A Year of Female Filmmakers: June-August

I haven’t been particularly successful with my blogging lately, but I finally finished my bachelor’s thesis and I hope I’ll have more time for writing reviews from now on. And since I haven’t posted any new-to-me women directed and/or written films for my Year of Female Filmmakers since May, here’s a list of films I’ve seen between June and August 2015.

Unexpected (2015, written by Megan Mercier and Kris Swanberg, directed by Kris Swanberg) – don’t let the low rating at IMDb fool you, because this is easily the best woman directed film that I’ve seen this summer. It’s co-written and directed by Joe Swanberg’s wife, and while this film doesn’t belong within the mumblecore movement, it is more than apparent that Kris is equally talented as her husband. Unexpected is a film about an unusual bond between two unintentionally pregnant women: between white, middle-class, soon-to-be-married high school teacher (wonderfully portrayed by Cobie Smulders) and African-American high school student from a broken, working class family (portrayed by relatively unknown, but very talented Gail Bean). As they try to plan their respective futures we are subtly introduced to the challenges and sacrifices that come with motherhood and how they vary depending on the social class we’re coming from; something that rarely finds it’s place in American films. Which was what I loved the most about this indie masterpiece. Films that from time to time do try to address social inequalities and different realities that we face depending on our race, social background etc., often end up being too melodramatic (preaching even), and mostly work as an ideological tool for the promotion of the myth that we know by the name of American Dream (work hard and you can achieve anything, regardless of your social background!). This film smartly avoids any such simplifications or moralizations and simply shows things as they are. This is independent cinema at it’s best. Rating: 8

Nights and Weekends (2008, co-written and co-directed by Greta Gerwig) – since I was just talking about the talented Swanberg husband-and-wife duo; this one was written and directed by Joe Swanberg in collaboration with the queen of contemporary independent cinema, Greta Gerwig (the two of them also star in the main roles). It is also as mumblecore as a film can get, which is why I know it won’t be for everyone’s taste, but if you consider yourself as someone who enjoys low budget films and naturalistic dialogues (that are often completely improvised), you should definitely check it out. Rating: 7.5

Fort Tilden (2014, co-written and co-directed by Sarah-Violet Bliss) –  if you’re not fond of films with unlikable characters you should probably skip this one. However, if you don’t mind spending an hour and a half in the company of the most self-indulged, narcissistic hipster millennials, this may very well be a perfect little indie feature for you. Rating: 6.5

6 Years (2015, written and directed by Hannah Fidell) – this is Fidell’s third feature film, focused on a seemingly ideal young 20-something couple who’s been together since they were teenagers. This is until unexpected opportunities present themselves and spin their relationship down a violent path… Fidell seems to grow with her every film, and while this film is still far from being perfect, it definitely delivers one of the most real portrayals of the suffocating young love and the impulsiveness that comes with it. Rating: 6

Unrelated (2007, written and directed by Joanna Hogg) – an English middle-age woman in the middle of an emotional crisis flees from her troubles and joins her bourgeois friends on holiday in Tuscany. A little too focused on middle class “problems” for my taste, but a good film nevertheless. Rating: 6

Kissing Jessica Stein (2001, written by Heather Juergensen and Jennifer Westfeldt) – this is not entirely unlikable film, but I had quite a few problems with it. The narrative follows Jessica Stein, a relatively successful Jewish woman, who after a series of awful blind dates gives up on dating guys altogether. When she meets a bisexual  woman, who seems to be everything that she ever looked for in a man, the two begin a romantic relationship. Which is great – BUT, as it was the case with almost all American films about lesbians relationship in the 90’s, it doesn’t deliver what it should. Because, while she doesn’t know what exactly she wants from her (love) life in the beginning of the film, she grows as a person by the end of the film and comes to the realization that she needs a man to be truly happy. Which is why this film ends up being just another American semi open-minded film that is actually subtly perpetuating (conservative, patriarchal) heteronormative values. Rating: 6

Apartment Troubles (2014, written and directed by Jennifer Prediger and Jess Weixler) Rating: 5

The Falling (2014, written and directed by Carol Morley) Rating: 4

Jenny’s Wedding (2015, written and directed by Mary Agnes Donoghue) – this film, although released in 2015, manages to approach lesbian love story in such a conservative manner that it looks like it was filmed in the 50’s. I guess that if you’re trying to tell a story about a lesbian couple that plans to get married you should at least choose two actresses with at some chemistry between them. Because Katherine Heigl and Alexis Bledel looked like best friends who occasionally share a kiss, and not even remotely like two women in love. There was absolutely nothing sexual between them and even when there was some awkward touching involved they looked like two friends comforting one another. Seriously, this film got stuck in time somewhere and it got released at least 30 years too late. Rating: 3.5

Stockholm, Pennsylvania (written and directed by Nikole Beckwith) Rating: 3

Trainwreck (2015, written by Amy Schumer) – this film got generally good reviews, but I honestly don’t understand how anyone could find this film enjoyable. It also made me doubt in Amy Schumer and her “feminist values”, because what this film does is exactly the opposite from empowering women. Here’s my whole review. Rating: 1

Endless Love (2014, written and directed by Shana Feste) – way too melodramatic story for my taste with bad dialogues and not particularly good acting. Rating: 1

Hot Pursuit (2015, directed by Anne Fletcher) – this film is based on so many stereotypes about Latin-Americans and women in general that I don’t even know where to begin… and films like this are a perfect example of why Bechdel test really isn’t that much effective. Rating: 0.5

The Women (2008, written and directed by Diane English) – this may very well be the worst film ever made. Rating: 0

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