These films are the best releases by women, the best stories about women and the best female actors of the year. Some of these entries will doubtless go on to Oscar glory, but others, equally deserving, have flown under the radar and deserve your attention.
D: Bo Burnham
Elsie Fisher is a marvel in this tender story of a bullied middle-school student named Kayla trying to find her voice. Director/screenwriter Burnham can take credit for some of 2018s best writing, including a scene where Kaylas single father expresses his love for her, and a sequence featuring Kayla in a car with a teenaged boy thats a revelation. A small, mighty film.
D: Alfonso Cuaron
Cuarons memory movie about his childhood under the care of his Indigenous nanny goes back to Mexicos turbulent late-60s politics while creating a loving portrait of a caregiver whose gifts are many but whose choices are few. Exquisitely crafted and shot.
D: George Tillman Jr.
The life and consciousness of a Black high school student (Amandla Stenberg) attending an exclusive, mostly white private school changes when her best friend is killed by a cop, while her family cant escape their fathers criminal past. Audrey Wellss script from the novel by Angie Thomas is one of the years best, as evidenced by a stunning climactic scene.
D: Patricia Rozema
Rozemas risky adaptation of a complex theatre piece features the original stage creator/performers Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava as two sides of one character trying to compose her mothers obituary. What sounds like an experiment that could never work on screen turns into a gorgeous love letter to Toronto and a moving meditation on motherhood. Bonus: Maev Beaty as the mom in her first screen role. This film, screened at TIFF 2018, is on TIFFs 2018 Canada Top 10 list and gets a full run early in 2019. Dont miss it.
D: Tamara Jenkins
Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn play a couple with fertility problems in something that sounds like one of those old pedestrian TV movies of the week but is decidedly not. Jenkins, who also wrote the script, turns it into a soulful examination of the toll fertility treatments have on loving couples, and Giamatti and the under-appreciated Kahn are superb. Available to stream on Netflix.
D: Yorgos Lanthimos
Power-hungry women in Queen Annes court trade barbs and sexual favours with their ruler in this batshit pic that swings wildly from satire to a serious meditation on grief and ambition. As the Queen, both vulnerable and imperious, Olivia Colman gives one of the performances of the year.
D: Vivian Qu
A teenaged hotel worker (Vicky Chen) has information about a sexual assault and wrestles with whether to talk in this disturbing indie thats copped multiple awards in Asia. Qu deploys metaphor (a giant statue of Marilyn Monroe figures prominently), subtle strategies (a victims curling toes as shes medically examined) and a deft touch in a strong feminist statement.
D: Bjorn Runge
Glenn Close plays Joan, whos compromised everything as the wife of a Nobel Prize-winning author, in this adaptation of Meg Wolitzers novel. Golden Globe nominee Close is superb, managing to convey one emotion on the surface while something quite different is obviously going on underneath.
D: Steve McQueen
Three women decide to pull off a heist after their criminal husbands are killed during one of their robberies, but this has nothing like the vibe of the vapid Oceans Eight, which also featured female robbers. Instead, it probes local political corruption, is full of complex Black characters and has got Viola Davis, who is riveting.
D: Mina Shum
A woman discovers her husband is having an affair in what starts out as a gentle slice of Chinese-Canadian life but becomes a powerful portrait of female empowerment. Shums long-time collaborator Sandra Oh appears as the daughter but its a radiant Cheng Pei-Pei as the transforming wife who gives the movie its greatness.
Damien Chazelles richly textured First Man, with a knockout performance by Claire Foy Melissa McCarthy, who proves theres a dramatic actor in their somewhere, thanks to her performance as a literary scammer in Can You Ever Forgive Me? and 93Queen, Paula Eiselts revealing documentary about a group of Hassidic women in Brooklyn trying to launch an all-female emergency force.