Arianne’s Favourite Films of 2020

2020 was weird. No other way around it, I don’t think I can even tell you how many movies I saw in theatres, a rare thing for me. This year, films were mostly seen in our homes, alone and without the theatre experience. It was a change to my reality but also a way for me to decide when and how I would watch things. But, that isn’t to say that this wasn’t hard to do, the total opposite. Choosing twenty-five films to make this list was a challenge because contrary to popular belief, a lot of great films came out this year. Unlike most years also, I don’t have a clear cut favourite film of the year. Yes, I have one that stands out, but it is not set in stone like previous years.

It is also important to note that some of those films are noted to be released in 2021, the reason why they are on this list is that I had the privilege to see them at festivals or because they were sent to me to review or simply watch. Those films that have not yet been released will be noted with their intended release date. It is also important to note that some films were released in theatres in a limited theatrical release to be eligible for award season. Most will come out on-demand in the next few weeks and just like the prior mention, I will note their release date for the on-demand and where it will be available. The reason why I decided to include those films that maybe not everyone has had the chance to watch is that I got the chance to see them in 2020 and to be honest, 2021 already looks to be one of those years were making a list like this will be almost impossible just from the sheer amount of already announced films that I am anticipating.

Also important to note that two films that I wanted to watch and just didn’t have the time to watch are Rocks and Proxima. If I end up watching them after this list is released, I will come and make a note if they end up on this list.

And finally, two films that had limited theatrical release and I tried to watch or get sent to me The Father and Minari just never came in time. These will probably be making my 2021 list since I will have watched them in 2021.

(Please note that this list will be in alphabetical order.)

Now for the honourable mentions. I have a lot of films that almost made the list but didn’t because I had to cut places. Musicals The Prom and Hamilton were the happiest I have felt while watching a film this year. Comedies Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, American Pickle, Death to 2020, Love and Monsters, Misbehaviour and Dating Amber all were wonderful and had me laughing (and sometimes crying) for most parts. Foreign films And Then We Danced and Another Round were incredible in their own right and deserve a lot of attention. Dramas The Way Back, The Life Ahead and Chemical Hearts had me crying like a baby. Thriller The Hunt was great fun and a twisty film that I just loved. And finally, Disney’s Onward was a great animated film that was all about family that I just loved.

Now onto my twenty-five favourite films of 2020.


Hugh Jackman as Frank Tassone in Cory Finley’s Bad Education. (Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF)

Bad Education / Dir. Cory Finley

I got the chance to watch Bad Education back at TIFF in 2019, so it has been a while since I watched it. But after rewatching it when making decisions on this list, Bad Education continued to surprise me even if I knew exactly what was happening. Because this film is wild, even more, when you realize that it is based on a true story, a story that happened while the writer of the film went to school and witness this whole scandal with his own eyes. Telling the story of a school district superintendent Dr. Frank Tassone (Jackman) and assistant superintendent Pam Gluckin (Janney), who steal millions of dollars from the same public school district that they seek to make the best in the country, Bad Education is a film that every time something happens you end up saying, that can’t be true, and yet you know it is. It’s an insane sequence of events that just feels surreal and somehow it works so well because as insane as it is, you just know that people would do these things to advance themselves. Bad Education is Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney’s best performances yet, both giving each other completely to their roles and becoming other people entirely.

You can read my full review for Bad Education from back at TIFF 2019 right here.

(From L to R) Mary Elizabeth Winstead as The Huntress, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain and Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canady in Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey (and the Fantaboulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) / Dir. Cathy Yan

Birds of Prey is probably the wildest film of the year and also the best superhero film of the year. Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Queen) is a riot from start to finish. (It also has the best title of any movie ever.) Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was always the best part of the horrible Suicide Squad and to see her finally get a film that does her justice makes me so happy. It might be called Birds of Prey but this is Harley’s film, the other girls are just there to help her along the way. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Rosie Perez as The Huntress, Black Canady and Detective Montoya were all perfectly cast in their roles. As a comic book fans those three characters have always been at the top of my list of favourites so to see a film do them justice was so satisfying. It might not be what you are used to for comic book films, but Birds of Prey might just be what we should get more often because it works.

