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 top 20 criminally underrated films of 2015:
20. Just Jim
On the outskirts, Craig Robert’s directorial debut is a high school film about a kid who finds it difficult to make friends but its wrapped up in such coarsely detailed Lynchian paranoia that it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off it. Craig Roberts (popularly know as the lead star in Richard Ayoade’s Submarine) is a talent to look forward to. His film, that’s supposedly a soul-brother of David Fincher’s Fight Club has one of the classiest camera-work of the year and even though the film peters out towards the end, its one hell of a ride down the dark-surreal lane of ambiguity.
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19. The Voices
If you take Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, blend him in a blender making him an introvert who talks with his pets, the resulting mixture would turn out to be Jerry. Marjane Satrapi’s black comedy about a lonesome guy features the single greatest performance by Ryan Reynolds. The Voices works perfectly on multiple fronts. It’s a charming black comedy that has the perfect amount of surrealistic gruesomeness. One that not only entertains but enthralls and horrifies in equal measures.
18. Night Owls
Featuring one of the most magnetic chemistries of the year, Night Owls is a subversive romantic-comedy that doesn’t push back from insulting, kicking, or pulling the hair of the person in front. It talks about the obsession and desperation to be loved by the right ‘one.’ It questions as to what should be done when it’s too hard to leave things be and simply walk away. It’s also about trying to figure out the easier and the right path in a world that seems to push you towards following the said God.
17. 99 Homes
Above everything the film is about the desperation of a human being. It’s about that thought in the brain which leads you to hang around the bridge that can take you both ways. It also channels out the fact that the dark side is not always wrong, and the right side is not always right. 99 Homes is a powerfully acted human tragedy that works mostly because of a taut screenplay and its ability to bring out real emotions out of the people watching without being overly manipulative.
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Margaret is one of my favorite films of this decade which displayed the emotion of ‘grief’ on the large spectrum that is impossible to forget even today. Meadowland hovers in the same zone of grief where Sarah & Phil’s son has disappeared one fine afternoon, on the road trip. Subtle and raw in emotions, very restrained in its writing, and never let go of the lid from sublimated anger contained within, Meadowland is a kind of a film that will be difficult to connect with the lead protagonist, still you feel their pain. Olivia Wilde gets into the skin of the character and fills the palette of grief with her splendid but subtle performance that makes her loss very palatable. Both the characters find it hard to accept the tragic fact and sooner they slip into demented shallowness.
15. Tu Dors Nicole
A strange amalgamation of the soul of Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach’s oddball comedy about failed people & the episodic feeling of Two Days, One Night, Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne’s drama about a woman trying to keep it intact. Stéphane Lafleur’s Tu dors Nicole relies heavily on its framed images & the blinking transitioning face of its protagonist. Tu Dors Nicole is a coming-of-age film where nothing & everything happens at the same time. The greatest weapon of Lafleur’s monochromatic dream is its tendency of being slight & slow. It creeps up on you when you least expect it to.
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14. 100 Yen Love
100 Yen Love is not your regular boxing film that portrays female characters rising from a patriarchal society to prove her self fueling feminism. Supported by a terrific central performance by Sakura Ando, and even more strongly developed the subversive character of her, 100 Yen Love asks for patience on viewers’ behalf but bestows them with non-cliche, subtle and almost staggering character study of a slothful & frivolous female protagonist that might resonate your own-self at some point of time in life. This is the well-made women empowering film without a hint of it, and that is an achievement in itself.
13. The Mend
The Mend is a terrific first feature. It inspects the life of two brothers who are oil & water in a tank of wastewater. Josh Lucas in particular is a revelation here. His character pisses on random thoughts & wishes to keep himself afloat with a broken laptop & a leather bag. His brother on the other hand is in love with a girl who may or may not be the right one. The Mend has an energy that shows more life in its mundane, monotonous moments than any other film does in an hour or so. The energy & intelligent editing shows the power of cinema in transforming similarly themed results into fresh & new packages. Also, has one of the best opening scenes of the year.
