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52 Films By Women: May

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It’s all coming up end of the world this month, with stories of loss, war and asteroids. But there’s hope and warmth to be found in amongst these female-made films. Here are the films I watched this month that were either written or directed (or both) by a woman.

FIRST-TIMERS

Catch and Release (Netflix UK), written and directed by Susannah Grant

When a woman’s fiancé dies she is left with nothing but his friends to get her through. But a mysterious bank account reveals another side to him she didn’t know existed. As sweet as it is funny, this is a lovely film about moving on and how little we really know each other.

See also: Moonlight and Valentino, written by Ellen Simon, is another story of grief and friendship. The film is beautifully understated and has impressive performances from the likes of Elizabeth Perkins and Whoopi Goldberg. Jon Bon Jovi also shows up. What’s not to love?

The Zookeeper’s Wife (Cinema), written by Angela Workman and directed by Niki Caro

Based on the non-fiction book written by Diane Ackerman, this film stars Jessica Chastain as a woman using her zoo to hide Jews in Poland during WWII. Moving, shocking and strangely hopeful. (The full review can be found here.) 

See also: Their Finest, another wartime film, is an absolute treat. Lighter in tone than Zookeeper, the film is written by Gaby Chiappe and directed by Lone Scherfig. The full review can be found here.

Destination Unknown (Cinema), directed by Claire Ferguson

This documentary looks at found footage from the Holocaust and speaks to those who survived it, asking what their survival has cost them all these years later.

Destination Unknown is in UK cinemas on 16 June *REVIEW COMING SOON*

See also: I’m going to break my own rule here and suggest Schindler’s List. It’s made by men but it’s a phenomenal film that looks more closely at some key figures – good and bad – who are discussed in Destination Unknown. Having seen actual footage and heard first-hand stories of these people, the film is sure to carry even more weight than it already does.

Chappie (Netflix UK), co-written by Terri Tatchell

Chappie didn’t get a good rep when it was first released in cinemas but, having enjoyed District 9, I wanted to give this story of a robot with artificial intelligence a go – and am hugely glad that I did!

This incredible film is so much more than just another story about a geeky dude and his AI robot. It is smart and tense and has some insanely impressive motion capture work courtesy of Sharlto Copley.

The script really builds and takes the viewer on a surprising and delightful journey with characters that manage to get beyond the stereotype. The robot doesn’t always know what to do. The geek is actually kind of badass. The gun-toting villain (well, one of them at least) is actually quite sweet.

Overall, this is astonishing story-telling that raises fundamental questions about who we are whilst also bringing the expected sci-fi action and drama.

See also: District 9, also co-written by Tatchell and just as surprising.

Say When (Netflix UK), directed by Lynn Shelton and written by Andrea Seigel

Say When is the story of a woman in her 20s who befriends a teenage girl and decides to hide out at her house in order to avoid her own life for a few days.

First off, it’d be easier to care about Keira Knightley central protagonist’s quarter-life crisis if her friends and boyfriend weren’t quite so insufferable. That said, once Chloe Moretz and Sam Rockwell show up, everything just gets so much better and you might just find yourself wanting to hide out there too because they’re just so inviting!

This is a really lovely story with three great central performances that manage to be cute and funny whilst still conveying the real pain behind the forced smiles and one-liners.

See also: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, also starring Keira Knightley and directed and written by Lorene Scafaria, is a really sweet and touching film about – you guessed it – the end of the world.

The Intern (DVD), written and directed by Nancy Meyers

Anne Hathaway plays a woman struggling to cope with the speedy success of her company as it expands beyond her wildest imaginations. When she is assigned Robert De Niro as her intern as part of an older intern programme she doesn’t want the added stress, assuming he won’t be of any help. Of course, this is De Niro and the man has skills.

The pairing of De Niro and Hathaway is golden and there is an interesting feminist thread here as Jules (Hathaway) is faced with the issue faced by women the world over – career or family?

Where it all goes is for you to find out…

See also: Nancy Meyers has brought us many great films including The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give and The Parent Trap. Take your pick!

REWATCHES

28 Days (Netflix UK), directed by Betty Thomas and written by Susannah Grant

Our second entry from Susannah Grant, this is one of Sandra Bullock’s best performances (in my humble opinion). In 28 Days, she plays a woman forced into rehab for a month after she gets drunk at her sister’s wedding and then causes damage to property after getting behind the wheel.

It is a story of addiction and friendship (and chewing gum!). It’s sad and funny, cute and scary but it’s mostly raw and warm and completely engrossing from start to finish.

There are numerous familiar faces around Bullock to enjoy, too, including Viggo Mortensen, Elizabeth Perkins and Dominic West.

See also: The Proposal, directed by Anne Fletcher, is far lighter in tone than 28 Days but a fantastic watch.

Deep Impact (DVD), directed by Mimi Leder<

One of that big trilogy of 90s apocalyptic films, this is perhaps the one more rooted in emotion – though there’s still plenty of spectacle and one of the best dramatic pauses courtesy of Morgan Freeman. There’s a lot of cheese here so perhaps not one for the dairy-intolerant viewer, but do not be deterred!

Deep Impact pulls off the difficult challenge of introducing numerous completely unrelated characters and making the viewer care about them. A personal favourite is the Lerner family, played by Tea Leoni, Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell.

See also: Pay It Forward, also directed by Leder (and written by Leslie Dixon), lacks the blockbuster feel of Deep Impact but builds on the emotional core of the film, this time telling the story of a boy who tries to pay good deeds forward rather than return them. The cast is phenomenal and the story is superb.

What films written or directed by women have you been watching this month? Join the discussion and tweet me at @filmvsbook

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