by Hogan Short
This story from frequent collaborators Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody is an honestly told beautiful love letter dedicated to a rarely explored topic in film; being a mother. Marlo (Charlize Theron) has a lovely family but the struggles of being a middle class stay at home expecting mom proves overwhelming. Tully, (Vancouver’s own Mackenzie Davis) a free spirited and exceptional night nanny helps out the selfless Marlo, not just with motherhood, but to help her remember and love herself. This lovingly sympathetic ode to motherhood is brilliantly portrayed until it finishes with one of the best endings of the year.
A mystery thriller about a small town murder demands a great end. Beast asks its audience a direct question and for the rest of the runtime we are left searching and guessing for ourselves what that answer may be. Along the way we watch a lonely, misunderstood girl who finally has a friend and lover who gives her the confidence to be herself. But is this new boy the killer in town? Could the twist be that she is? Maybe it doesn’t matter to ether of them. We are left wondering in suspense until the final moments of this haunting film with a powerfully satisfying conclusion.
Burning is a commentary on the treatment of women in society as we follow the interactions of three people. This film grabs you and clings to you, burning into your memory. The suspense slowly smolders and cooks, flickering clues at you until what is beneath the fire is revealed. Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead), with an electrifyingly subtle standout performance, plays the mysterious and charming Ben. “Ben from Burning” will be a common answer in conversations among cinephiles when asked when talking about their favourite…well, you’ll see.
4. You Were Never Really Here
This film starring Joaquin Phoenix was directed by the great auteur Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin). Phoenix who plays a low level hit man type suffering from PTSD who performs his job with brutal force. A job goes bad and he must fight his way to the truth. This story shares DNA with films like John Wick and The Equalizer, but done so with a uniquely crafted artistic direction. It’s not just the violence that Ramsay keeps from the audience, but often seemingly pivotal moments. Our expectations are constantly being subverted in this merciless interpretation of a familiar action film.
Where have all the really smart, really fun science fiction concept films gone? Upgrade looks to bring the early-2000’s type of fun sci-fi film back with this blast of pulp. Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) loses his girlfriend along with the use of his limbs after an accident in a self-driving car and a gang waiting at the wreckage. A new technology gives him his mobility backhand with this high functioning new mobility also comes an AI voice in his mind to help him seek revenge on those who took everything from him. Each scene with every victory and stumble for our protagonist are expertly staged until the end. And every great science fiction movie from that aforementioned era has an amazing twist ending. Right?
6. First Reformed
The ending of this movie is really bad. Luckily, the first 90% of this story from a script written by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) is so interesting and ingenious that it is still one of the best of 2018. First Reformed is about a priest (Ethan Hawke) who struggles with the church’s lack of leadership when it comes to the human race destroying the planet with climate change. This film is subdued and often just two people speaking calmly. This calmness changes just like the priests attitude after interacting with an environmental terrorist. This entire film is exhilarating, even when it’s just two people speaking around a table.
7. Thunder Road
Thunder Road is an incredibly simple story about a cop in a small town who, to say the least, has a few issues. He has just buried a loved one, he cannot connect with his daughter, and he doesn’t seem very self aware, even if he is very sweet hearted. These issues sporadically and unexpectedly explode like a supernova, which is where this film really shines. In these moments we see uncut scenes of actor Jim Cummings crying and screaming and humiliating himself for up to ten minutes. It is impossible to look away and one of the best acting performances of the year.
8. Leave No Trace
A father and his daughter live in the woods in the Pacific Northwest. Will (Ben Foster) teaches his daughter at an advanced reading level as well as survival skills. They also seem to live this way because Will doesn’t believe in living according to the rigors of society and is suffering from PTSD. They are caught and together are placed into a program of rehabilitation back into the real world. This film about a young girl needing to be strong for herself and her family at such a young age in a tough landscape has drawn comparisons to the 2010 gem Winter’s Bone. This film is just as good and happens to be the same writer and director, Debra Granik.
9. The Wife
There are many films about taking credit for other’s people work. The Wife is a film that expires even deeper to the role a woman sometimes feels she has to play and what can and should happen when she is sick and tired of not getting the credit she is deserved. This movie had essentially no release but hopefully when Oscar season comes Glen Close will be given her credit as an actor, and allow this film the audience that desperately needs this story.
This is a bit of a cheat. The reason you have yet to see this is because it is not out yet. Roma is about to come out on Netflix and hopefully everyone will watch it. This Mexican made, semi-autobiographical story from genius auteur Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) is patiently waiting to show its inspiration via the laptop screens of people everywhere laying in their beds. The trouble is it’s subtitled and in black and white, which doesn’t scream Christmas cheer. Roma is an original piece of art that can be appreciated by everyone and that is a beautiful and rare thing.