Aubrey Plaza as Allison in Black Bear directed by Lawrence Michael Levine

Black Bear / Dir. Lawrence Michael Levine

I went into Black Bear with little to no information, all I knew is that people were telling me that this was Aubrey Plaza’s best performance to date. And this is why I will tell you nothing about this movie because walking in blind was the best surprise I had, it was something that I never saw coming and I was flabbergasted when the film started to unravel and the plot started to show itself. All I will do is promise you a wild ride that is so worth the price of the rental. Black Bear is Aubrey Plaza’s best performance, not my personal favourite, that remains the great Ingrid goes West, but her best for sure. We are so used to see a certain side of her, too often typecast in the same type of roles that limit her great abilities, but with this, Aubrey Plaza can finally go and showcase how insane of a talent she has. It’s weird to write something like that because it isn’t like we don’t know that she is an amazing actress, we’ve known from the very first time she appeared on our screens with the very first episode of Parks and Recreation but Black Bear breaks the mould of what we expect from an Aubrey Plaza performance and that is just so great. And for that reason alone, it is enough to go and watch this film, because witnessing Aubrey Plaza give this performance is a gift.

Read Andres’ review of the film here.

DA 5 BLOODS (L to R) ISIAH WHITLOCK JR. as MELVIN, NORM LEWIS as EDDIE, CLARKE PETERS as OTIS, DELROY LINDO as PAUL, JONATHAN MAJORS as DAVID in DA 5 BLOODS. Cr. DAVID LEE/NETFLIX © 2020

Da 5 Blood / Dir. Spike Lee

Spike Lee is probably in my top five favourite directors, I watch all of his films with very high expectations and I, more often than not, love them. When Da 5 Blood came out, it became clear to me that Spike Lee had a vision for the film and that we had just witnessed his best work yet. To some, Da 5 Blood might not seem that interesting and that is fair, but to me, this film is Spike Lee once again letting his political side talk. A deep look at the Vietnam War but this time through the black experience, Da 5 Blood never minces its words on the horrors of the war and the consequences on the men who fought in it. It’s a clever look at a war that should have never happened, but it is also a tremendous piece of art. With performances that blow you away from the whole cast, this film belongs to Chadwick Boseman and Delroy Lindo. Boseman’s performance will be eclipse by his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom come to Award Season so his votes don’t get divide, but this is Boseman at his best and considering the physical demand of this role, now knowing his situation at the time, it is incredible that he was able to do what he did. And then there’s Delroy Lindo, who deserves at least an Oscar nomination this year, who commands the screen and gives a performance that haunts you for days after having watched the film. It’s one that penetrates your soul and just lives inside you, incapable of forgetting the work he put into it. A true masterclass in acting, directing and writing, Da 5 Blood is one of those films that proves once again how great Spike Lee is.

(from left) The Butcher (Vince Vaughn) and Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton) in Freaky, co-written and directed by Christopher Landon.

Freaky / Dir. Christopher Landon

I don’t watch a lot of horror or slasher films, they just aren’t for me because, well, I get scared of everything. But once in a while, the people around me watch a horror film that they think I can survive and I find myself sitting down and watching it. Freaky was one of those times. Now, yes I had seen the trailer and had been excited but it wasn’t until Andres had watched it and told me I would be okay with it that I sat down myself and watched the film. And oh, how I enjoyed it. It reminded me of the first time I watched Scream and how I found myself thrown into a world that seemed to be so rich and interesting. It wasn’t like the film was trying to reinvent slasher but because it decided to use a comedic premise, we found ourselves with a film that felt so original. It’s a film that never takes itself too seriously but also knew that what it was doing was important. Freaky doesn’t hold the gore and violence back, no it leans into it but it also better for it. It sets the stage for what this film is and god, it is so damn good.

