DISCLAIMER: It should be noted that I have not yet had the time to catch up on many of the year’s acclaimed releases, so this list could be considered very much in-progress; a snapshot of where I am at the end of December.
Now, here are a few movies from last year that struck me as particularly worth mentioning. I didn’t like them quite enough for inclusion on my top ten list, but they each carry their own pleasures and successes, and it’s a shame that they’ve been seemingly ignored. As of this writing, all of these titles are available for streaming on Netflix in the United States. They are listed here in alphabetical order.
– Blue Jay – Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson star as two middle-aged people who reflect upon their teenage romance upon reuniting in their hometown. At first, it’s fun to wander down memory lane, but some old skeletons in the closet soon find their way out. Blue Jay is a simple, short drama, but explores its characters with a consistently engaging fervor.
– Cemetery of Splendour – A small hospital in rural Thailand has seen an influx of patients, in the form of soldiers with an odd sleeping disorder. Writer/director Apichatpong Weerasethakul uses this setup to explore a highly experimental style, and while his brand of slow minimalism can be off-putting at times, there are some legitimately fascinating perspectives to be seen here, as he increasingly blurs the line between reality and fantasy.
– Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party – Writer/director Stephen Cone’s work has often focused on adolescence in religious-conservative environments, and Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party is no exception. A closeted teenage boy, the son of a preacher, celebrates his seventeenth birthday party with friends and family, as the ideas of the past collide with ruminations on the future. There’s never an apocalyptic clash, of course, but Cone gradually ratchets up the tension throughout the runtime, and through the eyes of his main character, shows the difficulties of reconciling those fronts.
– My Golden Days – A young man comes of age in western Europe during the dying days of the Cold War. The plot is simple, but co-wrietr/director Arnaud Desplechin crafts a complex character portrait, showing his protagonist maturing during a time of tumultuous world change. Much like in history, seemingly minor events and behaviors of years past become fundamental aspects of a current identity, and there’s much to be seen from this vantage point, gazing into a life of good and bad possibilities.