10 Best Films 2023: Sam Sewell-Peterson

8. Broker

By no means handicapped when not working in his native tongue, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s film tells a bittersweet tale of an unusual found family against the backdrop of South Korean adoption culture.

When young mother Seo-young (Lee Ji-eun) deposits her newborn child in the local church’s “baby box” she kick-starts a journey with Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho) and Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won), a pair of illegal adoption brokers as they attempt to find the best deal and a good home for her child.

As shown in films such as Shoplifters and Like Father, Like Son, Kore-eda’s speciality is exploring the relationship dynamic between unconventional family units in marginalised communities, usually backed up by biting commentary on contemporary society. His first of two films in 12 months, Broker is by turns funny, hard-hitting and always  humanist in its philosophy, not to mention reinforcing Song Kang-ho as among the greatest sad clowns working in international cinema.

7. One Fine Morning

One Fine Morning Review

Few directors working in any national film industry today portray women not quite reaching their potential and struggling to meaningfully connect with others as movingly as Mia Hansen Løve does in work such as Things to Come and Bergman Island. Her latest project is no different. 

In a tale unafraid to confront the realities of the hardships we will all face to one extent or another, Paris native Sandra (Léa Seydoux) juggles the exhaustion and loneliness of being a single mum trying to balance a busy work schedule and consider the limited care options available for her ailing academic father (Pascal Greggory).

One Fine Morning is quite often a hard watch, but it still has an air of hope and plenty of heart and dialled-down humour to ensure you are not left emotionally drained. Seydoux’s lead performance proves her as one of the great naturalistic, unadorned performers of her generation, and the entire ensemble bring Sandra’s family and social circle to believable life. Hansen-Løve has explored the demands of supporting parents in decline while not losing your sense of self before, and here Sandra’s quest for connection over multiple seasons of the year ends on a hopeful ellipsis.

6. Scrapper

Scrapper Review

Low-key and grounded in the experiences of working-class people, but rarely resorting to poverty tourism or kitchen sink bleakness, Charlotte Regan’s first feature Scrapper is a special thing.

When her mother dies leaving her to fend for herself, young Georgie (Lola Campbell) avoids coming to terms with her grief by stealing bikes to sell with her friend Ali (Alin Uzun) and pretending she is in the care of her uncle to avoid social services involvement. Everything changes when her absentee dad Jason (Harris Dickinson) comes home and tries to be part of her life for the first time in a decade.

The film’s tone is set from the first scene of Georgie and Ali bullshitting their way around the local estate and the various other residents voicing their bemused opinions straight to camera. Scrapper doesn’t avoid acknowledging the hardship of its characters lives but it emphasises a strong sense of community, creativity and humour that prevails in working-class life. Harris Dickinson continues to impress with his chameleonic abilities and Lola Campbell follows hot on the heels of Aftersun’s Frankie Corio as one of the most astoundingly mature, instant-star child performances of recent years.

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