Mackenzie Davis as Harper and Kristen Stewart as Abby in Clea Duvall’s Happiest Season.

Happiest Season / Dir. Clea Duvall

Happiest Season is the film I wish I had when I was a child, the type of film that I wish I was able to watch so I wouldn’t feel all alone or even that I knew that this was possible. Clea Duvall’s Happiest Season is that good old Christmas film that we all know but because it’s queer, well it’s better. Yes, that is simply the reason why I cared for and loved Happiest Season because it was queer and made me invested in this story. Is it cheesy? Yes. Do I care? No, because it was also mixed with great acting, writing and directing. It’s not difficult to see how much of Clea is in this film, it’s clear that this is the first film she has written that is greatly inspired by her own experience as a gay woman and it makes it even better. Then you get a cast that understands the subject and the importance of it, and you end up with a project that is all heart and so fun to watch. But I think that we all expected Happiest Season to be cheesy and funny, I didn’t expect it to break my heart and have me in full tears by the time Dan Levy gave his speech that every queer kid could relate to. It was such a tender and nice moment that it made this film so much more than what it was because it was that little touch that told us that Clea understood what she was creating and how important this film would be for the younger queer generation.

You can read my full review right here.

Rachel Brosnahan as Jean in Julia Hart’s I’m Your Woman.

I’m Your Woman / Dir. Julia Hart

Julia Hart’s Fast Color was one of my favourite films of 2019, so to see her evolution this year has been fantastic and I’m Your Woman proves that she is at the height of her work. I’m Your Woman is the strongest outing for this director and showcases her talent like never before. There is not one frame of this film where it isn’t clear the Hart knows exactly what she is doing, where it isn’t clear of her vision for this film. Part road trip and part neo-noir crime film, the film is a twist on a genre that we have seen so many times before, a world that we understand but we get to see the other side of the coin. Instead of being about the man and his action in this world, it’s from the woman’s perspective who has to deal with the consequences of her husband’s action. The Marvelous Mrs. Maise’s Rachel Brosnahan continues to prove how great of an actress she is and why she deserves more dramatic roles, it’s a turn that showcases a side of her we haven’t got to see since she departed from Netflix’s House of Cards. I’m Your Woman is innovative and tries to do something different and for that reason, it is so much better for it.

You can read my full review right here.

Gina Rodriguez as Melanie and Evan Rachel Wood as Old Dolio in Miranda July’s Kajillionaire.

Kajillionaire / Dir. Miranda July

Miranda July’s Kajillionaire is bizarre, unique and nothing like you expect or have seen before. July’s style blends itself completely to this weird story of a woman trying to break away from her small petty crime family after a meeting changes her life forever. It’s a film that breaks norms and becomes it’s own thing pretty quickly. A unique point of view is something that July brings with weird ideas that somehow work so well together. Evan Rachel Wood’s Old Dolio, yes that is her name, is against type for the actress and yet she never feels wrong in the role, and her chemistry with Jane The Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez makes this film a love story like never before. If on the surface Kajillionaire seems to be one of those quirky films that you take lightly and laugh along, it becomes something else because of those two. A story about family and trauma, how sometimes the love you have is not the one you deserve, a deep and complex film lies behind the veil that July presents to get you invested in this film. It might not have even been on your radar but it needs to be because Kajillionaire is just a little gem that deserves to be seen and loved.

You can read my full review here.

