8. Little Men (Ira Sachs)
So immersive is a good friendship that its depths and contours aren’t obvious until its dissolution. Adolescent boys are less likely to plumb its depths. In Little Men, Jake and Tony’s friendship is borne of conflict: after Jake’s dad Brian (Greg Kinnear) inherits a Brooklyn apartment, he struggles with the guilt of having to evict Tony’s mom Leonor Calvelli (Paulina Garcia), owner of a ground floor dress shop. As the tension between the families intensifies, so does their bond.
Little Men was co-written and directed by Ira Sachs, who in films like Keep the Lights On and Love is Strange demonstrated how tight living spaces impinge on human relations. Just as impressive is the confidence with which he limns the limits of male relationships.
7. Ixcanul (Jayro Bustamante)
At the foot of the volcano called Ixcanul, Mayan natives earn penny wages for coffee barons, hoping at best that one of the scions takes an interest in a daughter. In the eyes of her parents (María Telón and Manuel Antún), María (María Mercedes Coroy) could not have asked for a more fortuitous fate. But what happens when the limits of her education clash with her ambitions serves as the central tension in Jayro Bustamante’s promising debut, a film whose cast of amateurs speaking in their native Kaqchikel adds to its verisimilitude.
6. The Measure of a Man (Stéphane Brizé)
“I can’t make out what has gone wrong/I was good at what I did,” Gang of Four sang on 1981’s “Paralyzed.” When a sudden act of violence ends the life of a supporting character, a human resources smoothie assures her startled coworkers, “Work was only a part of her life.” The Measure of a Man calls bullshit. We live to work, and it’s never more true than when you’ve got little to live on. Vincent Lindon’s performance of a man crushed by the wheels in industry is the vessel.
5. Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
“Only Apichatpong Weerasethakul could make a movie that features ghosts, a slowly rising erection from under a bed sheet, and an actor literally shitting in the woods on camera and still make it seem serene and entirely disinterested in disruption or shock,” Michael Koresky wrote in Reverse Shot. Whether it’s the adolescent who may have turned into a tiger in Tropical Malady or the spirit of a dead wife visiting the eponymous hero in Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Apichatpong’s films have explored the fluidity of identity and the transience of the material world. His is a tone of rapt stillness, surprised by joy. If you sit long enough in the woods listening to cicadas chirp strange things start to happen.