Arts review of 2011 - Film 2: A divorce drama set in a flat in Tehran – and other thrills and spills

 

No film this year gripped the attention as tightly as A Separation.

Asghar Farhadi's intense social drama kept pulling our sympathies in different directions as it revealed what went on one fateful afternoon in a Tehran flat between a man, his frail father, and his devout maid. The religious observance and ramshackle legal procedures were quintessentially Iranian, but the class divisions and human frailties were universal. The other Best Film contenders (in my opinion, we critics do differ sometimes) are Lars von Trier's towering Melancholia, which cast a spell with its magnificent opening montage; and Lynne Ramsay's mesmeric We Need to Talk About Kevin – even if Kevin was so loathsome that I was desperate for it to end. Also on the shortlist is Michel Hazanavicius's joyous black-and-white silent movie, The Artist, which contains the performance of the year from Jean Dujardin. Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret was a compromised but classy exploration of life in post 9/11 New York. Oren Moverman's The Messenger was a heavyweight drama about the US Army's Casualty Notification Officers. Drive was cinema at its most cool and stylish, and it proved, alongside Blue Valentine, that Ryan Gosling is Hollywood's most fascinating young actor. True Grit was one of the Coen brothers' most entertaining films.

Trend of the year, Part 1: Stranger than fiction

The phenomenon of 2011 was the brilliance of British documentary-making. As cinematic as any fictional film, Asif Kapadia's Senna was one of the all-time great sports movies. Richard de Aragues's tragicomic take on the TT races, TT3D: Closer to the Edge, wasn't too far behind. Donor Unknown was an hysterical artificial insemination comedy. And the heart-rending Project Nim, which recounted an experimental 1970s attempt to treat a chimp as a human child, was uncannily similar but superior to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Factor in Kevin Macdonald's global YouTube compilation, Life in a Day, and you might wonder whether we still need actors.

Trend of the year, Part 2: Bad influences

Three stunning films featured neglected teenage boys falling in with the criminal element. From the UK, there was Peter Mullan's daring Neds, which channelled Gregory's Girl, then Quadrophenia, then Halloween. From Australia, came the grubbily authentic Animal Kingdom and Snow Town, which suggested all the crooks we transported there are alive and well and living in suburbia.

Comedy of the year

Kristen Wiig's triumphant Bridesmaids was seen by some as heralding a new wave of female-centric comedies. Well, maybe. But surely the gender of its writer-star was less important than the number of laughs she got, so let's hope Bridesmaids heralds a wave of comedies that are funny.

Cartoon of the year

Pixar lost its way with Cars 2, and Disney got back on track with Tangled, but 2011's most impressive cartoon was also its oddest: Rango. On one level it was a funny animal 'toon featuring a chameleon who became a Wild West sheriff. On another level it was a psychedelic companion piece to There Will Be Blood and Chinatown. Kung Fu Panda 2 was good, too.

Turkey of the year

Not just the turkey, but The Beaver. You'd think that Mel Gibson (star) and Jodie Foster (director and co-star) would be better placed than anyone to craft a smash, but this was a lurching embarrassment. Less catastrophic, but similarly incompetent, Larry Crowne was directed by Tom Hanks. It turns out William Goldman's maxim – "In Hollywood, nobody knows anything" – applies to megastars as much as to everyone else.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks