2016 has been a downright awful year I’m sure we can all agree and for the most part cinema has offered an escape from a world of growing racism, misogyny and Donald Trump’s rise to power. This year we’ve harked back to the days of classic cinema with Hail, Ceasar! and La La Land, seen sci-fi commentary on peace and rebellion with Arrival and Rogue One, woken up a nation to the downfalls of the benefits system with I, Daniel Blake and experienced serious 80s nostalgia with Sing Street and Midnight Special this year has been a varied one for cinema once again.
(Our contributors are largely UK and US based so these picks are according with the release date of the film in the individual writers home country which are detailed next to the title. Some are US 2015 releases and some are 2017 UK releases already out in the US)
READ MORE: SCREENQUEENS’ TOP FILMS OF 2016
It was about thirty degrees outside the night I saw Nocturnal Animals. After the movie ended, my girlfriend and I sat in my car, smoking in silence for a good fifteen minutes. “Say something,” I urged her. She could not. At the time, I was frustrated by her inability to put her reaction to the film into words–it had felt more like a refusal, and I wanted to know what was going on in her head. Looking back, I’m glad she said little. I don’t think I would have been able to form an appropriate response myself. Though I have similar levels of appreciation for other movies this year (particularly Lorene Scafaria’s The Meddler and Liza Johnson’s Elvis & Nixon), I don’t think I’ll ever get certain images from Nocturnal Animals out of my head. DP Seamus McGarvey (who I’d known primarily for his work on We Need to Talk About Kevin) perfectly illustrates Tom Ford’s direction, and the opening sequence of Nocturnal Animals is one of the most arresting I can recall.
2016 seems like a big year, though I’m not sure if I say that because it’s how I feel or because it’s how the Internet wants me to feel. I’ve spent more time alone this year than just about any year since high school, and I’ve been trying lately to embrace the fact that I know very little, both about the world and about myself. Regret was never an emotion I felt too strongly in growing up—at the start of this year I saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and experienced perhaps my first taste of it. Nocturnal Animals feels like a fitting bookend to that movie–alike in message if not tone. We don’t always get the endings we want, though sadly we do sometimes get the ones we deserve. More than anything else, Nocturnal Animals reminds me of my limitations. The film was a mystery to me walking in, and it remained a mystery walking out. I know in film critic land all of this equates to a cop out, but Nocturnal Animals made me feel something intensely, and I’m still trying to put my finger on what. –JF