Marshall has worked for Screen International since 1996 as an Italy-based film critic. He also writes on travel, design and culture for a range of UK, US and Italian publications.

More critics pick best films of 2017

The shape of water fox searchlight 2

Source: Fox Searchlight

‘The Shape Of Water’

Top five

1. The Shape Of Water

Dir: Guillermo del Toro
Entertainment value, artistic finesse and thematic resonance do not always come in the same box, yet all are present in Guillermo del Toro’s richest creation to date. As lithe as the finned humanoid at the centre of a tale that waltzes deftly between retro monster movie, oddball romance, spy thriller and dark period comedy, The Shape Of Water is above all a deliciously skewed vision of Cold War America; as much dystopian present as historic past. It is not just a radiant Sally Hawkins’ mute cleaning lady Elisa who engages us; oppressors such as Michael Shannon’s memorable Colonel Strickland are as fascinating as those they vex. 
CONTACT: Fox Searchlight 

2. Good Time

Dirs: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
After a string of self-conscious New York nouvelle vague outings, the Safdies hit their stride with this caper starring Robert Pattinson.
CONTACT: Memento Films International

3. Loveless

Dir: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Andrey Zvyagintsev’s follow-up to Leviathan is an object lesson in how to couch a dark state-of-the-nation metaphor inside a heart-wrenching drama.
CONTACT: Wild Bunch 

4. Foxtrot

Dir: Samuel Maoz
There is so much emotional power in the first act of this dramatic triptych set in contemporary Tel Aviv, you wonder how it could possibly get better. It does so, in rich and surprising ways. 
CONTACT: The Match Factory 

5. The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)

Dir: Noah Baumbach
Dustin Hoffman has never been better than as the needily manipulative artist-patriarch of a screwed-up New York Jewish brood in Noah Baumbach’s rangy novel of a film.
CONTACT: Netflix 

Best documentary

The Venerable W

Dir: Barbet Schroeder
Rarely has a documentary been as timely as Barbet Schroeder’s portrait of the poisonous Burmese Buddhist priest known as the Venerable Wirathu, whose racism foments violence against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. The film is not just a portrait of a saffron-robed Hitler, but a film about how societies normalise injustice and persecution.
CONTACT: Les Films du Losange 

Undiscovered gem

The Night I Swam

Dirs: Damien Manivel, Kohei Igarashi
Enchanting, mysterious and unlike anything else I saw this year, this largely dialogue-free four-hander is ostensibly about a sleepless six-year-old who one day sets off alone across a snowbound Japanese city to find his father, who works in the wholesale fish market. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head: like all good films, it taps into the dream space. 
CONTACT: Shellac