Five favourites from last year

Posted by in Reviews, Sidedoor

2015 was another fine year of film with some huge box office hits helping global cinemas pull in record revenues. As always there were surprises, disappointments and a few treasures. Here’s a list of some favourites released last year:

1. Birdman  Winning best picture at last year’s Oscars, this is the story of a faded Hollywood star struggling to regain fame by producing a new Broadway play. There’s a fair chance that Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárrituj could repeat the feat with new film The Revenant already scooping big at this year’s Golden Globes. Everything about Birdman is brilliant: the performances, its pop-culture references and dark themes on identity, purpose and definitions of success. It’s visually stunning and brings something new – the entire film appears like it has been made in one extended take – making this a real cinematic experience. Like most of Iñárrituj’s work (21 GramsBabel etc.) this is intense and could be discussed long into the night and still leave a lot to ponder.

The entire film appears like it has been made in one extended take.

2. Brooklyn  From start to finish this was the most satisfying film I watched in 2015. It’s a romantic-drama adapted from an Irish novel and stars the hugely talented Saoirse Ronan as a young Irish girl faced with a new world and choices when setting sail for America in the 1950s. It’s interesting to learn Ronan’s own family story – her parents were migrants to the US, she was born in New York and later brought up in rural Ireland. “When a story means so much to you and it’s almost like it’s your identity, it just means so much more”, she says. I loved the storytelling that weaved themes of family, romance and choices. With moments of real humour and tenderness and every scene feeling honest and authentic this film was a rare gem in 2015.

When a story means so much to you and it’s almost like it’s your identity, it just means so much more. Saoirse Ronan  

3. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl  This indie film about three teens coming together, one of whom has leukaemia, is pretty original and quirky. It’s got great film-making and is way more edgy (better too) than 2014’s similarly-themed The Fault in their Stars. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, this film about true friendship is a little bit different and worth a look – you might just be surprised.

4. Beasts of No Nation  Based on a 2005 African novel we find ourselves immersed in the life of a child solider called Aga. Cary Fukunaga (careful), director of the superb first series of True Detective, delivers a drama (commissioned by a streaming provider) that’s harrowing and opens the eyes to some of the unseen horrors taking place in African civil wars.

5. Inside Out Whiplash  You don’t typically expect a film about jazz music to have you on the edge of your seat. But watching a young drummer pushed to his limits does exactly that. The conductor’s brutal psychology is often disturbing but offers a thrilling ride for the viewer affirmed by a spontaneous rare applause from almost everyone around me in the cinema.