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Best of 2014: Top 13 Films, 5-1 | reviews, news & interviews

Best of 2014: Top 13 Films, 5-1

Best of 2014: Top 13 Films, 5-1

The countdown concludes with our top five film picks

Mike Leigh's 'Mr Turner' walks away in first place

Continuing on from yesterday where great British comedy sat alongside Turkish slow cinema in our countdown of the best films from 13-6, here are our top five films of 2014. Another diverse selection which celebrates ambitious and immersive storytelling, technical prowess and breathtaking sights.

5. Inside Llewyn Davis (dirs. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)

Inside llewyn davis oscar isaacThe Coen brothers’ elegy to the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961 felt like their distilled essence. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) stands bruised and baffled at its heart, as the folkie scuffling round New York who doesn’t get the breaks, and whose American dreams aren’t enough. He meets a typically memorable Coen menagerie along the way. Their great lucky charm John Goodman is a lugubrious jazz junkie who shares a masterfully nightmarish road trip to Chicago, where F Murray Abrahams’ promoter watches Davis’s audition with an ice-pick stare; Carey Mulligan is the acid-tongued singer Davis has a disastrous fling with. It’s the Coens who’ve struggled with writers’ block and known failure who gave all this the sliver of rueful warmth their less impressive work lacks. It was somehow appropriate that their quietly precise, dryly funny dissection of an artist who fails was itself cold-shouldered at the Oscars. Still it haunted, like a great Dylan song. Nick Hasted

4. Ida (dir. Pawel Pawlikowski)

ida pawel pawlikowskiPawel Pawlikowski’s Ida says we are not necessarily who we think we are. Before her final vows, the novice nun Anna is propelled into a Poland heavily in the shadow of World War II to find that the opacities colouring day-to-day life are just as applicable to her. On the way to horrific awareness, she encounters most un-nun-like close relatives and behaves in ways counter to the habit she wears. Ida is, as well, a deeply affecting, sensitive and tremendously subtle mood piece central to which is Agata Trzebuchowska’s magnetic portrayal of its eponymous lead. And like Pawlikowski’s previous film, 2011’s The Woman in the Fifth, it again marks the director as a master of depicting the nuances integral to perception of self. Kieron Tyler

3. Boyhood (dir. Richard Linklater)

Boyhood richard linklaterDirector Richard Linklater’s latest experiment in time, following the “Before” trilogy, is even more ambitious. The process involved filming with the same actors over 12 years, writing and editing along the way, leading to something that is at once intimate and epic, specific and universal, a fiction that has the resonance of reality, in two hours and 40 minutes of seamless and immersive storytelling. Linklater follows the life of a boy as he grows from six to 18 years of age, travelling around Texas with his mother and sister, occasionally seeing his father, finding his own way in life. Combining adult professionals (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, both producing career-best performances) with child newcomers, each ageing before our eyes, the result ponders family, parenthood, personal fulfilment and adolescence, in ways that will touch anyone who has the sense to see it. Demetrios Matheou

2. Under the Skin (dir. Jonathan Glazer)

under the skin scarlett Johansson2014 was a landmark year for Scarlett Johansson, who transformed her formerly patchy CV with a trifecta of striking roles that can only be called extra-human, teasing the question of what it means to have consciousness or a soul. There was Her, Lucy, and Jonathan Glazer's haunting, singular sci-fi Under the Skin, in which Johansson gives what is close to a modern-day silent movie performance. Playing a predatory alien who prays on unsuspecting hitchhikers, luring them to a black and viscous fate that is all the more horrifying for its ambiguities, Johansson is utterly mesmerising. But Under the Skin is first and foremost a bravura feat of technical engineering, Glazer transforming Michel Faber's satirical novel into an intoxicatingly strange cinematic marvel. The thread that pulls it all together is Mica Levi's score, an undulation of keening strings that will burrow its way into your mind, an earworm as simultaneously seductive and frightening as Johansson's creature. Under the Skin is a disorienting, captivating tour de force, a ravishing nightmare of a film that grows richer with every viewing. Emma Dibdin

1. Mr Turner (dir. Mike Leigh)

Mr turner Mike Leigh timothy spallSitting as pretty as one of Turner's own pictures atop our list is Mike Leigh's magnificent biopic of the British master. Breathtaking from the outset and ripe with character, humour and sadness the film charts the last quarter-century of the painter's life and features an unimprovable performance from Timothy Spall. Gruff, grunting and perfectly portly, he's a dear son to a devoted daddy and a bastard to almost all the women in his life. Presenting the many sides of this inspiring yet infuriating character, Leigh's latest also shows him as a shrewd, progressive painter who earns the respect of his preposterously pompous Royal Academy peers through sheer force of talent, tearing through the annual exhibition like a cyclone. Mr Turner is a singular achievement, even in a fine year for film. Every frame is an eccentric delight and, best, it respects its dishevelled, working class protagonist enough to show him warts and all. Heritage cinema this ain't. Emma Simmonds

Another diverse selection which celebrates ambitious and immersive storytelling, technical prowess and breathtaking sights

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★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

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Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

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