5 Best Films of 2017 (so far)
We’re just over the halfway point of the year, so what better time to reveal the five best films released in the UK so far? It’s been something of a mixed year, with a phenomenal awards season followed by a rather quite stretch. Certain films that I assumed would easily crack the top 5 (T2 Trainspotting, Get Out) ended up being minor disappoints (to me, anyway), while a few unassuming films turned out to be among my favourites of the year. As with every year, there have been some terrific releases in 2017. Here are the best of the bunch:
*Note: I haven’t seen every major release of the year so far, so if you think I’m missing a modern classic, it’s likely that I haven’t got round to it yet. Looking at you, Logan.*
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki (Dir. Juho Kuosmanen)
The Salesman (Dir. Afgar Fahadi)
The Fits (Dir. Anna Rose Holmer)
La La Land (Dir. Damien Chazelle)
Jackie (Dir. Pablo Larrain)
Moonlight (Dir. Barry Jenkins)
The surprise winner of Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight has come a long way from its humble start as a low budget indie about three chapters in the life of Chiron, a black gay boy growing up in America.
Jenkins’ confident direction and the beautiful cinematography enhanced the feeling of a waking dream spanning two decades, but Moonlight is very much an actor’s showcase; Naomi Harris gives a terrific performance as Chiron’s crack-addicted Mother, while Mahershala Ali deservedly won an Oscar for his sensitive performance as a patriarchal drug dealer.
Christine (Dir. Antonio Campos)
After directing two of the darkest character studies of the last decade in Afterschool and Simon Killer, Antonio Campos continued to focus on disturbed characters with the moving, difficult Christine. Telling the tragic story of news reporter Christine Chubbuck, who infamously shot herself live on air, Campos tones down his obtuse camerawork and off-putting violence to focus on crafting a genuinely upsetting biopic.
It helps that he’s working with star Rebecca Hall, giving by far the best performance of her career. In a just world, she’d have been the frontrunner for Best Actress at the Oscars.
Toni Erdmann (Dir. Maren Ade)
Admittedly, the prospect of a near-three hour German comedy doesn’t sound particularly inspiring. However, Maren Ade’s hilarious, touching father-daughter comedy Toni Erdmann really is as good as the early reports from the 2016 Cannes Film Festival suggested.
Though it’s the gut-busting setpieces that most people will remember (you’ll never hear Whitney Houston the same way again), it is Ade’s empathy and piercing insight into strained relationships and corporate sexism that make Toni Erdmann one of the best films of the year. I’ve never found a pair of false teeth and a bad wig so moving.
The Handmaiden (Dir. Park Chan-wook)
Perhaps the most purely exciting film of the year so far, Park Chan-Wook’s Hitchcockian erotic thriller The Handmaiden is endless fun. Featuring twists-upon-twists, multiple reveals, and deliberately ambiguous characters, The Handmaiden would probably fall apart under scrutiny if it wasn’t carried along by terrific performances from Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri.
Chan-Wook previously made the brilliantly disorientating Oldboy, and while The Handmaiden doesn’t quite top that career high, it’s still tremendously entertaining, with some of the finest direction of the year so far.
Manchester by the Sea (Dir. Kenneth Lonergan)
Casey Affleck’s performance as grieving janitor Lee Chandler is so perfect, it would be almost impossible to make a bad film surrounding him. Thankfully, Kenneth Lonergan follows up his flawed masterpiece Margaret with another brilliant, emotionally-shattering drama.
Working with an outstanding cast (including Oscar nominees Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges), Lonergan uses blistering dialogue, beautiful opera, and devastating flashbacks to portray a family torn apart by one traumatising incident. Small, grown up, character-lead dramas are becoming rarer and rarer as the years pass; if we only get a handful of dramas as powerful and moving as Manchester by the Sea each year, we can consider ourselves very lucky.
With just under six months of the year to go, there are still plenty of potential favourites to come. From the Cannes Film Festival, we’re due to see heavy hitters like Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled and Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer before year’s end, while Sundance favourite A Ghost Story is coming very soon. There are tons of big releases I haven’t seen at the time of writing; who knows if Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver or Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk will top the list come year’s end. Either way, I’m very excited to see what the rest of 2017 brings.
By Harry J. Ford
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