2015 was an enormous year at the box office and produced four of the biggest films of all time in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Avengers 2: Age of Ultron and almost inexplicitly, Furious 7.
These were all big, bold and brash and perhaps with the exception of Ultron, all kinds of fun. However amongst these Goliaths they were also a few Davids who dared to be different, who stood out from the crowd and captured the heart of this little man.
So here are the 2015 Davids, five films from 2015 in no particular order, which for numerous reasons failed to capture an audience at the box office, but deserve to be seen by more people. We have two satires, a short film, a character drama and one to sit back, crack a beer and tap your foot to.
Some of these will no doubt find their way onto my 2015 Top Ten List, which should be dropping in the near future, but some will not, though they are all worthy of your time. I urge you seek them out and give them a go.
So without further ado, here’s to all the Davids out there, this ones for you.
A darkly comedic satire on our obsession with modern day relationship culture. The premise is simple; if you are single you are sent to The Hotel where you have 45 days to find a partner, otherwise you are transformed into an animal of your choice and released into the wild. We follow David (Colin Farrell)’s stay at The Hotel and experience through him the absurdist conversations and interactions between the guests, which are delivered in such a deliciously deadpan manner, that it takes you ten minutes or so to realise that it is ok to laugh. Bleak, biting and at times totally bonkers, you won’t see a better satire this or any year.
World of Tomorrow
A little girl answers the video phone and begins an extraordinary journey of memory and discovery guided by her own clone 227 years in the future. This was the best 16 minutes I spent all year, a wonderful short film, which covers more in a quarter of an hour than many do in close to three. Through its deceptively simple animation, it tackles significant social issues, and has one of the biggest heart in your mouth moments you will experience all year. It has deservedly been nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film, and is simply a must watch. Especially as no one can say they are too busy for a 16-minute film, which is on US Netflix.
A truly British take on the Superhero genre, which effectively jettisons established Superhero tropes and replaces then with a charmingly British tale of the more mundane side of saving the world. We see SuperBob, the most super of all the Ministry of Defence’s civil servants, do battle with bureaucracy, struggle with forms and doing his best to abide by health and safety regulations, which dictate that Tuesdays are his designated day off. Gone are the usual action set pieces, which are replaced with a tale of one those Tuesdays and Bob’s struggle for banality, social acceptance and his first date in six years.
SuperBob soars in this struggle and effortlessly pulls you into his life and delivers a genuinely funny, touching and affecting film, which also contains possibly one of the most romantic set pieces ever staged in a nursing home. This criminally underseen film is simply one of the best British comedies in recent years and deserves to be spoken in the same breath as Four Lions and Shaun of the Dead. It really is quite super, trust me.
Clouds of Sils Maria
Juliette Bincohe and Kristen Stewart star in this quiet yet considered drama, set deep in the French countryside. Maria Enders (Binoche), is a middle-aged actress, who is trying to come to terms with her own maturing years, amongst constant reminders of youth, most notably from her personal assistant, Valentine (Stewart).
Writer/director, Olivier Assayas, takes you inside the relationship between Maria and Valentine, who are together in almost every scene. Their relationship is professional, though also caring and occasionally combative, with the line between administrative and emotional support provided to Maria by Valentine, constantly challenged and often blurred.
Binoche is her usual excellent self, while Stewart is simply a revelation as Valentine and was justifiably nominated for, and then won, a slew of festival awards. This included a French Cesar (equivalent to the French Oscars), the first American actor to do so. I loved the gentle, slow build and ultimately climatic approach taken to the narrative, the mediations on aging and reflections on youth. This is one that has stayed with me long after the clouds dispersed.
Ricki and the Flash
Meryl Streep gets behind the mike once more in this foot-tapping tale of Ricki, the lead singer, of a house band (The Flash), who returns home after the break up of her daughter Julie’s marriage, to face what has been left behind in her search for rock and roll stardom.
The key strength of Ricki and the Flash is its authenticity. The bar feels like a real bar (you know, how they used to be), you can feel the rough and ripped plastic of the bar stools, the saltiness of the bar snacks, and hell, even the sawdust under your feet. Then the band takes the stage, and Ricki and the Flash feel and sound like an authentic house band – grungy, loud and you know, not great, but fun.
Family, personal decisions and their consequences take centre stage. The fractious relationships between Ricki and Julie, played wonderfully by Streep’s real life daughter, Mamie Gummer, and her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline), ground and anchor the film. Their exchanges are both raw and bitter, while also touching and at times tenderly funny.
The narrative unfolds in a predictable, yet engaging way, with Diablo Cody’s usual whip smart dialogue in abundance; though helped on this time by some rousing and emotionally fuelled musical performances, thanks in part to the impressive Rick Springfield. Things get a tad heavy handed towards the end, but by that point all involved have fully earned it and you suddenly realise just how invested you are, in both the family and the Flash. Encore!
(Ricki and the Flash review, originally published on 11/09/15)