10. Infinitely Polar Bear by Maya Forbes
Infinitely Polar Bear manages to avoid most of the pitfalls of films about a single father taking care of his children and makes up for its flaws with an overdose of warmth and charm. Mark Ruffalo stars opposite two superb child actresses as the bipolar former hippie Cameron. It is also nice to see Zoe Saldana play a human being for once as Ruffalo’s ambitious ex-wife, who leaves the kids in his custody. Writer-director Maya Forbes simply lets the cast do their thing and adds heart and excellent music to the film. There is a lot of screaming, swearing and chaos, but even more love, in this unconventional household, which quickly grows on the audience. Infinitely Polar Bear is a simple, fun movie, which doesn't attempt to lecture us about depression or parenthood. The sight of the incredible Hulk jumping around in red underwear and the hilarious “The Shining”-reference are worth the price of admission alone.
9. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night by Ana Lily Amirpou
This Iranian vampire thriller was one of the most unusual and most interesting films to play at the festival. Read my full review of this one here.
8. It Follows by David Robert Mitchell
It Follows is in spirit a schlocky, camp B-movie, which could easily have been made by a young John Carpenter or Sam Raimi, with a hint of the post-modern self-awareness of Cabin in the Woods. The film opens on a scantily dressed teenage girl sprinting along a suburban street in complete terror, getting into a car and driving off to the beach. The next shot shows her blood-stained body in a stomach-turning pose. The cause of her death was by a mysterious power, which always follows its target in a walking pace. The only way to pass this curse on to another person is by having sex with them, which is precisely what happens to our young protagonist Jay (Maika Monroe) after she sleeps with her boyfriend. This simple premise is incredibly effective and the director has a lot of fun playing with our expectations and scaring us in unusual ways. The polished cinematography and stunning visuals (the director wanted to create a film that is simultaneously beautiful and disturbing) make It Follows one of the best horror films of the year.
7. Camp X-Ray by Peter Sattler
A film about the US-Army Guantanamo Bay detention camp was always going to stir many debates, but this film mostly avoids controversy while still making thought-provoking points. It pitches a young rookie-guard (Kristen Stewart once again proving her talent) against a well-educated, talkative detainee (A Separation’s Peyman Moaadi) in an intense psychological duel. The better part of the film’s running time consists of the mind games and the tentative steps toward friendship between the two, which are carried out through the small window of a firmly shut cell door. Their conversations start to raise doubts in the young soldier’s mind. Is the imprisonment of these people the right thing to do? Is the treatment of the detainees excessive? Is she actually one of the bad guys? There are obviously no clear cut answers to those contemplations and fortunately, the film doesn't try to give us any. This is a very good thriller with two excellent performances and it should be the origin of quite a few fascinating pub-discussions afterwards.
6. Love is Strange by Ira Sachs
John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a devoted gay-couple in the latter stages of their lives – what else do you want? After spending four decades together, Ben and George finally get married in the film’s opening sequence. An extremely joyous occasion, celebrated with plenty of vine, songs and laughter, which soon has unfortunate consequences: George loses his job as a music teacher at a catholic school and they no longer can afford to keep their apartment. The temporary solution to this dilemma is a painful separation: Ben moves in with his nephew and his family, whereas George pitches his tent on the couch of his former neighbours, two gay policemen. What follows is an incredibly sweet portrait of these two people, who cannot cope apart. The movie could not be more New York if it tried (every character is a musician, artist, writer or filmmaker and there is A LOT of complaining about expensive rent-prices) and the story doesn’t really go anywhere, but there are some beautiful truths about love and companionship to be found in this story. You really enjoy spending time with these two. Loves isn’t strange, love is completely natural.
Part two: here