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Below is a top-ten list — a list that took a lot of nail-biting to whittle down — of films from 2018. And, if you’re wondering why some of your absolute favourite of 2018 receive no mention in this list: I confess that it may be because I didn’t manage to watch it! These are the result of very difficult decisions in choosing from those I did watch; when you get the chance to chase them down, they may be worth pursuing.
10. Love and Bullets
Johnny Stecchino meets The Godfather — singing. If you don’t like musicals, this is one that you may not mind, as the songs that do burst into it — in Italian, no less, the movie being in Italian, subtitled in English — merely make the movie zanier. For something departing from the usual, check this one out.
9. The House With a Clock in Its Walls
Mystery, adventure, witchery, and mayhem. With visuals reminiscent of Hugo and a dash of Harry Potter surprises, a nice plot, great comic timing, and very cool special effects, this move offers a nicely rounded couple of hours’ stress-free but engaging entertainment.
8. Back to Burgundy
This touching tale of brotherly and sisterly love set to a rich score and in a gorgeous landscape will have you wishing to visit the winemaking regions of France but will leave you with a feeling of satisfaction and optimism.
7. Journey’s End
The rich, intimate cinematography and amazing acting in this truthful film, set in France during World War I, reminds us of the courage and real honourability with which men fought and died, often thousands by the day, for what they believed was right.
6. Red Joan
Weaving between a present-day arrest and the World War II events at its centre, this beautifully shot, well-paced, superbly integrated fictional drama leads the viewer to understand a difficult decision by real-life British physicist Joan Stanley — a decision with momentous consequences still felt today.
5. Peter Rabbit
From a script both witty and wise, and seamlessly blending live action and fantastically rendered 3D animation, this absolutely charming film, bursting with surprises, clever ruses, and precise physical comedy, and supported by beautifully articulated voice performances perfectly suiting the animated characters, will leave a warm laugh in your belly.
4. The Children Act
An overworking family judge struggles to apply the Act of the title in the best interests of a 17-year-old who refuses a blood transfusion that may prevent a drug from killing him. Strong, well-realised characters, sterling production values, and solid acting combine with realism in medical outcomes to create a powerful and moving tale.
3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
A stranger’s request for a book takes a newly published young author to the island of Guernsey, and finds herself drawn to the place and the people in it though she’s warned off pursuing her deepening interest in local mysteries that arose from World War II. This enchanting film tugs subtly but insistently on the heartstrings and pays tribute to the depth of humanity that maintained itself in occupied Guernsey.
2. Christopher Robin
Pooh’s friend Christopher Robin has grown up while Pooh patiently awaited his return, but when Pooh realises he needs Christopher’s help, he soon finds him, to the shock of a young man who has come to believe his childhood animal friends to have talked and walked only in his fantasies. The effect alone of Pooh and his friends on the mundane world is worth watching.
1. Belle and Sebastian 3: Friends for Life
Finally, to restore your faith in the human heart, see this heartwarming continuation of a longer tale of the selfless loyalty and love between a young boy and his dog, who is now a mother of three, this drama features a larger-than-life villain, daring, and childhood resourcefulness that everybody will enjoy, through impeccable acting and cosy cinematography even in largely snow-filled vistas.
But wait: I should make a few special mentions (because they’re all very entertaining). The following are definitely worth checking out: Mr Stein Goes Online, Swimming With Men, The Incredibles 2, The Bookshop, Two Is a Family, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Finding Your Feet.
Happy New Year!
John P Harvey