The online streaming giant Netflix has given a new life to Indie movies and film-makers. Now filmmakers can tell their story, without any inhibition, and no interference from the censor board. It has led to a tsunami of films finding their way to Netflix. Churning out one film after another, only the big budget or well star-cast or marketed films get the attention while low budget, art-house indie drama doesn’t get their due attention. In an attempt to bring out some of the hidden gems lying below the popular films, here is the list of 10 criminally underrated movies on Netflix that are worth your time and attention.
Alles ist Gut | Eva Trobisch | Germany
‘Alles ist Gut’ aka ‘All Good’/’All is well’ is artfully restrained, incredibly acted and masterfully edited. In her debut feature film, the film-maker from East Berlin, Eva Trobisch, weaves a mature narrative with a psychological complexity that leaves the audience distressed.
Aenne Schwarz’s performance is nuanced, deftly observed and intricately behaved. She gets into the skin of the character and owns it throughout the movie, right to the incredible and ambiguous close up at the end. Trobisch uses observational language to examine Janne.
Her approach on the complex subject is intimate and elementary, and therefore, it strikes much deeper in the conscience of the audience. Continue reading the complete review of Alles ist Gut.
Sunday’s Illness | Ramon Salazar | Spain
This is one of the most important and underrated movies, and I applaud Netflix to pick it for distribution. Descended from Bergman’s universe, and with a spirit of Antonini about it, Ramon Salazar’s Sunday’s Illness is a twisted but sublime psychological drama which has estranged mother and daughter at its centre.
The visuals are transcendental, often merged with a narrative that gets murkier as the plot thickens. The film plays out like a disquieting thriller and has arguably one of the most shocking endings of the year. The film is right up there in the best of the year films.
Visaranai | Vetrimaran | India
There is a scene in the film, where one of the police officers hits the elbow of a dead body to straighten his stiff hand. You could hear the bone-crunching sound. It’s a trivial scene shown in the background. But that is the kind of a realistic detailing the film has.
Visaranai is a powerful drama devoid of overly dramatic moments. It’s an example of poetic injustice done to human from within the system. Visaranai seems like a distant cousin of the brilliant film ‘Court’. Such films redefine cinema and define why we love it so much in the first place. It is shocking, brutal, and a very honest attempt at filmmaking that needs to be seen & applauded.
One of the finest scripts, it has been deftly handled, with a plethora of irony and metaphors thrown in, that will disturb and shock you. By the end, “Police is for the protector of the common man” will sound like a fairy tale. Read the detailed review of Visaranai.
Aquarius | Filho | Brazil
Sensual, snobbish, audacious, stubborn and intellectual, a retired music teacher – Clara, played commandingly by Sonia Braga – still likes to listen to music on Vinyl. She lives in a sea facing apartment “Aquarius.”
The plot spins when a property dealer buys out all the flats, and all tenants, except for Clara, clutch to the thick dough and leave. Clara stands stubborn, even when she is threatened and pushed to the edge of sanity. Director Filho doesn’t use the premise to simply unload on us socioeconomic messages. He subtly observes Clara’s casual interactions with her extended family, her quotidian activities, through which we understand her desires and fear.
The director also offers a profound personal portrait that doubles up as a political allegory. In a way, Aquarius is about people who invade and bully their way to get what they want. The parallel for this could be seen in the current Brazilian politics.
Featured in our list of The 25 Best Non-English Films of 2016
The Fury of Patient Man | Raúl Arévalo | Spain
The Fury of a Patient Man is a taut revenge-thriller. In spite of being formulaic, it offers continuous surprises which are rare for the genre. The dry and sleek linear narration allows the development of every small character, these, in turn, contributing to the core plot, in one way or the other.
De la Torre, who is out there for revenge, has been offered fewer dialogues and he efficiently uses them. The tension of silent scenes snowballs to unpredictable explosions of animal aggressiveness. Read the review on Variety.
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Under the Shadow | Babak Anvari | UK/Jordan/Qatar
In this masterfully crafted satirical horror film, Babak Anvari patiently weaves a net of terror between Iran and Iraq war, and the folklore surrounding the ‘Djins’. The fear and anxiety in Under The Shadow not only lurk around closed doors, broken windows, shady basements, restricted roads and frightened neighbourhoods but travel almost everywhere.
The universality of the fear, both supernatural and real, is chilling, to an extent where the human mind starts questioning everything. What makes Under The Shadow a brilliant horror film is that it proves your guesses to be wrong in every other instance. It’s a smart, skilful and eerie thriller that haunts you out of your mind. Continue reading the review of Under The Shadow.
Loreak | Jon Garaño, José María Goenaga | Spain
It is a tricky thing to depict the love felt by a world-weary, middle-aged married woman towards a person other than her husband. But, ‘love’ isn’t just a stepping stone to reach the destination called ‘lust’. Rarely do we come across films that deal with love of a middle-aged married woman without introducing sexual affair in the second act.
Jose Mari Goenaga and Jon and Jon Garano’s minimalist Basque language movie “Loreak” (“Flowers”, 2014) is a rare, mature work that deals with the slippery feeling that love imbues on us. It shows how love could emanate from strange things and how it changes one’s perception of others.
Loreak is an intricate and engrossing exploration of alienation, love and loss. The absence of dramatization and the presence of obscure ideas in a bleak environment might equally irk and reward movie-buffs.
A 12-Year Night | Alvaro Brechner | Uruguay
A Twelve-Year Night is inspired by true events and based on the book “Memorias del Calabozo”, by Mauricio Rosencof and Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro, who, along with José “Pepe” Múgica, was imprisoned in solitary confinement. They were on the constant move and spent 12 years in forty jails during the military dictatorship that ruled Uruguay starting from 1973.
The narrative at its outset seems like a prison drama about the terror of living in solitary confinement over the course of years, and it does stay true to the template, but Alvaro Brechner is more interested in the minute aesthetics of an individual undergoing cognitive and physical collapse, and that separates the film from the genre cliche. Read the complete review of A 12 Year Night.
Smoke and Mirrors | Alberto Rodriguez | Spain
Alberto Rodriguez of ‘Marshland’ fame returns to the celluloid with a sleek and engaging espionage thriller. He bolsters the zestful and convoluted narrative with heart throbbing, retro music. It is based on the true story of a mid-1990s Spanish political corruption scandal that helped bring down the country’s Socialist government in 1996.
An ex-secret agent, part-mercenary, part-businessman is framed by his government. He goes into hiding until Commissioner of Police offers him a deal to safeguard embezzled money. Dazzling with colourful characters, and a bravura performance by Eduard Fernández as a sly, smart and crooked spy, Smoke and Mirrors is a perfect blend of arthouse cinema with commercial elements that doesn’t disrespect its targeted audience.
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