Strong central performances were the most notable feature of June’s best films. But first let’s get the exception out of the way. Peter Rabbit 2 (Will Gluck) is the very worst sort of children’s film: cynical, unfocussed and completely uninspired. It has no clue who its audience is, and very little interest in attempting to find out. The 2 year old and 3 year old with whom I watched it gazed at the screen with increasingly dull expressions on their faces, just waiting for it all to be over.
Emily Blunt commands the screen, as she always does, in A Quiet Place Part II (John Krasinski) but one of the factors that makes this sequel more entertaining than expected is that her character is never allowed to dominate. Taking an ensemble approach, the film presents a multi-strand narrative, and although some of the threads are more convincing than others, the whole comes together in what is ultimately a satisfying fashion.
Anthony Hopkins has won acclaim for his turn in Florian Zeller’s The Father, and there’s no doubt that he’s excellent in the title role. But Olivia Coleman is arguably better and more nuanced as his conflicted daughter. The film itself doesn’t entirely work. Its attempts to mirror its main character’s dementia-fuelled confusion are ambitious and commendable, but they’re also rather inconsistent, with the result that the story’s emotional impact is somewhat diminished.
Lesley Manville (is she ever anything less than superb?) doesn’t just eat up the scenery in Let Him Go (Thomas Bezucha). She rips it to shreds, chews it with a ferocity that would put a piranha to shame and then spits it out without so much as batting an eyelid. That said, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane more than hold their own in this gripping, unassuming tale of a mission to rescue a mother and her young child from the grip of a rapacious family.
There’s no shortage of emotional impact in the month’s most memorable movies. Aneil Karia’s Surge sees Ben Whishaw on fine form as an airport security attendant succumbing to a violent and self-destructive mental breakdown over the course of a few days. And in Aleem Khan’s After Love, the haunted, inscrutable face of Joanna Scanlan conceals a maelstrom of pain as she discovers that her recently deceased husband led a whole other life with another woman, across the Channel in Calais. Both pieces of work brought a very contemporary sensibility and an admirable restraint to their exploration of timeless themes. And both deserve a wide audience.