By Thomas Underhill, BA Japanese
Image credit: Creative Commons
What follows is a list of my 10 or so favourite films of the year (that I’ve seen), that came out in the UK in 2018. It’s all in alphabetical order except for the final entry, which I feel confident in calling my overall favourite.
Annihilation marks itself as a great sci-fi by containing several interlocking metaphors that it never attempts to fully explain to the audience, instead putting a lot of trust in them to interpret it as they please. It’s simultaneously a brilliant horror thriller that is as entertaining as it is intellectually stimulating.
The stark minimalism of First Reformed’s presentation lies in contrast to the depth of its character and themes. Ethan Hawk’s Reverend Toller is a fascinating self-martyr, and the film’s examination of the interplay between a man looking for self-sacrifice and a cause that’s urgent enough to justify it is brutal and gripping.
Game Night is unusual among big budget comedies for its tight script and inventive visuals. While indie comedies have been pushing the boat out for a while with how they make films visually funny, most rely too heavily on the improv of the leads. Game Night’s story of a murder mystery party gone wrong takes lessons from both schools of filmmaking to great effect.
While Greta Gerwig’s other films have sometimes leaned too heavily on the soft-spoken comedy of a certain class of New Yorkers, her foray into a California high school proves that she can work outside of that field. Lady Bird manages to touch on parenthood, class, and sex without ever feeling cluttered or messy. Instead, it’s funny, sweet, and melancholic.
The story of Sandi Tan’s Shirkers, in which the director recounts her days making a film as a teenager in Singapore, is less immediately gripping than some other documentaries, but its strong sense of the personal helps its smaller plot twists hit much harder.
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters, in which a family of thieves kidnaps a young girl, sounds on paper like the plot of a twisted thriller, but Kore-eda plays it more as an ode to family, specifically the ones we make for ourselves. There’s a melancholic undercurrent to the whole film, but the overriding feeling is one of a very real warmth.
Sorry To Bother You
Boots Riley’s anger at the increasingly messed up system we’re all trapped in fuels Sorry to Bother You, a bizarre Swiftian satire about working in a call centre. The visuals here are inventive and energetic enough to force you into accepting the increasingly strange world it presents.
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
Superhero films seem to be increasingly the dominant cinematic medium, but the one that impressed me the most this year was Spiderverse. Its animation is beautiful to look at and allows for a lot of unusual and exciting shifts in style. The plot, in which multiple Spider-people collide in one universe also allows the film-makers to show off their understanding of what makes Spider-Man so relatable.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Coen Brothers’ Western anthology movie shows little signs of being a cut down TV series and manages to work as a cohesive whole surprisingly well. The stories are all connected by the familiar Coen theme of the futility of life, and the Western is the perfect genre to showcase that. (And if you’re curious about my favourite segment, it’s probably the titular Buster Scruggs).
You Were Never Really Here
You Were Never Really Here is a near perfect 90 minutes of pure character work. Joaquin Phoenix plays a hired gun for a private detective who specializes in missing girls, but the plot takes a backseat to the examination of Joe. The dialogue is often hard to make out, but the film’s strength in wordless communication makes this seem like a non-issue.
Phantom Thread, my favourite film of 2018, is one of the most gorgeous films I’ve ever seen. Each shot is stunning, but the real trick is in how every part of the aesthetic works so well. The score by Johnny Greenwood, for example, is full of haunting leitmotifs that are constantly rearranged to fit the delicately balanced tonal shifts.
The central romance between Daniel Day-Lewis’ Reynolds Woodcock, and Vicky Krieps’ Alma is unique and often troubled, but writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson finds the beauty in it. And Phantom Thread’s beauty is so overpowering that it’s not only my favourite film of this year, but one of my favourite films ever.
The full version of this article can be found on Thomas’ blog toatalireviews.com.