We conclude our series of year end reviews of 2021 in cinema with our 10 favourite films of the year – let us know if you agree in the comments!
Thanks for reading and we’ll be back with more reviews in 2022!
A musical on the list? You might have been thinking of ‘West Side Story‘ or even ‘In The Heights‘ but those two didn’t grab me anything like as much as Leos Carax’s batshit mental ‘Annette‘ did. This film has a bit of everything, a bonkers narrative that becomes increasingly darker, a magnificent Sparks soundtrack, and a couple of lead performances to die for from Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. We’ve had the soundtrack on for weeks and couldn’t stop talking about the movie!
Where to watch: https://www.justwatch.com/uk/movie/annette
I can’t really be bothered with ‘Groundhog Day‘ despite a love of Bill Murray, yet I loved ‘Palm Springs‘, a movie that essentially updates ‘Groundhog Day‘ to the present era. Go figure! In any case, I thought this was a great time loop movie that finds ways to be inventive with a familiar premise, with Andy Samberg and Cristian Milotti’s romance that takes place across the loops delivered with a lot of real heart.
Where to watch: https://www.justwatch.com/uk/movie/palm-springs
What must it be like to move to an alien place and be stranded in one of its remotest parts with no timeline for resolution? That’s the experience faced by the characters of ‘Limbo‘, a group of refugees housed on a Scottish island whilst their asylum applications are processed. It blends the mundanity of life for the asylum seekers in a cold, sparse land with little to do (they can’t work at this point), with the quirks of island life and the characters that inhabit it and it works very well as an offbeat exploration of the refugee experience. If this sounds like bleak, Ken Loach-esque socio-political stuff, it has elements of that, but ‘Limbo‘ finds a sweet and funny comedic edge that makes the real points it makes all the more potent.
Where to watch: https://www.justwatch.com/uk/movie/limbo-2021
The more I think back on ‘Promising Young Woman‘ the more I like it, and the more I love Carey Mulligan’s blistering leading performance. I suspect many of you have seen this by now but for those who haven’t, you should definitely make time for this acerbic black comedy that constantly surprises.
Where to watch: https://www.justwatch.com/uk/movie/promising-young-woman
Possibly one of the most popular science fiction novels of all time, ‘Dune‘, has nonetheless had a chequered past when it comes to attempts to bring it to screen, with results either being abandoned (Jodorowsky), rubbish and rushed (Lynch) or incredibly cheap (SyFy miniseries). Thankfully we now have Denis Villeneuve, firmly established as the finest big budget sci-fi director around (OK, Chris Nolan may have something to say about that…) after ‘Arrival‘ and ‘Blade Runner 2049‘. His version of ‘Dune‘ is as epic as everybody hoped, bringing Frank Herbert’s novel to life superbly and setting things up nicely for the now greenlit ‘Part 2’ to come.
Where to watch: https://www.justwatch.com/uk/movie/dune-2020
Danish cinema has produced some of the best movies of the last decade, often with involvement from either director Thomas Vinterberg or actor Mads Mikkelsen. ‘Another Round‘ finds them both collaborating in this story of 4 teachers going through mid-life crises who decide to conduct a barmy drinking experiment to maintain a small level of alcohol in your body at any given time. The skill of this film is in how it balances comedy with tragic undertones, not advocating excessive drinking or total abstinence. Life is messier than that and Vinterberg’s brilliant movie encapsulates that superbly.
Where to watch: https://www.justwatch.com/uk/movie/another-round
The Williams Sisters have dominated tennis for over 20 years now and they’d be the first to admit that almost certainly wouldn’t have happened without the influence of their father Richard, the dogged, determined and complex man who had a blueprint for success written for his girls before they were even born. In ‘King Richard‘, the story of their journey is brilliantly told, aided by a smart, funny script and Will Smith as good as he’s been in years in the title role.
Where to watch: https://www.justwatch.com/uk/movie/king-richard
‘Nomadland’, Chloe Zhao’s critically acclaimed drama, is a movie about a woman who leaves her hometown and travels across the country after her husband died and the only industry in town closes down. It’s a character study of a woman grieving for her husband and a past that is now gone, and of making the decision to embrace a new lifestyle, free of the trappings of living within what would be considered ‘normal’ society. I thought it was a wonderful movie and I really connected with it.
Where to watch: https://www.justwatch.com/uk/movie/nomadland
Daniel Craig’s final movie as James Bond is also one of his best and was a fitting capper to an actor who I suspect in future years will be remembered as one of the best Bonds. ‘No Time to Die’ is a movie that builds on the legacy that this series has built up over the past 15 years, bringing everything together into a final film that is breathtaking, thrilling and perhaps surprisingly for a Bond movie, emotionally engaging. I loved it!
Where to watch: https://www.justwatch.com/uk/movie/no-time-to-die-2020
For the best film I saw in 2021 we have to turn to Bosnia, not a country filled with rich cinematic traditions. A part of that can be explained by the events depicted in ‘Quo Vadis, Aida?‘, an intense fact based drama about the horrific events at Srebenica in July 1995 during the Bosnian War. Our viewpoint into this tragedy is through Aida, a UN translator (a mesmerising Jasna Đuričić) caught between her job and her people as the tragedy unfolds. The primary reason ‘Quo Vadis, Aida?‘ is so good is because it is equally successful at showing how political and leadership failures led to an inevitable outcome, as it is at depicting the personal impact on the ordinary Bosniak Muslim population. A challenging watch undoubtedly, but a rewarding one.
Where to watch: https://www.justwatch.com/uk/movie/quo-vadis-aida
We’ll be back in 2022 with more reviews of the latest releases, more podcasts and maybe some more classic reviews. Thanks for reading as always!