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TMW's 25 Best Movies Of 2019 So Far

holiday 2019 movie
TMW's favourite movies of the first half of 2019.


We're at the halfway point of 2019, so it's time to look back and assess all those hours we've spent in darkened cinema auditoriums this year and come up with a list of the 25 movies that have impressed us most this year. So without further ado, here are 25 movies you need to add to your 'To Watch' list.


3 Faces
3 faces movie

We said: 3 Faces is an astute examination of the sort of cultural divides that increasingly split countries in two. It may be set in Iran and deal with the conflict between those who support the patriarchal Islamic regime and those of a more liberal bent, but it could easily be remade to tackle the divisions caused by Brexit in the UK or by Trump's election in the US.



A Trip to the Moon
a trip to the moon movie

We said: For some audiences A Trip to the Moon may be twee and too cutesy in that irritating Wes Anderson way (although Anderson never had the hardened core which Cambre achieves here), and it may run out of energy at certain points too, but nonetheless there is real excitement and vision to be found here in a magical-social-realism film which shines with the pastel shade of memory, and is perfumed by the sweet sherbet moon dust of childhood.



Alpha: The Right to Kill
alpha the right to kill

We said: With handheld digital footage taking us through the bustling streets, police stations and crack dens of the Philippines' capital, Alpha: The Right to Kill is aesthetically very much a graduate of the Michael Mann school of crime drama, but thematically it's political in a way Mann's films rarely are.



Birds of Passage
birds of passage

We said: With Birds of Passage, Gallego and Guerra return the gangster movie to its melancholy roots. Their film is very much a tragedy. It's one of the saddest movies I've seen in quite some time.



Burning
burning movie

We said: Burning has everything a film needs to be an instant classic. It’s the crown jewel of Chang-dong’s great career.



Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Can You Ever Forgive Me?

We said: In an age when Hollywood's reaction to an appeal for "strong female characters" is to increasingly give us patronising portrayals of flawless women, spending two hours in the company of a woman as humanly flawed as Israel is a breath of fresh air.


Donbass
donbass film

We said: With Donbass, Loznitsa shows us a corner of Ukraine rocked by a profound moral and intellectual rot. The film may not be pleasant, but it treats the ongoing sociopolitical conflict with a clarity, a vitality, and a sense of mystery that few other working filmmakers could muster.



Dragged Across Concrete
dragged across concrete

We said: Zahler's latest movie made me more uncomfortable as a white male viewer than possibly any other movie ever has. Dragged Across Concrete is a brutal takedown of white male entitlement and the victim complex of the white Christian American majority.



Eighth Grade
eighth grade movie

We said: Elsie Fisher is a real find, and her rawness sets her apart from the more conventionally trained young actors that surround her. Like every great comic performer, she can sell not just comedy but pathos, and though it takes a long time for Kayla's chipper facade to finally crack, Fisher lets us know from the off that we're watching someone suffering from serious social anxiety.



Female Human Animal
Female Human Animal

We said: Female Human Animal’s arresting visual style coagulates horror film tropes and documentary approaches to create an evocative and unique mise-en-scene.

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Her Smell
her smell

We said: Her Smell is ultimately a film about the power of friendship, and the dynamic between Becky, Marielle and Ali is as brutally honest a depiction of the ups and downs of platonic attachment as you'll see.

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Holiday
holiday 2019 movie

We said: In gangster movies, women have generally either been relegated to background eye candy at worst or Lady Macbeth figures at best. EklΓΆf takes a gangster's moll and places her front and centre in this uncompromising and provocative character study.

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In Fabric
in fabric

We said: Strickland's movie recalls the output of Amicus, and while he continues to channel the exotic spirit of '70s Euro horror, In Fabric is distinctly British in its self-deprecating humour. A succinct elevator pitch might read 'Dario Argento's Are You Being Served?'

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Jellyfish
jellyfish movie

We said: While the general circuitry of the narrative may seem over-familiar, Jellyfish is electrified by the simply incredible presence of its lead, which is easily the most thrilling performance of the year so far.

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The Kindergarten Teacher
the kindergarten teacher

We said: Maggie Gyllenhaal’s tremendous feat, as a discontent kindergarten teacher with a tendentious interest in a child prodigy, necessitates all the superlatives.

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Leto
leto

We said: Serebrennikov may be exploring heady themes like state censorship, artistic frustration and romantic insecurity, but it's all wrapped up in one of the most joyous cinematic experiences you're likely to have all year.

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The Mule
the mule

We said: After a few recent duds, Eastwood has returned with both his most entertaining and most well observed movie since 2004's Million Dollar Baby.

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My Friend the Polish Girl
My Friend the Polish Girl

We said: The levels of perception within My Friend the Polish Girl are thrillingly playful. Is this the male gaze (the co-directors are a fella and a woman), or a lesbian look?

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Sauvage
sauvage movie

We said: Sauvage’s vivid world of ersatz experience and artificial love, and the poignant need for real affection which abides beneath the paid-for-passion, is established in a manner which is as confrontational as it is intense.

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Styx
styx movie

We said: There is no glib liberal sermonising here, no catharsis or easy wish fulfilment. Instead, what Styx has is superb film making and careful storytelling which conjures authentic despair.

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Sunset
sunset movie

We said: The recreation of pre-WWI Budapest is so staggeringly convincing that it's difficult to believe the movie was shot a century later. It's the sort of lavish period epic you feel Hollywood was on the verge of producing before Heaven's Gate flopped.

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Thunder Road
thunder road movie

We said: Like its central character, Thunder Road is a hot mess - a mix of sloppy storytelling and over-emotional drama, but also moments of genuine human insight - but isn't this what directorial debuts are for?

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Too Late to Die Young
Too Late to Die Young

We said: While Castillo's film is so concerned with its physical and natural environment, and how its characters interact and coexist within their surrounds, it's first and foremost the story of a young woman fumbling her way out of the cocoon of adolescence and attempting to spread her adult wings.

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Two for Joy
two for joy

We said: As a debut it is insanely impressive. The direction and performances are exceptional, and the visual set is never anything but arresting.

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Woman at War
woman at war

We said: From a terrific opening scene to an apocalyptic final shot, Erlingsson proves to have enormous flair for cinematic storytelling.

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