Where did 2018 go? For me it’s been a funny year of highs and lows, beginnings and ends and other summing-up-the-year clichés as well. In film, the year started well, then flagged a bit in the middle before picking up again at the end, a bit like Peter Parker’s arc in INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE. So let’s take a look back at the first crop of what made it and what didn’t, in my opinion…
Best of 2018:
10. THOROUGHBREDS Not your average tale of teen friendship. Twisted, hilarious and for the most part a skilled two-hander between Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy, this one blindsided me, in a good way. Review in Brief here.
9. BLACK PANTHER Some films just catch the zeitgeist. Marvel’s support of (most) distinctive filmmakers bears fruit with this vivid and resonant spy-superhero spectacular. This could be an awards season shaker, and fully deserves to be. Full review here.
8. BEAST Creepy, tricky and extremely well-acted, this was one of the most unique British films I’ve seen this year and well worth the time of anyone (read: most people) who didn’t get round to seeing it on its limited release. All the key players have bright futures ahead. Full review here.
7. WILDLIFE Some of the best films of 2018 have been about family, but they’re never happy because happy families aren’t interesting. Some people are annoyingly talented at whatever they turn their hand to, and Paul Dano makes first-time directing look easy. He’s already proving to be a real actor’s director with a keen eye. Full review here.
6. DARK RIVER Families, eh? Who’d have ’em? Clio Barnard needs to make more films; her style is rooted in her home turf, emotionally raw and visually evocative. Ruth Wilson is always excellent, but this may be her finest performance yet as an abuse survivor locking horns with an abuse denier who also happens to be her brother. Full review here.
Worst of 2018:
PETERLOO Were there worse films I saw this year? Yes, but despite being far from technically inept (it actually looks quite good) Mike Leigh’s latest was one of my biggest disappointments of 2018. Aside from the film being clunky, laboured and misjudged, respected directors shouldn’t get away with coasting, with showing contempt for their captive audience, whatever political message they are promoting. Full review here.
10. TOMB RAIDER And the award for blandest film of the year goes to the latest misguided effort to bring video games to the big screen. There’s a lot of talent involved in this (not least Alicia Vikander), but no passion, no excitement and no character that makes any sense. Review in Brief to follow.
9. THE OPEN HOUSE Netflix’s first of many appearances on this list (not all low) is just plain uninspiring. Decent performances aside there’s nothing to recommend; we’ve seen it all before and we can see exactly where it’s going and how. How many times do horror movie characters need to go into dark basements alone before they’ll learn? Full review here.
8. MOWGLI It’s got the title it has because Disney said so. Andy Serkis probably should have just left this as a proof of concept for his mo-cap house Imaginarium. The finished product still feels very much like a work in progress, and making your story darker and more violent doesn’t necessarily make the meaning any deeper. Review in Brief here.
7. HOLD THE DARK Be wary of films with “dark” in the title; some people thinks it’s a synonym for “interesting”. Jeremy Saulnier is a good filmmaker unafraid of tackling the ugliness of humanity, but there’s no substance here, just relentless misery. Also turn some lights on, I’m struggling to see people’s outlines, never mind what motivates them! Review in Brief here.
6. MUTE Yes, Duncan Jones, I too saw BLADE RUNNER and no, I don’t think it would have been improved with much less intrigue or if it had no idea what it was trying to say. You know all that goodwill you banked from MOON? It’s starting to wain. I really hope you’ve got another good, or at least consistent, one in you at some point. Review in Brief here.
Join me next time for my very best and very worst films of 2018. SSP