As award season hits full swing, this year has been one of the strongest in terms of the calibre of films released, but also in terms of the women featured - both in front of and behind the camera. From the excellent rivalling queens of Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie to Olivia Colman's bleakly brilliant take on Queen Anne, a shining Lady Gaga's first leading role and unforgettable performance by Regina King as Tish in If Beale Street Could Talk, this year, rightfully, the females have taken centre stage. Below are eight films which had everyone talking this year and are worth seeing before the Oscars air on February 24.
Beautiful Boy stars Call Me by your Name's breakout star Timothée Chalamet as Nicolas Sheff, a teenager who seems to have it all on the surface with good grades and being an actor, artist, athlete and editor of the school newspaper. But underneath, his addiction to Crystal Meth threatens to destroy him and his father is forced to step in to help. It's a painful and frustrating depiction of helplessness as we witness a life so full of potential be on the brink of going to waste. Chalamet shines in the role.
This is a period piece, but not as you know it. From the inventive filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster; The Killing of a Sacred Deer) comes The Favourite, a wickedly bawdy comedy set in the court of Queen Anne, the insecure monarch played with relish by a mesmerising Olivia Colman (she won a Golden Globe for her portrayal and is a lead contender for a Best Actress Oscar nomination).
The cousins Abigail and Sarah, played with devious perfection by Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, will stop at nothing to compete for their ruler’s affections, or to best each other. It's all warring women in the best sense of the word and is already being viewed as an Oscar contender in all the major categories.
The Favourite is in cinemas now
A Star Is Born
This one has been the talk of Tinseltown for near a year but it gets a special mention in this list because just for this coming week, from January 11 A Star Is Born will be screened in select IMAX® cinemas throughout Ireland.
In addition to experiencing the film for the first time in IMAX, audiences will be treated to The Road to Stardom, an exclusive look at the making of A Star Is Born. This film is worth repeated viewings for the soundtrack alone and Lady Gaga's striking performance. Director Bradley Cooper also does his own singing and alongside Gaga, they make for quite a pair.
A Star is Born is in cinemas now
If Beale Street Could Talk
In early 1970s Harlem, daughter and wife-to-be Tish (played by Regina King in what is now a Golden Globe-winning role) vividly recalls the passion, respect and trust that have connected her and her artist fiancé Alonzo Hunt, who goes by the nickname Fonny. Friends since childhood, the devoted couple dream of a future together, but their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. This is a beautifully acted, hugely emotional film that should be seen by everyone.
If Beale Street Could Talk is in selected cinemas now
In what is the most personal project to date from Academy Award-winning director and writer Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Children of Men, Y Tu Mama Tambien), Roma follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighbourhood of Roma in Mexico City.
Delivering an artful love letter to the women who raised him, Cuarón draws on his own childhood to create a vivid and emotional portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst the political turmoil of the 1970s. This was hailed as a masterpiece by critics when it debuted at the Venice film festival earlier this year and was a big winner at the Golden Globes too. It's expected to fare the same at the Oscars.
Roma can be streamed on Netflix now
Governor George W Bush of Texas picks Dick Cheney, the CEO of Halliburton Co, to be his Republican running mate in the 2000 presidential election. No stranger to politics, Cheney's impressive résumé includes stints as White House chief of staff, House Minority Whip and defence secretary. So when Bush wins by a narrow margin, Cheney begins to use his newfound power to help shake things up. Christain Bale transforms into Cheney and is utterly convincing while Amy Adams holds her own (and then some) as Lynne Cheney - she is Bale's equal in terms of performance.
Vice is in selected cinemas now
Another much-talked about film centring on gay conversion therapy (following the lauded The Miseducation of Cameron Post), this time starring Manchester by the Sea’s Lucas Hedges as Jared, a homosexual teen sent away to a correctional facility by his family. Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman play Jared’s rigidly religious parents, believing they are helping their son by trying to “straighten him out”.
This gained traction at all the major film festivals and is worth watching for Hedges' remarkable performance alone. This one will reportedly land in Irish cinemas in February this year, so you should just get to see it before the Academy Awards on the 24 of the same month.
Mary Queen of Scots
Queen of France at 16 and widowed at 18, Mary Stuart defies pressure to remarry, returning to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne. But Scotland and England fall under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth I. Each young Queen beholds her 'sister' (the queens were, in fact, cousins) in fear and fascination.
The rivalling women are played compellingly by Saoirse Ronan (in a role she seemed destined for) and striking Margo Robbie who goes against the glamour to play the ageing queen. It's a film that belongs to Ronan, though this writer still says Robbie's performance deserves more applause. Written by House of Cards' Beau Willimon, the leading ladies, directed by Josie Rourke, are reason enough to view this lavish historical drama.
Mary Queen of Scots is in cinemas from January 18