Film Hub Members’ Top Films of 2021

At the end of an unusual year for cinemas, Film Hub South Wests’ tradition of calling on our members to share their favourite films of the year is a sure certainty.

The list below features the top ten feature films that our members loved this year. However, the top ten is by no means definitive. Of the 85 votes cast this December, 32 different films were featured; demonstrating that the tastes of South West film exhibitors are nothing if broad.

10. No Time To Die

Dir: Cary Joji Fukunaga | UK

No Time To Die is the long-awaited, 25th instalment of the Bond franchise, and the last featuring Daniel Craig.

Though coming in at the bottom of our list, Bond came out on top: as the highest-grossing film of the year, and of the pandemic. No Time To Die stands (at the time of writing) as the second highest-grossing Bond film, and the highest-grossing film in the U.K. In a year when we are counting bums-on-seats like never before, Bond is the blockbuster that proved to be worth a cinema trip.

Possibly swayed a bit here by the sheer relief that it finally came out and made money.

  • Gareth Negus, Electric Picturehouse, Wotton-under-Edge

9. Rose Plays Julie

Dir: Christine Molloy, Joe Lawlor | UK

The latest film from Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor (Students of Devons’ Dartmouth College) is a fantastically eerie thriller about a young woman who tracks down her birth parents.

Malloy and Joe Lawlor are two UK filmmakers yet to receive the wider acclaim they deserve; bringing an intensity with this Hitchcock-esque feature. Keep your eyes peeled.

 

An intense really suspenseful film with the most fantastic central performances. I really didn’t know what to expect next and it gave me palpitations along with the goosebumps!

  • Wendy Van Der Plank, The Beehive

8. The Sound of Metal

Dir: Darius Marder | USA

Rueben, a heavy metal drummer (Riz Ahmed) loses his hearing and is forced to re-evaluate his place in the world. The innovative sound design, to create a powerful soundscape gives a real sense of Ruben’s sonic experience and interior world; including his utter panic as he is jolted into a new, quieter way of living.

This was the first FAN New Release title after a long period of closure, and the feature facilitated more action and conversations on how the exhibition sector can support D/deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences and workers. Read Charlotte Little’s Programme Notes here.

 

A crafty and educative film, one that everyone should see.

  • Aysegul Epengin, Portsmouth Film Society

7. The Father

Dir: Florian Zeller | UK

Anthony Hopkins’ performance in The Father has been hailed as one of his best and earned him an Academy Award. Playing the central and titular character, Hopkins takes us into a world where he attempts to make sense of his changing circumstances. Despite suggestions that audiences were chasing the rush of genre ‘fun’ (seeking Action, Horror, and Science Fiction cinema rather than Drama), The Father provided a much needed catharsis.

Equally brilliant acting and the direction.

  • Christina Walkley, Moviola

 

 

6. Nomadland

Dir: Chloé Zhao | USA

Frances McDormand illuminated Chloé Zhao’s follow up to The Rider, in Nomadland, a humane and lyrical film about people living on the road in the American West.

 Compelling story of our times, and though it is set in the USA, I know that there are people in the UK living like this, off the grid, but struggling. Very poignant, graceful and we look forward to the directors next ‘real’ film.

  • Roy Hanney, Making Waves Film Festival

5. Gagarine

Dir: Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh | France

This moving feature debut sets its scene in Cité Gagarine – a vast red-brick housing project on the outskirts of Paris – concocting a fantastical fiction around its real-life demolition in August 2019.  An understated hit, Gagarine proved to be success in the South West.

A young boy tries to save a concrete housing estate in Paris named after, and originally opened by, the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin back in the days when French local government was run by the Communist Party. It’s charming and magical-realist in parts, although a somewhat sugar-coated account.

  • John Morrish, Freelance

 

Outstanding film which manages to be insightful, political and surreal while also being beautifully directed, edited and shot. Just perfect.

  • Holly Tarquini, Film Bath

4. Petite Maman

Dir: Celine Sciamma | France

Following her grandmother’s death, eight-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) travels to the old woman’s home to help her parents pack everything up. After her mother unexpectedly leaves, Nelly befriends a little girl in a nearby forest – an encounter that reveals a strange and beguiling new world.

Celine Sciamma is such a brilliant writer – and filmmaker – of childhood and children. Here she excels with a film of great childlike insight and wonder which fills the heart and speaks across generations (and its a sweet 72mins long!)

  • Mark Cosgrove, Watershed

 

3. Minari

Dir: Lee Isaac Chung | USA

An intimate, tender story of family and assimilation into 1980s America, Minari follows a Korean-American family who move to a tiny farm in search of a better life and their own American dream.

By turn funny, moving, and deeply insightful, this is a rare look at the challenges of the Asian-American immigrant experience, the undeniable resilience of family, and what really makes a home.

I found this film tender, beautiful and refreshing. I was laughing out loud at one moment and experiencing their sadness the next. It was a film to be cherished.

  • Claire Horrocks, Exeter Phoenix

2. First Cow

Dir: Kelly Reichardt | USA

In 1820s Oregon, a taciturn loner (John Magaro) and skilled cook travels west to Oregon Territory, where he meets a Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee) also seeking his fortune. Soon the two team up on a dangerous scheme to steal milk from the wealthy landowner’s (Toby Jones) prized Jersey cow – the first, and only, in the territory – to create delicious fried cakes for sale at the market.

 Everything about this film was right. Nothing was superfluous, the spare aesthetic and screenplay is entirely deceptive because it delivers total immersion in that world. I think Kelly Reichardt should be crowned the Queen of the Universe immediately.

