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.




Director Jacques Audiard seems to revel in telling the stories of outsiders. Both Rust and Bone and A Prophet went down this route and Dheepan is no exception. The film opens in Sri Lanka, in 2009, at the end of the savage civil war that had lasted twenty five years and claimed more than 80,000 lives. A defeated Tamil Tiger soldier (Jesusthasan Antonythasan), has realised that the only way he can hope to stay alive is to flee the country. At the departure camp, he is hastily put together with a woman he has never met before (Kalieaswari Srinivasan) and an orphaned girl (Claudine Vinasithamby), so they can use the passports of three dead people. Their new names are Dheepan, Yalini and Illayaal.

Yalini longs to go to England where her sister lives, but instead they end up in France, where Dheepan has been offered work as a caretaker – but this is a part of France that’s never going to feature in the tourist brochures, a broken down, lawless community where drug gangs rule and where the police never deign to show their faces. Dheepan goes doggedly about his business trying to make friends, while Yalini is offered work looking after an elderly man, whose son, Brahim (Vincent Rottier) is a drug kingpin, recently released from a spell in jail and using his father’s home as a base. Meanwhile, Illayaal is enrolled at a local school where she sets about trying to fit in with the other children, but she is seen as an outsider and struggles to make headway. But can three strangers thrown together in this way ever hope to function as a family?

Dheepan is a fascinating study of the lives of refugees, one that never makes the mistake of falling into cliche. The three lead protagonists feel like real people, with real hopes and real ambitions. Even when the story descends into violence – an inevitability you can feel looming over the story  like a terrible premonition – it avoids all the usual Hollywood action-movie tropes to offer something that feels horribly real. The film’s optimistic coda has been derided by some critics as being unrealistic but they’re surely missing the point – this is just another heartfelt dream that is never going to be achieved.

Dheepan is a brilliant and deeply affecting film. See it but don’t expect a chucklefest. This is a bleak tale by a master storyteller.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney