Writer-Director Marin Ade’s Toni Erdmann, Germany’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Oscars, is a profoundly strange and wonderful film. It wanders between awkward comedy, heartfelt drama, and outright farce with a complete control of its own voice and tone. It’s an impressive and weird movie, and even though it stretches to nearly three hours in length, it never bogs down or loses focus on the central relationship between Ines and her father Winfried.
In The Big Sick, ideas about cultural identity and family are united with a comedic style reliant on awkwardness and sarcasm, all in service of a brilliant romantic comedy plot. Kumail and Emily are growing into their new relationship, but a serious snag slams on the breaks. Then, a sudden illness befalls Emily and Kumail is forced into reconsidering everything that he just let go and the reasons why. The comedy and the characters in The Big Sick are great, but the way that the themes arise from this subject matter are far more poignant and impressive, resulting in one of the best romantic comedies of recent memory and strongest films in all of 2017.
In her directorial debut, Kelly Fremon Craig has nailed the awkward world of teenage angst in The Edge of Seventeen. Starring Academy Award Nominee Hailee Steinfeld, this coming-of-age film showcases some incredible acting talent, a real command of language, a distinctive comedic voice, and strong plotting elements. Though that peculiar brand of teenage ennui is apparent, there is an undeniable emotion and heart at the core of this story. Sometimes sad and angry, other times exalted and jubilant – and then right back to sad and angry, The Edge of Seventeen belongs right beside the classic coming-of-age films for portraying the challenge of growing up with practically perfect execution.
The very best satire establishes absurdity as commonplace, and Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English-language feature film The Lobster is a fascinating example. Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, this dark romantic comedy imagines a dystopia where single people are sent to a hotel and given 45 days to find a new partner. Should they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into the wild. Some attendees don’t wait that long, and escape into the bordering forest to live in a kind of fugitive singleness. The Lobster viciously jests through this dichotomy, exploring the nature of relationships and how societal pressures can paradoxically be the cause of both settling and celibacy.
Keeping in line with the horror comedy of something like Zombeavers, I watched the trailer for Burying the Ex. Here, we are introduced to Max (Anton Yelchin, of Star Trek fame) and his relationship problems. For reasons that are unclear (though not particularly important), he wants to break up with his girlfriend Evelyn (Ashley Greene) but is struggling to actually go through with it. He’s relieved of the chance when Evelyn is hit by a bus, presumably just before he had worked up the courage to pull the trigger. After spending some time moping around his apartment, his friend urges him to get back out into the dating pool where he meets Olivia (Akexandra Daddario). However, as the trailer explains to us, some relationships just won’t die.