12. From Afar
Transfixed eyes of Armando (Alfredo Castro) yearning for sexual intimacy calls a guy to his place, softly demands to take clothes off, and turn back to him. He then masturbates while gazing and fantasizing about him. He never touches the guy, but it is a sexually charged, tensed long gaze that does wonder for him. The début film of Venezuelan filmmaker Lorenzo Castes, From Afar (Desde allá) is subtle, tensed, unpredictable, and intentionally slow-paced & non sensationalized gay romance, devoid of any exposition, and letting characters take control of the film. Though the central character of middle-aged loner man Armando is very unidimensional for the good of the film, it is young thug guy Elder from the streets whose encounter brings the spikes in the characterization rendered by changing dynamics of their relationship during the course of time, until brutally devastating climax. Though From Afar may not appeal you by the time end credits roll, but the intriguing characters will stay long in your mind, and introspect their action.
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11. The Falling
The Falling is an enigmatic tale of mass-hysteria. Chucking up elements from Picnic at Hanging Rock, Carol Morley’s film is poetic, bewitched, disturbing, and absolutely unforgettable. The film observes the peculiar and mysterious fall-out of the hysterical epidemic in the early 1960s. Filmed and seen from the perspective of an all-girls-school in England, it revolves around two friends/lovers who share an intense relationship with each other. The color pallets and the instant change in imagery are a wee-bit tough to fathom and yet it fascinates without faltering.
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Director Collin Schiffli & Writer David Dastmalchian quite cleverly and with stark authenticity try to draw a parallel between College graduated Jude (David Dastmalchian) & Bobby (Kim Shaw) who are heroin addicts couple and various random animals show in the film. Constantly bickering but madly in love, these two Chicago residents often fall sick, they roam around neighborhoods looking for an opportunity to con someone, or rob a store, or to park their beat-car to spend the night. Animals are a merrier version of Requiem for a Dream, where Schiffli directs the film partly like a documentary, in a very restrained manner, without making the characters slip into the “hippie-cool” zone of addiction. Watch out for the terrific scene where Jude and Bobbie talk about conning a woman having a newborn kid.
Anchored by a brilliant performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, first time director Riley Stearns talks about insanity, solitude, and spiritual beliefs. Like a coin that has two sides, he never falters in showing the two sides of the story. Packs them with enough black-humor and subtlety to a point where it gets the audiences confused; as they drown in the sea of lies and truth. He constantly questions the human psyche as to what side should they be on.
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8. Far from Men
Writer-director David Oelhoffen paints the beautiful but deserted landscape canvas with the colors of palpating human drama that will certainly move you. The film echoes the psyche of two men from different strata who are thrown into a “lose-lose” situation and they have to make a hard choice of choosing the best of the losing options.On the surface, the film derives its drama from the chemistry of both the leading men [Daru (Viggo Mortensen) and Mohamed (Reda Kateb)] share, but if you dig a little deeper, you will see it as a brilliant character study that has a terrific character arc. When Mohamed starts his journey without knowing anything of the outer world, he soon realizes how the world has a substantial impact on his moral dilemma and it literally questions his existential crisis. Also, the character of Daru who seems introvert and little rough in the start slowly mellows down looking at the vulnerability of Mohamed and his honesty that teaches him a thing or two. Far from men has some tense scenes, few scenes might question your own values and it is set against stunning & breathtaking landscapes.
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As its name suggests, Buzzard is about an idle temp, a deadly vulture in a corporate flock that takes advantage of a crack in the system and feeds on it. What starts as a fraudulent scheme of a slacker, trying to cut corners just for fun, turns into a vicious chain of crime. It’s like a self-inflicted wound that gets so rotten and ugly that it turns into a grim weapon. Joel Potrykus’ final part of ‘Animal Trilogy’ is seriously funny, one of the most original and coolest slacker films with its heavy metal music, pop culture references, flashy evil masks, and a literary killing Nintendo Power Glove inspired by Freddy Krueger. So sit back, grab a couple of pizzas with nachos in between, a big ass mountain dew, and enjoy. And if you want to play games, bring your own controller.