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM (2020) Chadwick Boseman as Levee. Cr. David Lee/NETFLIX

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom / Dir. George C. Wolfe

Chadwick Boseman. That is all I have to say. Oh, how sad I am that I won’t get to witness this man come on stage (or virtually) to accept what will be his first Oscar. Because let me say this clearly, Chadwick Boseman will win for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The title might imply that this film is about Ma Rainey played brilliantly by Viola Davis, but this is all Chadwick Boseman. A man that gave us career-defining performances with every role he would appear in. It’s bittersweet that his last on-screen role because it might just be someone who is at the top of his craft, who controls every aspect of his craft. Adapted from the play with the same name, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a writer’s dream, what we all wish we could write one day and what most of us will never be able to achieve. The words flow perfectly, seemingly weaving into one another, becoming like a song that you never want to end. It’s one of those films that you can feel is adapted from a stage play because of the long scenes and monologues and yet it doesn’t matter because every word is poignant and full of life, becoming one of those films that you can’t look away because of what is unfolding in front of you. The juxtaposition of Ma and Levee, two artists, one at the top and the other trying to get there is so well done and yet by the end, both end in a similar place, with the white man on top of them, both without real power. The final image of this film is one that makes you think, makes you realize what this film is truly about, about cultural appropriation, about how many great black artists were robbed of their own lives to serve white artists. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is just this film that will leave you with such a feeling of powerlessness but it needs to so that it can deliver the message it wants to.

Sidney Flanigan as Autumn and Talia Ryder as Skylar in Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always / Dir. Eliza Hittman

Probably the hardest film to watch on this list because of how real Never Rarely Sometimes Always is, it is also one of those features that you just can’t look away from. A film that never tries to hold its punches, Eliza Hittman’s feature is hard to watch because of how real it feels. The film follows Autumn as she goes to New York City with her friend Skylar to get an abortion after she realizes she can’t get one in Pennsylvania without parental consent. It’s hard-hitting because of how true it is and the film doesn’t need to say much to get its point across, it might seem bleak to some but in reality, it is probably the most realistic abortion film that I have witnessed. The way these two girls are objectified, and the means they have to resolve to to simply be able to get this abortion never feels far fetch. Never Rarely Sometimes Alway, which gets its title from the answers that Autumn must give when at the abortion clinic, doesn’t try to make a statement on abortion, instead simply telling the story of a young abused girl whose only escapes is this solution, it’s hard-hitting in every way, full of symbolism and a film that reaffirms Hittman as one of the best director working today.

Frances McDormand as Fern in Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland.

Nomadland / Dir. Chloé Zhao

Of every film on this list, Nomadland is what I would call the best film of the year. It might not be my favourite, but it is the best one. The film, which won not only Venice Film Festival but TIFF, might only have gotten a limited release in 2020 (to make it eligible for the Oscars) before it’s wide release later in February of this year, is an ode to the American West and the people who in the wake of the recession were left without anything but their wits and their guts. A character study, Nomadland relies entirely on Frances McDormand who delivers a career-best performance, a thing that is so weird to write because we are talking about a two-time Oscar winner. But it is Zhao’s direction and visuals that make this film such an experience, it’s a film that showcases her immense talent and to me, no one but Zhao should get on that stage to accept the Oscar for directing. (It also makes me so excited for her next feature, Marvel’s The Eternals). Nomadland isn’t fast, it’s slow and doesn’t make a lot of noise, but it is also one of those films that when it ends, you can’t get it out of your head because you know you have just watched someone’s masterpiece.

(From left to right) Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke, Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown, Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X and Eli Goree as Cassius Clay in Regina King’s One Night in Miami.

One Night in Miami / Dir. Regina King

Regina King. I don’t know what else to say other than Regina King. She has been one of the most consistent actresses and has directed some amazing episodes of television. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that her directorial debut is nothing short of amazing. One Night in Miami is, just like the other film that I can see going for best Adapted Screenplay during the Oscars Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, adapted from a play. A play adaptation is sometimes tricky because the few locations and long monologue can sometimes drag a feature that often relies on image and action. But with King’s expert hand behind the camera, One Night in Miami is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s a masterclass in writing, a film that lets his actor loose and showcases some performances that will be remembered for a while. One Night in Miami reflects on four larger than life figures, four figured that defined African-American culture for decades. These are four men who were at the top of their fields and yet King humanized them, shows us that they are also black men and it doesn’t matter how far up they go, they will always be black. Regina King knows what she is doing and One Night in Miami is proof that she is more than just a great actress, she is also a great filmmaker.

