Alejandro Gonzalez Inaritu

Film Bouquets 2016





It was an interesting year for film. Here, in order of release, rather than stature – and with the benefit of hindsight – are our favourite movies of 2016.



This superb adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel got 2016 off to a cracking start. There were powerful performances from Brie Larson and young Jacob Tremblay as the central characters in a tragic yet oddly inspirational story.

The Revenant


Alejandro Gonzalez Inaritu delivered another dazzling movie, this one as savage and untamed as the grizzly bear that mauled Leonardo Di Caprio half to death – but made up for it by helping him win his first Oscar.



Writer/director Charlie Kaufman gave us a quirky (and deeply disturbing) animation that was a Kafkaesque meditation on identity and the bleak nature of the human condition.



Jacques Audiard’s fascinating study of the lives of refugees never fell into cliche. There was violence here, but it felt horribly real and totally devastating. There were affecting performances from a cast of newcomers.



Sebastian Schipper’s film really shouldn’t have worked. Delivered in one continuous take, the fact that it hooked us in so brilliantly was just the icing on the cake – a real ensemble piece but plaudits must go to Laia Costa as the eponymous heroine.

Sing Street


John Carney may have only one plot but when it was delivered as beautifully as it was in Sing Street, we were happy to indulge him. This was a beautiful, heartwarming film with appeal to anybody who has ever dreamed about pop stardom.

The Neon Demon


The fashion industry as seen by Nicolas Winding Refn is a hell hole and here, Elle Fanning as Jesse, was the latest recruit. A weird mash-up of sex, violence and extreme voyeurism, this was the director’s most assured effort yet.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople


New Zealand director Taika Waititi offered up this delightfully quirky story about a troubled teenager (Julian Dennison) and his friendship with crusty curmudgeon, Hec (Sam Neill). This film reeled us in and kept us hooked to the end credits.

The Girl with all the Gifts


Just when we thought the zombie movie had stumbled as far as it could go, Colm McCarthy’s film gave the genre a hefty kick up the backside – and there was a star-making performance from young Senna Nanua in the lead role.

Under the Shadow


Babek Abvari’s film had all the tropes of the contemporary horror movie and a powerful political message as well. Set in post war Tehran, young mother Shideh (Narges Rashidi) struggled to keep her daughter safe from the forces of darkness.

I, Daniel Blake


Ken Loach’s return to the screen resulted in one of the most powerful and affecting films of the year – a searing look at ‘benefits Britain’ that would have the most stony-hearted viewer in floods of tears. Should be required viewing for Tory politicians.

Train to Busan


Another day, another zombie movie – but what a zombie movie! Korean director Sang ho Yeon gave us a galloping ‘zombies on a train’ thriller that nearly left us breathless. There were some incredible set pieces here and a nerve-shredding conclusion.



Jim Jarmusch presented a charming and quirky tale about a would-be poet living in a town that had the same name as him. Not very much happened, but it didn’t happen in an entirely watchable way. A delightful celebration of the creative spirit.

Life, Animated


This compelling documentary squeaked in right at the end of the year – the true life tale of Owen Suskind, an autistic boy, initially unable to speak a word, but rescued by his love of Disney movies. It was funny, uplifting and educational – and our final pick of 2016.




The first film of the New Year turns out to be this quirky and offbeat offering from Alejandro Gonzalez Inaritu, a riveting slice of cinema that’s actually all about live theatre and the essential differences between the two media. It’s heartening to see a packed screening on opening night for what is essentially a highly experimental work, one that has as many questions as it does answers and one moreover that is cleverly edited to look like one continuous tracking shot.

Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is undergoing a long dark night of the soul. Formally the star of a series of successful superhero movies, he is attempting to rejuvenate his career by appearing on Broadway in an adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story which he has written himself. When his lead actor is injured the night before the first performance, he manages to acquire the services of Mike Shiner (Ed Norton) a conceited method actor who is as destructive as he is accomplished. Meanwhile Riggan juggles the affections of his daughter cum personal assistant, Sam (Emma Stone), his lover Laura (Andrea Riseborough) his lead actress Lesley (Naomi Watts) and his manager, Jake (an unusually retrained Zach Galifiniakis.) But the spectre of his previous screen persona still haunts him and he is having terrible trouble differentiating between what is real and what is imaginary…

The film is never less than captivating and from time to time takes off on inspired flights of fantasy that dazzle the eye and stir the imagination. Keaton is a revelation in the lead role, giving the audience insights into the mind of a man who is constantly on the edge of insanity (his previous incarnation as Tim Burton’s Batman gives the story added poignancy) and the script comes laced with a vein of dark humour that never shrinks from savaging the very industry that has nurtured it. If the other films of 2015 are in this league it’s going to be a fine year indeed.

4.8 stars

Philip Caveney