Paul Mescal and 11-year-old newcomer Frankie Corio star in yet another winner from A24 (the indie studio behind The Witch and Midsommar). Set in a Turkish holiday resort, this story of a daughter and her fragile father plays with both time and space, and contains a string of gut-wrenching set-pieces, including a touchingly bad karaoke performance of REM’s Losing My Religion. The wonderful thing about first-time Scottish writer-director Charlotte Wells: she can do shiny happy, but she’s not afraid of the dark.
The Banshees of Inisherin
Martin McDonagh’s best film yet is an Oscar-tipped, blarney-free take on 1920s rural Ireland, that provides Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan with roles to die for. Farrell is a nice-when-sober farmer on the remote island of Inisherin, whose two pals are both struggling, in different ways, with the issue of consent. Does no always mean no? The answers put forward by McDonagh and his team will crack you up and break your heart.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Woman of the hour Letitita Wright sizzles in this extraordinary blockbuster sequel, as do new characters Riri Williams (the teen pauper to Shuri’s princess, played winningly by Dominique Thorne) and Tenoch Huerta’s Namor, fiery leader of a deep sea-dwelling people, the Talokanil. The whole thing is an emotional rollercoaster and fans of Chadwick Boseman wouldn’t want it any other way.
Don’t Worry Darling
Far from being a shallow rehash of The Stepford Wives, Olivia Wilde’s dystopian satire is savagely original. Florence Pugh’s housewife, Alice, has a problem husband, but the debonair Jack isn’t your typical, I-heart-robots scumbag. As played by Harry Styles, he’s a self-pitying fool. Wilde’s class-conscious vision allows Pugh and Styles to let it all hang out. Critics mocked the hell out of Harry but, don’t worry, his playful performance will have the last laugh.
Lithe Austin Butler dominates every frame of Baz Luhrmann’s provocative tribute to the King. The 31-year-old American is convincing as the young, R&B obsessed Elvis and even better once our hero hits his late 30s. Luhrmann contextualises the icon’s greatest and saddest moments, making the case that Elvis was repulsed by America’s systemic racism. The movie may occasionally whitewash its protagonist, but the end result is so fizzily moving that you can’t help but swoon.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
This low-budget multiverse extravaganza (about a crochety, middle-aged mother and her suicidal daughter) deserves to win every award, all at once. Just thinking about the journey undertaken by Michelle Yeoh’s Chinese-American immigrant Evelyn Quan Wang (which involves bagels, butt plugs, martial arts, a libidinous IRS agent and an altercation between two chasm-adjacent lumps of rock) transports me to a happy place.
At no point in Jafra Panahi’s searing meta-comedy do defiant protestors invoke the memory of Mahsa Amini or shout “Zan, zendegi, azadi (Woman, life, freedom)”. Yet the film couldn’t be more in sync with the grass roots revolution taking place in Iran. Panahi plays a version of himself, a banned-but-still-working director, living a twilight existence in a small border village, who witnesses (first hand and by proxy) the choices available to women and men under the current regime. Essential viewing.
Does Jordan Peele’s modern-day sci-fi Western feature cute kids or sexy lovers? Hell no! Our heroes are depressed, ratty, adult siblings OJ and Em (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, on top form), trying not to frighten the horses as a voracious sky ‘monster’ preys on their Californian ranch. Meanwhile, clinically horrific flashbacks show a chimp going apeshit. The stark visuals amplify a script that touches on oppression, representation and the semi-toxic dream of going where no man’s gone before. Basically, Peele, just as in Get Out and Us, has a fistful of ideas and comes out guns blazing.
The Quiet Girl
Ireland’s entry for the 2023 Oscars took many people by surprise and by many people I mean me (I didn’t review it and only saw it after hearing from friends and family that the Gaelic-language drama was astounding). It’s 1981, and 10-year-old Cait (Catherine Clinch), all at sea in her own huge family, finds her footing during a stay with her mother’s shy, childless relatives. Colm Bairead’s feature film debut seems simple, but the acting and dialogue have a cumulative wallop. You won’t notice how sad The Quiet Girl is till you’re mid-howl.
Top Gun: Maverick
Tom Cruise is on top form in a sequel that outperforms the 1986 original in every way. Miles Teller plays Rooster (son of Goose), the troubled youngster that loose-cannon navy pilot Pete Mitchell has vowed to protect. The chemistry between Cruise and Teller is delish, probably because they’re both natural born comics, and the third act is insanely rousing. You don’t need to be able to tell an F/A-18E from an F-14 to get high on this mission. Go Pete!
Triangle of Sadness
A vomit-flecked take down of the rich and powerful from Ruben Östlund, the brilliant Swede who gave us Force Majeure and The Square. Though the bulk of the movie is set on board a luxury cruise liner, some of the most memorable scenes take place on a tropical isle. The end result is a churning cross between Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Lord of the Flies and I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! Harris Dickinson is delightful as a doltish male model and Dolly De Leon shines as an enterprising service worker. When this worm turns, it glows.
The Woman King
Set in 19th century West Africa and loosely based on fact, this fighty, feminist, gloriously moving epic stars some of the most charismatic actors on the planet. Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim and Thuso Mbedu are members of an elite, all-female group of warriors. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther may have paved the way for The Woman King, but director Gina Prince-Bythewood delivers her own spin on posse power.