2018 has been a chaotic year for Hollywood. Apart from producing some very entertaining cinema, it has also produced its fair share of sexual harassment scandals.
As a result, audiences have been craving some lightness to contrast with the bizarre reality of a Trump presidency, and the swamp that is global politics and gender relations.
TIME‘s list of the top films of 2018 (so far) contains some gems that provide the kind of relief that is only possible through suspension of disbelief.
We aren’t going to include their full list, and have tried to skip over the movies that you will definitely have seen, or at least heard of, like Black Panther.
Let’s start with everyone’s favourite British bear…
Paul King’s follow-up to his 2014 adaptation of Michael Bond’s beloved children’s stories is pure and good without being pedantic, a family movie you can enjoy even if your family consists only of your adult self. Its cuddly ursine protagonist (innocently voiced by Ben Whishaw) goes down like a warm cup of tea on a blustery day.
Alex Garland’s sci-fi stunner will leave viewers feeling alternately creeped out, jump-scared and thinking to themselves, Did he really go there? Oh, he really went there. But what lasts long after the credits roll is the movie’s quiet beauty, the iridescent sheen of an oil slick that enshrouds the narrative and the moments of near silence preceding terrifying noise. As an added bonus, it’s a movie about five female scientists — a rare specimen — that never pats itself on the back for being a movie about five female scientists.
Writer-director Cory Finley’s directorial debut stars Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) and Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One) as rich girls who channel their privileged ennui into violence. Cooke is deliciously nonchalant in her sociopathic callousness while Taylor-Joy sells the repression of a young woman who looks like her French twist and perfect Peter Pan collar are conspiring to strangle her.
If you watch the trailer and come away thinking that the apex of Blockers‘ humor is John Cena butt-chugging a beer, you may decide it’s not for you. But don’t judge a movie by its trailer’s most gratuitous potty humor: Blockers is the rare comedy that makes a point (that young women are subjects, not objects, when it comes to sexual desire) while earning genuine laughs.
A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place may be billed as a horror film, but the monsters here are secondary to the tenderness with which the family drama plays out — and it’s one that’s easy to buy given the effortless chemistry between Krasinski and his co-star, real-life partner Emily Blunt.
You Were Never Really Here
Joaquin Phoenix barely speaks in Scottish writer-director Lynne Ramsay’s unnerving thriller, but this actor doesn’t need words to communicate reservoirs of pain and — despite his ease with violence — vulnerability. Phoenix won a best actor award at Cannes last year for his portrayal of a veteran whose mission to rescue the missing daughter of a politician goes savagely awry, and Ramsay took one home for her screenplay, which leaves the most brutal violence offscreen but thoughtfully appraises its consequences. This is not a pleasurable watch, but it’s a worthwhile one.
Director Chloé Zhao has approached her first two films in an unconventional way, and it’s paying off. The Rider, her second movie, like 2015’s Songs My Brothers Taught Me, was filmed on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and stars a cast of non-professional actors. In it, Brady Jandreau plays a stoic Lakota cowboy whose passion for the rodeo is interrupted, abruptly and perhaps permanently, by a near-fatal accident — much like the one that befell Jandreau in real life, in 2016. The result is an achingly realistic portrait of a family and a community, whose hardships Zhao neither condescends to nor minimizes.
When watching a story about forbidden love, it’s easy to root for the lovers’ union at all costs. Disobedience, from Sebastián Lelio, the director of the Oscar-winning Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman, examines those costs with such nuance that the notion of forgoing love — because those costs are too great — is equally as compelling as that of love triumphing over all. As lovers whose romance defies the strict rules of their religious community, Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams draw viewers into this painful negotiation.
And last but not least:
Charlize Theron, here playing a hopelessly tapped-out mom of three whose night nanny (a whimsically appealing Mackenzie Davis) takes care of more than just the baby. While the unexpected conclusion requires a leap on the audience’s behalf, the film is refreshingly — and often painfully — honest about the ways in which modern motherhood makes some women feel disconcertingly far from their one-time dreams.
That should sort out your Sunday night movie list for a while. Or, alternatively, if you’re more of a series person, you can check out this list of the five series you should definitely be watching this month.
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