To speak or to die. That's the question at the heart of Call Me By Your Name, Luca Guadagnino's adaptation of the novel of the same name about the intensity of first love, in all its confusion and terror and joy. It's a well-realized film that, despite being told via a deeply restrained and interior story, manages to bring the emotions up to the surface to create something insightful and quite moving. Nominated for 4 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Song), and arguably deserving of more, Call Me By Your Name is one of the best films of 2017. It's a thoughtful and beautifully rendered piece of work, even though it opts to be shy at moments when it might have been better served by boldness.
The Post, Steven Spielberg's take on the Pentagon Papers story, is a conventional film in many ways but that doesn't make it any less powerful. Ostensibly a story about the press exposing the lengths to which the US government has gone to mislead the public about the Vietnam War, what The Post is really doing is using that as a framework in order to tell a story about how women struggle as they try to navigate worlds dominated by men. This is a film about a woman who is treated as if her power is merely ceremonial as the men around her shut her out and shut her down and treat her like nothing more than a nuissance, and how she develops a sense of agency and learns how to wield her power. The beats may be conventional, but the result is fantastic.
In Ingrid Goes West Aubrey Plaza goes all in as she plays a desperately unhappy woman who is obsessed with the lives of people she finds on Instagram. Though the film itself is darkly comedic, and finds some humor in the lengths that Plaza's character goes to in order to insinuate herself into the life of an Instagram influencer, Plaza's performance is a disturbing portrait of a person deeply in the throes of a mental health crisis, her behavior becoming increasingly unmanageable as the story carries on. It's a frightening performance because it never feels like a "performance;" it feels like a window into an incredibly damaged soul with an incredibly cracked perspective on the world. In taking on the role, Plaza eschews vanity and goes the distance.