Here we are, at the pointy end of the list. These are my personal top 5 films of 2017, mixing my personal tastes with my critical opinion. Just like the first part of this list, I am counting films by their UK release date; films such as Hacksaw Ridge, which was part of the first half of my list, count. Right then, with no further ado…
#5 – La La Land
Whilst not my favourite film of 2017, I would describe La La Land as the most magical; a two-hour experience of sight and sound, director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) whisks us away to the world that Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) live in. Amongst the beautiful musical numbers, this is ultimately the story of two people deciding what lives they desire – does following their dreams mean sacrificing their relationship? The final act, in particular, is a striking moment of compromise – this isn’t just song and dance, but a deep story that we can all relate to. A strong opening and stunning conclusion only serve to show up a comparatively flat middle act, but the high points carry La La Land to its crescendo.
#4 – Moonlight
No errors here – Moonlight just edges it over La La Land for me! Moonlight is a very unique film, and not just because of the subject matter, but also the way it is presented. Focusing on the life of Chiron, the director Barry Jenkins shows the life of this black LGBT child from infant, to adolescent, to adult – each section forms around a third of the film, jumping in time with Nolan-esque confidence. The biggest strength of Moonlight is how believable it is, depicting the life of Chiron with harrowing results at times. As Chiron discovers himself and his sexuality, Moonlight brings in a phenomenal supporting cast including Mahershala Ali as Juan, a likeable guardian character who is ripped away after a third of the film like a safety net being removed. In addition, parallel to Chiron is his best friend Kevin, and seeing how their complex relationship develops is the lifeblood of the film. Perhaps in an effort to show the realism of the film, Moonlight seems to end slightly too quickly, and left me looking for a little more payoff – still, this is a groundbreaking film in both how it was produced and the groups it gives attention to.
#3 – Gifted
This is a moving, heartbreaking, yet uplifting film that did not receive enough attention in 2017. Gifted revolves around the character of Mary Adler (McKenna Grace), a seven-year-old girl who has a remarkable proficiency for mathematics. Her mother, Diane, took her life when Mary was not even 1 year old; Mary is now in the care of her uncle, Frank (Chris Evans). The main push-and-pull of Gifted comes via grandmother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), who is desperate to see foster care arranged for Mary. Frank, however, is adamant that she would have a better life in public school – even if the challenge is far below her. Gifted is a human drama at heart, and the familial agendas at play are all too real. Under the direction of Marc Webb, the film pulls you into the relationship between Mary and Frank without trying to hide their flaws. This serves to make their choices and situations significantly more compelling and all too tear-jerking towards the climax. Although similar in tone to a film like Wonder (#9), Gifted does a better job at producing a fulfilling conclusion, too – few films have produced emotions from me like this one did in the cinema.
#2 – Logan
Did filmmakers all play The Last of Us before producing films last year, or something? The father-daughter dynamic popped up quite a few times, not that I’m complaining – whether it was Gifted or Logan, audiences are the winners out of it; Logan is the first film in the last decade that has realistically challenged The Dark Knight as the best of the superhero genre. For Logan, the last Hugh Jackman Wolverine movie, Fox let director James Mangold off the leash to create a fitting, R-rated send-off for the beloved portrayal of the character. Woah boy, did they deliver – set far after any other X-Men film so far, we see a bruised and battered Logan caring for Professor Xavier; Patrick Stewart delivers a wonderful final performance, with a striking depiction of the deterioration of a loved one. The introduction of Dafne Keen as Laura (X-23) forces Logan into action, and how he ends up caring for her certainly brings The Last of Us vibes in many great ways. Logan nails the emotional payoffs after nearly 20 years of these characters, with suitably visceral action backing it up. That whole last woods sequence is the way to send Hugh Jackman off. Now, can Jackman resist that Disney truck full of money being reversed up his drive?
#1 – Baby Driver
I’ll confess that I’m a huge Edgar Wright fan. The Cornetto Trilogy and Scott Pilgrim are super stylish films that don’t sacrifice characters in favour of said style, but Baby Driver goes one further – here, style itself becomes a character. The use of music throughout this film is incredible and crucial to the overall feeling of Baby Driver, with scenes expertly orchestrated to the tracks Wright carefully chose. Take the opening heist, timed to Bellbottoms, which immediately sets the film off at an energetic pace. Or, perhaps, the sprawling and dynamic chase scene timed to Hocus Pocus. These two examples both showcase Edgar Wright using music to compose and elevate scenes beyond what they may have been otherwise. Driving extraordinaire Baby (Ansel Elgort) is our focal point throughout, as he tries to cut his ties to the criminal lead Doc (Kevin Spacey). He meets Debora (Lily James) soon after, and their youthful chemistry is a joy to watch; yet, inevitably, escaping the darker side of his life is harder than he thinks. With a charismatic supporting cast including Eiza González, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx, this film stylishly barrels forward without ever losing sight of the characters keeping us invested. Baby Driver is unique, thrilling, and gloriously enjoyable – it is, in my eyes, the best film of 2017.
Do you agree with my list? What would your picks be? You can leave your thoughts in the comments!