Call Me By Your Name

Considering the copious amounts of love I have for director Luca Guadagnino's two last filmic outputs, the exquisitely provocative A Bigger Splash and the elegant I Am Love, Call Me By Your Name already had major expectations to fulfill. Sure, enough this surpassed my hopes and then some. This movie is a masterpiece; a wondrous, stunning, awe-inspiring piece of filmmaking. Set in the beautiful lush surrounding of a non-specified location in North Italy, a wealthy liberal Jewish family spend every summer in their idyllic classic Tuscan style villa. The family is Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) his intellectual wife Annella (Amira Casar), along with their adorable 17-year-old son Elio (Timotheé Chalamet). It's the summer of 1983 and the dashing post-graduate American student Oliver (Armie Hammer) comes to stay and apprentice alongside the professor. Elio becomes obsessed with Oliver and to his amazement he soon realizes his infatuation is reciprocated. What follows is an intimate sweet summer fling of sexual discovery. Chalamet displays such great depth of understanding for his role, it's almost as if he is not acting. His delicate mannerisms, specifically in the sex scenes appear to channel the all-consuming passion and intensity that his teenage hormones provide. It is incredibly captivating.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

This is an endearing English film that avoids treading on familiar territory; the way some biopics turn out. Perhaps this is attributed to the presence of the remarkable Annette Benning playing the lead as Hollywood actress Gloria Grahame. Grahame finds herself in Liverpool starring in a theatre play where she meets young aspiring actor Peter Turner (Jamie Bell). The film is based on Turner's memoir, which follows this love affair of Grahame with the young Turner portraying a rather colourful if tragic depiction of a fading Hollywood movie star, with a stranger than fiction outcome of her spending her last days cancer-ridden in Turner's family home in Liverpool. It is an overall sweet endeavour, which deals with love, Hollywood insecurity and the eventuality of death. The depiction of the late 70s is spot on!

The Florida Project

Possibly one of my favourite films of the year, The Florida Project is truly a remarkable film. Sean Baker exceeds even further from his impressive, fiercely captivating sophomore trans-action drama Tangerine. We find precocious Moonee (Brooklyn Prince) and her two friends, spending their days causing mischief around the motel where they all live in Orlando – squalor of an area right outside Disneyland. The film hones in on Moonee and her experiences with her young mum Halley (Bria Vinaite) living hand to mouth, with the questionable ways Halley resorts to pay rent – selling cheap perfume to soliciting – all under the watch of proprietor Bobby (Willem Dafoe). Baker presents to us such clear, vivid imagery which on the surface, is a seemingly pleasant picture, underpinned by a sad and all too real narrative. Everything is incredibly visually rich, Baker ramps up the colour brightness to the max – food franchise shops in the shapes and colours of oranges, burgers and ice creams, the 6-story motel painted in this thick purple. It's all tacky, wacky and completely urban: the epitome of commercialism. Prince steals the show hands down; this level of acting for a child her age is quite astonishing to watch.

Columbus

Relatively new actress Haley Lu Richardson is the curious if often reserved young girl Casey, works as librarian whilst looking after her recovering drug addict mum and has a fascination with architecture in Columbus, Indiana, where they live and where she eventually meets Jin (John Cho). Jin is going through a process of his own, as his estranged father is suddenly bed-ridden in a coma, looked after by his younger wife Eleanor (indie queen Parker Posey). Jin and Casey meet in the middle of the night, driving around the city, visiting the city's architectural highlights, smoking cigarettes, gradually opening up to each other to reveal that they are both currently suffering. This is an enjoyable indie flick, which has the ability to instruct its audience to follow in a slower pace, whilst still retaining interest. It's director Kogonada’s debut feature and he successfully masters the art of subtlety with well-lit, wide angled scenes, the gentle yet ever-evolving plot.

Abracadabra

This is a dramedy full of kitsch-ness which incorporates the supernatural. Married couple Carmen (Maribel Verdú) and her husband Carlos (Antonio de la Torre) attend a cousin's wedding. At the wedding, Carlos willingly becomes a participant in a hypnotic show where a trick goes wrong and his body becomes inhabited by the spirit of serial killer. Oddly enough Carlos transforms to the antithesis of his normal behaviour: he becomes an attentive husband and doting father. Carmen, although pleasantly surprised, realizes something's up and goes on a paranormal expedition to get her husband back, but only to realize that perhaps she has won the freedom she wanted all along. It's a fun film, which at points proves hilarious, but the kitschy kookiness is overfamiliar and not so cute or original.

Golden Exits

Director Alex Ross Perry's (Listen Up Phillip, Queen of Earth) new film Golden Exits features a cast of well-known faces: Jason Schwartzman, Chloë Sevigny, Lily Rabe (American Horror Story) and the remarkable Mary-Louise Parker. It reminds me of '80s and '90s Woody Allen films, where we are privy to numerous parallel lives, some loosely and some closely related, all story strands tying up at the end. It's an interesting film which provides great insight into relationships and their dynamics, as well as life in the Big Apple. It's a rare appearance for Parker, who is truly brilliant as the spiky sister and self-obsessed New York bohemian. However, there is an element of self-indulgence to this movie, all this existential talk presented in this nonchalant achingly-hip way – a bit too try-hard. There is a persistent, repeated mantra that all men are dicks and looping them all in the same old character of a floundering narcissist proves jarring to watch. Jason Schwartzman's character, a complete replica of his self-obsessed, dick-ish role in Listen Up Phillip and possibly countless other roles where men have cheated on their spouses, but the wife never leaves. It is an interesting and an overall watchable film, but perhaps the high level of its self-awareness makes the whole thing seem inauthentic.