2015: handled with love and to be stored with care

To say 2015 was a flawless year would be a lie. 2014 was ferocious and ambitious (I wrote a lot of words about it here), it was a tough act to follow. This year, cinemas have echoed with the groans of blasé viewers trapped in front of disappointing and embarrassing trailers many a time.There have been some accidents, to say the least. It was the year that sparked controversy, that saw more remakes and spin offs than ever before and that also celebrated some timeless classics. Everyone had their fair crack at it: New wunderkinds emerged, holy veterans returned whilst firm favourites were born and beloved franchises finally bode the world farewell.

Am I qualified to discuss what the best films of the year were? Absolutely not. As ever and more than ever, every film that is made gets torn to pieces by hungry critics, ranging from opinionated students to professional journalists. So I’m not going to try. These films just made my year, if nothing else. What 2015 did that previous years didn’t, is that it finally broke down. It gave us films about love in all its shapes and sizes that actually meant something.

The BFI’s Love season (boasting one of the most effective trailers I’ve ever seen) that ran from October to December this year celebrated exactly this and adequately summed up the season, and the best bits of the year in my opinion, with a simple tag line: Films to fall in love with, Films to break your heart. And 2015 with all of its flaws gave me exactly that.

Mommy

It’s quite difficult to boil this film down to three or four sentences. I went to see Mommy as a film student and left it as a complete mess. If ‘French Canadian film about a mother and her troublesome son’ was all I had to go by, I wouldn’t go and see Mommy either. But the long lasting heartbreak and utter awe that came after watching this have been quite hard to top.

It embraces the uncool and shouts the unspoken- whilst some films aim for the metaphorical and suggest meaning open to interpretation, Mommytells you what you’re afraid of losing and makes you actually give yourself to the film completely. It expresses love at its most raw and honest, as a tangible feeling that is completely alive and reaches far further than either side of the screen.

Brooklyn

Brooklyn was the first film that I saw at this year’s London Film Festival. After organizing the upcoming week on the three hour bus journey there and wandering around central London by myself, it was extremely comforting to be welcomed by such a lovely, lovely film. Saorise Ronan fleets between picturesque Ireland and fairytale New York in a creamy romantic coming of age story. It doesn’t break any grounds and is by no means revolutionary, but what it does, it does incredibly well. The story places focus on homesickness and the (sometimes poor) workings of a young ambitious girl’s mind. I somehow managed to relate. Ronan is extremely impressive and Emory Cohen is just delicious. Never over complicated but always romantically satisfying, Brooklyn ticks all of the stylistic and emotional boxes and blissfully distracts from anything that’s not quite as pretty.

Cinderella

When coming home for the Easter break and trying to encourage my mum to enjoy films with me by taking her to the cinema, Kenneth Branagh’s reboot seemed like a safe bet. It delivered and made me the happiest I had been all year (it was April, but still. It was a very happy day.) What the live action reboot did so well is that it didn’t try to revamp Disney’s animation by twisting the story or materializing the appeal. It just did it justice. This year’s Cinderella took all the good bits of the Disney film and sprinkled it with every bit of magic the current film industry has. This made the magic tangible: Costumes, music and design were dreamy whilst the story was given a new lease of life.

The tale’s message was louder than ever without being overbearing, and the optimistic aura just more effective. It’s an incredibly tasteful, inspiring and warming film, honoring my favourite story and embracing honest sentimentality and traditional storytelling. ‘Have courage and be kind’ shall now adorn every writable surface in my path.

Inside Out

Inside Out will come as a surprise and it most definitely is not the most imaginative choice, but a personal one nonetheless. Months after Cinderella when I came home for Summer it was time for another cinema trip. I knew Pixar would do the trick for me but secretly felt a bit guilty. Mum doesn’t really like animation. However, at the end we both turned to each other and I saw the most sincere emotion in her eyes for a long time.

Cinephiles have rolled their eyes at Pixar in the past and Camilla Long even used the term “sugary gloop” to describe aspects of Inside Out, but the fact remains that it’s the first animation being even discussed at all to be considered for Best Picture for the 2016 Oscars. Like others on this list it doesn’t boast a particularly imaginative plot, but it has the same magic that makes that not matter at all. Months later and even today I’ve discussed Inside Out with every kind of person in my life. People I’m closest to, others I’ve wanted to impress, and some I didn’t want to agree with on anything but connected with, somehow starting with this. It’s a clever film that wears its heart on its sleeve whilst weaving meaning and depth into what we think is just colourful storytelling. It hurts and heals and teaches in filmmaking and emotional first aid- all with five bouncy balls of feelings.

Woman Under the Influence

When deciding on a fifth film, there were many that could have made the cut which all have a special mention below. But tying in with the ongoing theme, my fifth pick of the year is one that was not actually released in 2015 but that I got the chance to see in November and had a considerable impact on the rest of my 2015. I was starting to worry that no films on our curriculum had actually convinced me that I was doing the right thing by studying something that people didn’t really take seriously (“No but are you sure it’s actually a degree?”) until in Week 8 we were shown A Woman Under the Influence by John Cassavetes.

It tells the story of Mabel who lives and loves unconditionally, who is devoted to her husband and family more than anything else. She fights an exhausting and draining battle with her insecurities and demons leading her to be committed for psychiatric treatment. Her internal struggles and the impact that it has on her loved ones are absolutely heartwrenching and strike a similar chord to Mommy. It’s a film that silences the bickering and moves you more than words can describe. It showed me how harmful love can feel and reminded me why I care so much about films, and ultimately about feelings too.

Special Mentions
The Program
Steve Jobs (review here)
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (review here)
The Lobster
Carol (review here)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (review here)
Listen to Me Marlon
Mad Max: Fury Road
Macbeth
Me Earl and the Dying Girl
Ex Machina

Disappointments

Spectre (review here)
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
Everest (review here)
Southpaw
Chappie (review here)
The Martian
99 Homes
Paper Towns
Magic Mike XXL

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