Please note that One Night in Miami had a limited theatrical release in 2020 and will be going to Prime Video (at least in the USA) in mid-January.

Cristin Milioti as Sarah and Adam Samberg as Nyles in Max Barbakow’s Palm Springs.

Palm Springs / Dir. Max Barbakow

Palm Springs could have a disaster, after all, time loop movies have been overdone and more often than not they never have something interesting to say or to put forward. Palm Springs is the exception to that. It’s fun, witty, clever and entertaining from start to finish. I am a big Andy Samberg fan, someone who has been following his career since his Saturday Night Lives days so I was excited for this, plus you had J.K Simmons and Cristin Milioti and you have me excited for a film. The moment this got announced for Sundance, I waited and waited for it. The moment came, and I loved it. Palm Springs is not trying to do what has been done before, sure it’s a time loop movie so you have rules to follow, but the way it uses it is clever. The love story between Samberg’s Nyles and Milioti’s Sarah is genuine and the chemistry between the two leads makes this film even better. And then there’s J.K Simmons. Simmons has never been bad in anything, the man could read me the dictionary and I would scream that it was his best performance yet, and in this, he doesn’t disappoint. He’s just so good, it’s insane. Palm Springs is original in the context of time loop movies and instead of just trying to recreate what has been done before, it tries to be different while also knowing what it is, and for that reason, it is better for it.

Carey Mulligan as Cassandra in Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman.

Promising Young Woman / Dir. Emerald Fennell

When I first watched I had to sit with it and think about it. I had the pleasure to be sent the film so I could review it, the film will be arriving on-demand in mid-January, and I just had to wait and decide on what my feelings for it was. Not that I didn’t like it, hell I loved it, but Promising Young Woman is provocative to such an extent that it will start conversations and I wanted to see what I wanted to add to it. Because if Promising Young Woman is a film about revenge, it’s also about grief and the process of grieving. It’s a devastating look at how women are treated in our world and how we let women down after they come forward with allegations of rape. It’s a cynical look, but also a realistic look. It might hide behind the flair of first-time director Emerald Fennell, but Promising Young Woman is deadly. It’s a film that hits you in the gut, it’s impossible to walk away from it without an opinion. You will either love or hate this film, especially its ending. But I am of the camp that loved it, that found in it something that left me a little broken at the end. Because it’s a subject that every woman understands, every woman has had the urge to take revenge on the men that sexually abused or objectified her. This film is the embodiment of the Me Too Movement. And then on top of that, you add a career-best performance from Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan and you find yourself with a film that is sure to spark conversation when the world finally gets to see it.

You can read my full review right here.

Molly Gordon as Maya and Rachel Sennott as Danielle in Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby.

Shiva Baby / Dir. Emma Seligman

If I had to choose my favourite film of the year Shiva Baby would be it. Now, technically it hasn’t come out but I have had the chance to watch it multiple times at different festivals I was lucky enough to attend. The film is set for a 2021 release (no date just yet) and I for one can’t wait for the film to finally come out so I can watch it over and over again. Canadian writer and director Emma Seligman’s feature debut, based on her own short, is in control from start to finish in this comedy that will make you feel like you might be having a panic attack. And I am not saying this lightly, Shiva Baby is stressful, but it’s also so funny that you have to take a second to catch your breath at times. It’s a weird mix that puts you exactly in the right mood for this film, from the editing to the score, the filmmaker knows what she is doing with this one. When Danielle (Rachel Sennott) has to go to shiva with her mother and father, she is forced to not only have to put up with the presence of her ex-girlfriend but also her sugar daddy, his wife and child. Shiva Baby takes place in almost real-time and will make you want to crawl under your seat because you are so uncomfortable with the situation that is unfolding in front of your eyes. It’s clever and tackles millennial life in a way that we just haven’t seen before. If you want a good time that also might make you cry and then give you a panic attack, well, Shiva Baby is for you.

You can read Alex’s review here.

