With it somehow – shockingly – being the start of July, it’s a good time to look back and reflect on the first 6 months of this crap-tastic year. Looking beyond – you know, Covid – there were a few months at the start of the year where cinema was in full flow and here in the UK we were treated to some impressive big hitters like Parasite, 1917, Just Mercy, Beautiful Day in The Neighbourhood & David Copperfield amongst other critically acclaimed efforts. With awards coming out of their ear holes and critical ravings all over the web, it feels like a waste of time to bang on about the merits of such films. This mid-year report is going to look at the film’s that have caught unexpectedly caught my eye.
1. Dating Amber (Amazon Prime) This Irish coming-of-age tale is not just the hidden gem of lockdown, but of the year itself. If Sing Street, The Inbetweeners and Love, Simon had a cinematic threesome it’d look something like Dating Amber: a beautiful, silly story of two gay friends who pretend to date each other to get through their last few weeks of school. Oh man, it’s good.
2. The Half of It (Netlfix) When I hear ‘teen Netflix film’ I shudder. Yet with Alice Wu’s inventive take on the ‘love triangle’ that intertwines teen anxiety, high school manuevering and sexuality in an interesting, yet ultimately charming (and emotional) fashion, this Netflix outing is fully worth your time.
3. Vivarium (VoD) Slow, mysterious and unnerving, Vivarium won’t be to everyone’s taste, but as a sucker for weird cinema I found Lorcan Finnegan’s film a fascinating and enjoyably creepy tale of a young couple losing it in a new-build suburban neighbourhood that is far from normal.
4. The Platform (Netflix) Don’t be a subtitle snob and check out this Spanish-based prison thriller that takes on class society in very intriguing fashion. It’s limited in time and setting, but The Platform really carries a sucker-punch – and lots of disgusting food-based action – in such a short period.
5. Sonic the Hedgehog (Now available for home rental) The most commercial entry on the list, but possibly the most surprising: I am unashamedly pro-Sonic. I love hedgehogs and I grew up with the franchise both on console and TV, so to have a Sonic film that manages to balance nostalgia with modern culture in convincing fashion, I was relieved. Jim Carey has a ball and the Sonic sass is fully on brand and very rarely irritating. I look forward to more.