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TMW's 50 Best Movies Of 2019

holiday
We've made a list. We've checked it twice. Here are the movies we found most nice.


Phew. We've come to the end of another jam packed movie year. As our list reflects, 2019 brought us movies from across the globe, all jostling for a place, but only 50 can make it and here they are...




50. A Season in France
A Season in France
We said: "There is little that is preachy or pat about A Season in France: its long takes and naturalistic style completely convince as a representation of experience as is. As the film continues, the emotionally balanced storytelling of writer/director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun reaches a near perfection which is both human and utterly compelling."




49. Tehran: City of Love
Tehran: City of Love
We said: "What makes Tehran: City of Love so compelling is its good humour and complete lack of pity for its characters, whom it never patronises. This is a rather lovely and witty film which has an abundance of affection and understanding for its star-crossed triumvirate."





48. Gwen
Gwen
We said: "Where most British indie filmmakers struggle to mine the cinematic potential of Britain's over-exposed urban areas, William McGregor sets his folk-horror tinged gothic drama in the spectacularly moody Welsh valleys."




47. A Trip to the Moon
A Trip to the Moon
We said: "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."




46. So Long, My Son
So Long, My Son
We said: "At an imperial 185 minutes, So Long, My Son takes in three decades of familial life in industrialised China, juxtaposing the variated fortunes of two couples in the wake of a personal tragedy against the backdrop of the developing People’s Republic of China."

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45. Firecrackers
Firecrackers
We said: "The chemistry between the actors, and the facilitation of this alchemy by Jasmin Mozaffari, is pure cinematic joy. In the moment it all feels so alive."




44. 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."

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43. 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. It's one of the most thoughtful and stimulating films of the year."




42. Sauvage
Sauvage
We said: "Sauvage made me cry at least twice, not because it’s sentimental (which it is, slightly) but because of the honesty with which it portrays its central character and his lifestyle choices."

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41. Woman at War
Woman at War
We said: "There have been several ecologically-themed fiction films but few are as uplifting as Woman at War. The climate change theme is amazingly realised through the character of Halla, a woman who has been pushed too far and is now pushing back, needing to be disruptive for the necessary institutions to pay attention."

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40. 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. Meaning is created by visual repetitions and a devious juxtaposition of imagery."

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39. The Third Wife
The Third Wife
We said: "The Third Wife is a visual masterpiece with strong acting, great direction and a score that is subtle but effective to the story. How this film was not nominated in the Best Foreign Language category of the Oscars is beyond me."




38. Honey Boy
Honey Boy
We said: "A more effective look at mental illness than the more crude approach of Joker, Honey Boy might be the best movie about PTSD since Hal Ashby's Coming Home."




37. 1917
1917
We said: "Like any single take movie, there are a few moments where we suspect a switch of POV might have been utilised to create further suspense, but for the most part 1917 justifies its adoption of this often gimmicky format. What it does best is embed us in the mind of its young protagonists, allowing us to share the horrors they witness and experience."

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36. 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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35. Beanpole
Beanpole
We said: "Filtering the aftermath of one of the world’s longest and most harrowing sieges through the post-war experiences of two young women, Beanpole moves as if through a (disturbingly beautiful) fog, creating a soporose effect which in itself leaves the audience in a state of stultification."

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34. Photograph
Photograph
We said: "No doubt Photograph will find itself remade by Hollywood, its silence replaced by snappy, smart-ass dialogue, which misses the point. Giving his lovers minimal dialogue, Ritesh Batra allows us to project ourselves on Rafi and Miloni, and ultimately, whether or not they can succeed as lovers is left to us to decide."

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33. Donbass
Donbass
We said: "With Donbass, Sergei 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."

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32. The Farewell
The Farewell
We said: "Lulu Wang's film is impeccably directed, precise in its framing and displaying an envious understanding of mise-en-scene. By telling such a personal true story ("based on an actual lie") with incredible finesse, The Farewell is a magnificent calling card for the adept Wang."




31. Richard Jewell
Richard Jewell
We said: "With Richard Jewell, Clint Eastwood makes an argument that perhaps America's law enforcement exists not to protect and serve the public, but rather its own interests. If you possess a healthy mistrust of authority, there's an almost pornographic thrill in watching this film."

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30. Eighth Grade
Eighth Grade
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."

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29. Support the Girls
Support the Girls
We said: "Support the Girls isn't some gritty Ken Loach-esque exposΓ© of the exploitation of workers in the service trade. It's an honest and heartfelt portrayal of working class life, one that never condescends to or patronises its characters."

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28. Thunder Road
Thunder Road
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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27. The Party's Just Beginning
The Party's Just Beginning
We said: "In The Party’s Just Beginning, as in these small towns we live in, life just meanders as we wait for something to happen. Let’s hope that this auspicious debut is the beginning of a fruitful directorial career for Karen Gillan."




26. Birds of Passage
Birds of Passage
We said: "Birds of Passage adds a touch of South American magic realism to a gritty crime drama, making it the freshest take on the gangster narrative to arrive in decades."




25. Why Don't You Just Die!
Why Don't You Just Die!
We said: "Kirill Sokolov has the skill and artistry to back up his ambitions, and watching him weave his story with flashbacks and witty asides, you wonder why so many other filmmakers have failed at this sort of storytelling."




