If you caught my last film-related post, you will know that I’ve been trying to watch more films by women recently. This is a conscious decision and one I’m really enjoying! August has been a struggle to be honest; work has been slow and my mood has dropped with it. As a result, I’ve been spending a lot of time indoors watching a ton of movies.
Here’s part one of my list of films directed by women I watched last month.
But I’m a Cheerleader (Jamie Babbit, 1999)
First up, we have this satirical romantic comedy that I have been meaning to watch for so long now! When I first started looking into feminist films and movies directed by women, this movie appeared on so many lists. The film features a young Natasha Lyonne as a high school cheerleader who is sent away to a conversion therapy camp. Although this is a dark subject matter, But I’m a Cheerleader has all the components of an iconic cult movie. With relatively big names, aesthetics to die for, campy humour and none other than Rupaul himself playing an ‘ex-gay’, this film is a must-see.
The Voices (Marjane Satrapi, 2014)
Marjane Satrapi directed Persepolis (which is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen), so I jumped at the opportunity to watch The Voices. This black comedy horror film follows a mentally unhinged factory worker (Ryan Reynolds) whose hallucinations manifest in the form of his pets talking to him. The film is essentially about a guy whose pets try and coerce him into becoming a serial killer. It’s dark, quirky and oddly charming. This is easily one of Reynolds’ best performances. Mr Whiskers the cat is pretty great too.
In A World… (Lake Bell, 2013)
I think Lake Bell is a pretty underrated actress, so I was really interested to see what her directional debut was like. Bell plays an underachieving vocal coach who chooses to pursue her aspirations of becoming a voice-over star. It’s a great exploration of this male-dominated industry and features a ton of good performances. The thing I like most about this movie is the fact that her character’s love interest was really just a subplot, there wasn’t a great deal of focus on it. Everything about this film is just really refreshing.
Take This Waltz (Sarah Polley, 2011)
This month I inadvertently watched a bunch of movies that lack real narrative and just show women’s stories played out on screen. This film is nothing spectacular in terms of story, but still pretty enjoyable considering the pace is a little uneven at times. I personally enjoy watching films about women by women, which is why I started doing this. Take This Waltz is an interesting Canadian indie film with some beautifully shot scenes. It’s great to see Seth Rogan out of his usual typecast role too.
6 Years (Hannah Fidell, 2015)
This is another film that has no real narrative and just follows characters instead. 6 Years follows a young couple whose relationship and future plans begin to unravel when unexpected opportunities arise. I think it’s a pretty accurate depiction of how dramatic young love can be. It made me feel super glad I didn’t stay with my first boyfriend.
Amor.com (Anita Barbosa, 2017)
I stumbled upon this film whilst browsing Netflix one afternoon. It’s a love story between a fashion vlogger and video game vlogger, given the industry I work in I was pretty intrigued! It has all the components of a typical Hollywood romcom such as the beauty falling for the geek and being from two different worlds, but this Brazilian flick is actually quite endearing. I can’t help but wonder what a UK version would be like.
The Edge of Seventeen (Kelly Fremon Craig, 2016)
This is one the better coming of age movies I’ve seen from the last decade. Two high school girls are best friends until one dates the other’s older brother. It’s pretty simple and depicts how dramatic life can be to a seventeen year old. As I was watching it, I was reminded how much I struggled as a teen. I think Hailee Steinfield is just wonderful. I wish they had made her character gay though, she definitely came across as low-key in love with her best friend.
Appropriate Behavior (Desiree Akhavan, 2014)
This film follows a bisexual woman from a Persian family just trying to navigate life really. Her brother has it all whereas Shirin is going through a recent secret breakup. All of this leads to her embarking of a series of sexual escapades as she tries to figure out what went wrong. I felt the film took a pretty honest approach and it’s quite funny at times. I am personally here for more bisexual representation!
My Blind Brother (Sophie Goodhart, 2016)
My Blind Brother follows a love triangle between an over-achieving blind athlete and his brother who ‘made him that way’. Inspired by her own anger and jealously towards her sister who has MS, Goodhart does a good job of challenging the typical inspiration porn we see onscreen that many disabled people have a problem with. The idea is that anyone can be a dick; disabled characters shouldn’t have to be one-dimensional, perfect, or even nice! Adam Scott plays Robbie who is mean, insufferable and a complete narcissist. It’s an unusual comedy, which is done well (who knew Nick Kroll could be a believable romantic lead?). However, you could argue it’s ableist too as none of the lead actors are disabled (as far as I’m aware).
Bare (Natalia Leite, 2015)
A young woman’s friendship with a drug-dealing drifter blossoms into a lesbian romance. With gorgeous, dream-like cinematography, this film is something special. It’s a different take on somebody wanting to leave their home town. Perfect Sunday watch.
Holidays, segment: Mother’s Day (Sara Adina Smith, 2016)
We watched a bunch of horror anthologies this month and this is one short that really stands out. Each segment is dedicated to a public holiday. They’re all really unique, dark, and entertaining in their own ways, and Mother’s Day is definitely one of my favourites. I don’t want to give the plot away, but it involves a coven of barren witches.
★★★★★ all round
XX (Karyn Kusuma, Jovanka Vuckovic, Roxanne Benjamin, Annie Clark, 2017)
Since I’ve started watching more films by women and using Letterboxd more, I’ve noticed something. There’s so many dudes leaving scathing reviews of films that aren’t even that bad. XX generally gets mixed reviews, but it’s not as bad as angry dudes on Letterboxd make it out to be. Sure, I’ve seen better anthologies. I think part of the reason these films don’t mesh together that well is down to the weird transitional shots of a creepy doll. They’re not particularly interesting and don’t add much.
But all of these women bring some really interesting stories to the table. The horror genre has always been dominated by men and I’m personally thrilled to see more and more women on the scene. Birthday was my favourite as I’m a big fan of Annie Clark. Her music videos always have really strong visuals, so I’m excited to see where she goes with filmmaking. Her Only Living Son was a close contender, Karyn Kusuma is one of my favourite directors.
I watched so many films this month, I’m having to split this into two posts. That’s it for part one!
You can watch Take This Waltz, 6 Years, Amor.com, Appropriate Behavior, Bare, Holidays, and XX on Netflix. I watched The Voices on Amazon Prime.
For more film reviews & recommendations, follow me on Letterboxd.