I am not my rosy self, left my roses on my shelf. Here are five films from the last decade. I can’t tell you these are by some objective measure the five “best” films of the last 10 years. I can’t necessarily tell you they’re my favourite five films of the last 10 years. But these are the five films which I think are some of the most personally important films to me from the last 10 years, and some attempt to explain why they are, even if not what they are. And that’s got to mean something, right?
I’m not ashamed to cry at films, by any stretch of the imagination. I think it’s fair to say everyone has their own little touchpoints, the buttons a film can press to kick it off more than usual, and boy does A Monster Calls do that for me. The first time I saw it, I went in blind to a preview screening at Bath Film Festival, knowing only that it was going to be a sad one. And as I sat in a toilet cubicle in the Bath Odeon afterwards simply to gather myself together again, I reflected on the fact that this was by far the most I’d ever cried at a film (as an adult, as I do vividly remember the peril in Barney’s Great Adventure being quite distressing as a young child). When it was released properly a few months later, I went to see it again, feeling fully prepared for the experience, thinking that knowing exactly why I cried throughout the back half of it and the exact moments it would be the worst would somehow mean I wouldn’t cry as much. If anything, I cried even more the second time around. I cried at the same points in the Bristol Old Vic’s beautiful stage adaptation in 2018. I am fairly certain I’m going to cry at the same points any time I watch it from now on. I look forward to doing so again immensely, hopefully soon.
My favourite film of the last decade. At 62 minutes long, Hertzfeldt packs in more meaning and depth than most directors achieve in their entire careers. The darkly funny and often heartbreaking story of a stick figure named Bill, It’s Such A Beautiful Day features some of the most narratively and cinematically effective in-camera animation effects I’ve ever seen. Comprising three slightly re-edited short films into a single triptych, the films tackles big topics through absurd imagery until the truth can’t be ignored any more and confronts it with great poise. It’s such a beautiful day, indeed.
“we accept the love we think we deserve”. Well, fuck.
If you’ve ever spoken to me about films for long enough, I’ll have told you my strong conviction that the context in which you watch a film cannot be separated from your perception of the film itself. Case in point, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, watched for the first time in the Bristol SU as part of a mental health awareness week, in my second term of uni, still scared and still homesick. I’m under no illusions that this film has flaws, but to me it is perfect. I cannot listen to Come On Eileen without thinking of the school dance scnee, cannot imagine any feeling of love as much as Charlie seeing Sam smile, cannot hope for any greater understanding of why I identify with Charlie so. I’ve rewatched it only the once, late at night at the end of my university career in an empty flat and was a wreck by the end of it, in the best kind of way. Sometimes it’s ok to be happy being sad.
Yes, yes, the “Rooney Mara eating pie for 5 minutes straight” film. Look beyond that and you’ll find a film that covers so much more. The passing of time, grief, impermanence, depression, and love. All with a silent protagonist of a ghost in a sheet, the most conventional depiction that you never actually see, unstuck in time and forced to confront the life he had. Shot in Academy ratio with an exceptional eye for depth of vision, Lowery tells a story that achieves great depths both intellectually and emotionally, and more importantly without ever feeling like those are two separate aims.
There is a shot in Carol, towards the beginning, of Rooney Mara (second appearance on this list, I realise now) working in a department store at Christmas, Santa hat on, shot in sumptuously grainy Super 16mm. I have never forgotten that shot. It is almost acceptable as a dictionary definition of beauty, both in subject and composition. That is almost as true of the film as a whole. The relationship between Carol and Therese is so carefully and lovingly depicted on all accounts, from Mara and Cate Blanchett’s portrayals to the writing, the direction, the cinematography, the editing, everything. Above almost all else, though, is Alexandre Desplat’s score, especially the main theme, a piece of music that I sang to myself all the way home from the Watershed to make sure I didn’t forget it by the time I could find a copy of the score. Let’s end this ramble of a blog post with it, at least provide something of value: