With 2017 more than halfway over, it’s time to take stock of the best films that have shocked, stunned or wowed us so far this year. Save for the formidable Dunkirk by Christopher Nolan and one or two more, the films that moved me, in particular; all had complex, flawed and dark women at the heart of them (not too intentionally mind as I generally go to see all films and not just those with a female lead). But perhaps they resonated so much because this is exactly the kind of woman we want and need to see reflected on screen in 2017; imperfectly real and not stereotyped into a role based on gender. From the slow burner that was The Beguiled to the vastly underrated The Love Witch, these are all films – released from January this year – that, in this film fanatic’s most humble opinion, are worth adding to your must-see list now.
Found hiding under a tree in Virginia during the Civil War is Union Soldier John McBurney – played by the dashing but sadly miscast Colin Farrell – taken in by seven young women at an all-girls school. The competition quickly begins for his favour – for his affection, glance or even a kiss – and in the beautiful, yet repressive setting, things quickly take a darker turn. But is McBurney a threat or a prisoner? And who is beguiling who? The film isn’t without flaws, but you’ll be swept along with the story, even though it’s far from perfect. The stellar female cast, featuring Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst shine in their respective roles. Read the full review HERE.
Nolan’s much-anticipated €150 million epic takes in history: In May 1940, in the early days of World War II, some 400,000 British and Allied troops were flanked and entrapped by Germany on the beaches of Dunkirk in northern France. So how is it that 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated? It’s a remarkable story turned into an incredible, visually stunning war film that is the best we’ve seen in years.
It can’t have been an easy task to take on the first official Wonder Woman film; the iconic character has been around 75 years, and 2017 is the first time she gets her own solo big-screen outing. There’s a lot riding on this one; it needed to be great. Thankfully, we needn’t have worried. Director Patty Jenkins – who helmed 2003’s indie, Oscar-winning hit, Monster – has paved the way seamlessly with her – and the – first female-focused superhero movie and given us an action-packed, intelligent film with a smart heroine who knows her own destiny. Wonder Woman focuses on the horrors of war, the pleasures of camaraderie (with a gang of trusty misfit sidekicks), and old-fashioned superheroics – and it works. It’s a huge deal to us, the female audience that she’s a woman hero getting her time to kick some ass, but Jenkins focused on the task at hand: the fact that she’s a God who must save the world. In removing her gender as a talking point, Jenkins has allowed her to simply exist, in her own right, as a hero, equal to any male gone before her.
In her controversial, Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated performance in Elle, Isabelle Huppert plays a businesswoman who reacts to being sexually assaulted seeking revenge on her attackers. Scandalous and twisted, Isabelle Huppert is completely arresting in Paul Verhoeven’s provocative film. None of it could have existed without her in the lead; this is her finest hour. See the film you must.
The Love Witch
Writer/Director Anna Biller’s feminist horror is a thrill to watch. The Love Witch follows modern-day witch Elaine (played by a captivating Samantha Robinson) obsessed with the use of “love magic” and desperate to use her power to enrapture men and find her one true love. But there’s a problem: her spells work all too well, and her potential suitors slowly end up killed off, one by one. However, don’t be fooled by her glossy, glamorous exterior; this is a woman who wants more than to simply “give men what they want”; she knows all-too-well her limitations, but that she’s prepared to use her witchcraft as a tool of empowerment to obtain what she desires. And with The Love Witch, Biller set out to deconstruct the stereotype of what it meant to be a female figure in a position of power. “My hope is that other women will identify with Elaine as I do: as a woman seeking love, who is driven mad by never really being loved for who she is, only for the male fantasies she has been brainwashed to fulfill,” she said of the movie. Underrated and brilliant.
Richard and Mildred Loving were an interracial couple whose marriage was declared illegal in Virginia, where interracial coupling was considered a felony at the time. The couple took a case to the US Supreme Court after years of struggling to get their marriage recognised. They won the case in 1967 and the judgment of Loving vs. Virginia became one of the most iconic decisions of the court. At the time, interracial marriage was known as miscegenation, and many states had laws against it. The Loving case effectively made it impossible for states to pass and uphold such laws, as the court found them to be unconstitutional. It’s a beautiful, beautiful movie for which Irish actress Ruth Negga was nominated for an Academy Award.
The film stars indie-film queen, Kristin Stewart, as a supermodel’s fashion assistant who also happens to be a psychic medium. Following the death of her twin brother from a condition she’s also afflicted with, Stewart gripped by a state of ghostly stupor as she comes to terms with his death. Genuinely creepy, this explores a darker side to the City of Lights and was a hit with critics following its premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Stylish, mysterious and strange, it’s all held together by a mesmerising performance from Kristen Stewart.
The Big Sick
Standup comic Kumail Nanjiani and his partner wrote this film based on real experience (and they are still together), and it makes it all the more enjoyable. The plot of a Pakistani comic who bonds with his almost-girlfriend’s white parents while she’s in a medically-induced coma? It’s not quite one you’d think of, off the top of your head. But it’s genuinely funny and has a tenderness that elevates it beyond been-there-done-that tired formula. I haven’t smiled as broadly at the end of a film in ages.
Have you any favourites not included in our list?