Year in Review: Our Top 10 Independent Film Picks of 2017
2017 was a great year for Indie film with a number of terrific titles that made going to the movies a lot of fun. Here are ten of the best we reviewed in the past twelve months.
Tom Sizemore had a heck of a year, showing up in a string of Indie films, and for our money, the best of this lot was this tense character study of a man self-condemned to the desert with a very unusual job. While the film was made in 2016, it didn’t find release until mid 2017 in North America, and probably not many got a chance to see it, but this is great work from Sizemore, with director/writer Valerio Esposito using the man’s dour presence to great effect. Give this a watch. It’ll surprise you, especially its well-earned ending.
From our review: “It’s the little quirks and deeply-invested idiosyncrasies that bind and the tragedy of his past that wears heavily on him, seen clearly in a terrific performance that is surprisingly layered.”
READ MORE: Our review of Tom Sizemore‘s Calico Skies
If you like some challenge with your Indie sci-fi, put this very smart and always intriguing title on your list. You won’t be disappointed. The premise is deceptively simple, following a man seemingly trapped in a futuristic prison cell with only a robot – suspended from the ceiling – to talk with. But why is he there? Who did it? And why does he keep reliving a moment at a bar with a beautiful woman? Filmmaker Travis Milloy’s clever and intelligent film is sure to keep fans of the genre on their toes. Don’t hesitate. Read our interview with Milloy and our conversation about the film here.
From our review: “Milloy toys with reality from the start, and inserts moments that tests just how faithful we should be to the interpretation offered, especially with a brief image of Gabby that will have your head spinning.”
The Ballad of Lefty Brown
Looking for a good western? How about a great one? Jared Moshe‘s spectacular tale of revenge is a gritty, tense, and supremely-well acted film about a sidekick who takes center stage when he’s called to action. Featuring several strong performances, especially from lead Bill Pullman, this is a powerful story that will restore faith in anyone who feels that the western had fallen into decline. This is pure cinema gold.
From our review: “Moshe clearly adores the genre and populates the film with many calling cards most will be familiar with, including glorious landscapes and breathtaking cinematography (David McFarland), yet doesn’t indulge to excess.”
Be My Cat: A Film For Anne
You might think that the found footage genre is all but tapped out, but that only means you haven’t seen Adrian Tofei‘s deeply disturbing entry into the fray. It’s a twisted, highly-innovative and terrifying film about a fan obsessed with Anne Hathaway, desperate to get her attention. Doing so leads him down a path of insanity in this chilling low-budget film that will have you rethinking everything you thought about found footage. Leave the lights on.
From our review: “If anything, he [Adrian Tofei] succeeds in redefining the genre, or at least the possibilities, making what amounts to be the most legitimate use of found footage yet.”
Here’s a twisted thriller from Cate Shortland that is dark and menacing about the worst that could go wrong for a young woman photojournalist on holiday. Teresa Palmer plays Clare, who meets and hooks up with a dashing young man in Berlin, only to wake up in a nightmare when she can’t leave his apartment. What follows is a wicked psychological game of cat and mouse where Clare must domesticate herself to the whim of a madman in order to survive.
From our review: “Clare’s submission is one of stages, and Palmer is shattering in the role, giving a fearless, almost unhinged performance that plots her transformation from confident outgoing young woman to a wild-child like creature acquiescing to a master, and as the months and seasons pass, she folds in on herself, seemingly devolving to an almost primitive state.”
Every once in a while, something comes along that totally flips your expectations and with Savvas D. Michael‘s clever and witty action crime thriller, it does that and then some. Sharp writing, great direction, and plenty of excellent performances make this a joy to watch. It’s about a horse race and a few men looking to make a fortune though that’s only scratching the surface. Do yourself a favor and get this on your list.
From our review: “It’s not for everyone, but if Londoner black comedies are your thing, and you have even a passing interest in talky guerrilla filmmaking, this one will score big.”
READ MORE: Our Review of Savvas D. Michael‘s Smoking Guns
Okay, let’s get serious. If you like some thinking with your movie-going experience, then here’s a film that will have all your gears turning. A brilliant little gem, this take on alternate reality is a sensational little thriller about a scientist who invents time travel but has some decidedly unexpected side effects. This is a small film but loaded with lots to think about and a truly chilling finale. Sci-fi fans won’t want to miss this.
From our review: “For an independent film with a small budget, this is quite an achievement as the film is no slouch when it comes to how it looks or how it’s acted.”
READ MORE: Our Review of Keir Burrows’ Anti Matter
There are plenty of teen angst movies where girls experiment with sex and acceptance on each other, but there’s something a little special about John Carchietta‘s very well made Teenage Cocktail. With a couple of great performances from stars Nichole Bloom and Fabianne Therese, this is an emotional and highly-affecting journey of two girls who go too far. Read our conversation with Therese as she discusses making the movie.
From our review: “Bloom and Therese are very well cast and their chemistry is startling authentic, especially Bloom who wonderfully brings Annie to life as a girl raised well yet in need of some identity.”
Let’s go back in time to the 13th century where Brendan Muldowney‘s dark and terrifying Pilgrimage has us following a group of monks traveling the countryside trying to protect an ancient relic that many want to possess. Starring Tom Holland, this small film is epic in scope, featuring some brutal combat and unique story. Keep your eyes on Jon Bernthal who gives the film’s best performance.
From our review: “And no matter the battles, what convinces more is the harrowing sorrow and agony some will endure.”
READ MORE: Our Review of Brendan Muldowney‘s Pilgrimage
We Make Movies
So let’s end this list with a truly funny comedy about a guy who just wants to make a movie. The story of Stevphen (not a typo … and played by writer/director Matt Tory) is really one of the most amusing ones of this year (it was made in 2016 and released in 2017). Here’s a guy so wound up in his quest, he is nearly delusional, surrounded by a host of whacky characters who only make each step of his experience a challenge to say the least. Quirky and endlessly entertaining, this is a true Indie gem.
From our review: “We Make Movies is purposefully amateur looking but don’t let that fool you for a second because every line of dialogue and every bit of action is delivered like a pro.”
READ MORE: Our Review of Matt Tory‘s We Make Movies