my-happy-family-playlist-feature-best-films-of-2017-you-didn't-see“My Happy Family”
There’s a look, a pause and a cut in the beginning of Georgian filmmaker’s Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Groß’s excellent foreign language film “My Happy Family” that is simply ingenious and yet so simple; a testament to the cinema of subtle, but powerful glances. A broker is showing a 50-year-old woman (a fantastic Ia Shughliashvili) a new apartment and asks, “Do you have family?” Manana, whom we will soon discover has left her husband, children and grandparents to live on her own, just gives the best devastatingly weary and exhausted look and boom, the movie cuts to a crowded, noisy, bickering buzz of a hectic family household swirling around Manana like a hive of ungrateful hornets. Oh boy, she has a family alright. Ekvtimishvili and Groß’s heartbreaking, observant, intimate and empathetic drama is a story about liberation, but also a tale of a disregarded mother that wants to be heard and reclaim her life back from the throngs of loud, needy, thoughtless people around her. Manana’s freedom comes with great pains and costs — in her culture, her exit is shameful and the family throws lasting daggers of indignities at her even when they beg her not to leave — but the emotional truths collected throughout the movie are staggeringly real. Netflix bought the enlightened, feminist drama about the smothering of societal pressures and the need to escape out of Sundance and…not such a hot job promoting the picture. But it’s just there, waiting for you, and you shouldn’t let this exceptional story pass you by. — RP

loveless-playlist-feature-best-films-of-2017-you-didn't-see“Loveless”
Andrey Zvyagintsev‘s “Loveless,” a profound and morose take on contemporary Russia from the director of “Leviathan,” has a seperated couple, Boris (Alexei Rozin) and Zhenya (Maryana Spivak), about to finalize their divorce, all they have to do is sell-off their apartment and then they’re off and running. They both refuse to take custody of Alyosha (Matvey Novikov), their 12 year old son, a lonely boy stuck in the middle of their constant fighting. Hell, even adoption is spoken of as an option for Andrey. The last we see of Alyosha is when he runs out of his room, backpack in tow, and leaves home. Going where? We’re not sure, but one imagines the words “anywhere, but here” roaming around this young boy’s head. Even with their son missing, the couple still bicker about nonsense, and the authorities aren’t helpful either, saying the stats show their child will come back in “7-10 days” when he realizes that he “has it good at home.” The search goes on, but so does the bewilderment of these bitter and selfish people. “Loveless” is, in the end, about western civilization turning into a numb, unemotional populace, one in which it is a burden to take care of a child and that your own happiness becomes more important than that of your own baby cub. The political establishment looms large in the film, like a big brother watching over these characters’ every steps, watching lives being destroyed, but not caring one bit about the outcome. It’s all masterfully handled with the assured hand of a world-class filmmaker. — Jordan Ruimy [our full review]

beach-rats-playlist-feature-best-films-of-2017-you-didn't-see“Beach Rats”
Easily the best, most overlooked movie of the year, “Beach Rats” paints a sensuous portrait of closeted homosexuality and toxic masculinity in modern Brooklyn. Through the complex lens of protagonist Frankie, writer-director Eliza Hittman builds an empathetic world as dreamy as it is blunt. With enchanting visuals from cinematographer Hélène Louvart and an engrossing lead performance from Harris Dickinson, this Sundance release had all the trappings of a universal indie darling. Still, due to a very modest box office gross and some myopic reviews (including more than a few unfair “Moonlight” comparisons), “Beach Rats” didn’t get the visibility it deserved. If you missed out on this captivating coming-of-age drama, you lost out on one of the best movies of 2017. “Beach Rats” is an immediate must-see. —Lena Wilson [our full review]

the-dinner-playlist-feature-best-films-of-2017-you-didn't-see“The Dinner”
Oren Moverman has always been attracted to flawed protagonists, especially in films he’s directed (“The Messenger,” “Rampart,” “Time Out of Mind”). His newest film, “The Dinner,” sees Moverman take on not one, but four fatally flawed people, played by Richard Gere, Rebecca Hall, Steve Coogan, and Laura Linney, as they sit down for an overly fancy dinner to figure out what to do about a crime their sons committed. The film, like the dinner, is split into courses, as Gere and Coogan, playing brothers on opposing sides of the societal spectrum, struggle to keep their sibling rivalry under control. While “The Dinner” is a deeply flawed film, Moverman takes bold chances (including a borderline insane montage of Gettysburg) in adapting the popular Herman Koch novel that makes the film not one of the best pieces he’s directing, but definitely the craziest. — Christian Gallichio [our full review]

dean-playlist-feature-best-films-of-2017-you-didn't-see“Dean”
Comedian Demetri Martin’s dry, deadpan wit and self-effacing absurdist observations sure come in handy with his warm, clever and heartfelt directorial debut, “Dean.” Heavy themes of grief, disconnection and loneliness are balanced by some great quips and one of the most charming meet cutes of the year. Martin stars as a quirky illustrator unwilling to deal with the recent death of his mother and escapes his hometown to travel to L.A. for an interview. While his father (Kevin Kline), detached through his pain tries to pragmatically sell his childhood home suddenly, the titular Dean fumbles all his plans when he meets an equally funny, challenging girl (Gillian Jacobs). The love story may sound a bit predictable, but it’s charming as all get out and Martin and Jacobs have crazy chemistry. Moreover, this modest, simple story of a father and son coming to terms with love and loss is sweet, earnest and worth the watch. — RP [our full review]