24. Lullaby
Lullaby
We said: "We're now seeing the formation of a new wave of women shock merchants, with Lucie Borleteau taking her place alongside EklΓΆf, Ducournau and Fargeat. Lullaby is a welcome addition to their growing canon."




23. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
We said: "Marielle Heller employs Hitchcockian suspense techniques to inveigle us into Lee Israel's crimes to such a degree that when the net begins to close around her, we almost feel as if we, the audience, are accomplices. Unlike the letters that made Israel initially rich and ultimately a wanted criminal, Heller's film is the real deal."




22. Marriage Story
Marriage Story
We said: "This sincere, heartbreaking and wonderfully entertaining movie is the best movie centred on a divorce since Kramer Vs Kramer, and only an impulse to avoid recency bias is preventing me from saying it's the best divorce movie ever made."

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21. Queen of Hearts
Queen of Hearts
We said: "Watching Queen of Hearts, I was struck by how rare it is within cinema to have such candid explorations of female desire. The camera barely leaves our anti-hero, and takes time to establish her boredom, her vulnerabilities and her sexuality."

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20. The Irishman
The Irishman
We said: "In addition to the poignancy in the queasiness of Frank's journey to the end of his life, growing old with a deep guilt and living with it, there's a deep poignancy on a meta level - it might be the last time this crop of talent comes together. Thankfully, they've given us a stone cold, razor sharp masterpiece."

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19. The Mule
The Mule
We said: "After a few recent duds, Clint Eastwood has returned with both his most entertaining and most well observed movie since 2004's Million Dollar Baby. Don't make the mistake with Eastwood that The Mule's DEA antagonists make of writing off Earl for his advanced age; as a director, Eastwood proves here that he's as sharp as ever."

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18. Styx
Styx
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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17. Le Mans '66
Le Mans '66
We said: "Le Mans ’66 is one hell of a ride and delivers some of cinema’s finest racing sequences with outstanding performances from its two leads keeping it motoring along."

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16. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
We said: "Portrait of a Lady on Fire owes as much to gothic horror as gothic romance. It confirms Celine Sciamma as a powerfully intoxicating filmmaker."




15. Burning
Burning
We said: "This is not a film for passive viewers - every single line of dialogue, no matter how mundane, serves the great purpose of character building, thematic depth creation or plot development, sometimes two or three of those at once."

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14. Domino
Domino
We said: "On a surface level, Domino might suffer from its limited funds, but Brian de Palma's impeccable visual storytelling papers over such cracks, and anyone in tune with his Hitchcockian sensibilities will find themselves gripped within minutes."

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13. Too Late to Die Young
Too Late to Die Young
We said: "While Dominga Sotomayor Castillo's film is 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."




12. Carwash
Carwash
We said: "Carwash is the cinematic equivalent of enjoying a cold pint of Belgian beer on a lazy summer afternoon. There's an almost complete absence of such conventions as dramatic conflict and narrative thrust. Instead Claude Schmitz simply allows us to hang out with his characters, all of whom are affable in their own way."

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11. The Souvenir
The Souvenir
We said: "The Souvenir is at once Joanna Hogg's most accessible and accomplished work to date, a heartfelt tribute to those who make it out the other side of toxic partnerships, and to those who succumb along the way."




10. Leto
Leto
We said: "Kirill 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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9. 3 Faces
3 Faces
We said: "A movie about the tragedy of being unable to fully embrace the people you share a society and nation with sounds like a melancholy slog, but 3 Faces is far from it. It's essentially a comedy of the Capra/Sturges school, and with its roster of oddball characters it has something of David Byrne's True Stories about it."

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8. In Fabric
In Fabric
We said: "Peter 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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7. Long Day's Journey Into Night
Long Day's Journey Into Night
We said: "Shot in a single extended take (a genuine single take, without the aid of digital trickery), Luo's dream is an intoxicating piece of filmmaking, a technical marvel that unlike many other one-shot sequences, quickly makes you forget about its physical intricacies and sucks you into its beautiful altered reality."

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6. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
once upon a time in hollywood
We said: "Watching Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie casually drive around the quake-cracked tarmac of an immaculate recreation of 1969 Los Angeles is infinitely more exhilarating than any of the overblown CG car chases of the Fast & Furious franchise."

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5. Sunset
sunset
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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4. Her Smell
her smell
We said: "Alex Ross Perry nails the stress of dealing with someone lost to addiction, and Elisabeth Moss's Becky is such a monster that some viewers may find watching her petulant self-destruction a complete turnoff. I was rooting for her all the way, as even in her worst moments Moss hints that there's a troubled soul behind the tough talk and molten mascara."

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3. Dragged Across Concrete
dragged across concrete
We said: "S. Craig 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."

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2. Amanda
amanda
We said: "In many ways, Amanda plays like a gentler, more hopeful, and arguably superior French cousin of Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea. It all climaxes in a scene at Wimbledon's centre court that will have you simultaneously reaching for a hanky while punching the air."

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1. Holiday
holiday
We said: "Holiday is essentially a workplace drama decked out in genre scrubs. It has much to say about the power dynamic between employers and employees, and the abuse so many workers are willing to accept simply because they aren't willing to walk away from the lifestyle their wages have accustomed them to."









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