10. Parallel Mothers (Directed by Pedro Almodóvar)
Synopsis: Two women strike up a friendship after meeting on a maternity ward before giving birth.
Pedro Almodóvar is a wizard with words and constantly has you guessing. With every scene, a new piece of information comes to light which changes your emotions and expectations for exactly where the story is going. I have learnt to expect the unexpected with Pedro’s films and Parallel Mother’s continues the trend of making you think you know where the story is going then, BOOM, plot twist. There is something about Pedro that can pull out the best performances of Penelope Cruz’s career when he is directing her. Cruz excels here and just knows exactly how to speak the poetry which she is provided.
Highlight: Pedro Almodóvar’s script.
9. Spencer (Directed by Pablo Larrain)
Synopsis: Covers the Christmas weekend at Sandringham where Princess Diana decided to end her relationship with Prince Charles.
Academy Award winning Kristen Stewart. Sounds good, doesn’t it? And if we had my way, then that is what we would be calling her in a couple of months. Her performance as Lady Di was hands down the best performance of the year regard less of gender; I was absolutely blown away. Aside from Stewart’s performance, there are many aspects of this film that need highlighting. Claire Mathon’s cinematography, Jonny Greenwood’s score and Jacqueline Durran’s costumes were equally outstanding. In fact, aside from a few stylistic choices from Larrain in the final act, this film is basically perfect.
Highlight: Kristen Stewart with the performance of the year.
8. The Green Knight (Directed by David Lowery)
Synopsis: Based on the Arthurian legend, The Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a quest to confront the Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men.
I opted to watch this in the cinema rather Amazon Prime and it was quite possible the best decision I made all year. The cinematography is absolutely flawless and deserved to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Some of the shots had my jaw on the floor from their beauty. Dev Patel continues to show he is one of the best actors in the business with another powerhouse performance as Gawain. This a film full of symbolism and kept me questioning every characters intentions with every move they made. A feast for the eyes and a story which kept my eyes well and truly glued to the screen.
Synopsis: Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding must travel to Arrakis, the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential only those who can conquer their fear will survive.
It takes some confidence to launch a franchise with a part 1 and to only tell the audience half of a story. I guess when you have source material like Frank Herbert’s Dune, a director as talented as Denis Villeneuve and a cast full to the brim of superstars, confidence probably comes easier. Dune is one of my all-time favourite books and the only reason the film isn’t higher up in my ranking is because of the fact it is only half of the story. I loved everything about this. Villeneuve managed to perfectly capture how I imagined everything from the book whilst reading and my opinion of the film may even strengthen once part 2 releases (I am counting down the days already).
Highlight: Hans Zimmer’s outer worldly score.
6. King Richard (Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green)
Synopsis: A look into how Richard William’s coached the William sisters into two of the greatest tennis players to ever play the game.
There was a point where Will Smith was my favourite actor. Then came bad film after bad film and my appreciation for his skills diminished. King Richard changes all that. It is a complete return to form for Smith with his portrayal of Richard William’s. My knowledge of Richard William’s as a person was non-existent going into the film, to be honest I didn’t know anything about how the William sisters became two of the best to ever play the game of tennis. King Richard is an inspiring tale of hard work and dedication and a story which shows that as long as you believe, it doesn’t matter if anybody else does.
Highlight: Will Smith as Richard “King Richard” Williams.
5. Spider-man: No Way Home (Directed by Jon Watts)
Synopsis: A spell gone wrong. Spider-Man must deal with villains from the multiverse after a Doctor Strange spell which was meant to make people forget Spider Man’s identity goes haywire.
Never in any universe or timeline did I expect this film to make my top 10 list but here we are. Hands down my favourite cinema experience of the year, crowd reactions were frequent and never did I feel irked by this. Normally I am one of those people biting his teeth when he hears a popcorn bag make a noise, let alone people clapping and shouting. Grand on scale and ambition, I believe the film was helped by not introducing new characters but instead utilising ones which we are already familiar with. With all the spoilers which came out before the release, I am surprised by how much each reveal and Easter egg made me feel. The MCU still has life in it!
Highlight: Willem Dafoe’s return as Green Goblin
4. Drive My Car (Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
Synopsis: Yūsuke accepts a job directing Checkov’s Dear Vanya in Hiroshima as he deals with the grief of losing his wife. There he meets Misaki who has been tasked with driving his car to and from the theatre. In between rides, secrets from the past and heartfelt confessions come to light.
After the first five minutes I just knew this was going to be a film I was going to love. The visuals to begin the film reminded me of Burning by Lee Chang-dong and just continued to be stellar throughout. A three-hour run time seems like absolutely nothing here, the film flew by. This is a credit to a magnificent script that just kept peeling layers off the main players involved. As soon as you thought you had someone worked out, a new piece of information would arrive that makes you rethink all your thoughts.
Highlight: Best male performance of the year from Hidetoshi Nishijima.
3. Petite Maman (Directed by Celine Sciamma)
Synopsis: Nelly has just lost her treasured grandmother and is assisting her parents in cleaning out her mother’s childhood home. When searching the woods for a treehouse her mother built as a child she makes friends with Marion, a young girl of a similar age.
I don’t know another director who can quite get a performance out of a child-like Celine Sciamma. The performances of both Joséphine Sanz and Gabrielle Sanz are quite remarkable. This film is quite different in story to anything which Sciamma has done before, which is why I believe the story caught me so off guard. A beautiful tale about grief and family, a film which packs so much emotion into its 72-minute run time. The final 10 minutes of this film is cinematic perfection, the use of music which is absent throughout the film and the change of location hits on so many levels. Celine continues to put out grounded human stories which touch on the very core of our existence.
Highlight: The boat sequence at the end of the film.
2. The Worst Person In The World (Directed by Joachim Trier)
Synopsis: A young woman (Julie) battles indecisiveness as she navigates the troubled waters of her love life and battles to find her career path.
I cannot remember the last time I connected more with a character than I did with Renate Reinsve’s Julie, a person who is just trying to find her place in the world. There are some stylistic choices from Trier that just work to perfection. The scene where the movie poster originates from absolutely blew my mind as did a mushroom trip which allows you further access into the psyche of Julie. Quite possibly the best ensemble cast in a 2021 film with every actor excelling throughout.
Highlight: Anders Danielsen Lie’s performance as Aksel.
1. Titane (Directed by Julia Ducournau)
Synopsis: Alexia is escaping a troubled past and finds sanctum with Vincent who believes she is his missing son Adrien.
Ever since witnessing the greatness that is Julia Ducornau’s debut feature film Raw, I have been obsessed with the writer/director. Titane was my most anticipated film of 2021 and it did not disappoint. Agathe Rouselle in her acting debut was a revelation and Vincent Lindon has such a magnetising presence that you can’t take your eyes off him any time he is on screen. This is an extremely human and emotional tale, one which is much more than the premise led me to believe. Technically outstanding and another notch on the 5-star film train that Julia Ducournau is riding.
Highlight: The car show oner after the title card which also happens to be my favourite scene of 2021.