The Year in Review: Best film of 2010

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The Kids are All Right

Nothing was funnier or warmer than Lisa Cholodenko's comedy of familial dysfunction, which features a standout performance by Annette Bening as one half of a lesbian couple with kids trying to cope with the appearance of their sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo). Californian faddishness and foolishness are nailed as never before.

A Prophet

Jacques Audiard, a master dramatist of self-invention, cuts right to the heart of Darwinian survival in this French prison movie. Newcomer Tahar Rahim gives an astonishing performance, shifting from pale-faced loner to quicksilver thug as he negotiates the violent and racist microcosm of jail life. Its moments of tension grip tighter than a mafioso's garrotte.

The Secret in their Eyes

This Argentine thriller, surprise winner of the 2009 Best Foreign Language Picture, enfolds an intricate murder mystery with the story of a lost love between a criminal-court investigator (the great Ricardo Darin) and his high-born superior (Soledad Villamil). Writer-director Juan Jose Campanella overstretches it here and there, but his shuttling between timeframes – from present-day democracy to a dark past of death squads and disappearances – gathers a turbulent urgency.

I am Love

Tilda Swinton does constrained hysteria to perfection as the isolated wife who awakens to love in Luca Guadagnino's sensuous portrait of a super-rich Milanese family coming apart at the seams. Food has not been showcased so opulently in a movie since Babette's Feast, and the use of fish soup as a plot crux is brill – or was it carp?

Down Terrace

The best British picture of 2010. Ben Wheatley's debut is a Brighton-set comedy about a crime family whose lawlessness is only dimly discerned through a humdrum routine of domestic bickering, folk singalongs and willow-pattern dinner plates. Robert Hill as the patriarch is superb, a loquacious former hippie switching from menace to mildness with disconcerting ease. And the music is great.