20 Criminally Underrated Films of 2018
2018 has been a great year for films. The year saw young film-makers marrying off inventive techniques and narrative craft with strong content that redefined the genre in itself [The Wolf House, Long Day’s Journey Into the Night, Madeline’s Madeline, The Endless, Searching]. 2018 also witnessed veteran film-makers like Lars Von Trier [The House That Jack Built], Gaspar Noe [Climax], Paul Schrader [First Reformed] making strong films in their familiar space. Most of the best movies of 2018 belong to Indie films, while popular, big production house films like Mission Impossible: Fallout, Avengers: Infinity War, Ready Player one and Black Panther made their presence felt with their strong content.
Everyone saw films that surfaced well on whatever platform their boat sailed to. But there were some rather unfamiliar films that never saw the light of the day. These films need your instant attention, here goes our list of 20 most overlooked and underrated movies of 2018.
20. Wrath Of Silence | Xin Yukun | China
The deafening silence of the mute protagonist echoes the rampant corruption and conservatism of China that has slowly snipped the light of hope away from the working class, pushed them in deep darkness, the pitch black of a coal mine deep within the womb of earth with no light and no comfort, a black that even absorbs hope. Set amidst the backdrop of the dead mountains of Baotou, an industrial city in Mongolia, where the intense mining of natural mineral resources has transformed the mountainside pasturelands into an inhospitable, dry & lifeless desert, a wasteland.
Xin Yukun’s “Wrath of Silence” is a gritty romanticism of apathetic condition of the labour class in North China who are exploited by their own people, who climbed up to efficacious dominance by corruption & deception, and alarming state of industrialization leaving a permanent scar on nature and working class people.Xin Yukun achieves the remarkable feat of sketching three contrasting characters and giving each of them enough breathing room to evolve, and providing the audience with an opportunity to root for or against them. He beautifully illustrates how the discriminatory division of Chinese economy has given incessant rise to social inequality. You can read the complete review of the film here.
19. A Prayer Before Dawn | Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire | UK
Anchored by Joe Cole’s staggering performance, heart-wrenching ‘A Prayer before dawn’ lands a violent punch in your gut, kicks in your balls, and leaves you unsettled after the end credit rolls. The film is as good as black and white, without the shades of grey, no metaphors; An English guy caught by police for an illegal possession of a gun and arrested, put up for three years in a Thai jail that could softly be described as hell.
Billy is locked in a kind of a jail where survival matters, every day is a struggle unless you can trade cigarettes, and let powerful men use your body. Billy is often throttled and cornered by Thai inmates, making him a soft target. Your heart goes out for him. Billy finds hope when he learns about Thai boxing tournament in the jail. He does manage to get into a Boxing team, that brings some concession to his bleak life.
18. Golden Exits | Alex Ross Perry | USA
As one of the characters suggests, “People never make films about ordinary people that don’t really do anything.” ‘Golden Exits’ is exactly that film – a film about unlikeable ordinary people who live and breath in the same ecosystem where Woody Allen’s characters nurture. Alex Ross Perry returns to writing and direction after his eerie atmospheric, highly under-rated ‘Queen of Earth’ that put him on the Indie map as one of the sought after film-makers.
In ‘Golden Exits’, Alex sharply observes the mundanity of bourgeois Brooklynites and, in particular, the shifting emotional space and interpersonal issues of the families occupying a few blocks. Alex sketches gentle characters this time, boring ones, as opposed to abrasive and obsessed in his previous film, he weaves this handful of men and women in the plot without manufacturing any manipulative subplot.
17. Ee.Ma.Yau | Lijo Jose Pellissery | India
Lijo Jose Pellissery has mastered the art of blending the drama with quirky and eccentric humour that is less situational and more observational. The seeds were clearly sown in his flawed Double Barrel and further explored in Angamaly Diaries but with Ee.Ma.Ya, he really got hold of the balance between the humour and tragedy that makes him one of the few tragic-comedy film-makers in India who can pull off black comedy with ease, without succumbing to substandard comedy.
‘Ee.Ma.Yau’ revolves around a loving son – Eeshi (Chemban Vinod Jose) – trying to organise a grand funeral for his father with dignity and respect but things don’t go as per his plan. The funeral proceedings pave a path for idiosyncratic drama and observational humour that gradually turns into a circus, revealing the greater deal about the quirky characters in the town and their shifting humanistic values.
Ee.Ma.Yau Also Featured in Our Annual list of The 15 Best Indian Films of 2018
16. Eldorado | Markus Imhoof | Switzerland
Eldorado is a multifaceted and deeply humane documentary on the ugly realities and moral bankruptcy at the forefront of the refugee crisis. Many Spanish conquistadors trekked deep into South American forests to discover Eldorado, the mythical lost city of gold. The wishful thinking of discovering this gold-coated paradise gobbled lots of lives. In Markus Imhoof’s hard-hitting documentary Eldorado (2018), we see desperate souls reaching the calm shores of southern Italy to escape from purgatory, a wishful thinking that often doesn’t come true.
Eldorado comes across as a fitting companion piece to Gianfranco Rosi’s Fire at Sea (2016). Rosi juxtaposed microscopic, the personal viewpoint of a boy inhabiting a peaceful coastal town with the macroscopic perspective of emaciated asylum seekers crossing into Italy to start anew (few nautical miles from the boy’s hometown). Similarly, Eldorado flits between micro and macro views, elegantly stitching up the film-maker’s private recollections of WWII memories with the twisted economics of EU refugee crisis. You can read our review of the film here.