Released 2015. Directed by Pete Docter. Screenplay by Meg LeFauve & Josh Cooley and Pete Docter. Starring Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Lewis Black, Kaitlyn Dias.
Significant spoilers follow, including many of the best jokes and the ending, so if you wish to avoid anger I recommend you see Inside Out before reading on. (I also talk about the end of Toy Story 3, but if you haven’t seen that then I assume you have never seen a film in your life.)
As a child, my favourite comic strip was The Numskulls. The idea that tiny maniacal homunculi populated and drove human bodies was captivating and wild, tweaked my interest in science, and made for thousands of great jokes. Now Pixar, the undisputed master of family-friendly cinema, has turned its attention to the same idea. Colour me excited.
Released 2014. Written and directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke.
If you know anything about Boyhood before going in, you’ll know that it’s a hugely ambitious project that follows a boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), as he ages from six to eighteen years old, along with his mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), and occasionally-present father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke). It doesn’t switch out actors to depict the children ageing. Richard Linklater has been following them for twelve years, semi-improvising a narrative along the way. It’s a small, intimate film with little drive yet it requires three hours to tell its story. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and you absolutely need to see it.
Released 2014. Written and directed by Steven Knight. Starring Tom Hardy.
There are plot spoilers here, although they are locked behind the first paragraph. Get it? Locked. Locke-d. Locke is the name of the film. Forget it.
There’s a breed of film that likes to restrict itself. It uses a single very concise location, or one main one with very few excursions elsewhere; it tells its story in real time, or near-real time; it features very few actors (often only one), who appear throughout. Of this breed, there are two flavours. There are the interesting ones, such as Buried and Rope; then there are the extraordinarily silly ones, such as Phone Booth and Devil. (Sometimes, I admit, you will come across a film that straddles this distinction, and that film is Carnage.) No matter what their variations on the theme, these films all have one thing in common, which is that I love them unconditionally. Imposing limits on oneself is a reliable recipe for something fun or intriguing – these films are laboratory experiments designed to discover what is possible to achieve despite confinement, and they’re always playful. Locke, set entirely within a car driven by Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) from Birmingham to London, is a member of the interesting group: it’s slow, careful, visually rich and utterly engrossing.
Released 2014. Written and directed by Spike Jonze. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams.
Her, written and directed by Spike Jonze, is a curious film. It’s intriguing, smart, heartfelt and, for the most part, engrossing. It’s off-kilter and quirky in just the right way. But as a satire, it didn’t have much to say. As a drama, it failed to move me. And it really loses its way towards the end.
But before we get to that, I want to talk about what there is to like about Her. And there’s a lot to like.