6. A Love Song
Max Walker-Silverman’s directorial debut is quiet, introspective, and decidedly not for mainstream audiences. Calling it slow might be an understatement. Very little of note actually happens in A Love Song, or at least that’s how casual viewers will feel. In spite of this, there is clearly a melancholic, thought-provoking love story buried beneath the seemingly too-slow narrative.
The film focuses mostly on Faye, played by Dale Dickey. Faye’s quiet mannerisms and sad eyes immediately paint her as a lonely woman looking to recapture the spark of days past. In an effort to escape day-to-day monotony, she decides to meet her childhood friend Lito at a campsite. Lito’s eventual arrival pushes the film into a fascinating, though still leisurely paced, direction.
Her relationship with Lito is genuinely interesting, but Lito isn’t the key to the film’s success. A Love Song is at its strongest when it hones in on Faye’s inner psyche. Dickey, who rarely phones in a performance, fires on all cylinders. She gives viewers a protagonist who is genuinely easy to connect with and appreciate. Though Faye’s background is hardly universal, she clearly feels something that so many viewers have felt before.
Of course, this emotional impact will be lost on viewers looking for a high-stakes romantic epic. A Love Song doesn’t take big swings. It’s a smaller-scale character study that effortlessly tackles universal themes in simple, but still effective, ways.
7. Catherine Called Birdy
Let’s not sugarcoat things; people continue to root against Lena Dunham. Her social media presence has landed her in hot water more than a few times, and as a result, people have a hard time accepting the fact she actually does have talent as a writer and director. Catherine Called Birdy proves that.
This sugary sweet period comedy features a magnetic, rebellious Bella Ramsey doing what she does best. That alone is worth the price of admission, but we have to give credit where credit is due. Catherine Called Birdy also has some really clever moments that push a surprisingly simple narrative into unexpected, and delightful territories. Dunham delivers an endearing script that should be praised regardless of your stance on the controversial celebrity.
8. Soft & Quiet
Soft & Quiet begins innocently enough. An elementary school teacher prepares for a get-together with like-minded individuals. We don’t immediately know the purpose of the gathering, but the young women involved seem like average suburban women. They engage in small talk, dressed in casual clothing as patrons begin to enter the meeting location. Then they peel the tinfoil off the homemade pie.
That’s where this synopsis needs to end. Soft & Quiet absolutely must be approached as close to blindly as possible. It’s a masterclass in shattering expectations. It weaves a tale with countless twists and turns, and although these unexpected plot points can be upsetting, they absolutely work.
Soft & Quiet is horrific, but not in the traditional sense. This isn’t something akin to The Conjuring; it shows real, human horror. If you can handle the more unsettling moments, you’ll be treated to a brilliant, socially-conscious horror masterpiece. Just try not to spoil too much for yourself.
Watcher’s inclusion on this list has nothing to do with its critical reception. After all, it’s sporting an impressive 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, as is the case with most slow-moving thrillers, the audience reaction has been decidedly less positive. As you scan through user reviews you’ll notice a recurring complaint; it takes too long to get going. While it’s true Watcher isn’t an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride, it is a confident, well-acted thriller
The film revolves around a young woman named Julia who moves to Bucharest with her aloof husband. When Julia notices strange activity from a man across the street, she begins to suspect that she’s in danger. Unfortunately, the people in her life refuse to acknowledge any potential threat, leaving her feeling lost and defeated.
The story isn’t particularly innovative. It joins numerous other contemporary feminist thrillers, but it stands out thanks to the tension that comes as a result of intentional pacing. Every frame counts, and every frame is elevated by Maika Monroe’s terrific performance. Maybe this doesn’t make up for the slow start, but it should be enough for the average viewer.
In spite of its critical acclaim, Emergency is clearly under-the-radar. The film was quietly dumped onto Amazon Prime in May, only for it to be overshadowed by big summer blockbusters. Given its seemingly generic premise, it’s easy to see why it went unnoticed. The quirky dark comedy about a college party that takes an unfortunate turn appears to be another “wild night gone wrong” outing akin to The Hangover and Booksmart, but there’s far more to it than meets the eye.
Although Emergency is a comedy through-and-through, it’s also a well-intentioned social commentary. It uses its witty sense of humor to push its message forward. How can the people in a society do a better job of pushing aside their biases? Through the laughs, viewers are meant to ruminate on these questions. It’s all very clever even if, at times, it comes off as tonally inconsistent.