It never quite give the emotional catharsis the story needs, but Never Let Me Go is a lesson in subdued, understated storytelling, undermined by this era of dramatic fireworks. Less is more, and Romanek has crafted a quietly devastating, thought-provoking meditation on the impermanence of human life so profound that it makes a hundred sci-fi dramas look overwrought.
Forget the stuffy royal period-drama trappings, this is a sparkling powerhouse of a movie. Like the best of good old-fashioned crowdpleasers, this one is an epitome of a classic triumph, exquisitely performed by a nuanced Firth in a performance of a lifetime that may just land him an Oscar gold.
Everyone Else casts an excruciatingly surgical look into the complexity of modern relationships, yet never without its truths, compassion and deep understanding of the humans involved in this relationship-on-the-rocks drama. Watch with patience and with open mind and heart, you might learn something from this Scandinavian gem.
Perhaps one of the most unapologetically honest American family dramas to emerge since Little Miss Sunshine. A funny, witty, wise and wonderful comic observation of the twenty-first century family foibles.
A marvellously dark, protean piece of postmodern cinema. Black Swan is a high-wire, class act both by Aronofsky’s technical ingenuity and Portman’s bracingly, breathlessly passionate performance. Hers is an acting accomplishment that would soon become a yardstick for any future Hollywood actresses (or actors) to come.
A remarkably vivid and chilling portrait of red-neck, white-trash America. This is a survival guide into the Ozarks Mountains courtesy of 17 year-old feminist fighter Ree Dolly, performed to heartbreaking heights by one Jennifer Lawrence.
With its painful and sad excursion into parental grief, Rabbit Hole somehow provides hope in distress and beauty in the breakdown without reducing to schmaltz or diluting its honesty. This is a subtle, nuanced little film with a bruised humanity.
A deliriously madcap mo-cap. A Town Called Panic makes for a trippy, hallucinogenic animated feature that daringly defies glossy mainstream aesthetic – and so much better for it. It’s also very dementedly funny.
Never has a film about dying so beautifully photographed. This is also a sombre, melancholic mood-piece that daringly explores hefty subject matters such as the inevitability of death, unattainable perfection and cruelty of youth. Visconti’s vision of beauty and Great Art maybe flawed, but such is life.
Beneath its understated workings, The Social Network emerges as a deceptively crafted, erudite, marvellously written and directed piece of zeitgeist-nailing screenplay. We have films that reflect a generation in our lifetime – The Graduate, Easy Rider, even Fincher’s own Fight Club – and this is one of them.
Unsettling, provocative and tragic. Dogtooth may be one of this year’s most bizarre yet genuinely haunting films, exploring parental fascism with devastating results. As soon as this bites, it leaves a lasting mark.
One of the greatest testaments to the power of silent cinema. F. W. Murnau’s sublime wordless weepie transcends crowd-pleasing melodrama into high art, luminous poetry and a virtuous moral fable. This is, arguably, the Citizen Kane of the silent era.
A riveting, complex and taut crime-mystery that solidly opens the Millennium Trilogy, with a magnificently created heroine that burns into the mind long after the film ends. Rarely has there been a literary adaptation that deftly mixes blockbuster brio with a character-driven sensibility, casting an unflinching look into a dark moral abyss of our society. Consider the forthcoming Hollywood remake look like a waxwork next to this Swedish original.
Impressively crafted, handsomely acted (especially by Roth) and emotionally satisfying, Almodóvar’s All About My Mother assumes a zenith in the auteur’s fascinating oeuvre. Above all, this is a heartfelt paean to motherhood and human resilience.