the film progresses, revelations begin to uncover themselves until an abrupt (albeit thought-provoking) ending slams the door shut.
Lapsis presents itself as hard science fiction, but honestly, the sci-fi elements simply exist to push the social commentary forward. This is a movie about the downfalls of capitalism and corporate greed. There are robots and quantum cables, but they’re merely metaphors used to push the overall message forward.
Luckily, this is all done with reasonable amounts of subtlety. Lapsis isn’t exactly hiding its themes, but it’s also not jamming them down your throat. Understanding the nuances of the central idea will help viewers better appreciate the movie, but even when you view it as its most basic, there’s more than enough to satiate different types of viewers.
8. Drunk Bus
Charlie Tahan has finally broken free from the child star label that has followed him around for years. Now in his early twenties, Tahan has decided to take on more adult roles. It’s not like this change in scenery is completely out-of-nowhere. He’s slowly been gravitating toward these kinds of films, but Drunk Bus really shows a new direction for the budding young actor.
In the film, Tahan plays a directionless bus driver who befriends a security guard named Pineapple. The unlikely friendship propels the story in unexpected directions, giving viewers a movie that effortlessly jumps between boisterous comedy and melancholic drama.
Juggling genres can be difficult. Films that attempt various tones tend to feel like jumbled messes. In spite of this obstacle, Drunk Bus flows rather smoothly. This could be for a number of reasons, but we’ll say that the excellent cast and sharp writing stand out as the main reasons.
If it hasn’t already been made clear, Tahan acts his heart out, but he’s not the only actor to dazzle. Newcomer Tangaroa Pineapple makes quite a splash as well. The two find ways to make an already stupendous screenplay even more engrossing. Because of this, Drunk Bus earns a glowing recommendation, even if it doesn’t break new ground.
9. PVT Chat
Sex work tends to be a risky topic to explore in narrative films. Oftentimes, these types of movies can feel exploitative and misguided. For every Zola, you get a Showgirls. Because of this, viewers might feel apprehensive going into a movie like PVT Chat.
The film revolves around a lonely gambling addict who becomes obsessed with an internet cam girl played by Julia Fox. As you would expect, PVT chat explores topics like isolation, obsession, and addiction. It might not do so elegantly, but that’s mostly forgivable considering everything that’s done well.
Pvt Chat doesn’t completely live up to its potential, but it does tackle its subject matter in interesting ways. On top of that, it features stellar performances from its two leads. Fox’s talent is on full-display, while Peter Vack plays the lonely loser with pitch perfect accuracy. Even if it doesn’t all come together perfectly, PVT Chat is still greater than the sum of its parts.
10. Werewolves Within
In 2016, Ubisoft quietly released a social deduction game for VR devices. Critics found it to be a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon, but it largely failed to leave a lasting impression. Even so, Ubisoft Film & Television found a way to adapt it into a motion picture.
Considering the success of recent whodunits, a film adaptation actually makes more sense than you’d think, especially when you consider the simplicity of the source material. When it comes to video game adaptations, directors are often tasked with translating copious amounts of lore to screen. This is why movies like Warcraft and Resident Evil stumbled. Werewolves Within mostly works with a blank slate. Sure, it’s based on a video game, but that video is a simple party game without complex characters and storytelling.
The result is a horror-tinged mystery film with humor, heart, and some occasional scares. It’s not the kind of arthouse horror flick that sticks with you days after the credits roll, but it is a hell of a good time while it lasts. The talented cast works well with sharp writing, leaving viewers with a film that offers more than enough entertainment.