5. Always Shine | Director: Sophia Takal | Runtime: 85 minutes
Anchored by one of the best performance of the year by Mackenzie Davis, Always Shine is an intense drama about female companionship and their struggle to survive inside a wall of a male dominated industry. Sophia Takal taps into the inner conflict of a woman who doesn’t believe in the typical idea of what women are supposed to be. She takes up elements of jealousy, competition, hysteria and wraps them into an intense psychological thriller that soon becomes a meta-horror about the embarrassing state of how things work down the lane to being an acting success in the big-big world of Hollywood.
4. Take Me To The River | Director: Matt Sobel | Runtime: 84 minutes
You can’t stop yourself reminiscing Thomas Vinterberg’s intense & unsettling Danish drama ‘The Hunt (Jagten)‘ once you are 15 mins into writer-director Matt Sobel’s confident debut feature ‘Take me to the river’. Matt’s writing and direction exude control over every frame in the film. He knows how to play with characters effectively to create the mystery and when to open his cards. Even when the scene looks superfluous like a field of an unceasing sunflower field, it manages to create an eerie atmosphere. At one time, even the silence starts pinching you.
3. Closet Monster | Director: Stephen Dunn | Runtime: 90 minutes
The 27 Years old Canadian Director Stephen Dunn takes an old coming of age genre and bends it with a twist that is propelled by internalized angst of the leading protagonist. Oscar’s life is shaped by the two childhood events that constantly haunt him. He is a passionate make-up artist who is uncertain about his future, discovering his sexuality, and finding solace in his only friend Gemma & talking hamster.
Now, it may sound regular coming-of-age film, but Dunn does more to it by offering the ambiguity to the character and the film that clearly speaks volume about our own personal life and its struggle. Like life, every twist in the film is uncertain and the intensity of uncertainty magnifies when the focus shifts to the relationship between Oscar and his abusive father.
The ingenious cinematographer Bobby Shore impeccably uses the camera to paint the city with Oscar’s brooding incertitude about life and passion. ‘Closet Monster’ has one of the best use of the music this year and it perfectly amalgamates with the psyche of Oscar giving the film a new dimension.
2. Krisha | Director: Trey Edward Shults | Runtime: 81 minutes
‘Krisha’ is a powerful film about self-destruction at one’s own hand. It is nerve-racking, hypnotic sometimes — thanks to the unique music — and the dysfunctional family drama that unfolds organically. Krisha is an alcoholic and abuser who promises that she has got her shit together.
Her family believes her, so do we, and why not, she sports such a confidence and charm in the opening scene. The central performance by ‘Krisha Fairchild’, who is the aunt of Shults in real life, as an emotionally vulnerable person who wants to get back to her life and son but simply could not by virtue of her unconsciously self-destructive behavior, is raw, heartbreaking and simply splendid.
1. Little Men | Director: Ira Sachs | Runtime: 85 minutes
One of the best English language films of 2016, and most underrated at it. ‘Little Men’ reminded me of Asgar Farhadi’s body of work. And that’s a rare thing. Devoid of cliches, the film is character driven that bases itself on intrinsic habitat rather than glossy aesthetics. Ira Sachs gives characters their own breathing room and lets them grow on their own temperament rather than carving the tale around them.
Mr Sachs quite intelligently intertwines lives of two teens and adults seamlessly. He observes these little characters in the big city trying to adjust to their shifting nature of emotional quotient. He never gives an opportunity to either judge adults harshly for their selfish nature or renders them enough sympathy to root for them. He let viewers role-play and decide on their own. Little Men is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.