Fiona’s Review Round-Up: Films You May Have Missed This Year

Written by Fiona Underhill

Full disclosure: this is mostly a round-up of films I said I would review, but never got around to. So, I’m assuaging some of my guilt by giving a little summary and rating to help you decide what is worth catching up with from this year so far and what is best to avoid.

Directed by Women:

I have been making an effort this year to watch more films directed by women. By the end of the year, I will have seen at least 26 (the equivalent of one per fortnight) – yes, of course I could do better and I intend to improve on this next year, but it’s a start. Not all of them have been 2017 films, but many have. Here is a round-up of some of them.

US Netflix

(I saw all of these on Netflix in the US and at least some of them are available on streaming in the UK):

The Intervention (dir. Clea DuVall)

A fantastic ensemble cast are brought together in a sumptuous plantation home in Savannah for a weekend getaway. Things go awry when the group of friends decide to ‘intervene’ in one of the couples’ marriage. The cast includes DuVall, Natasha Lyonne, Melanie Lynskey, Ben Schwartz, Alia Shawkat and Cobie Smulders. 7.5/10

Carrie Pilby (dir. Susan Johnson)

Another fantastic central performance from Bel Powley (Diary of a Teenage Girl), as a supremely gifted young woman in New York City, as she struggles to negotiate the world of work and dating. 8/10

Sophie & The Rising Sun (dir. Maggie Greenwald)

A mysterious wounded Japanese gentleman washes up in South Carolina and causes a stir in the community, as America is being drawn into World War Two. He strikes up a romance with Sophie (a compelling performance from Julianne Nicholson of Masters of Sex). I was pleasantly surprised by this film, which backs up its beautiful setting and costumes with great acting and a compelling story. 8/10

The Levelling (dir. Hope Dickson Leach)

To be perfectly honest, this is the type of film I usually avoid, as I’m normally in the mood for escapism with a rom-com on a Friday night. Although this film had a great central performance from Ellie Kendrick, it was frankly, depressing as hell. 6/10

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The following films were all US theatrical releases in 2017
(some were very limited releases, however).

 

The Love Witch (dir. Anna Biller)

Probably the best looking film I’ve seen this year. I’m so in love with the production design of this film – the costumes, make-up and settings are an absolute feast for the eyes. Partly set in an amazing Gothic house in Eureka, California (a town I have visited) and featuring a fantastic central performance from the stunning Samantha Robinson (in what SHOULD be a star-making turn) – ‘The Love Witch’ is absolutely worth your time. 8.5/10

The Beguiled (dir. Sofia Coppola)

Released amid a storm of controversy surrounding the erasure of black characters from the narrative, ‘The Beguiled’ is adapted from a book and a 1971 Clint Eastwood film. I am not familiar with either the book or the ‘original’ film, so I had to judge this film on its own merits. I absolutely loved it. It is a hilarious black comedy (there was a LOT of laughter from the cinema audience when I saw it) with fantastic performances from Farrell, Dunst and Kidman. Highly recommended. 9/10

The Bad Batch (dir. Ana Lily Amirpour)

Another controversial one (again surrounding its treatment of black characters), this film is a violent dystopian road movie starring Suki Waterhouse and Jason Momoa (the first thing I’ve seen him in and I was impressed). The best scenes were the ones featuring Keanu Reeves, for my money. I was left disappointed and frankly, bored by this film over-all, however. 6/10

Beach Rats (dir. Eliza Hittman)

An absolutely compelling central performance from the young Harris Dickinson commands the screen throughout this coming-of-age tale of a Brooklyn teenager. Although it only really takes place across one summer, it is the tale of sexual awakening and transformation for this young man. I was astonished to discover afterwards that Dickinson is British and again, this should be a star-making turn. I highly recommend seeking this film out, however you can. 9.5/10

Home Again (dir. Hallie Meyers-Shyer)

I believe we have a full review coming on to the site for this, so I will be brief – this is a bizarre little tale of the 40 year old Reese Witherspoon ‘adopting’ three young struggling film makers and allowing them to stay at her house. She forms a special bond with one of them, while also trying to contend with her ex-husband Michael Sheen. Unfortunately this film wasn’t quite as much fun as all of that sounds. 6.5/10

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My full reviews are available on the site for the following 2017 films directed by women: Rough Night, Their Finest, Detroit, and Wonder Woman

And the rest (not directed by women):

All of these were 2017 US theatrical releases.

 

Your Name (dir. Makoto Shinkai)

It has just been announced that a live-action version of this stunning film is in the works, which has fans of this animated Japanese classic (yes, already) screaming “noooooo!” I think this is the only time I’ve welled up in a cinema not because of emotion, but because what I was seeing was so jaw-droppingly beautiful. It’s also very funny, in the cross-gender body swap tradition. Throw in meteors and time-travel and you have an astonishing film. You have probably lost your chance to see it on a big screen, but please catch up with it however you can. 9.5/10

Beatriz at Dinner (dir. Miguel Arteta)

Despite a very strong cast, with some of my favourite actors (Salma Hayek, John Lithgow and Chloe Sevigny), I found this film greatly disappointing. When her car breaks down, masseuse Beatriz becomes a dinner guest with a group of very rich white people. Unfortunately, there was no nuance to what could have been an interesting debate. Instead this film hits you over the head with heavy-handed messages. 5/10

The Little Hours (dir. Jeff Baena)

An absolutely hilarious little film set in an Italian convent in the Middle Ages, but with very modern sensibilities and language. Sounds bizarre, but it works. Starring Aubrey Plaza (also to be seen this year in Ingrid Goes West), John C Reilly, Jemima Kirke and real-life spouses Alison Brie and Dave Franco – this film is definitely worth seeking out if you can. 8.5/10

The House (dir. Andrew Jay Cohen)

I’m sure ‘The House’ will be rounded up with ‘Rough Night’ to show (along with Baywatch) what a disappointing summer it’s been for fairly big-name comedies. Hey – I thought this film starring Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler and Jason Mantzoukas was really funny. Not exactly memorable, but a fun and entertaining way to spend an evening. 7/10

Girls Trip (dir. Malcolm D Lee)

Much has been made of two very similar films coming out this summer and ‘Girls Trip’ triumphing over ‘Rough Night’ at the box office. Starring Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah and break-out star Tiffany Haddish, this film perhaps goes even further to gross-out, be overtly sexual and outrageous with its language and actions. It is really fun and really funny and it should prove an important milestone for a film with a black female cast. 7.5/10

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