2008 was a year when slumdogs, superheroes and sad-eyed robots ruled our imagination. As audiences lined up for grand entertainment, many of the year's best films and performances went largely unnoticed. Here are some of my favourite films from last year. Click on the links to place a request for a film.
Shotgun Stories:The story of a group of half-brothers that become embroiled in a dispute after the passing of their father. This parable like story provides an astute examination of what incites youth to violence and the struggles of the brave few who will stand against it.
Son of Rambow: Please don't let the title scare you off. This is a charming and stylish story of two English schoolboys of vastly different backgrounds attempting to re-create their favourite movie, Rambo: First Blood. The experience of filming their masterpiece helps the boys cope with their troubled family relationships.
Happy Go Lucky: Sally Hawkins gives an incredible performance as Poppy, a seemingly incurable optimist. This slice-of-life feature follows Poppy through driving lessons, dance classes and nightclubs, as she tries to bring joy to those who would bring her down. British director Mike Leigh gives us a funny, thoughtful and very touching story of the struggles of maintaining a positive outlook on life.
Tell No One: "8 Years ago, Alex's wife was murdered... Today she e-mailed him." So says the tag-line from this absorbing thriller. A pediatrician struggles to prove his innocence in the brutal murder of his wife, while trying to outrun those who pursue him. This "Fugitive" like film is a truly international effort: a French Director (Guillaume Cane) filming an American novel (by Harlan Coben), starring French-Canadian and British actresses (Marie-Josée Croze & Kristin Scott Thomas).
The Fall: In a hospital in 1920's California, a bed-ridden stuntman befriends a young girl with a broken arm. He enchants her with a magical tale of heroes and villains. Real-life people and situations are gradually incorporated into his story and the line between story and reality become blurred. Like "Pan's Labyrinth" this film uses a fairytale approach to deal with some heavy subject matter. What begins as an escapist tale for the child ends up a cathartic one for the stuntman. Filmed in 20 countries over the period of four years, the images and scope of this film are awe-inspiring.