You've seen my worst, now prepare for the best: below are my (ever-shuffling) top twenty favourite films released in the UK in 2017, and some honourable mentions for good measure. For various reasons, these are the films that owned my heart across the calendar year, with an explanation for each provided. Be sure to send me your own year-end lists, ask question and query my choices. In the first few weeks of the year, I'll unveil my full ranking of every film I have seen; as it stands, there are 156 of the buggers but I have a number I've missed and want to include.
Honourable Mentions: Wind River, Logan, Wonder Woman, The Big Sick, God's Own Country, Logan Lucky, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Florida Project, Brigsby Bear, It, Okja, Miss Sloane, Raw, The Party, Ingrid Goes West.
A late-in-the-game addition to the year-end list, Stronger is a profound and powerful rumination on hope, recovery and strength. David Gordon Green's emotionally-charged feature-length is the second film to be released this year about the Boston Marathon Bombings but in focusing on the more personal, achingly human story, and containing two of the year's very finest performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany, Stronger rises head and shoulders above.
19. War For The Planet of the Apes
The Planet of the Apes closed out its critically-acclaimed and commerically-successful trilogy on its strongest note to date, providing a late-summer blockbuster as powerful as it is satisfying, as funny as it is devastating, as technically impressive as it is thematically potent. It is smart and cathartic in equal measures and succeeds by finding a unfortunately timely tone in its theme work and message, refusing to shy away from its bleakness. Blockbuster filmmaking at its most impressive.
18. Their Finest
Lone Scherfig's gorgeous war comedy-romance-drama may be the year's most pleasant surprise. It balances tone and genre terrifically, delivering a well-thoughtout, stirring and frequently delightful slice of cinema. Including one of the most moving sequences of the year, with the most bittersweet pay-off, Their Finest is utterly lovely filmmaking.
17. Loving Vincent
Loving Vincent is a visually groundbreaking work of art. Made up of 65,000 oil-painted frame, each crafted with love, care and skill, it frequently amazes but remains grounded to the touching true-life story about one of our greatest artists: Vincent Van Gogh, the film's undisputed muse. A tender, beautiful and captivating artist triumph that should be celebrated this upcoming award season.
16. Kingdom of Us
Both delicate and confrontational, Lucy Cohen's Kingdom of Us is a difficult but necessary watch. There's no frills or tricks to Cohen's filmmaking and she remains smartly focused on the family unit at the centre and their heartbreaking story. Like a fly-on-the-wall, this documentary rarely shies away from difficult subject matter and scenes of emotional distress - and benefits all the more because of its bravery.
FULL REVIEW ON FILM INQUIRY
15. Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures is not only the most crowd-pleasing, uplifting release of the year, but a genuinely fantastic film that deserves every inch of success. Informative and inspirational, Theodore Melfi's biopic casts new light on an important piece of US history, wonderfully captured by the terrific, dynamic ensemble: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae all shine here in career best performances.
14. Baby Driver
Exhilarating and thrilling, Edgar Wright's Baby Driver is tight and exciting filmmaking that oozes originality and freshness. With a fantastic ensemble led by the ever-charming Ansel Elgort and super stylish production values, Baby Driver is as cool as they come, with an energy and enthusiasm that makes for an electrifying viewing experience.
13. Get Out
12. Manchester By The Sea
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an extreme, sadistic, brutal and unforgiving cinematic experience, clawing its way, mercilessly, under your skin. Impossible to shake, it lodges itself in your conscious for days. Yorgos Lanthimos, a writer-director at the top of his game, assembles one of the strongest ensembles of the year - Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan are spectacular - for his taut, characteristically heart-stopping, nerve-shredding, gut-clenching psychological-horror.
Moonlight is an impeccable film that masters almost every single element; its performances, direction, visuals, story and score are utterly mesmerising. Barry Jenkins' eventual Oscar-winner frequently impresses in its delicate exploration of sexual identity and realisation. Basking in this cinematic wonder is a debt you owe yourself.
Jackie's strengths lie in the detail; the detail of a terrific production team and art department; detail in Pablo Larrain's wonderful direction and Stephane Fontaine's cinematography; and the precision in Natalie Portman's exquisite central performance, which portrays the film's themes of grief and loss on an intimate scale incredibly effectively.
