by Erika Bromley
Paddington 2 was adorable (especially that end credits prison scene -- can I watch that on a loop?), and the way my kids loved Mary Poppins Returns and a few other family films definitely filled my heart with happiness. But overall… 2018’s releases felt like the year felt: they were emotionally-charged stories about confusion, shock, damage, regret, grief, deliverance, depression, humanity, hope, redemption, and rebirth. Art is therapy, and movies are art. I am so thankful that my main hobby since childhood (the only other ones being journalism, dance, and trying every single food item ever presented to me) is one that consistently shakes me, calms me, teaches me, and comforts me. Catharsis at the movies is the best kind of catharsis (well, maybe second best, but this is a family website), and 2018 required A LOT of it.
"Top Ten" just doesn't seem like an appropriate title (and as all my previous lists have shown, I usually break from that anyway). Movies that Wrecked Me. Movies that Changed Me. Movies That Helped Me Empathize. Movies that Made Me Sob. (Ok, that only applies to a few.) Those titles are a bit wordy, though; I’ll stick to tradition for once… mostly.
Honorable Mentions: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Support the Girls, The Sisters Brothers, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Searching, Shirkers, Eighth Grade, Blindspotting, The Rider, Minding the Gap
10. You Were Never Really Here/Annihilation/Won’t You Be My Neighbor – I’m impossible. I can’t leave the moving, heartwarming, and heartbreaking Fred Rogers documentary off of my list because I just feel it’s so damn important (would he be upset at my use of ‘damn’ just now?) right now. His ideas for and about children apply to all of us, and his lessons about kindness, empathy, and working through difficult issues (I’m especially thinking about how he gently spoke to children about divorce) are instructions adults needs to be reminded of, too.
Shimmer Portman on the daily). What an imaginative, striking, and unnerving piece of science-fiction (and that score!). Let’s talk about “the bear scene,” as I’ve heard it called, for a minute. I don’t deal well with horror elements involving animals and humans. I can’t even give examples here, because I want to sleep tonight. That said… WHAT IS THAT SOUND OH MY GOD WHAT IS HAPPENING OH MY GOD and then part of my soul left my body, I giggled a lot (it is truly fun to be freaked out!), and I somehow managed to Cirque de Soleil myself in to a position that allowed me to used Patrick’s leg as noise-cancelling headphones.
You Were Never Really Here feels like 2018 in many ways: it deals with the past, it struggles through the present, and it looks to the future. Joaquin Phoenix plays Joe and delivers a performance that breaks my heart; he feels unbelievably real. If you have never known someone who suffers through clinical depression, watch this movie simply to understand how it sometimes works – as a dark cloud that moves in and stays until it wants to break for sun. The story is about so much more than that, of course – and I hope that in real life, there are I-don’t-give-af, ass-kicking women and men really out there doing this selfless type of work.
Revenge kicked bloody ass. Patrick already said it.
8. Mandy – Mandy gave me some Rob Zombie vibes right away, so I was instantly hooked. This movie wrecked me like many of the others on my list – my heart! Jeez! Nic Cage (we are cool like that; he lets me shorten it) delivers a wild, manic performance that is never over-the-top but rather expresses the emotions of the story perfectly. The movie goes places I never expected, and I loved it all (even when I had to close my eyes!). Ultimately, I think it is about grief... and how screaming in the bathroom wearing nothing but a shirt and underwear is sometimes all we can do to get from A to B.
6. Tully – I was completely surprised by this movie in the best way. The trailer did little for me, but Jason Reitman’s direction and Diablo Cody’s screenplay (reunited!) make for a beautiful exploration of themes relating to depression, sense of self, parenting, adulthood, compromise, balance, and so much more. I feel very lucky to have never experienced post-partum depression (and very lucky that my husband didn’t play video games in bed instead of, you know, parenting), but I appreciate the things this movie shows about pregnancy that most movies never bother to tell us. Between this and Young Adult, Diablo Cody is willing to say things about being an adult that feel difficult but true. The last shot is one of my favorites all year.
4. Roma – So much has been written on the interwebs about Roma; I implore you to seek some of it out. I especially loved reading an interview with Alfonso Cuaron in which he shared that the hospital scene (I’m staying very vague as to not create spoilers) was improvised, and that Yalitza Aparicio (who gives a beautiful, heart-wrenching performance) didn’t even know the outcome of the events until filming the scene (again, intentionally vague here). Reading that just broke my heart all over again. From the opening shot (water is a symbol woven through the film), I was hooked on the feeling (oh gosh – what did I just write) Cuaron created with his beautiful cinematography, vision, and patience. Another heartbreaker, but hey, it was 2018.
What’d I miss? Let me know in the comments! Especially if you know of a sci-fi bear-meets-demon bikers movie featuring characters who confront their own personal, dark issues with possibly a good love scene or two. And maybe some history or satire thrown in.