With the Oscar nominations now nigh upon us, and given something of a want of female nominees in the best director categories (cough…Golden Globe and BAFTA), we’ve taken a look at Netflix UK & Ireland to find some of the best female directed films currently available to screen on the site.
Sit back, relax and enjoy!
Their Finest (dir. Lone Scherfig)
At the height of the Blitz, Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) secures a job as a screenwriter for the Ministry of Information. With public morale at an all-time low, and the worst yet to come, Catrin is employed to write the female dialogue (‘the slop’) for a propaganda film about the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk. A precise and well-judged performance from Gemma Arterton, and Lone Scherfig’s sure direction which cleverly address gender-equalities throughout, makes this a funny, unpredictable and very modern war film.
Mudbound (dir. Dee Rees)
Des Rees’s critically acclaimed Mudbound tackles racism, trauma and class in a modern day epic. Shot in stunning style, Mudbound explores the lives to two families, one black and one white, in post-war Mississippi. After their sons, who were off fighting side by side in the second world war, return to their homeland only to find that the poverty is rife and bigotry worse, the two young men strike up a friendship. Violence and tragedy are all but inevitable. An absorbing inter-generational drama, made of real substance and sinew, and with a commanding performance from Mary J. Bilge.
Sand Storm (dir. Elite Zexter)
Winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize 2016, Elite Zexter’s directorial debut deals deftly with the clash of the old world and new in Bedouin society. Suliman, one of the village patriarchs, decides to take a second wife, obliging his first wife, Jalila, to roll out the metaphorical red carpet for her. In the midst of all of this, Jalila finds out that her daughter, Layla, is carrying out a clandestine romance with a boy at school.
13th (dir. Ava DuVerney)
There’s very little to say about this film that hasn’t already been said. It’s a devastating look at race, (in)justice and mass incarceration in modern America. Ava DuVerney’s contention that, far from ending the vicious, the 13th amendment created ways for politicians to enslave people of colour in the US through criminalisation, Jim Crow and the War on Drugs is brutally bolstered by her masterful, visually stunning and frightening film.
The Babadook (dir. Jennifer Kent)
‘You can’t get rid of the Babadook’. Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, The Babadook became a word of mouth hit when it was released in 2014. Starring Essie Davis as Amelia, a widow still struggling with the violent death of her husband six years ago, as well as her troubled son, Samuel, whose nightmares are plagued with a monster he believes is coming to kill them both. At first she refuses to believe him, but with little glimpses of something here and something there, it dawns on her that there may be something haunting them after all.
My Happy Family (dir. Nana Ekvtimishvili & Simon Groβ)
In almost every society in the world, it is a woman’s job to maintain the happiness of her family through numerous invisible tasks and quite self-sacrifice. For Manana (Ia Shugliashvili) , the middle-aged heroine of this Georgian film, she has decided that enough is enough. Abandoning her husband, her children and extended family, Manana rents a flat on the outskirts of town, and goes on her own way in her career as a teacher. Her actions are considered shameful by her family, as well as mysterious. She insists that she is not a victim of domestic abuse, but she refuses to explain further. A study in love, pain and control, with a nuanced and heart wrenching performance from Shugliashvili.
Dreams of a Life (dir. Carole Morley)
In 2003 the partially skeletonised remains of a woman were found in a London bedsit. It later emerged that she had laid there undiscovered, and apparently unmissed, for three years. While the press engaged in much moralising about how such a thing could have happened, Carole Morley asked a different question: who was she? The twists and turns of this strange, ordinary and extraordinary life which emerges makes this film a completely engrossing look at ambition and shame.
Appropriate Behaviour (dir. Desiree Akhavan)
Desiree Akhavan plays a version of herself as a Iranian-American woman trying to be the perfect daughter, hip-Brooklynite and politically on point bisexual, while failing miserably at all of them. Appropriate Behaviour follows the standard set by Lena Dunham’s Girls – New York, millennial malaise, and grim sex – but with much more grit and point film. It is also genuinely funny film, and all in wonderfully bad taste.
Bride and Prejudice (dir. Gurinder Chanda)
Gurinder Chanda takes Jane Austen by way of Bollywood in this modern way re-telling of Pride and Prejudice. Aishwarya Rai takes on the Lizzie Bennett role in the guise of Lalika Bakshi, a young woman living in Amritsar, with her three sisters, and helping her father to run the family business. At a friend’s wedding she meets Will Darcy and…well, we all know where it goes from there.
Image Credit: Netflix Media Centre (with thanks)