8. Hacksaw Ridge
Hacksaw Ridge is a powerful, emotionally-charged and surprisingly hopeful feature-length that examines the full horror of war on both an intimate and wide scale - all topped off with a mesmerising performance from Andrew Garfield, who continues to assert himself as one of our very strongest talents.
A Ghost Story is a mesmerising experience and a hypnotising exploration of love, loss, life, time and humanity; a story of great simplicity that considers themes of great complexity and detail. Visually spellbinding and thematically profound, David Lowery's direction is elegant and sophisticated, heighten by two terrific performances from Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, and Daniel Hart's extraordinary score.
6. Paddington 2
Our world does not deserve a film as warm, optimistic and utterly lovely as Paddington 2 but it definitely needs one - it will make you laugh, cry and strive to be a better human. Lovingly-made and packed with so much heart and soul, it is the rare example of a sequel that improves upon the original. Nothing short of a triumph, Paddington 2 uses its increased production budget and the talented team at its disposal to craft a film of genuine optimism and hope for the world to learn from.
5. Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your name truly took my breath away, achieving - if not exceeding - the hype that preceded it. It is a sensually indulgent, heart-pounding and sun-kissed future classic, exquisitely exploring the plethora of gorgeous themes through a fantastic adapted screenplay, delivered by a handful of faultless performances - Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg and particularly Timothee Chalamet impress - and helmed by a masterful, confident director. Call Me By Your Name is a triumph, plain and simple and one of the most touching films I have ever - and probably will ever - experience.
4. A Monster Calls
A Monster Calls is an accomplished, sophisticated and masterful coming-of-age dark fantasy drama that succeeds in so many ways. Emotionally-complex and driven by themes of loss, unconditional love and growth, it is delivered by a radiant cast of incredible talent both in front of and behind the camera, who capture the beauty of a powerful story unbelievably effectively, A Monster Calls is not one to miss. The whole thing is really rather exquisite, heartfelt, heartbreaking and life-affirming.
mother! is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting, even before it reaches its insane crescendo, where everything and the (unbraced) bathroom sink is thrown at the wall. A cinematic experience of previously unmeasured proportions, mother! is a raw and visceral escapade, sadistic in the most artistically-rewarding sense - a complete assault on every major sense in your body. Jennifer Lawrence amazes and Darren Aronofsky shocks.
A film about art and nature and creation; of destruction; a story about rage and wrath; one of love and loss and death and murder; of darkness - completely blackness. A film unlike any other, a truly unique experience. mother! will claw at you furiously, through its slow start and balls-to-the-wall finale to its greater meaning and deeper reflections on life, on the world, on religion and on rebirth. mother! isn't for everyone but by god you should submit and find out. I left mother! slightly shaking, struggling to breathe and completely enthralled and in awe. Isn't that what art is for?
Dunkirk in a nerve-shattering, unrelenting and intense cinematic experience of the highest, most sophisticated level. Without question, Nolan's picture is a sheer masterclass in atmosphere and tension, crafted by a brilliant mind and executed phenomenally. Of course, and completely unsurprisingly, Nolan is at the very epicentre of the film's success, writing and directing the piece in a way very few could even comprehend, nevermind actually effectuate.
The man's imagination and creation is an endless source of my inspiration and admiration; on screen, he produces visually captivating and impressive images, bolstered by his ability to maintain the inbuilt tension from first beat to last; off screen, and with a pen in his hand, he constructs an excellent script that expertly weaves the unconventional tryptic narrative and timelines masterfully. With Dunkirk's brutality comes a beauty and with its complexity comes an understanding, resulting in a cinematic experience so considered, visceral and expertly rendered that it will be remembered for years to come.
1. La La Land
No one can ever take away the previously-unparalleled levels of pure joy, immense happiness and endless inspiration La La Land so lovingly instals within me. It makes my heart soar in a way no film has ever made it soar before; it reminds me that dreaming is important, and valid, and important. It sparked a light inside of me that led to many new opportunities and no matter how much anyone tries to take that away - 'it's overrated!', 'you over-hyped it', 'how can you love a film that much' - they never, ever will.