It’s been another strange year at the cinema. With the UPP closed between January and mid-May, we haven’t been able to show nearly as many films as we’d like to. However, the new releases which we have screened during the time we were open have included some top-quality titles. So, with a shorter shortlist than usual, our staff and volunteers have been voting for their personal favourites of the year. The votes are in and have been tallied.
Here are our top ten films which we’ve shown in 2021. We hope you enjoyed them as much as we did!
If you could pick any modern filmmaker to have a go at adapting Dune for the big screen, Denis Villeneuve would be right at the top of the list. With a couple of big-budget sci-fi’s already under his belt in Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve clearly has the skills, but would the source material prove too unwieldy? The answer was resounding. Villeneuve’s skill as a world-builder and astute communicator of complex narratives made Dune a spectacular success. We can’t wait for part two!
9. After Love
Winner of several awards at the recent British Independent Film Awards, this moving drama confirmed our suspicions that Joanna Scanlan’s is one of the finest British actors working today, whether she’s on the big screen or the small-screen. The film also marked English-Pakistani filmmaker Aleem Khan as a certified ‘one-to-watch’ with a terrific debut. Available to stream on BFI Player (subscription required).
8. The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao
After causing plenty of buzz at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, Karim Aïnouz’s tropical melodrama finally made its way to UK audiences this year and it was certainly worth the wait. Intensely acted and fiercely feminist, this affecting tale of two sisters was impossible not to be enraptured and moved by. Available to rent on BFI Player.
7. First Cow
We love Kelly Reichardt’s low-key, slow-moving dramas and First Cow might be our favourite of her filmography to date. A poignant critique of capitalism’s impact on the natural world featuring richly detailed settings, a gorgeously melancholic score, and two incredibly affable performances right at its centre. Plus, one of the most perfect final shots of the year in our opinion. Available to stream on MUBI (subscription required).
6. The Father
Stage-adaptions for cinema sometimes feel as if their on-screen ambitions have been hampered by their stagy origins, but this adaptation works due to the performances in front of the camera. Anthony Hopkins rightly gets all the credit (and awards!) he received for his stunning performance.
5. Drive My Car
We only managed to squeeze in a couple of screenings of Drive My Car before we closed for Christmas, but everyone who saw this 3-hour long Murakami adaptation agreed that it was time well spent. While the film at first appears unassuming and unflashy, it’s only when the end credits roll that you realise what a special film this is. Available to rent via our website (with the UPP receiving a split of your rental fee).
Steven Yeun gave us one of our favourite performances of 2018 in Lee Chang-dong’s masterful Burning, so it was great to see him deliver another remarkable (albeit less sinister) performance in Minari. While Yeun is the standout in Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical work, we have to shout-out two supporting roles at either end of the age spectrum – Alan Kim as the adorable young son and Youn Yuh-jung who won an Oscar for her role as the family’s impudent grandmother. Available to stream on Sky Cinema (subscription required).
3. The Green Knight
An Arthurian legend on the big-screen starring Dev Patel was always going to pique our interest, and David Lowery’s slow, strange re-telling of Sir Gawain’s quest to become a legendary hero didn’t disappoint. The film was pulled from pillar to post during the pandemic, and it looked like it may never see a UK cinema release at one point, but thankfully it did and we were all able to enjoy this one as it was intended – on the big-screen. Available to stream on Amazon Prime (subscription required).
2. Another Round
In a great year for Danish cinema generally and for Mads Mikkelsen specifically, Another Round was a real highlight of the year for us. Not only was the film a brilliantly acted dark-comic delight, but for one of our screenings we teamed up with local beer shop Big Scary Monsters Social Club for a special beer-tasting event which only made Another Round an even headier experience. Skål! Available to stream on Sky Cinema (subscription required).
1. Sound of Metal
With its pioneering sound design, inclusive casting, and accessible distribution (all UK cinema screenings included Deaf/HOH subtitles), Sound of Metal feels like a landmark release for representation and accessibility. A thought-provoking and incredibly moving film featuring a powerful performance at its centre by British actor Riz Ahmed, who can do no wrong right now in our eyes. Unmissable. Available to stream on Amazon Prime (subscription required).