Best of 2014: 5 Top Films By or About Women
- Category: Blogs
- Created: Tuesday, 30 December 2014 15:38
- Published: Tuesday, 30 December 2014 15:38
- Written by Edie Nugent
2014 was a good year for women in film. Despite the release of studies showing that Hollywood still suffers from a dearth of women behind and in front of the camera, 2014’s releases defied those statistics: offering much in the way of solid female-driven films. Here’s our list of the top five best films by or about women in 2014.
1. OBVIOUS CHILD
A comedy about a young, single, stand-up comedian seeking an abortion in New York City. It sounds like a winning hand of Cards against Humanity, but it’s actually the plot of the Sundance Award-winning film Obvious Child starring SNL alum Jenny Slate. Slate plays Donna Stern who, after being unceremoniously dumped in a bathroom stall, hooks up with grad student Max (Jake Lacy) as a rebound only to discover the fling has gotten her pregnant. Obvious Child sees Donna follow through on the procedure, without the dire consequences that often accompany fictional portrayals of abortion. That fact alone makes the film a groundbreaking must-see, but Obvious Child has even more to offer. Gillian Robespierre’s self-aware, snappy script is full of heart; perfectly embodied in Slate’s funny, relatable, star-making performance.
This timely documentary, the third in a series from filmmaker Laura Poitras (My Country My Country, The Oath) examining a post-9/11 America, gives a rare glimpse into the life of Edward Snowden as he prepares to commit treason by handing over protected information on the NSA’s extensive surveillance program. Poitras was two years into working on a documentary about surveillance when Snowden contacted her using the alias ‘Citizenfour.’ Poitras met with Snowden in Hong King in 2013, bringing journalist Glenn Greenwald with her as Snowden had tried and failed to contact Greenwald before turning to Poitras. The resulting footage of their meeting is not just compelling but also history-making. Poitras herself moved from the United States to Berlin, Germany so she could finish the film without interference. Part real-life spy-thriller, part documentary, Citizenfour provides a sobering look at how personal privacy may already be a thing of the past.
3. THE BABADOOK
Any new mother will tell you: parenthood is an overwhelming, exhausting and often scary experience. These themes are exploited to terrifying effect by first-time writer/director Jennifer Kent in The Babadook. Essie Davis stars as Amelia, a somewhat harried single mother struggling to raise her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Sam is an imaginative, tempestuous child who builds weaponry to battle monsters that, at first, appear to be imaginary. His behavioral problems force Amelia to pull him from school, but it’s when Sam requests Amelia read him a book titled “The Babadook” before bed that the story turns to horror. The pop-up book is filled with horrifying, unsettling imagery. Soon after reading it, Amelia begins to withdraw from the world around her, setting the stage for the mysterious Babadook to appear. Acting, pacing and directing are all top-notch here: ratcheting up the tension to Hitchcockian levels. It’s Amelia’s personal journey, however, that truly elevates the film beyond typical jump-scare-style horror to become a study on the mind’s battle against the real-life monsters of depression and mental illness.
4. UNDER THE SKIN
Writer/director Jonathan Glazer’s third feature Under The Skin stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress who lures men to her home where they are consumed, leaving behind only their skins. Johansson is mesmerizing in the lead role, showing great restraint in her portrayal of the alien stranger in the strange land of Glasgow, Scotland. Glasgow is nearly as much a character in the film as Johansson, its misty weather and remoteness leveraged to brilliant effect. Indeed the city seems otherworldly as Johansson drives through its streets, searching for victims. By contrast, the 2001: A Space Odyssey-style imagery depicting Johansson’s alien lair is grounded by taking a very earthly, dilapidated house as it’s ‘skin.’ The unsettling, moody film says much about the human condition with almost no dialogue; instead relying on unscripted encounters between the alien woman and the men she preys on (these were filmed with hidden cameras) for the first half of the film. The second half of this science fiction thriller sees Johansson attempting to understand what it means to be truly human, with disastrous results.
5. WE ARE THE BEST!
We Are The Best! is a sweet coming-of-age story set in Stockholm, Sweden in 1982. Adapted from Coco Moodysson’s 2008 graphic novel “Never Goodnight,” the story follows two 13-year-old teenage girls who are rejected by their classmates for the very things they love: punk rock and its related fashions of baggy clothes and short hair. In defiance of the taunts from a group of boys who play in a band at the girls’ local youth center, friends Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) start their own punk-rock band. They enlist the musicianship of local girl Hedvig (Live LeMoyne) whose religious family threatens the project, and the trio alternately bond, fight and attempt to discover themselves. Writer/director Lucas Moodysson lovingly adapts his wife’s autobiographical indie comic, but it’s the wonderful performances from the three lead girls, especially Mira Grosin, that make this one of the year’s best films.