Best of 2016

The Best Films of 2017

It is that time of year again where I like to look back over the year in film and highlight the very best. We have been treated to yet another year of films that have managed to raise our pulses, make our hearts beat, cheeks ache from laughing and left us furious with rage.

Whether it has been masterful storytelling or breathtaking performances, this year we have been moved to tears, shaken with fear, transported to dystopian futures and inspired by acts of historic heroism. Let’s face it; it’s why we love going to the cinema in the first place.

After 152 new releases in the UK this year which includes a number of UK film festivals including Sundance London and the London Film Festival, its been incredibly difficult and I have had to leave out some absolutely fantastic films all worthy of acclaim, but here are my top ten films of the year.

10. Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth is a fantastic debut for director William Oldroyd. This is a period drama tale of sex, violence and power which unravels with a quiet and dark intensity. Set in rural England, 1865, we follow Katherine who is stifled by her loveless marriage to a bitter man twice her age, whose family are cold and unforgiving. When she embarks on a passionate affair with a young worker on her husband’s estate, a force is unleashed inside her, so powerful that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants. With a standout mesmerising lead performance from the incredibly talented Florence Pugh, Lady Macbeth is an icy cold taut period thriller that quietly and confidently delivers a great piece of gripping British cinema.

9. Raw

Another impressive debut this past year came from Julia Ducournau’s Raw. A film which manages to combine a coming of age drama and horror themes intelligently. We follow Justine who has been raised as a rigorous vegetarian as she enters her first year as a veterinary student where her older sister is also studying. As Justine moves away from her sheltered family life she is thrust into a world of school traditions and vicious initiation tests. Desperate to fit in, she strays from her principles and ends up eating meat for the first time. After initially experiencing terrible and unexpected consequences her true self begins to emerge which includes an insatiable craving for flesh. Full of atmosphere, symbolism and excellent performances, this is a film that is sexy, violent and completely delicious.

8. The Handmaiden

Not one to hold back on his storytelling with his usual themes of vengeance and eclectic mix of trademark black humour, Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden is an intricate and intimate erotic thriller of desire, betrayal and deception. The Handmaiden is bursting with sumptuous beauty and its numerous contrasting tones in visuals, humour and characters, effortlessly work in harmony. As its story of hidden love and sexual desire unfolds, it slowly gives up its secrets to unlock this puzzle plot thriller. Park Chan-wook’s intimate and intricate erotic thriller is complex and visually dazzling but ultimately an irresistible sensory treat.

Read the full review here

7. Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan’s riveting and relentless war epic, Dunkirk, is an incredible piece of cinema that celebrates the survival of the human spirit and heroism in the face of adversity. Utilising a clever triptych narrative that follows events over land, air and sea which simultaneously unravel over three differing time periods as Germany advances into France, trapping the Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under attack from the air and ground the British and French forces are slowly evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. Relentless, harrowing and moving. It is tense and authentic with spectacular visuals from Hoyte van Hoytema and a pulsating score from Hans Zimmer. This is a film that treats its audience to incredible storytelling and an unforgettable cinematic experience.

6. The Lost City of Z

The first thing that will grab you about James Gray’s The Lost City of Z, is just how jaw droppingly gorgeous this film looks. Drenched in a dazzlingly washed out palette of greens, yellows and browns, it instantly transports you back to the early 1900’s and the heart of the jungle. Captivating its audience from the first frame until its last, The Lost City of Z offers a profound and spiritual exploration into one man’s obsession, reputation and legacy. James Gray has managed to deliver measured, ambitious and profound filmmaking, which captures the true sprit of exploration. His portrayal of Percy Fawcett’s courageous and obsessive quest for a legacy is rich with emotional resonance, sacrifice and beauty. Classical in its execution and absorbing throughout, James Gray might just have created a cinematic masterpiece.