Letitia Wright as Altheia Jones in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe: Mangrove.

Small Axe / Dir. Steve McQueen

This navigated from my best television list and this list, but I ultimately decided to settle on making it in the film list because director Steve McQueen qualified Small Axe as a compilation of films. It doesn’t matter that Amazon Prime Video decided to bill this as a mini-series, I decided to follow the filmmaker and his vision. Because Small Axe is one of those projects that is all Steve McQueen. McQueen didn’t just give us one great movie, he gave us five. Exploring the black experience in Britain, Small Axe is powerful and impactful, but with how the world is, it’s also important. It’s hard-hitting and so difficult to watch at times, but it also so important to watch it. A collection of five films, not all of them are as strong as the other but two stand out. Mangrove and Lovers Rock, the other three are incredible in their own right, but those two are McQueen at the top of his game. If the first one is a courtroom drama that breaks your heart, the second is a love story that is capture in almost real-time. Both feel important and are just strong from start to finish. Red, White and Blue might not be my favourite of the series but John Boyega’s performance is so layered that it is clear that he put a lot of thought and effort into it and proves that the actor is just getting started. Small Axe is McQueen delivering some of his best work, not every film is perfect but all are important and this anthology series should be studied in classes to help understand the black experience in England.

Joe voiced by Jamie Foxx in Pete Docter and Kemp Powers’ Soul.

Soul / Dir. Pete Docter and Kemp Powers

From the very first frame, Soul takes your breath away. It’s impossible not to hold it as the animation starts and you are thrown into a world of wonder. Sure, it might not be Pixar’s strongest outing, but it sure as hell a great film. So many of us have this essential crisis of why we were put on Earth, why we exist and what is our purpose. Soul ponders those questions but never makes them the focus of the film. This is a film about life and living, about family and friendship, love, loss and so much more. I don’t think Soul is a film aimed at kids, it’s aimed at lost adults like me, who have no idea what they are doing, who’s entire life we have been told that we need to have a plan and a purpose, Soul tells us it’s okay if we don’t. It’s heartbreaking but also heartwarming, a film that pulls at your heart and leaves you crying, just like every single Pixar film before it. Soul also boasts my favourite joke of the year, a joke about the Knicks that had me to pause the film for 20 minutes so I could breathe and even had Andres texted me to ask if I had loved this joke.

Riz Ahmed as Ruben in Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal.

Sound of Metal / Dir. Darius Marder

If Sound of Metal doesn’t win the Oscar for best sound editing, well then I won’t believe in anything anymore. Because Sound of Metal is an experience like nothing before. I thought the way a film like A Quiet Place had used sound was unique and exciting (and it still is) but Sound of Metal makes it seem like child play. Sound of Metal is one of those films that you need to experience on your television with a good sound system, it’s a film I wished I had watched in theatre because it is elevated by how this film uses sound, subtitles and editing. Sound of Metal is poignant and has Riz Ahmed at the best of his craft, an actor that gives himself completely to his performance, that all of a sudden you don’t even think about the fact that you are watching a piece of fiction because everything feels so real. The final moment of the film is one of pure satisfaction, one that once the screen goes black you just have to sit with and ponder at what you have watched, it doesn’t happen often to me that a film leaves me speechless, incapable of forming words by the end and yet Sound of Metal had me sitting on my couch wondering about life and how we take things for granted. It’s a poignant piece of cinema that knows how to use everything it has to make it something more than it would be on its own.

You can read Andres’ review here.

Katherine Langford as Mara in Brian Duffield’s Spontaneous.

Spontaneous / Dir. Brian Duffield

When I first sat down to watch Spontaneous I didn’t think that it would be making this list. It seemed to be this silly little romantic comedy with a twist. What I didn’t expect was a film that felt relevant and broke my heart in the process. I don’t think I can explain this film because coming in without a lot of information was my favourite thing, it was surprised after surprises and by the end, I was left with a film that just felt completely insane. Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why, Cursed) finally get to showcase the talent we saw a bit of in the first season of 13 Reasons Why and gives her best performance in her young career. Spontaneous might just be the most 2020 film of 2020, a crazy time where you think that things can’t get worst and yet they just keep going and going. I had not read the book so I had no idea where things were going so every little surprise had me in tears or laughing my ass off. It’s a film that just is a good time and that never feels like it is trying to be something else than itself. A nice little surprise that is a good time and also so damn good.

