This has been a difficult year for the film and theatre industries, and earlier this year I only managed to see three films at the cinema – Little Women and Emma with my Mum and sister Sarah, and Parasite with a friend. Little Women and Parasite were the standouts, even though I did really enjoy the set design, colour palette, and costumes in Emma. I use an app called Letterboxd to keep track of films I’ve watched and to read reviews and lists of recommended films, and so far this year I’ve watched 34 films. And the five following films are films that I’d absolutely recommend!
1. Parasite, directed by Bong Joon Ho.
Parasite is a very difficult film to describe, but it’s a masterpiece of modern cinema. It plays with expectations, class divides, tension, and is also comedic in the right places. It makes you uncomfortable, confront your own biases, and also makes you see how people can be both kind and cruel to each other. I’ve watched it twice – once in the cinema in early March, and again this summer at home.
Kedi is a film all about Istanbul’s cats and the people who care for them. Filmed by Ceyda Torun, who spent two years trailing the stray cats of the city, she portrays their co-existence with each other and the human residents of the city. It is by turns touching, funny, sad, revealing, and beautiful. I think everyone should watch it – not just cat lovers – because it shows life and what it means to care, and how communities look after the animals around them. I do feel that Istanbul has a very unique affinity with cats, though. Someone I follow on Instagram, Sarper Duman, rescues and rehabilitates cats in Istanbul who have been treated badly or that need medical attention.
3. Atlantics, available on Netflix.
Atlantics is a haunting, soulful, and unique tale of love, migration, and loss set in Senegal. It casts a spell over the viewer. The events are inexplicable and strange, and yet knit together at the climax and ending of the film. It feels like watching the tide, hearing the wind. The sea is a whole character of its own. It’s a difficult film to explain but it’s one of the best films I’ve seen lately. The cinematography is beautiful too.
4. 37 Seconds, available on Netflix.
37 Seconds is all about a young woman with cerebral palsy discovering herself and her independence, coming to terms with her disability, and moving towards her dreams. It’s wonderful for many reasons, not least that it isn’t your typical ‘overcoming adversity’ narrative that mars Hollywood depictions of disability. It breaks the mould. And I loved it. It was refreshing to see a film with a disabled protagonist which showed the complexity, beauty, and difficulties of being disabled without being sentimental or casting disability as tragedy. And I loved the sweetness of Yuma’s character, and her determination to explore more of life.
5. Fast Color, available on Netflix.
Fast Color is another sleeper hit that doesn’t seem to have been promoted as much as it should. It’s another brilliant film, one about family, healing generational trauma, with witchy superhero magic thrown in for good measure. It’s set in the near-ish future where water is the currency because it’s so scarce. Ruth, the protagonist, is troubled, experiencing strange, literally earth-moving seizures, and on the run from someone. She makes it back to her mother Bo, who has been taking care of Ruth’s child, Lila, for some years. Watch if you have the opportunity!
What films have you loved so far this year?