End Of The Year Almanac #5: The “Feel Bad” Films Of 2016


Dramas are pretty well known for making people feel introspective.  Here are some that will definitely make you think even though they’re pretty damn uncomfortable.  Now available in highly specific sub-genres!  I’ll be making pitches to the powers that be to put these films on combo DVDs or something.

Note: click on the links below to watch trailers and find out where these films are available.  Also, some spoilers ahead.

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Dudes Making Mistakes

The Loneliest Planet – Gael García Bernal jeopardizes his relationship with his girlfriend (Hani Furstenberg) when he attempts to use her as a human shield during a hike.  Sadly, it’s not their last day abroad and they still have to share a tent.

Force Majeure – A man (Johannes Bah Kuhnke) jeopardizes his marriage and family when he runs to save himself during an avalanche, leaving them behind.  Psych!  The avalanche was a false alarm and everyone saw him do it.  The rest of his skiing vacation gets increasingly awkward as they are joined by friends, including Game Of Thrones’ Tormund Giantsbane wearing fuzzy sweaters and wait- hey, Brady Corbet is in it too!  Speaking of which…

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Holy Family Issues, Batman

Wreckers – A young couple (The Crown‘s Claire Foy and Benedict Cumberbatch, in my favorite performance of his) are staying in his remote childhood home when they’re interrupted by a visit from his brother (Shaun Evans).  It becomes clear that the brother is having serious mental issues and the house bears the scars of terrible family secrets, causing everyone to fight and the shit to hit the fan.  Then someone vanishes and things get even more ambiguous and creepy.

The Sleepwalker – A young couple (Christopher Abbott and Gitte Witt) are staying in her remote childhood home when they’re interrupted by a visit from her sister (Stephanie Ellis) and her boyfriend (hey, there’s Brady Corbet again!).  It becomes clear that the sister is having serious mental issues and the house bears the scars of terrible family secrets, causing everyone to fight and the shit to hit the fan.  Then someone vanishes and things get even more ambiguous and strange. (Bonus “feel bad”: Abbott and Corbet starred in character studies of troubled men in James White and Simon Killer, respectively- other downer films I saw this year.  It was interesting to watch them not getting along because they’re both so good at playing sociopaths.)

There are no typos here.  The plots of these films are strikingly similar.  As a bonus you can check out Take Me To The River, which is the most incredibly uncomfortable family-incest-coming out-child abuse accusation drama to end with David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure.”

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So This Was A Really, Really, Really Bad Idea

A Teacher – A young teacher (Lindsay Burdge) is having an affair with one of her teenaged students.  Things go south as she becomes obsessed with him, overstepping her bounds to the point where she is willing to expose their relationship and lose everything.  Damn, girl.  It’s not worth it.

She’s Lost Control – A young sexual surrogate (Brooke Bloom) begins seeing a new client, attempting to help him with intimacy and his emotional issues.  Unfortunately she begins to obsess over him and stalks him at work, eventually overstepping the bounds of her profession and unraveling.  Again, damn girl.  Still not worth it.

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White Women Losing It At Lake Houses

Martha Marcy May Marlene – Elizabeth Olsen seeks refuge with her sister and brother-in-law after escaping a cult and begins to have a post-traumatic breakdown.

Magic Magic – Juno Temple stays with some rather sociopathic strangers in Chile, prompting her already fragile psyche to fall apart.

The Midnight Swim – Three sisters (Jennifer Lafleur, Aleksa Palladino and Lindsay Burdge) are staying at their recently deceased mother’s home when one of them (Burdge, of course) becomes successively less stable and haunted by their collective pasts.

Queen Of Earth – A pair of old friends spend a week together but over time it becomes clear that one of them (Elisabeth Moss) is beginning to lose her mind.

(Verdict: if you’re a white woman, don’t go to a lake house.)

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Bonus: The Best Of Newer Nic Cage Movies (they’re serious, though, for real…)

The Frozen Ground – Cage plays a character based on Glenn Flothe, an Alaskan detective who tracked down serial murderer Robert Hansen in 1983.  It’s a quiet, grounded and compassionate performance from Cage, the sort of thing he isn’t known for.  I really respected his work here.

Joe – Cage teams up with director David Gordon Green, portraying a former criminal who lives in the violent backwoods of Texas and takes a young neighbor under his wing.   Cage is flinty and assured in the role, even during acts of tremendous violence.  It’s a reminder of how great he can be.

The Trust – Although this film is slightly lighter in tone, the ending is what will give you the eternal ?????s when you think about it.  Cage is teamed with Elijah Wood as two corrupt officers making a grab for some illegal goods, and Cage is amazing at playing a fuddy-duddy whose countenance can turn on a dime.  It’s not a perfect film, but his strangeness (as usual) makes it interesting to watch.


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