So 2013 has come and gone. Most agree that it’s been a pretty wonderful year for film. Simply put, our film contributors have been given the opportunity to write briefly about (up to) three of their most treasured films of the year. We’ve got documentaries, LGBT films, blockbusters and more. If you’re struggling to work out what you missed in 2013 – whether you can’t remember or can’t decide – then perhaps the following opinions will help…
Picking my favourite films from 2013 is by no means an easy task.
The first? Philomena. The story of how Martin Sixsmith helped Philomena Lee find her son after she was forced to give him up while in a convent, where she was made to work unpaid in the laundry. This film has all the makings for a real tearjerker but is saved through brilliant direction. Philomena is one of my top films from 2013 because it is one that truly surprised me and that I enjoyed from start to finish.
Following a similar vein, Saving Mr Banks is easily one of my favourite films from the past year. While the story behind the creation of Mary Poppins is something that may not appeal to everyone, it is Emma Thompson’s performance that makes me love this film. Not only that the film is a truly heartwarming one and like Philomena beat the expectations I had of it.
And finally About Time rounds off my top 3; Richard Curtis proved that you shouldn’t judge a film by its trailer or the director’s track record. What I love about this film is that on the surface it is about young love but when you scratch further it is truly about fathers and sons and finally saying goodbye.
For me, 2013 has been the year of independent cinema. Films like The Kings of Summer, Good Vibrations and Frances Ha are the diamonds in the rough of a year full of derivative sequels, remakes and adaptations. It is in the non-English speaking World, however, where cinema has truly excelled. Here are just three of the best foreign-language offerings of the past twelve months…
No, Pablo Larraín’s film about the Chilean National Plebiscite that saw Augusto Pinochet fall from power fifteen years after the coup d’état in September 1973, is one of those rare films that manages to combine the political with the personal without feeling contrived.
The film tells the tale of René Saavedra (played by Gael Garcia Bernal a.k.a my future husband), the advertising guru in charge of the referendum’s “No” campaign, and how his work affected him and his family. The Pinochet regime’s brutality is seen through the eyes of Saavedra; we experience his fear, his anxiety and his jubilation when things start to go his way, which makes it all the more affecting.
The Patience Stone sees author Atiq Rahimi, an Afghan exile, step behind the camera to direct an adaptation of his own novel about female empowerment and sexual repression in the war-torn Middle East.
Rahimi’s film burns with a social conscience that is aided by a powerful and refreshing authenticity. The film explores the role of Muslim women in the region through the eyes of a nameless wife (played brilliantly by Golshifteh Farahani) as she cares for her paralysed husband and their two children. Over the course of the film, the woman develops the confidence to reveal her deepest secrets and desires to her husband, safe in the knowledge that he cannot move or respond.
Finally, The Broken Circle Breakdown is a flawed but complex and harrowing drama about the collapse of a family in the wake of a tragedy. Directed by Felix Van Groeningen, it is a film that combines a deep admiration for American bluegrass music with a distaste for the politics of America to tell a deeply affecting story.
The Broken Circle Breakdown often overplays itself but that doesn’t make its central story any less heart-breaking. Carried by a trio of powerhouse performances, this is cinema gone back to its roots; it’s all about the characters and the story, both of which are aided by one of the best musical scores of the century.
Since both part I and II of my favourites of the year are available elsewhere, I was ready to abstain from this one. However, on Sunday 29th December I watched a film that would have certainly made it into these lists if I’d seen it upon release.
The Hunt is a Danish release from director Thomas Vinterberg, co-written by he and A Hijacking director (and Borgen writer) Tobias Lindholm. It stars the multi-talented Mads Mikkelsen who has recently demonstrated his dexterity in both English and Danish film and TV, including Casino Royale, A Royal Affair and Hannibal.
It’s refreshing to see him take on a character with more fragility attached to his personality, considering the powerhouse performances in these previous roles. Lucas (Mikkelsen) is a mild-mannered teaching professional with a duty of care to small children who he appears to treat gently and kindly. However one misunderstanding soon changes his perception and begins to test his will immensely.
The Hunt is as bleak, brutal and brilliant as you may have heard. It’s a wonderful examination and portrayal of many things, including faith in children, fiction becoming fact and the resulting irreversible chaos that this can cause. It also contains a brilliant performance from the young (and ultimately all-too-innocent) girl, Klara. Seek it out.
For my top films of 2013, I have chosen a Hollywood blockbuster, a documentary and a gay love story.
Oz the Great and Powerful is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz. It follows the adventures of Oscar (James Franco), a small-town magician who’s accidentally transported to Oz. I fell in love with the story, the characters, and Oz. In particular, I appreciated the strong, independent and powerful women characters in the film. A fabulous modern take on a much loved classic.
How to Survive a Plague is a deeply moving and powerful documentary. It chronicles the fight by HIV and AIDS activists in the US to secure effective drugs, treatment and healthcare. It is uplifting and inspiring because it shows how activists managed to take on their own Government and win.
Out in the Dark is a powerful gay love story and an exciting thriller, set against the political backdrop of the Palestine/Israel conflict. The love story is between a Palestinian Arab student (Nimr) and an Israeli Jewish lawyer (Roy), and the film focuses on the trials that follow their fateful meeting in a Tel Aviv nightclub. It is a gay love story with the power to change hearts and minds.