NNNNN: 2015’s perfect (or nearly) movies

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NNNNN: These are the films of 2015 that earned a very rare, very coveted perfect score from NOW’s film critics. Click on each title for a full review, any available theatre listings and your legal online viewing options.

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Available online and/or in theatres:

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (horror): The vampire, both in literature and cinema, is a wonderful metaphor. It can be whatever the writer wants it to be: ravenous id, moral arbiter, sexual, predator – anything. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night‘s Ana Lily Amirpour knows this, and inserts its blood-drinking immortal into the very intriguing context of present-day Iran.

Amy (documentary): Asif Kapadia’s Amy opens with footage of the young Amy Winehouse singing Happy Birthday at a friend’s party. She is 14 years old, and half her life is already behind her.

Babadook, The (horror): Seven years after her husband’s death in a car crash, Aussie Amelia (Essie Davis) and her precocious son, Samuel (the adorable Noah Wiseman), are getting by. She’s a nurse who works with elderly patients, while Samuel, preoccupied with homemade weapons and magic, begins to act out at school.

How To Change The World (documentary): Long before Twitter and Facebook, eco-pioneer/journalist Bob Hunter was “going viral” with analog “mind bombs” – consciousness-shifting news feeds that catapulted modern environmental activism into the forefront.

Inside Out (adventure, comedy, family): Inside Out explores the emotional landscape of an 11-year-old girl who’s just moved to San Francisco with her parents. Young Riley tries to adjust to her new situation as Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black) constantly fight for dominance.

Leviathan (drama, comedy, Netflix): Andrey Zvyagintsev‘s epic drama Leviathan – which won the Golden Globe for best foreign-language feature and is up for an Oscar in the same category – plays equally well as slow-motion domestic tragedy and a study of the internalized corruption of post-Soviet Russia.

Mad Max: Fury Road (action, adventure, sci-fi): Structured as one long chase, the film finds the exhausted Max Rocka-tansky (Tom Hardy) captured by a desert death cult and eventually roped into helping a handful of women escape from a tyrant. 

Mend, The (drama): John Magary’s first feature focuses on unpleasant people doing unpleasant things – and if you boil it down to a Facebook synopsis, no, it doesn’t sound like one of the best debuts of the year. But it is. Trust me. It absolutely is.

Paddington (comedy, family): Paul King‘s remarkable adaptation of Michael Bond‘s beloved children’s books, which spins the story of the lost little bear from Darkest Peru – voiced by The Hour’s Ben Whishaw – into a thoughtful and genuinely moving metaphor for the immigrant experience. 

Two Days, One Night (drama, Netflix): Sandra is struggling with depression and has just received word that co-workers voted to eliminate her factory job in order to save their bonus. While her initial reaction is to drown her sorrows in pills, her husband and friends insist that she convince her colleagues to have a change of heart.

Winter Sleep (drama, Netflix): The setting for Winter Sleep, which won Cannes’s Palme d’Or in 2014, is an exclusive hotel built into the mountains of Anatolia. It’s owned by Aydin (Haluk Bilginer), a retired actor who now chats with his guests – who are generally well-heeled and looking for something unusual – and maintains some neighbouring properties.

More perfect films of 2015:

Assassin, The (action, drama): Set in ninth-century China and filmed with a sumptuous eye for detail and colour, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin is a dreamlike tale of a young woman (Shu Qi) trained in the ways of stealth and death who’s dispatched to murder the powerful governor of Weibo province (Chang Chen), who happens to be her cousin.

Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (drama): Still living under a state filmmaking ban, Iranian director Jafar Panahi gets around that restriction for the third time by making a film entirely in a taxi. The space may be confined, but the cunning film argues that the real prison is outside the cab’s windows.

Kindergarten Teacher, The (drama): Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s melancholic and seductive sophomore feature laments a lost appreciation for art while, like the titular antihero, actively searching through life’s nooks and crannies for something beautiful.

Listen To Me Marlon (documentary): Stevan Riley’s look at the life and career of Marlon Brando is far more personally revealing than any previous biography. 

Look Of Silence, The (documentary): In Joshua Oppenheimer’s companion piece to his brilliant 2012 documentary, The Act Of Killing, optometrist Adi travels through Indonesia discussing the 1965 military coup that enabled the slaughter of 1 million suspected Communists with patients who either deny their involvement or rationalize it into nothingness.

Still looking for something to watch? Find all titles here, and NNNN-rated films here.

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