Seeing a filmmaker who had made the likes of Gravity and Children of Men head to Netflix for his next big release seemed like an odd choice given how big his films always feel, but in watching Roma it becomes clear that the move to the streaming service was more for creative purposes than anything else, the studio seemingly allowing him to develop his passion project uninterrupted, the increasingly legendary director putting together one of the best slow moving dramas of the decade.
Providing Roma with its cinematography himself, Alfonso Cuarón developed one of the most beautiful looking films in recent memory and used the camera to truly embellish his arthouse sensibilities; his film heaped with metaphor and meaning, the camera itself being almost as large of a presence as the characters. A truly memorable film that will likely become of the utmost importance to film buffs and scholars the world over in the years to come, Roma is unfortunate to miss out on a higher spot in this list.
4. You Were Never Really Here
Lynne Ramsay’s first directorial feature release since We Need To Talk About Kevin in 2011 was worth every single minute of the wait, the Scottish filmmaker’s accessible arthouse thriller being potentially the neatest of every film released this calendar year.
Joaquin Phoenix shone as a bad guy doing good things, while the film was so wonderfully constructed around him that every bit of his character’s rage seeped through the lens. You Were Never Really Here was one of those films that felt special from the moment it began and had left you completely encapsulated by the moment it ended.
3. Lady Bird
This semi-autobiographical coming of age drama about a Californian teen who goes by the name Lady Bird featured all of the sharp, intellectual dialogue usually associated with the New York independent scene and so often present in writer-director Greta Gerwig’s other works Frances Ha, Mistress America and etc. and brought about incredible naturalistic performances from star Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf.
This film didn’t have the same flash and vigour as some of the others on this list, but what it did through dialogue and its subtle but very deliberate choices with the camera and in the edit provided more validation and happiness, and encouraged more empathy, than almost any other picture this year. Truly spectacular.
2. The Shape of Water
Had it been almost any other year in recent memory, Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water would have likely earned the top spot on this list. It was a magnificent piece of filmmaking from an auteur on an almost entirely different playing field to everyone else in the English language right now; different because of what he’s making as much as how he’s making it.
This fantasy romance was a love letter to cinema that tackled contemporary issues regarding the acceptance of the “other” while remaining so beautifully innocent and filled with love that the very beauty and magic of cinema itself seemed represented in each and every frame.
1. Cold War
Pawel Pawlikowski’s modern masterpiece was a joy to behold; an unflinching portrait of romance in the midst of war.
In my review, I wrote that this Polish picture was “a piece of almost indescribable beauty and impact”, a “phenomenal modern masterpiece by one of the great auteurs of our age”. It truly is, and the comparison I made between Pawlikowski and the great Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky in the same review seems more and more deserved by the day.
Cold War was the timeless classic of 2018; a piece that will remain watchable in 5, 10 or 1,000 years time because of its beauty in its artistic expression; an astonishing feat in filmmaking from the very best around.
What are your favourite films of 2018? Let me know in the comments!