It was not a difficult task to name my favourite films I watched this year – the ones listed below were truly memorable and entertaining. So here is my selection, a bit eclectic I would say, and since there is no way to rank these gems, I present them in alphabetical order – enjoy.
BROKEN FLOWERS (2005)
It starts like this: Don’s orderly but monotonous life is shaken up when he gets dumped by his fiancé and then finds out he has a son. We follow him across the US as he tracks down his ex-lovers, trying to figure out which one is the mother of his child. It’s quite melancholic, seeing how the main character develops with every encounter with an old flame, reminded of the fact that as time passes, people change and most relationships turn out to be futile and temporary. The film is also gripping as it engages you in Don’s search for clues. On the whole it’s just brilliantly written, with great attention to detail, like little quirks and habits that make each character unique and believable. It doesn’t give out too much information, however, leaving some things unsaid, which I think is Broken Flowers’ greatest strength.
DANGEROUS LIAISONS (1988)
The biggest surprise of the year for me. Certainly not a fan of period dramas, I found this film unbelievably absorbing, mainly thanks to incredible acting – Glenn Close and John Malkovich both give remarkable performances and the tension between them is insane. Combine that with elaborate costumes that inspire haute couture fashion designers to this day and you won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen. Mind you, all these lavish visuals and the abundance of decoration are there to hide true intentions of main characters. It’s the contrast between the sugar coating and the desire to manipulate and shatter some hearts that makes Dangerous Liaisons actually a very dark film.
GHOST WORLD (2001)
I have done it countless times: added a film to my watchlist after seeing a still on Instagram or elsewhere, interested solely in the visual side of it. That was the case with Ghost World, which initially intrigued me with its lethargic suburban vibe, but turned out to be so much more. Based on a comic book that I’ve yet to read, this is a story of two high school graduates, bored and cynical, roaming around in their sleepy neighbourhood. Although the film feels subtle and muted, it does call up strong feelings, since Enid and Rebecca’s fear of conformity and desperate attempts to be original are hilarious and painfully sad at the same time. It’s remarkable how well this film sums up the mood and doubts you have as you step into adulthood.
MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO (1991)
This is such a bittersweet picture, entertaining but also very touching. One of the most important films of the early 90s independent queer cinema, it tells a story of male prostitutes on the streets of Seattle. The main character, Mike, beautifully played by River Phoenix, lives a life disturbed by narcoleptic episodes. He just evokes so much sympathy that you spend the two hours aching and hoping with him, while he tries to find his long lost mother. Nonetheless, it’s amazing that a film touching on loss, vulnerability and search for acceptance remains humorous and simply fun to watch. Its dynamic editing is noteworthy, funnier sequences alternate with moments of deep reflection (campfire scene being hands down the most poignant of the year) and the take on sex scenes is as unusual as it is amusing. My Own Private Idaho really stands out with its unique dreamy atmosphere.
Lastly, the only film on my list that was actually released in 2019. Having heard only enthusiastic reviews, I was really looking forward to this one and it did live up to my expectations. It is a story of two families and a look on social inequalities, but the less you know before watching, the better. Suffice it to say, atmosphere changes drastically throughout the film, which makes for an entertaining but also thought-provoking and aesthetically pleasing experience. A rather ambiguous ending is, in my opinion, another perk of this film, as it doesn’t feel like a didactic tale but gives you space for your own interpretation and judgement. Coming to the UK in early 2020, this one is not to be missed.