2015 has been an undeniably excellent year for film. From blockbusters, comedies, indie flicks and animations to huge franchises adding to their catalogue, there has been no shortage of screen worthy flicks to cultivate conversation and make for endless cinema trips. We’ve watched the tragic and fateful life of Amy Winehouse in Amy and we’ve been plagued by anything dinosaur related with the release of Jurassic World. We’ve pretended that, yes in fact we do like our martinis shaken not stirred, with yet another James Bond: Spectre, we’ve engrossed ourselves in the personal archives, music career and untimely death of the Nirvana frontman in Kurt Cobain:Montage Of Heck and reluctantly sat in-front of the seventh, yes SEVENTH addition to the Fast and Furious franchise in Furious 7 (okay that last one was a lie, we couldn’t do it to ourselves). Even more notably, middle aged women up and down the country got all ‘hot-under the collar’ with the release of the 50 Shades of Grey film, we realised that of course it was inevitable that man could fall in love with a computer in the thrilling Sci-Fi Ex Machina and we sat uncomfortably familiarised through the darkly satirical Lobster starring Collin Farrell.
As the year draws to a close, we asked our lead film writers, Niki and Matt, to sit down and pick their top five favourite films of 2015.
5: SECOND MOTHER
M– Brazilian stage and TV actress Regina Case gives a warm, delightful performance as Val, a housekeeper in São Paulo tending to the needs of a upper middle class family. Her life is thrown into disarray by the arrival of her estranged daughter whose sexuality unsettles the balance of the house, particularly with the husband and young son.
Beautifully realised with a lot to say about class divide (watch the way the mother/Val’s employer prickles at the prospect of either her son or husband fraternising with the help) this is also achingly human and quietly moving.
Val’s daughter’s refusal to accept status as a second-class citizen is powerful and modern (while all along harbouring her own secrets). Writer/Director Anna Muylaert orchestrates the drama and comedy with a deft touch aided and abetted by a terrific cast led by the incomparable Case. Val is one of the year’s strongest, most likeable, flawed characters.
Watch the trailer HERE
4: INSIDE OUT
N- Inside Out follows the characters of Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust, all of whom are emotions inside the head of 11-year-old Riley. Riley acts as the setting for the film rather than the main character and we see how the conflicts between the emotions in her head are played out through Riley in the real world.
What we loved about this film was the true emotion and the way in which Pixar, once again, have created an original story to show the rollercoaster that is growing up.
The physical embodiment of how we build and shape our personalities through memory and ‘islands’ is just genius. The only slight issue is that perhaps the film plays a little too old and some of the nuances may be lost on younger audiences but it is always great to see a kid’s film that is not patronising.
Watch the Trailer HERE
3: THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL
M- British actress Bel Powley knocks it out of the park as a teenage girl growing up in 1970’s San Francisco with her mother (a never better Kristen Wiig) and her lover, Monroe played by Alexander Skarsgard (also, excellent). Writer/director Marielle Heller delivers a clever, original take on the coming of age story, with her lead characters sexual exploration both frank and believable.
The film is shot beautifully with directorial flourishes that linger (sequences involving animation are particularly effective). What counts here is the journey of the character and how much this unapologetic foray into female sexuality and awakening is done in a way that is never patronising, offensive or cloying.
N- There was significant debate around the time of release with regard to the certification of this film. It was given an 18 rating, which was believed by many (including us) to be unfair as it meant the film was closed off to its target audience; teenage girls. There is perhaps something to be said if the gender roles were reversed and the story was of a young man and older woman then perhaps it might not have been rated so harshly.
Bel Powley brilliantly portrays the loss of innocence in Minnie as she discovers her sexuality. We both found the film to be honest portrayal of female sexuality and it was this that made the film feel fresh and interesting.
Watch the Trailer HERE
1 = CAROL
M- Todd Hayne’s beautiful, mesmerising 1950’s set love story based on The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith showcases two dynamic performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. The film is a gorgeous as one of Sandy Powell’s stunning costumes, elegantly designed, quietly moving and tailored to perfection. There is nothing we didn’t enjoy about this film, it is simply glorious.
N- We found it difficult to choose a single choice for the number one spot, as both Carol and Mad Max: Fury Road were exceptional in very different ways. For me the word that I think most encapsulates the feeling of Carol is electric.
You can feel the heat and chemistry between the two leads radiate from the screen. The beautiful 16mm print lends itself so well to the hazy headspace in which both Carol and Therese operate.
Watch the Trailer HERE
1 = MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
N- Our second choice for the number one film of the year; Mad Max: Fury Road.
M- George Miller’s post apocalyptic action masterpiece was notable not only for its technical brilliance but for changing the game in terms of how women are perceived in studio blockbusters with Charlize Theron dominating proceedings as Imperator Furiosa.
N- The film is slightly low on plot but it makes up for it with incredible action set pieces, stunning visuals, and interesting characters.
The camera moves frenetically in symbiosis with the mental state of the characters; they are mad with society and their position within it but also on the cusp of totally insanity themselves.
Mad Max: Fury Road makes some pretty grim, but potentially accurate, predictions of the future; where we will live in a world in which those who control the water supply have the power – we are pretty much there!
We loved this film for its energy, its excellent female characters – particularly Charlize Theron, and its direction, for which George Miller deserves so much praise as for the most part he was working with essentially a comic strip instead of a full script.
Watch the Trailer HERE
Niki Alexandrou and Matt Williams