Tessa Thompson as Sylvie Parker in Eugene Ashe’s Sylvie’s Love.

Sylvie’s Love / Dir. Eugene Ashe

From the very first frame, I knew I would love Eugene Ashe’s Sylvie’s Love. An old school love story that was most likely shot on 16mm (and if you are like me, you will be delighted by this little information), Sylvie’s Love is one of those epic romance that reminds you of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Sylvie’s Love is one of the most beautiful love stories ever told, a subject that used to be a staple in films but disappeared with time. But the thing that makes all the difference seems so small and yet is so essential. Because if back then those stories were mostly reserved for white protagonists, Sylvie’s Love is unapologetically black. To me this film is what La La Land wanted to be, reminding you of old Hollywood and those stories that we have seen and sometimes yearn for. Yes, I know one is a musical and the other isn’t but La La Land just never hit for me the way it did for most. Sylvie’s Love is the opposite, it had me sitting up on my couch and clutching my pillow, trying to control my tears as I watched Sylvie and Robert fall in love. It was one of those films that looked great on paper but could have been filled with cliches, but it wasn’t. It was this romance for the ages, this love story that we all wish we could have ourselves, this love that is greater than anything in the world.

(From left to right) Molly Gordon as Amanda, Geraldine Viswanathan as Lucy and Phillipa Soo as Nadine in Natalie Krinsky’s The Broken Hearts Gallery.

The Broken Hearts Gallery / Dir. Natalie Krinsky

The last film I had the pleasure to see in theatre before everything shut down, The Broken Hearts Gallery is one of the few romantic comedies that I will rewatch over and over again. (I can’t even tell you how many times I have seen it since the first time I had the pleasure to watch my screener.) The reason why I had been so excited for this film was the trio of Geraldine Viswanathan, Molly Gordon and Phillipa Soo, three of my favourite actresses that I just couldn’t wait to see together. And god, it was marvellous. It was such a nice trio where the female friendship might not have been at the center of it all but it was also some of the most important things in the film. And yes, the romance between Viswanathan’s Lucy and Dacre Montgomery’s Nick was cute but to me, the friendship is truly what made me love this film because I could relate to it and I understood them. The Broken Hearts Gallery isn’t game-changing when it comes to romantic comedy but that doesn’t matter because it is one of those films that wears its heart on its sleeve and it is so much better for it. Paired with some amazing acting and you find yourself with a film that is just one to remember.

You can read my full review here.

Leah Lewis as Ellie and Alexxis Lemire as Aster in Alice Wu’s The Half of It. (Photo Credit: Netflix / KC Bailey)

The Half of It / Dir. Alice Wu

Back in 2004, Alice Wu directed and wrote one of my favourite queer comedies of all time, Saving Face. But after that, she wouldn’t make another film until The Half of It. If this film presents itself as a romantic comedy between Aster and Ellie, it becomes clear quickly that this film is more of a friendship story between Ellie and Paul. And if some will hate it for it, I am not one of those. Because Alice Wu knows how to craft a story not only with words but also visually. This film doesn’t need to say words to express what it wants to say, it does it with visuals, shots that have you screaming at the top of your lungs. It’s clever, funny and one of those queer films that I wish I had when I was younger. Alice Wu knows how to write queer stories because she understands them, it’s clear that she understands and that is what we need when it comes to queer representation. The Half of It isn’t flashy or anything like that, it’s calm and witty and funny, a film that has an identity and never derail from it. By the end, Ellie and Aster might get their big moments, but it’s the image of Paul running after the train just like in the movies for Ellie, it’s a film that shows that friendships are sometimes as good as romance, and for queer kids who never get those type of films, it’s even better. But that being said, I will be patiently waiting for my sequel to this film with Aster and Ellie finding each other years later after college.

