The 25 Best Films Of 2019 - Page 3 of 5

15. “Pain & Glory”
Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar has continuously produced terrific work, but this vulnerable and layered late-period masterwork is a thing to behold. Drawing closely from his own life — self-doubt, ailments, creative fatigue — Almodóvar crafts a dolorously moving picture of regret and a wrenchingly naked portrait of an artist under self-destructive siege. Self-aware rather than self-pitying, the tale of a filmmaker who has abandoned his career due to various physical maladies, chipping away at his humanity, features Antonio Banderas in a career-best, gorgeously rich performance. In its fragmented dive into memory and remorse, a childhood and a doting mother are recalled; melancholy memories of an ex-lover are triggered; and a broken friendship with an old muse is revisited and possibly revived. Almodóvar and Banderas crystallize existential pain so hauntingly, but this is, ultimately, a healing picture: an achingly alive story of finding emotional reconciliation and salvation through the act of creation. – Rodrigo Perez

14. “Booksmart”
In her directorial debut, Olivia Wilde makes the traditional coming-of-age narrative feel fresh and new. Its simplistic story about two overachievers (marvelously played by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein) looking for one night of fun before graduation is also an incisive look at the cliquey nature of high school while diving into the anxiety of what happens after the big cap-and-gown day. Although it didn’t become much of an audience hit during its initial release, “Booksmart” is still an incredibly worthy entry in the canon of great high school movies. It’s hilarious, inclusive, and profound, and scores bonus points for Billie Lourd who literally pops up out of nowhere to steal each moment of screen time she possesses. – Matthew St.Clair

13. “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”
The wisdom of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” is this: you can only hate what you love. Joe Talbot’s debut stands as a searing indictment of gentrification and how it’s changing the worlds that people love and ripping from them a sense of civic identity. But not even fancy froyo shops and grim, grinning, douchebag real estate agents can rip away their pride. The film holds its anger only as close to its heart as it does the swelling adoration for a place called home, with Emile Mosseri’s phenomenal score all at once serving as a rallying cry and celebratory serenade to the film’s whirlwind of emotions for The City by the Bay. Both leads — Jimmie Fails, who laid the groundwork for the story, and Jonathan Majors — function as empathetic conduits into this deeply personal story, one that rings with urgent truth. – Cory Woodroof

12. “High Life”
Getting lost in space is not the central fear that “High Life” explores. Claire Denis’ disturbing, visceral film is far more concerned with exploring what happens when people are discarded by civilization and left to their own devices with their most primal urges and desires. Juxtaposing sequences of the minutiae of Monte (Robert Pattinson) raising his daughter, Willow, on a desolate ship with elliptical flashbacks that reveal the sordid history of the ship’s previous inhabitants, Denis forces our gaze toward some of humanity’s deepest depravity. “What do you know about cruelty?” asks Monte of Willow late in the film. It’s a question Willow cannot respond to, but by forcing us to stare into oblivion, Denis hints at a possible answer in the particles of purity found among the wreckage. – Ted Silva

11. “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”
An 18th-century romance by “Tomboy” and “Girlhood” director Céline Sciamma, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” chronicles the beautiful love affair between painter Marianne (Noemie Merlant), and her subject, Heloise (Adèle Haenel) that flourishes almost wholly removed from the pressures of male influence. Winner of the Queer Palm award at Cannes 2019 (as well as Best Screenplay), featuring stunning cinematography, elegant direction, and vividly well-developed characters, the film also manages to subvert almost all the existing tropes within the genre to bring a fresh new take to lesbian cinema. – Valerie Complex