As the end of the year quickly approaches, I thought I would take a moment to highlight some of the hidden gems of 2014. While these films may not have set the box office on fire, or generated a lot of award season “buzz”, they are still films that warrant you making the effort to seek them out. So instead of filling your plate with only the holiday season blockbusters, try to leave room for a few of these worthwhile films:
Beyond the Lights
“Trust me, it is far more intelligent than you expect it to be” is the phrase I have found myself repeating the most when talking to others about Beyond the Lights. Poorly marketed as another The Bodyguard style romance, Lights has far more to offer than the generic romance tropes the commercials implied. Gina Prince-Bythewood’s engaging film has a lot of timely things to say about the sexualisation of female stars. In a year where hackers released a slew of stolen nude images of female celebrities, Beyond the Lights’ message needs to be heard now more than ever.
Félix and Meira
I have spoken about this film recently, but it is worth highlighting it again. Selected as one of TIFF’s Canada Top Ten, a yearly program that highlights the best in Canadian films, Félix and Meira is a touching and intelligent film about forbidden love. Maxime Giroux’s film constructs a story that tackles themes of religion, isolation, grief and independence in a captivating way.
Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook is the surprise horror hit that, rightfully so, has been racking up a slew of critical praise. There is another horror film that deserves some love as well and that is Gerard Johnstone’s Housebound. The film tells the tale of a woman forced to serve house arrest in her parent’s home…which happens to be haunted. Housebound is a creepy, and at times comical, take on classic ghost story tropes.
The Special Need
This film came extremely close to making my top ten of the year list. I loved it that much. Carlo Zoratti’s film takes the familiar premise of guys taking a road trip to get their virginal friend laid, and turns it into a rather touching film about autism, love, and friendship. The Special Need is a film where the lessons learned along the journey are far more important than the end goal.
The One I Love
Charlie McDowell’s The One I Love is a film that works on two levels. On one hand it is an intriguing study of the ways in which couples change and marriages erode. There is, however, another layer to the film that gleefully sets itself within the science fiction genre. McDowell takes the notion of seeing the best in our partners and turns it into something that is both charming and delightfully sinister at same time.
The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest
Narrated by Scoot McNairy, The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest is an intriguing film that exposes the hypocrisy of the Florida penal system and its handling of mentally ill individuals. The film documents how Mark DeFriest, considered the “Houdini of Florida”, not only received an unjust prison sentence for allegedly stealing items that his father willed to him, but also the inventive ways in which he broke out of almost every prison he was placed in. Gabriel London’s film does a great job of documenting the damaging ramifications caused by an unethical system blinded by pride.
In matters of revenge, it is often the simplest path that is most effective. The same can be said for Blue Ruin, a meditative look at the vicious cycle that violence brings. The film takes all the classic archetypes of the genre and strips it down to the bone. Featuring wonderful cinematography and a great performance by Macon Blair, Blue Ruin is thought-provoking and invigorating all at the same time.