Read the full review here

5. Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 is the cinematic marvel that we never knew we needed. Not only is it a great science fiction film but it also manages to earn its right to sit alongside the original iconic classic by delivering a cinematic triumph with its visuals, sounds and story. This is a blockbuster that moves at its own methodical pace. Not only does it build upon the original in terms of its themes and tone, it does so with dazzling style. Blade Runner 2049 is a meticulously put together dystopian noir that probes big philosophical questions and evokes so many of the nostalgic feels from the original iconic film. Yet here it expands the world by opening it up, adding its own ideas whilst maintaining its mystique and intrigue. Not only is this a fantastic sequel it is a masterful piece of science fiction filmmaking.

Read the full review here

4. The Florida Project

Off the back of his sensational 2015 debut Tangerine, Sean Baker returns with a joyous and touching childhood adventure, The Florida Project. Set amidst a backdrop of the harsh realities of surviving Motel life, this is a film that is raw, heartfelt, and bursting full of life. The Florida Project is an instant classic about the innocence of childhood and the responsibilities that adults have to preserve this. The magical performances will leave an unforgettable and lasting impression as this authentic, honest and heartbreaking story, on the edge of society, takes you on an adventure without any assistance from Disney.

Read the full review here

3. La La Land

From the opening credits through to its closing epilogue, it’s easy to see why everyone has gone gaga for La La Land. It is an age old cliché to say that “They don’t make them like they used to”, but they really don’t, making La La Land one of the best experiences that I have had in the cinema for a long time. La La Land was an absolute joy to behold from start to finish and I absolutely adored it. It’s an exuberant ode to a bygone golden age for the dreamers. This film is effervescent with everything that can make a trip to the movies magical and this is one film that is certainly worth making a song and a dance over.

Read the full review here

2. Manchester by the Sea

Another impressive cinematic experience of 2017 was Kenneth Lonergan’s powerful storytelling in his delicate and intimate study of grief in Manchester by the Sea. After the death of his older brother Joe, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is shocked that Joe has made him sole guardian of his teenage nephew. Taking leave of his job as a janitor in Boston, Lee reluctantly returns to Manchester, where he is forced to deal with a past that separated him from his wife, Randi (Michelle Williams), and the community where he was born and raised. This is an incredibly powerful and moving film packed full of raw emotion, yet also managing the tough balancing act of knowing when to inject that little bit of humour. Casey Affleck is the heart and soul of the film but, not to be out done, Michelle Williams manages to do so much with such a limited screen time. Manchester by the Sea is an affecting piece of cinema that has stayed with me all year and is a truly magnificent film.

  1. A Ghost Story

Every now and again a film will come along that blows you away. Written and directed by David Lowery, A Ghost Story is a unique and unconventional haunted tale of legacy, love, loss and existence. With an incredibly sparse narrative, Lowery’s film very much tells a visual story that follows a recently deceased man (Casey Affleck), who was prematurely taken from this Earth only to return as a white sheeted ghost. After sitting up in the morgue, he slowly returns back to his former home in an attempt to reconnect with his grieving wife (Rooney Mara). However, he finds that he has become stuck in time in a spectral state where he is only able to passively observe. As he stands sentry for days that soon turn into weeks and years, he watches the life he knew and wife he loved slip away in front of him. It is from here that the ghost must embark on a cosmic journey through space and time in order to fulfill the essential human longing for meaning and a reconnection. It is a film that provides an almost profound meditation on time and manages to provoke a line of thought that is almost overwhelming if you start to consider how insignificant each of our existences are in the vast enormity of time. Yet regardless of how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things, each of us carries on existing, living and loving. A Ghost Story is a completely mesmerising and compelling film. Its portrayal of life after death is uniquely inventive, poetically delicate and profoundly moving. David Lowery’s film is surreal, bold and enriching. Encompassing such vast themes, it provokes deep contemplation and reflection on time and our own existence. This is a very special film.

Read the full review here

So there it is, my top ten films of 2017. You can check out the full list of all of the films I saw released in 2017 in the UK on Letterboxd

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