Exploring big existential ideas in a stylish and disturbing odyssey of body horror, the imagery of Brandon Cronenberg’s film worms its way into your mind and takes up permanent residence there.
Acting as both protagonist and antagonist, body-hopping assassin Vos, as played by both Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott, is entirely otherworldly and eerily disconnected after years of performing her unpalatable job from the driver’s seat of other people’s brains – they are no longer really a person, just a series of impulses and killer instinct in a skin suit.
When Vos’s consciousness is implanted into her latest host she encounters an unusual amount of resistance in his subconscious and begins to lose her own grip on reality the longer she stays away from her dormant body. There are some extremely disturbing sights throughout Possessor, but this isn’t excessive imagery for the sake of it, instead incorporating extreme visuals to question identity, free will and the nature of the soul in full-on, squelchy fashion.
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7. The Vast of Night
Self-contained, creatively playing with established film form and brimming with imagination, The Vast of Night is the modest yet striking feature debut to judge all others by.
You have to look no further than director Andrew Patterson mounting one of the most impressive tracking shots in recent memory early in the film as his camera soars from one side of a town to the other, hurtling across a football field and darting down alleyways, to see that he is a talent to watch.
Following a radio presenter (Jake Horowitz) and a switchboard operator (Sierra McCormick) as they spend an evening in their sleepy New Mexico town tracking a strange, possibly extra-terrestrial signal, The Vast of Night does so much with not a lot, telling a story about the power of words, of sound and how our brain processes the unexplained chiefly through experimental sound mixing and making us question the very reality of the film world, and by extension our own perception of the universe.
Babyteeth has the kind of YA story premise (terminal illness + coming-of-age + romance) that could have ended up incredibly depressing or sentimental enough to be off-putting, but the warm performances, honest writing and lyrical storytelling makes it something truly special.
For some reason 2020 has been a year of awkward dinner table scenes and Babyteeth has one to beat, with teenager with cancer Milla (Eliza Scanlen) bringing local bad boy Moses (Toby Wallace) home to meet her protective parents (Essie Davis and Ben Mendelsohn).
Difficult discussions and distressing scenes included, this is incredibly musical filmmaking without actually being a musical, the highlights being the frequent breaks when Milla lets go, momentarily forgets her many troubles and loses herself dancing expressively to music.
You might think the film isn’t going to get you, not quite push you to tears, then director Shannon Murphy hits you with the film’s beautiful humanist coda and ugly crying is all-but inevitable.