Last year Lady Bird
and Wonder Woman
got oodles of publicity for their female directors, and if you’re reading here, I’m sure you know about Visages Villages
, too. Last year I watched 20 films for a similar project
; this year I ended up with 21 (as always, according to US release dates). But this time, rather than list them all, I just want to call your attention to ten* excellent but less-talked-about films by women.
This is the second feature from this pair of directors, and I really need to see their first (In Bloom
). But Family
tells the delicate story of a woman who suddenly finds the courage to stand up for herself after a life of self-denial. Similar in style to 2016's Sieranevada
, this one benefits from a sharp, individual point of view. And truly, I've never seen the chaos of family life done better. It makes the solitude she craves unbelievably precious!
What an amazing debut feature! Told like a mystery (which it is), this is a family drama about grief, love, and misunder-standings, which manages to be both quotidian and intense. Ellie Kendrick is fantastic here, but she fits comfortably into the general excellence, as Dickson Leach turns mud and resentment into a thing of beauty.
The only film I'd seen by Enyedi before was My Twentieth Century
, a muddled curio from 1989. This one is quite different! That it was Hungary's submission for Best Foreign Language Film is surprising and impressive. With a touch of fantasy and off-kilter humor, it's definitely not for everyone. But I found it tender, smart, and very rewarding. No spoilers, just watch it!
I've seen Rees's Pariah
(decent) and Bessie
(very good). But neither prepared me for the meticulous textures and performances of this beautiful film. Just look at that screencap! This is great work by Rees and her (Oscar-nominated) cinematographer, Rachel Morrison. The novel it's based on is on the melodramatic side, but the nuanced acting and loving craftsmanship easily transcend the material.
Raw Julia Ducournau
Some of you will know it's my highest praise to say this reminds me of Claire Denis, not just in its echoes of Trouble Every Day
, but in its visceral energy, too. Our protagonist is thrown into a confusing week of hazing and classwork. Add some intense sibling rivalry and unnerving health problems, and we're just as disoriented as she is. A crazy-good debut!
I was impressed by Somersault
, so I made sure to see her latest. Set in the former East Berlin, which gives it a loose psychological framework, this is a visceral kidnapping thriller, where we live in claustrophobic torment with the heroine. It's excrutiating (in a good way).
Here’s one you probably skipped on purpose. Sold as Groundhog Day
with teenagers, the concept didn’t strike my fancy. But I remember thinking Russo-Young had promise after watching Everybody Walks
and decided to give it a try. And it’s a lot better than I expected – well acted, smartly written, and surprisingly haunting afterwards.
Another impressive debut feature! Hirayanagi obviously has a knack for difficult characters and deep empathy. Her protagonist is at a crisis point and all we can do is watch her slow-motion unraveling. I won't go into more detail, because several of us discussed this one in the Class Trip thread here
I wasn’t hugely impressed by Suwichakornpong's first feature, Mundane History
, but with this one, I feel like she's grown into her ambitions. Yes, it’s a little derivative of Weerasethakul, but, who better to follow? And her layers of ideas and images here (mixed like a DJ’s) seem very personal and moving.
I've not seen anything by Walsh before, but this bio-pic is obviously a labor of love. The bleak settings (the poverty, the harsh winters) manage to look luminous, which is hardly gratuitous in a film about a special eye for beauty! The mannered acting works – by the end, the characters are completely worn-in and believable. Sally Hawkins gets all the praise, but Hawke is quite good in an equally challenging role.
* I made a mistake! Oh Lucy! actually had its US release in 2018. Oh well.