Amour (Michael Haneke)
Dubbed ‘the feel good movie of the year’*, Amour explores the extraordinary suffering that love can inflict. Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) suffers a stroke and attempts to hold on to her dignity and grace as her body degenerates in front of her enduring and loving husband, Georges. Director Michael Haneke confines us to their apartment, offering only glimpses of Parisian streets during which we take gasps of air between confronting sequences of Anne’s physical and mental degradation. While the film is troubling and at times difficult to watch, we didn’t for a moment doubt its magnificence.
* Joffrey Lannister.
Cloud Atlas (Wachowski siblings)
Set over six different eras of human history, Cloud Atlas explores acts of human cruelty and kindness that ripple across centuries to inspire revolutions and destroy relationships. The story moulds and develops seamlessly, passing meaningfully between sci-fi chase sequences and civil-war friendships. Actors cross nationalities, power dynamics, and even genders. Hugo Weaving dives from a Nurse Ratchett-type retirement home employee to an enigmatic demon figure that will remind Mighty Boosh fans of The Hitcher. While the ‘ripple-effect’ premise isn’t entirely original, the film is carried by individual narratives and performances, as well as skilful editing.
Trance (Danny Boyle)
What begins as a slick heist film fronted by silver-tongued James McAvoy quickly goes on a date with Christopher Nolan and plunges into psychological-romance-thriller. After a bump on the head, Simon suffers from short-term memory loss, which is bad news, because he can’t remember where he’s put a multi-million dollar Goya painting. As hypnotherapist Rosario Dawson aids his recollection, we are plunged into Simon’s troubled mind and disturbing past. Some critics are calling this an Inception rip-off, but I found it at times a darker, deeper investigation into the psyche. Though a little self-indulgent towards the end, with strange hints of an Apple commercial, this is overall, a great watch.
The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance)
Two men, around the same age, both with infant sons, are from very different backgrounds. Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a motorcycle stunt driver, and Avery (Bradley Cooper) is an up-and-coming cop. Our young father protagonists only meet briefly, but the consequences carry through a generation, taking effect on their sons decades later. The Place Beyond the Pines is a bold and memorable tale, driven by its epic drama-thriller structure, and deepened by its insights into family, class, and the politics of privilege.