You can read my full review here.

Tracee Ellis Ross stars as Grace Davis in THE HIGH NOTE, a Focus Features release.

The High Note / Dir. Nisha Ganatra

Nisha Ganatra’s The High Note is the soundtrack for a film that I listened to the most this year. Part musical, The High Note doesn’t rely on the music to drive the story instead it simply makes it just a little extra in this great comedy. A film I wish I had been able to watch in theatres, it would have been a great film to be able to go see with your group of friends and laugh together. It isn’t the most original and the twist of the film can be seen a mile away but that doesn’t matter because everything else is just perfect. Kelvin Harrison’s sulky voice, Tracee Ellis Ross’s comedic timing paired with Dakota Johnson’s fantastic dramatic flair creates a combination that just explodes on screen. The film doesn’t deviate from the format that we know for this type of film but never feels like you have watched it before. To me, the standout is Ross, who played a fictional singer in her 50’s trying to write new music, a character that can clearly be seen as inspired by her real-life mother Diana Ross. Tracee Ellis Ross is not new for any comedy fan but The High Note finally gives her more than just be the funny one. Yes, she is funny and gave me some of the biggest laughs of the film, but Ross also brings something to this role that feels new for her. Something we haven’t seen from her yet. By the end, you are rooting for her to succeed, something that could have not happened because of the nature of her character. Now, I will go back to listening to the soundtrack.

You can read my full review here.

Pete Davidson as Brody in Judd Apatow’s The King of Staten Island.

The King of Staten Island / Dir. Judd Apatow

The King of Staten Island was the last film I watched before locking this list up and to be honest, it was always going to make it to this list. This film is the type that I always love because it just hit everything I love about comedies. The King of Staten Island is very Judd Apatow in its directing and is the typical film we now expect from him but that isn’t a bad thing because Judd Apatow knows what he is doing and plays to his strength. The big surprise here is Pete Davidson who has never been really known for his acting outside of his tenure on Saturday Night Live. Inspired by his life and what he believed he would of become if he never went into comedy, The King of Staten Island is Davidson proving that comedy isn’t all he can do. Because surprisingly, this film is also very emotional, tugging at your heart from time to time, making sure that you are emotionally invested in the story. But it is also a Judd Apatow film so you laugh a lot. What I think makes this film work is the fact that Davidson is comfortable in his role, he is basically playing an alternate version of himself, which makes everyone around him better. It’s a film built for his strength and that is okay. Maybe not the most ambitious or imaginative film, but it is solid from start to finish, becoming quickly one of Apatow’s best turn behind the camera.

Robyn Goodfellowe voiced by Honor Kneafsey and Mebh Óg MacTíre voiced by Eva Whittaker in Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart’s Wolfwalkers.

Wolfwalkers / Dir. Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart

Apple TV+ has released some of my favourite content of the year, most of their shows becoming instant favourites of mine. But, it is truly their animated film Wolfwakers that blew me away. My favourite animated film of the year and the one I believe should win the Oscar this year, Wolfwakers is something special. A break from what we are so used to from an animated film, it is a film that just feels so different, a film that doesn’t look like anything we are used to. It is the third in a trilogy about Irish myth, but Wolfwakers is the only one I have seen and if the others are as good as this one, I will be so happy because this film is something else. From the animation, the story, the music, the voice acting, Wolfwakers is just perfect in everything. It never feels long or even falters, it’s strong from the very first second to the last, a story about family, friendship and love, a story that takes you by the heart and never lets you go. It’s one of those films that might not be on your radar but it should be because it is just plain fantastic.


And that is all. Now if you are still here, I love you and I’m sorry, this was so long. But like I said, great movies came out this year and like always I had a lot of feelings about them, I couldn’t just not write it down.