2. A Separation*
What writer/director Asghar Farhadi accomplishes in A Separation cannot be easily described. It is a film about human emotions, and those cannot be clearly expressed through words. Nor can they be effectively bound by the confines of law, nor will they ever cease being a barrier from reason. This is the quandary at the heart of A Separation, and it is a profound one. The film observes good people struggling with morally and emotionally complex situations, situations where a million questions are asked and no answers can possibly be given.
Farhadi inhabits his film with wonderful characters, all of them as layered and nuanced as any human being alive today, and this is what makes the story so immensely powerful. It gives us the chance to fathom the communal feelings and standpoints of one complex, relatable group of people all at the same time, rendered with piercingly authentic realism. Farhadi’s script is practically Shakespearean in the way it meditates on so many interwoven themes primarily through language, and his spectacular cast commits themselves fully to every last moment, no matter how ugly or intense. A Separation is a true masterpiece and will, I believe, be cherished, discussed, and debated for as long as this art form remains relevant.
A Separation will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray on August 21st.
(*) A Separation was released in New York and Los Angeles at the very end of December 2011, but it did not expand beyond those cities until February 2012, so for the purposes of this list, it counts as a 2012 release.
1. The Secret World of Arrietty
My favorite film of 2012, The Secret World of Arrietty is an unspeakably beautiful little film, one that connects with the heart and mind on every possible level. Having watched the films of Studio Ghibli since I was little, I should no longer be this astonished by the house Miyazaki-san built, but I cannot help myself; they are the best at what they do, and each film they release is a revelation.
Arrietty is based on Mary Norton’s classic novel The Borrowers, but writer Hayao Miyazaki (who is, without a doubt, my personal favorite filmmaker) and director Hiromasa Yonebayashi make the material their own, infusing it with unparalleled visual creativity, wonderfully endearing characters, and a poignant, underlying sense of melancholy that speaks to a special, intangible place in the hearts of every viewer.
The film forgoes a plot-driven structure in order to simply spend time with these characters, to watch the Borrowers operate in their wondrous little world and let the relationships develop organically. This is where the film’s true beauty lies. Arrietty, a Borrower, and Shō, a human boy living in the house her family borrows from, are drawn together by the sadness in their lives. Arrietty loves her parents, but they are the only other Borrowers she has ever known, and that loneliness has become hard to ignore. Shō, meanwhile, has a fatal heart condition, and has come the countryside for rest and relaxation while waiting for a surgery that has little chance of saving him. Shō’s greatest desire is to be needed, to find someone to whom he isn’t a burden, and Arrietty simply wants a friend. Together, they fulfill the empty places in the other’s soul. Their relationship develops in the subtlest, most beautifully restrained of ways, each scene they share producing smiles and tears in equal measure.
Their final exchange, in particular, is one of the greatest emotional wallops any film has ever delivered, the most beautifully sad moment any so-called ‘family’ film has ever attempted. The scene, and the film itself, leaves us with the message that while many of our most important relationships are temporary, the memories created are eternal, and if we’re strong enough to hold them dear, that’s enough to keep our hearts strong. He may not have directed the film, but you can sum up the breadth of Miyazaki-san’s work with that one sentence.
It’s a new emotional high for the makers of the world’s greatest movies, and the rest of Arrietty is equally stirring. The film fosters the heart, mind, and soul to degrees unmatched by any release of the past six months, and for that, it is my favorite film of 2012 to date.
The Secret World of Arrietty is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray. You can check out the trailer below too, as I’m sure many of you aren’t familiar with the film.
What do you think? Have you seen these films? Did you enjoy them? Are there ones you loved I didn’t include? Sound off in the comments!Previous