We’re nearing the end of another year, and while there are still some big hitters to come in 2018 in the form of DC blockbusters and Oscar contenders, let’s take a look back over the films that went a little under the radar this year, with the best movies of 2018 that you might have missed.
The Hate U Give
For a film that features such a riveting and passionate portrayal of one of the most significant topics in modern society, I was stunned by just how unnoticed George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give went.
Based on a young adult novel, The Hate U Give was released with a PG-13/12A rating, but don’t let that make you think the film is a lighter take on contemporary society and race relations, because it’s the exact opposite – an incredibly intense, aggressive and deeply passionate portrayal of continuing injustices in modern society, and the problems that many living with the reality of gang warfare meet with on a daily basis.
Race relations are always a topic of choice for numerous films throughout the year, but I’ve never seen a film that hits the topic as hard and passionately as The Hate U Give, with an incredibly modern and contemporary insight that provides a far more shocking and intense watch than many historical dramas with a similar central theme.
Somehow, The Hate U Give went really rather unnoticed by the general public, however I urge you to seek the film out and give it a watch, because it’s without a doubt one of the most powerful and striking dramas of the year, perhaps even the decade.
Every year, any number of teen angst dramas are released, and while most of them are unfortunately trivial and childish portrayals of the true nature of growing up, Bo Burnham’s deeply moving Eighth Grade is a brilliant exception.
An incredibly poignant coming-of-age film that gets to the crux of the emotional ups and downs of growing up, it centres on Kayla, a young teenage girl about to move on to high school, as she negotiates inner emotional confusion, as well as the struggles of trying to break into the adult world still at a young age.
In that, the film is a very genuine painting of the struggles of growing up in the modern world, and unlike so many coming-of-age dramas that get too drawn into the social mechanisms of a random high school, Eighth Grade keeps its focus firmly on its main character, allowing you to form a deep emotional connection with her as she navigates the hardest point of her life so far, and as such making for a deeply poignant and moving watch.
Comparable to the brilliant The Edge Of Seventeen from 2016, Eighth Grade has absolutely everything a great coming-of-age movie should, with a combination of moving, relatable, and often even nostalgic childhood drama, as well as a beautifully-acted, directed and written story that really shows what growing up in th modern world is like.
The greatest tragedy of the way the film industry is moving was borne out with the release of Alex Garland’s stunning sci-fi thriller Annihilation, released in cinemas in only three countries around the world, and solely on Netflix everywhere else.
I was fortunate enough to see the film on the big screen, because Annihilation is arguably the year’s most visually stunning and deeply affecting movie. With exceptional and powerfully atmospheric directing from Alex Garland (Ex Machina), a strikingly imaginative sci-fi setting, and a deeply unsettling story, Annihilation had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
Full of terrifying sci-fi thrills throughout, the film is a mind-bending and incredibly bold piece, featuring brilliant performances from Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson and more, and one that undoubtedly deserves to be seen on as big a screen and in as dark a room as possible, particularly one jaw-dropping scene that will scare you to the bone.
On the plus side, you can watch it on Netflix now, where it is still a truly brilliant watch, but because of that, the film never got the fanfare and great recognition it truly deserves, which is surely one of the greatest tragedies of this year in film.
Patience is a virtue, and no film this year sums that up better than director Björn Runge’s stunning slow-burn thriller The Wife.
Starring Glenn Close as the spouse of a Nobel Prize-winning writer travelling to Stockholm to collect his award, the way the film develops from quiet, measured drama into something completely different is quite exceptional, with a heart-racing final act that sees Close give one of the best performances of the year, and the entire film throw off its shackles in a stunning conclusion.
It is a slow-burner, no doubt, however The Wife is a film that slowly reveals small but deeply important nuggets of drama over the course of its two hour runtime, and while it may feel like things aren’t moving on quickly enough, the payoff for your patience and attention over the course of the first act is unbelievably satisfying come the end, as the film features one of the most stunning finales of recent years, retaining the class and style of a film with brains, but breaking out into something far more electric than you could have ever imagined at the start.
Paraguay. Not the first place you’d think of when it comes to cinematic classics, yet the country came out with a real stunner in the form of Marcelo Martinessi’s The Heiresses.
Another slow-burn drama, The Heiresses is a film that’s all substance and a whole lot less style, with a patient, quiet and very understated story that sees a deep tension subtly bubbling throughout, as we see an old woman undergo a personal crisis when her wife is thrown in jail.
As I said, the film is all about the subtext, and while it does feature some very elegant directing and a stunning lead performance from Ana Brun, there comes an incredible pleasure and power from watching a film unfold such drama while barely saying a word about it, and as the story develops into a genuinely enthralling drama towards the finish, its ingenious screenplay and beautifully understated nature make it one of the most engrossing and immersive films you’ll have seen in a long time.
Anna And The Apocalypse
Taking a break from all these slow-burn dramas now, with the delightfully ridiculous Anna And The Apocalypse, the world’s first – and I would imagine only – zombie Christmas musical.
While its premise may sound like a bit of a recipe for disaster, the film is actually one of the most enjoyable I’ve seen in 2018, with a brilliantly fun-loving atmosphere, good action, and even the odd catchy musical number to get the feet tapping as well.
If you enjoyed the likes of Shaun Of The Dead, Zombieland or even Attack The Block, then you’ll have a great time with Anna And The Apocalypse, and while it’s not a perfectly executed merging of the three genres of horror, musical and Christmas, the film does prove a mightily entertaining watch from start to finish, and something that everyone can sit down and enjoy together, whether it’s Halloween Night or Christmas Day.
Despite its trailer being somewhat of a sleeper hit online, Sam Levinson’s insane thriller Assassination Nation ended up as one of the year’s most undeserving box office bombs.
While it may come across as provocative just for the sake of being provocative, Assassination Nation is actually one of the year’s best thrillers, as it develops from a psychedelic and very modern social drama into an insane horror extravaganza that’s completely off-the-wall.
Its opening act is pretty much there to get you feeling incensed at all manner of ‘triggers’, and while the film takes a little bit of time to get into its main story, effectively a witch hunt 21st Century-style, it soon develops into one of the most psychotic and entertaining movies of the year, furthered by a passionate and provocative political core.
It’s definitely not a film everyone will take to, hence why it wasn’t such a hit at the box office, however as one of the year’s most modern and out-there movies, it proves a real surprise, and with that provocative opening act followed up by a totally insane horror finale, it’s a unique watch, and massively entertaining and thrilling right the way through.