  • Anna Navas, Plymouth Arts Cinema

1. Limbo

Dir: Ben Sharrock | UK

Ben Sharrock’s critically adored Limbo is a wry, funny and poignant cross-cultural satire that subtly sews together the hardship and hope of the refugee experience. Set on a fictional remote Scottish island, it follows a group of new arrivals as they await the results of their asylum claims.

This was another FAN New Release title, distributed by MUBI, that members could access additional support to engage audiences with this sensitive and timely feature.

A film that explores a topic very close to my heart such is migration for a better life and what could mean to live in a completely different culture dealing with the stereotypes and eternal paperwork, but at the same time discovering little gestures of humanity.

  • Lorena Pino, Trowbridge Town Hall

 

 

All the more moving because of the pace, understatement and painfully absurd moments.

  • Andy Freedman, Stroud Film Festival

The most surprising film of 2021... The Green Knight

My gut paid off and The Green Knight did SO much better than expected. More evidence that streaming platforms can’t do it all.

  • Claire Horrocks, Exeter Phoenix

 

When The Green Knight finally got a cinema release, it was also on Amazon… yet we ended up played it for 4 weeks which was a pleasant surprise, given experiences with Netflix titles once they are available online.

  • Mark Cosgrove, Watershed

 

I still can’t make up my mind about whether I loved or hated The Green Knight! Genuinely a 50/50 split and that almost never happens. Although any film that has unexplained giants wandering across a misty landscape has got to get the thumbs up from me really!

  • Anna Navas, Plymouth Arts Cinema

 

I was disappointed that ‘The Green Knight’ didn’t get a wider distribution. For such a beautiful and anticipated film, it only received limited screens which was disappointing as the cinematography was born to be viewed on the big screen!

  • Emma Ingledew, The Little Theatre

 

The films we are most excited to share with audiences in 2022

The INDIE-VERSE… a timeline of some of the exciting indie releases of 2022, Q1

Patrick Bliss, The Roses

Drawing on the films that I saw at LFF, there are a great many that I will be programming. Skipping over some of the very obvious award contenders, here are some others that caught my eye which I believe now have distribution. In no particular order:

Playground A school playground becomes the stage for an immersive tale of bullying, shifting loyalties and loss of innocence. This was one of the real unexpected discoveries of the festival for me. I imagine this will be a future contender for Into Film support – every schoolchild should see this.

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy Following Drive My Car, which is currently wowing audiences and critics, comes another film from Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, a triptych of beautifully written and performed stories of love, betrayal and human connections in modern Tokyo. These portamento/anthology type films can often feel disjointed and let down by their weakest link, but that just doesn’t happen here, with each story unfolding in a cinematic universe of change encounters, twists of fate and unpredictable outcomes that feel real and believable.

Phantom of the Open Another unexpected gem, the Roses audience will love this crowd-pleasing, thoroughly British true (ish!) underdog story with a wonderfully endearing performance from Mark Rylance.

Luzzu A rare film from Malta following a fisherman who faces a tough moral decision of whether to repair his traditional Luzzu (wooden fishing boat) and continuing in to eke out a living from the nearly fishless waters that surround him, or trade it in for an EU handout. Coming across like a Mediterranean Ken Loach, this compelling story of one man’s struggle to do the right thing in the face of powerful external forces juxtaposes vibrant scenes of him at sea in his brightly coloured Luzzu with the painful reality of surviving in a corrupt and rapidly changing world.

Mass Actor Fran Kranz’s debut feature unfolds in real-time and is mostly set in one room, where two sets of parents meet to discuss a tragic event in their lives. It sounds like a stage play, but was conceived as a film and thanks to four impeccable performances and an incisive script, it was one of the most gripping films I’ve seen this year. If you caught Disclosure (the Australian film, not the US film on Netflix) at Cheltenham International Film Festival (and drop me a line if you want to see it) then this will give you a good idea of where this is going.

Red Rocket From the director of Tangerine and The Florida Project, another beautifully rendered slice of edge of America realism that has the same keen-eyed location work and snappy dialogue as its predecessors, most of it delivered at breakneck speed by an initially irritating and obnoxious lead character, who slowly draws us into his murky washed-up porn star world.

 

Emma Ingledew, The Little Theatre

I can’t wait for ‘Licorice Pizza‘, the latest film from Paul Thomas Anderson. I’m excited to see Alana Haim’s debut role, as well as Cooper Hoffman (the son of the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman) act alongside her.

 

Mark Cosgrove, Watershed

Andrea Arnold’s Cow because it may appear a change in direction for Arnold but her films have always featured a lyrical relationship with nature plus the ‘green’ subject matter will play well in Bristol. Mika Kaurismaki’s Master Cheng because of its warmth, humanity and humour. Clio Barnard’s Ali & Ava because of its optimism, Lingui: The Sacred Bonds which sees Chadian Mahamat-Saleh Haroun return to his home country to tackle the oppressive and fragile status of women. And Francois Truffaut restorations/re-issues to remind us of the vitality and influence of that moment of French filmmaking

 

Lorena Pino, Trowbridge Town Hall

Costa Brava Lebanon, a debut film portraying the role of women from different generations which destinies are marked by a volatile political context.

Luzzu, a rare chance of seeing a film from Malta and getting close to their reality through a non-professional cast.

 

John Morrish, Freelance

I would like to see some of the excellent young-director films I saw online this year make their way into cinemas. I would particularly like to see Summer Survivor, Maya and The Keeper, and if no-one else puts them on, I may have to.

These films have been voted for by our Members in the South West –  thanks to everyone who shared their lists with us!

Happy holidays everyone and here’s to many more great films in 2022.

Image, Ben Robers BFI CEO at Chagford Film Festival 2020, c/o @bfiben

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