“Jackie” was the Pablo Larrain film that dominated 2016, but he had another unconventional biopic that year with “Neruda.” The story of the Chilean poet and senator Pablo Neruda begins as a straightforward period piece before evolving into something far more intriguing: a meditation on the country’s mythological relationship to heroes and villains, told from two sides at once. Read IndieWire’s review.
Mae Whitman has been as active in the voiceover world as she has on television and in film. In “Operator,” she taps into both talents. In a twist on Spike Jonze’s “Her,” the film stars Whitman and Martin Starr as a husband and wife whose marriage gets complicated after he uses her voice for a new operating system. Read IndieWire’s review.
“Other People” (2016)
Chris Kelly uses the story of his own life to tell his powerfully moving debut feature, “Other People.” Jesse Plemons plays a struggling comedy writer who moves back home to help his cancer-stricken mother after breaking up with his boyfriend. Molly Shannon delivers the best performance of her career as the dying matriarch. Read IndieWire’s review.
“Queen of Earth” (2015)
Alex Ross Perry and Elisabeth Moss flex their genre muscles in this dynamite psychological thriller about an artist who slowly loses her mind while vacationing with her best friend. “Queen of Earth” is unsettling and darkly comic all at once. Read IndieWire’s review.
“The Son of Joseph” (2017)
In “The Son of Joseph,” American-born French director Eugène Green uses a 17th century biblical painting by Carvaggio to animate the contemporary tale of an angsty teen searching for the identity of his missing father. It’s both dense with ideas and disarmingly sweet. Read IndieWire’s review.
“Songs My Brother Taught Me” (2016)
“Songs My Brothers Taught Me” centers around Lakota Native Americans living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the Badlands of South Dakota. Starring non-professional actors, the plot follows a high school senior who must reevaluate his future after the death of his father leaves him responsible for his 13-year-old sister.
“The Stanford Prison Experiment” (2015)
Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s drama leaves you anguished with questions once the credits roll. Based on the infamous 1971 experiment by Dr. Philip Zimbardo, the film chillingly recounts the turmoil and violence that gradually erupted when 24 male students were split into guards and prisoners so that Dr. Zimbardo could study the psychological effects of imprisonment. All of the ethically challenging questions that surrounded the project so many decades ago are alive and well in Alvarez’ dramatization, which makes the movie a tormenting experience. Read IndieWire’s review.
“Things to Come” (2016)
Mia Hansen-Løve and Isabelle Huppert are a match made in a cinephile heaven in this profoundly insightful story about a woman coming of age in her 60s. Hansen-Løve wrote the role with Huppert in mind, and it’s a stroke of genius. Read IndieWire’s review.
“Tramps,” Adam Leon’s follow-up to his award-winning debut “Gimme the Loot,” is a brisk and scrappy tale of lovable young hooligans searching for their place in the world. “Tramps” is one of the better American rom-coms in recent memory. Read IndieWire’s review.
“Two Lovers and a Bear” (2016)
“Orphan Black” Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany stars opposite Dane DeHaan in this romance about two star-crossed lovers who find that even the icy expanses of the Arctic offer little refuge from their pasts. Emerging Canadian director Kim Nguyen balances the expanses of the beautiful arctic landscapes with the claustrophobic storyline of the past catching up to destroy the pair’s relationship.
“Victoria” is a 138-minute, one-take movie that must be seen to be believed. As the one-take grounds you in real-time immediacy, director Sebastian Schipper maneuvers a genre bait-and-switch with natural ease, successfully pulling off an effective romance film that boldly transitions into a taut suspense picture.
“White God” (2015)
“White God” is a visually and intellectually provocative movie that uses animals to tell a human fable. A young girl Lili (Zsófia Psotta) loves and loses her mixed-breed dog Hagen, who then is trained and drugged by a brutish owner to be violent. He escapes and leads a pack of feral dogs to rebel against the humans who mistreated them.