Fionnuala Halligan is Screen’s chief film critic and reviews editor. Read our other critics’ top tens here.

The Souveinr Part II

Source: Protagonist Pictures

‘The Souvenir Part II’

Top ten

1. The Souvenir: Part II
Dir. Joanna Hogg
It’s hard to reflect on The Souvenir: Part II without bringing The Souvenir to mind, so this could be a rating for both films combined. Either way, Hogg’s formally daring return to the world of her alter ego Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) — a portrait of the artist as a young filmmaker — is a dazzling piece of cinema, open and honest and brave — and, unlike The Souvenir — frequently funny. As Julie tries to right herself after Anthony’s death, she processes her loss in her work, as this hall of mirrors shatters into sheer fantasy in a way that’s as thrilling as any drama this year. A stronger Swinton Byrne and her on-screen/off-screen mother Tilda portray a tender familial love that is a rare thing to behold.
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2. Licorice Pizza
Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
Anderson’s comedy-drama set in the San Fernando Valley of the 1970s reinforces — if any doubt lingered — that he is one of the great directors of our age. Anderson makes it all look easy — the film is so deceptively light on its feet and sure of itself — as he follows 15-year-old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman, the perfectly cast son of Philip Seymour Hoffman) in his pursuit of 25-year-old Alana (Alana Haim). But make no mistake — this is cinematic magic. Don’t miss out on sideshows with Lucille Ball and William Holden figures (the latter played by Sean Penn), not to mention the entire Haim clan and a cameo from Bradley Cooper as a deranged Jon Peters. 
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3. West Side Story
Dir. Steven Spielberg
Well, here’s a surprise. The one thing you never thought you needed — a remake of the 10-time Oscar-winning classic of 1961 — turns out to be one of the year’s greatest joys. Spielberg is at his very best here as he turns his hand to the book by Jerome Robbins and somehow, somewhere, brings the Romeo and Juliet of Shakespeare to the spirit of that Broadway show-cum-film. From the first shots, you know you’re in the hands of a master.
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4. C’mon C’mon
Dir. Mike Mills
A film about a single man (Joaquin Phoenix) who comes into temporary guardianship of his sensitive nine-year-old nephew might not ostensibly seem unusual, but this was written and directed by Mills, and packs power beneath its gentle genius. Beautifully shot by Robbie Ryan in glowing black-and-white as the pair move between Los Angeles, New York and New Orleans, it is a musing on childhood and being an adult custodian of it; innocence and how it is forgotten. 
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5. Parallel Mothers
Dir. Pedro Almodovar
This is all Almodovar in certain respects — a hospital baby-swap mix-up is typically high-concept and wrapped in all the vivid colours and textures of his technical wizardry. But when he moves out of domestic hijinks and into Spain’s open wound of the ‘pacto de olvido’ — the unmarked graves of thousands of Civil War dead — Almodovar takes more risks, and they pay off. Penelope Cruz has rarely been better — and only in Almodovar films. 
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6. Passing
Dir. Rebecca Hall
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7. The Power Of The Dog
Dir. Jane Campion
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8. Petite Maman
Dir. Céline Sciamma
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9. Great Freedom
Dir. Sebastian Meise
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10. Belfast
Dir. Kenneth Branagh
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Best documentaries

1, 2, 3 Summer Of Soul (… Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) / The Velvet Underground / The Beatles: Get Back
Wait years for a decent music documentary, then, like buses, they all arrive at once. Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson’s documentary Summer Of Soul premiered at Sundance, Todd Haynes’ The Velvet Underground was at Cannes, and The Beatles: Get Back was rumoured for every festival but became a three-part TV series directed by Peter Jackson after he originally conceived it as a film. All arrived mere months after Spike Lee treated us to David Byrne’s American Utopia. Rock on, 2021 — you’ve been disappointing in so many other ways, but your musical generosity knows no bounds.
Read Screen’s reviews here, here and here

Runner up: The Rescue
Dirs. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
The titular rescue in 2018 of the Thai schoolboys trapped in a flooded cave was remarkable, and the filmmakers build it up into a story of everyday heroism of a miraculous kind. It is no surprise Ron Howard will adapt it, but, really, nothing can beat the truth — and it has a happy ending. Something 2021 has been short of.
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Performance of the year

Kathryn Hunter in The Tragedy Of Macbeth (dir. Joel Coen)
Hard to call: Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power Of The Dog? Penelope Cruz in Parallel Mothers? Bradley Cooper is impressive in Nightmare Alley, too. I’m going with Hunter in The Tragedy Of Macbeth, though. It’s a play I love and have seen so many times, on-screen and onstage, but there’s never been a witch like her. Or three of her, even. It’s not just a physical transformation either, though that’s impressive enough — it’s an embodiment, and it’s frightening.
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