Best Films Of 2020

Surprise, surprise, my attempts to keep this blog updated with regular posts in 2020 failed. Mind you, I can’t take all the blame this time. A certain microscopic nasty caused what we might call ‘some disruption’ to all our lives last year, and although I had (and continue to have) a great deal to say about the situation, much of it was probably best kept to myself. Or, to be more precise: best relegated to the fiction-forming part of my brain, ready to emerge years from now in a short story or novel.

Speaking of novels, The Very Essence went through a major re-write towards the end of the year, so within the next few weeks, I expect I’ll start the rounds of sending it off to people. Please send me good wishes for this endeavour: I believe in the value of this particular project and I’m confident that it will find a readership, if only someone would give it the opportunity to do so.

Going back to the blog, many of you were sweet enough to get in touch at various points during 2020 to ask me to revive my series of one-paragraph film reviews. Your encouragement means a great deal to me, and while I don’t think I can commit to that particular task just now (most of my free time is being devoted to an extremely exciting writing commission, about which I hope to be able to reveal more soon), I may consider composing a monthly ‘digest’ of notable movies. I should be able to manage 12 posts, right? Right?!

To make up for the lack of film reviews in 2020 – and to satisfy the need for list-making that occasionally gets the better of me – here’s a rundown of my top 10 favourite films of last year, in the order in which I saw them. (And yes, contrary to what many seem to think, there was plenty to watch in 2020, albeit at home. I managed only five cinema outings before lockdown became an everyday reality. They were for 1917, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Jo Jo Rabbit, Parasite and Dark Waters, none of which is on the list below.)

Here’s to a better year for all of us. May 2021 bring patience, kindness and peace.


My Favourite Films Of 2020

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (dir. Celine Sciamma)

Notable for: the arresting framing, which seemed to make the repressed passions all the more intense.

And Then We Danced (dir. Levan Akin)

Notable for: its bravery, and the depth of its observations.

Young Ahmed (dir. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)

Notable for: the Dardennes’ characteristically unforced, compelling presentation of complex issues.

Clemency (dir. Chinonye Chukwu)

Notable for: lots of things! But let’s give Alfre Woodard another well-deserved mention for her extraordinary performance.

The Traitor (dir. Marco Bellochio)

Notable for: its epic ambition.

Lovers Rock (dir. Steve McQueen)

Notable for: its uncompromising portrayal of sheer, lost-in-the-moment joy.

Proxima (dir. Alice Winocour)

Notable for: its well-balanced handling of a moving narrative. (By the way, Proxima probably deserves an award for the most inaccurately-marketed movie of the year. Contrary to most listings, it doesn’t slot into the sci-fi genre, and it certainly isn’t ‘fantasy’ either. Indeed, one of its strengths is its clear-eyed realism, so if you were dissuaded from watching it because rockets and space suits aren’t normally for you, please reconsider.)

Soul (dir. Pete Docter & Kemp Powers)

Notable for: its seemingly unending inventiveness.

Mank (dir. David Fincher)

Notable for: its timely examination of corruption, populism and integrity.

Rocks (dir. Sarah Gavron)

Notable for: the almost breath-taking accuracy and believability of its performances.

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