6. Queen of Earth
Queen of Earth is about chronic depression, about paranoia, and that single figurative perspective of life that sends you to a descent into unfamiliar & heart-breaking territories. Alex Ross Perry’s film relies heavily on the atmosphere that surrounds it and succeeds greatly. It works like a horrific account of a woman on the edge of losing herself to insanity. Bolstered by one of the best performances of the year by Elisabeth Moss, Queen of Earth is a film that, in spite of its timid & dark subject, chalks out with engaging vibrancy.
Loreak works partly as an emotional thriller, and mostly as a melancholic story that is emotionally subtle, a gripping exploration of memories and hands-off love. What starts off as a mystery for construction site office worker Ane (Nagore Aranburu) who starts to receive flowers from, presumably, an unknown admirer, suddenly it turns into romantic remembrance when Ane realizes that his supposedly “might” be admirer is dead and she starts visiting his grave with flowers. This creates a melancholic domino effect that intertwines the lives of two individuals who seeks closer to their disturbing ongoing remorse.
4. Güeros | Director : Alonso Ruiz Palacios
The most positive aspect of writer/director Ruiz Palacios’ script is that you don’t need to be aware of a particular Mexican era or need to possess a dense cinematic knowledge about New Wave French films to connect with the ineffable journey of these people. The characters are written as tangible persons of the pop-culture (similar to the way director Linklater’s characters behave). Their yearnings and disintegrated dreams aren’t burdened with the occasional post-modern self-references or flashy surrealism. The film could be simply read as a journey of youngsters, living within an emotional bubble that bursts out as they encounter friendship, brotherhood and even vehemence. Of course, Ruiz Palacio designs the narrative to be anything but simple. He turns the situations tense in an instant: wind-shields are shattered; gang of neighborhood kids poses a threat; a frantic students’ meeting & protests, etc (it reminded me of Scorsese’s “After Hours”).
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3. The Goob
In the heavenly wasteland of Norfolk, a timid lad named Goob is looking for a diversion, anything that would help him escape his abusive father. He tootles through pumpkin fields on his moped in a bright summer day. Even though the movie is set in lush open landscapes, it feels extremely claustrophobic. The bleak tone of the movie aptly captures the gloominess of the land that is notorious for being the most desolate in the world. But even the bleakest moments are filled with beauty and wicked humor. Goob’s life spirals around Norfolk just like those humming and thumping racing cars running in a loop. The Goob has unusual vibrance to it and heart-throbbing soundtracks that will make your heart flutter like a swan.
If you have ever felt that you are at the end of a road, left to tether away in ruins of claustrophobic self-loathing. If you have ever felt broken, on the verge of becoming rotten and up for unquestionable decay, the relationship portrayed in Mélanie Laurent’s second directorial venture ‘Breathe’ will echo your insides, probably shiver you to the bone & leave you tasteless. Read Complete Review.
1. Mia Madre
Mia Madre centers around Margherita who is in the middle of directing her new film but distracted from her mother’s life-threatening disease. While not letting the emotions overpower the narration, Nanni‘s screenplay swiftly incorporates an occasional blend of laughter mostly derived from squabbling with his latest film’s lead actor played by John Turturro. The film staggeringly evokes the sense of being not in control of your life. The film constructs parallelism between the death of Margherita’s mother and her experience on the set which carries uncanny similarity. Mia Madre is a kind of a film where every time you think about it, you will have something new to discover; the multi-layered script has life, death, film-making, solitude, relationships, an existential crisis at its crux, which surprisingly reflects Moretti‘s own life. [Read More…]
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