Independent dramas and comedies are usually better than big box-office features, but tend to have a hard time sharing the love with an audience. All too often, great indie’s find themselves overlooked until they catch a following later on. So today, I give you three critically acclaimed films that deserve a fresh pair of eyes or even a captivating re-watch.
1) Stoker (2013) – Drama/Thriller
Family can be a confusing concept, especially for India (Mia Wasikowska) who’s just turned the pivotal age of eighteen. With her father (Dermot Mulroney) dying in a freak accident, India is left with a detached mother (Nicole Kidman) and an uncle (Matthew Goode) she never knew existed. Stoker is set in a world of elegant violence and disturbing sexuality. Even though the outside world is shown, the film confines to the three main characters along with their éloquent dialogue which ultimately buries itself under your skin. This thriller is written by actor/writer, Wentworth Miller (Prison Break, Legends of Tomorrow) and legendary director Chan-wook Park (Lady Vengeance, Old Boy).
With an all-star cast and crew, this film oozes beauty. A more than perfect choice to add to any filmmaking syllabi due to the glamour of it’s editing, sound design and cinematography. On the surface, this seems like a simple cat and mouse thriller. But, once scratched, you’ll incur a feeling equal to biting a grapefruit when you thought you bit into an orange, bitter and sweet. Stoker examines one’s true motivations and accepts that being bad can be quite invigorating.
2) Frank (2014) – Comedy/Drama
Aspiring British songwriter Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) meets a bizarre band under even
stranger conditions with a lead singer, Frank (Michael Fassbender), who never
removes his paper mache head. Written by journalist Jon Ronson and writer/director
Peter Straughan, this odd piece of black comedy is stuffed with eclectic characters and dangerously catchy songs. If this sounds appetizing, then this is obviously a film made for you. Seemingly funny while also much compelling, the underlying tone actually hits on mental illness. Frank‘s obsession with his fake head comes from a place far more serious then what is conveyed. While not dissecting his mental state, it accepts it and moves the story forward.
There’s a pivotal line in the film where Jon asks Frank’s parents “What happened to Frank? Something must have happened to him to make him like that.” In which Frank’s father replies, “Nothing happened to him. He’s got a mental illness”. That being the response, we follow a paper mache head to SXSW and see the insanity which ensues while never being taken out of the moment. With insane lyrics like “Sequinned mountain ladies. I love your wall. Put your arms around me. Fiddly digits, itchy britches. I love you all.” You are sure to be singing along to the soundtrack and repeating numerous quotes while you wash your dishes for… at least a full week.
3) American Honey (2016) – Drama
Watching American Honey, you quickly forget that writer/director Andrea Arnold is not a native to the land of country music and american flags. This being the follow-up to her award winning Fish Tank (2008), the film portrays a real understanding of young-adults from rough environments and even rougher situations. It takes the youth-poor stereotype whilst turning it on its ass, by giving personalities to the kids society tends to forget about. We are immediately introduced to the main character Star (Sasha Lane) and see that the eighteen year old has spent her life plagued with sexual abuse, hunger and protection over her siblings. Star then meets a character named Jake (Shia Labouef), who gives her a way out as she painfully leaves her past behind for a life on the road.
What next ensues is a journey, all the while crammed into a van with other kids who have similar backstories- selling catalog magazines nonetheless. The chemistry between every character in this film is organic and believable. Almost feeling more like a documentary than fiction. There’s no denying that the sexual tension between Star and Jake, is so genuine, it transcends you down a rabbit hole of emotions. The connection and danger is what motivates this film, the danger of being separated by their unstable leader Krystal (Riley Keough), and the fear Star faces when putting herself in compromising situations with other men. Watching Star, we see a girl trying her hardest to live a life that would be deemed as more than survivable. A task many can relate to in one way or another. Oh, and the soundtrack is the best thing since Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers (2012).
Contributed by Amanda Nova