In a lacklustre year for blockbusters, some indie treats stormed towards the top of our list, including a pair of films that debuted locally almost a year ago but still resonate just as strongly today. And while it was hardly the strongest year in cinema, our shortlist was a little longer than the titles you see before you, so check out our honourable mentions before you hit number six.
Bridesmaids, The Adjustment Bureau, Battle LA, Crazy, Stupid, Love, A Lonely Place to Die, Kill List, Warrior, True Grit, Hobo with a Shotgun
6. Take Shelter [Jeff Nichols/Michael Shannon/November] - read the review
Scrunchie faced Michael Shannon nabs a rare lead role for himself here in a powerful allegory on mental illness grounded in the struggle of an ordinary man to escape the stain of his past. Writer/director Nicols, who also brought us Shotgun Stories in 2007, uses subtle CG to illustrate his protagonists mental state. It manifests as terrible storms which only he can see – a concept that’s both brilliant and utterly terrifying. Shannon carries the film brilliantly, with able support from Jessica Chastain. And the ending is one of the best of the year.
5. Submarine [Richard Ayoade/Craig Roberts/March] - read the review
The IT’s Crowd’s Richard Ayoade steps behind the camera for his first film for this period dramedy that sidesteps quirky to deliver a dark vision off teenage life. Oliver Tate is, quite frankly, a strange and creepy kid but when he falls into a relationship of convenience with amateur pyromaniac Jordana, things take a turn for the sentimental. Based on the novel by Joe Dunthorne, Submarine is delightfully off-kilter, borne along by Oliver’s disturbed subjective voice which suggests things like murdering Jordana’s dog to distract her from the death of a loved one. Brilliant stuff.
4. Blue Valentine [Derek Cianfrance/Ryan Gosling/January]
A 2010 movie in the states, Blue Valentine only hit screens in Ireland in January and it might just have been the start of a perfectly natural obsession with Ryan Gosling. Here, he plays one half of a dysfunctional relationship with Michelle Williams that spirals from first love through bitterness reconciliation as director Cianfrance toys with time to show us every aspect of their emotional time together. It’s a brilliantly wrought drama, charming, warm and suddenly heart rending. Williams picked up an Oscar nod for her more histrionic role but Gosling was sadly overlooked. Not this year Academy or there’ll be war!
3. The King’s Speech [Tom Hooper/Colin Firth/January] - read the review
Another movie that just made the cut for 2011, The King’s Speech was already a contender for one of the best of the year when we reviewed it nearly 12 months ago. The story of a monarch who never wanted to rule and his struggle to even make his voice heard is nothing short of inspirational, touching on very real fears which everyone finds in their daily lives. But it was the performances which truly made the film, lead by Colin Firth who solidified his reputation a year on from the stunning A Single Man. He deservedly picked up the Oscar this time, along with other wins for screenplay, directing and best film. We (almost) couldn’t agree more.
Check back soon for our final two - our favourite movies of 2011!