I’ll try not to descend into speaking the obvious here. Yes, Mank is a film about a film and it’s all very meta, but David Fincher made a film about Citizen Kane that’s barely about Citizen Kane, and it’s all the better for it. Instead of miring in fictionalised ‘making of’ territory, Mank focuses on Gary Oldman’s titular Mank (Herman J. Mankiewicz) and the personal problems and anxieties of writing something that you are proud of and want other people to see.
The script is a particular highlight amongst the many, many excellent things in the film. It was written by David Fincher’s dad Jack before he died in 2003, and it’s full of insightful observations and dry wit.
Oldman’s doing physical comedy, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score is unbelievably good, and the set design and costumes are layered and frankly lush. As with many of Fincher’s films, a whole slew of this movie is unnoticeable CGI and I would recommend watching this to enlighten yourself. Mank is truly a top tier Fincher film.
7. Lovers Rock
Lovers Rock is probably the most joyous film on this list.
It’s almost a musical. And in this year of all years, it’s black joy, not black suffering, that makes it so intoxicating. I think it’s the best film that Steve McQueen has made since 12 Years a Slave (which in my opinion is an unrivalled masterpiece) and certainly the best film in his Small Axe series. It’s just so damn romantic and hopeful, full of vibrancy and life.
You know how sometimes you watch a film and afterwards you don’t have the words to say how you feel, and tears seem like the only course of action? That was how I felt after watching Lovers Rock. It’s a perfect 68 minutes and one that I’m likely to watch over and over again when I’m feeling down.
6. His House
After I watched His House I thought about it for days upon days and every single time Beetlejuice would pop in to my head. Bear with me…
There’s a scene in which Wunmi Mosaku’s character Rial tries to leave her haunted house and is transported, not to a dessert with a huge sandworm, but to her home in Africa where she is forced to relive events prior to the film that cause her great guilt. It’s a simple metaphor – you don’t need to escape a physical place, you need to escape from yourself. That’s ultimately what this film is about, survival guilt, and it’s manifested into an entity that haunts Rial and her husband while they try to start their new lives as immigrants in England.
It touched me for a number of reasons as I think guilt in itself can be crippling for anyone’s mental health, and the film deals with the topic in a way that is both tense and horrifying yet feels deeply personal.
Maybe I am projecting slightly, but that’s what all great films make you think; right? That it could just as easily be about your own circumstances as the characters’?
Remi Weekes is a first time director and we should all be looking out for what he does next.