Top Ten Films of 2014

It's that time of year to add my two-pence worth of cinematic snobbery with my top ten films of 2014!

It's been a swell year in film-land, and I have met some truly incredible people on my travels around the UK, searching for films that both float my boat and my heart (yes, it's truly possible) in order to make this carefully compiled list.

If you're looking for a re-run of Variety/ Total Film/ Empire magazine's top ten, please look away now.  You're going to be at once astounded and bemused, or taken aback by how incredible my taste is! (It could go either way...)

Drum roll please! (I'm looking at you Miles Teller)

1) Set Fire to the Stars

This film totally takes top spot due to the underlining fact that I wouldn't change a thing about it.  A biopic of Dylan Thomas, Set Fire to the Stars focuses on his time in America, touring colleges with his (now) infamous poetry.  Already at he height of his fame, he has nowhere to go but down.  The film stars an absolute mind-blowing performance by Celyn Jones and a stylish turn of Elijah Wood as John Brinnin, as a buttoned-up Harvard grad swiftly overwhelmed by the Welsh hellraiser.

2) G.B.F

Tanner is a shy, unassuming and self-confessed 'Comic Book Geek' who also happens to be gay.  Noone at his school has "come out of the closet' yet, and Tanner is definitely someone who doesn't want to draw attention to himself by ever being first in anything.  Due to a mistake involving social app 'guydar,' Tanner is publicly 'outed' and faces immediate suffocating attention from the three Queen Bee's of the school.  A clever spin on the high-school genre by cult director Darren Stein (Jawbreaker).

3) The Babadook

From writer-director Jennifer Kent, this Australian film is a breath of fresh air within the horror genre, absolutely terrifying but not for the reasons you'd think.  Full of phantom imagery and jolts, this film is layered in an extremely thoughtful, cumulative way that switches your horror from a focus on the monstrous to the human psyche, then wavers between them, wobbling on a knife-edge. A must for all those looking for an intelligent horror film.

4) '71

A cat and mouse game of the most brutal kind, Yann Demange presented his first feature film, the blood-soaked '71, at this year's BFI London FIlm Festival.  Following new recruit Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) a British soldier deployed to Belfast and left behind during a routine mission that goes awry, this tense thriller has you gripped.  Running for his life from extreme Irish nationalists, the lines are soon blurred as he finds himself targeted by both sides.  In this jumpy thriller, the heart-beat pounding soundtrack is the main narration to this nightmare-ish fight for survival; a real masterclass of suspense.

5) Lilting

Lilting is a modern classic romance- in the timeless way that films like Brief Encounter live on,  it'll soon spread by word of mouth to unsuspecting film buffs and make the 'top ten LGBT films to see' lists in the coming years.  Starring the endearing Ben Whishaw as Richard, Lilting tells the story of the loss of Richard's partner Kai,  and how he longs to share his grief with Kai's Cambodian-Chinese mother.  They do not share a common language, but Richard recruits an amateur translator whose struggle to bring Richard's profound grief to light drives this touching story onscreen.

6) We are the Best!

Not entirely sure what I was getting into, I sat ready for Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best!  with much anticipation, and I was rewarded from the get-go.  Based on a graphic novel written by his wife Coco, which itself was based on her own experiences of growing up as a teenage punkette in Stockholm in the 1980s, the film is almost absurdly catchy, with a vulnerable edge to a story tinged with nostalgia.  Absolute magic on-screen for anyone who didn't feel completely 'normal' growing up.  Rock and roll live on!

7) Obvious Child

Donna Stern (my new imaginary best friend, Jenny Slate), aspiring comedienne in Brooklyn, is someone we can identify with from the off.  Following a gig, Donna has a one night stand with the very cute and straight-laced Max (Jake Lacy), only to find herself pregnant by Valentines Day.  Her life, previously shambolic but at least coherent, starts to unravel as she faces an uncertain financial future, an unwanted pregnancy and a suprising new suitor in the charming Max.

The film deals with the issue of the unwanted pregnancy in a refreshing way that plants itself firmly into modern day society. It doesn't start to lose it's poignancy when it rejects the Hollywood ending that looms over the movie, threatening to disintegrate its charming honesty.  Donna speaks from the heart, makes mistakes and learns that it isn't facing the future on her own that scares her, but accepting love - even in the most unconventional of circumstances.

8) Elaine Stritch: Shoot me

Every so often we're gifted with a documentary gem, that shows us how wonderful the genre can be when the filmmakers get it right.  This film, following the late Broadway/ TV star Elaine Stritch (who sadly passed in late 2014, making this film even more poignant) isn't just one long ode to Stritch.  Relish Stritch rehearsing Sondheim numbers only to be heard at a rehearsal complaining, "It's hard enough to remember Sondheim's lyrics when you don't have diabetes." She softens, adds, "but everyone has their sack of rocks." This is an entertainment goddess from a by-gone era, who dishes about her two dates with JFK and still wore her tights/ tuxedo jacket combo well into her 80's.  This is the kind of film that makes you fall in love with the brash comedic New Yorker, and will have you quoting her for the rest of your life.

9) Life after Beth

It was as though my prayers were answered in Life After Beth, which boasts perhaps my favourite cast of the past decade in Dane Dehaan and Aubrey Plaza.   A zom-rom-com, this film has an serrated edge to it's bold comedy, and duly hits cult status.

10) The Way he Looks

The Way He Looks, starring Ghilherme Lobo and Fabio Audi, is a feature-length version of Daniel Ribeiro’s 17-minute short from 2010, and a winner of the Teddy Award for Best Feature at the Berlin Film Festival last February.  In the film, Lobo plays Leonardo, a young gay teen who has been blind since birth and gets walked back home from school every day by his best friend Giovana (Tess Amorim). Their familiar and safe routine is upset when Gabriel (Fabio Audi) joins their class and becomes friends with Leo.  It's a sweet, moving and effortlessly romantic film which handles the love story with charm and sensitivity, and by far the best film shown at this year's London Film Festival.