By Andrew Harwood
Given that this is my final post for the semester, I want to continue my streak of delivering to my audience a list for their consideration. I’ve already listed my 10 must-see films, and for this post I’ll shift my focus to my favorite underrated films.
Now, I understand some of these films may not be deemed underrated by some critics or viewers, but by underrated I mean they deserve more attention then they got.
A cauldron of romance, history, comedy, action, crime and thrills, here are my five must-see underrated films.
5. “About Time” (2013) dir. Richard Curtis
Starting off with one of my favorite romantic comedies, “About Time” details a man’s search for love in London while grappling with a newfound ability to time travel. Upfront, the premise seems quite cheesy and, frankly, bizarre, but I can assure you I have not experienced such a rollercoaster of emotions since viewing this piece of perfection.
Witty, charming and complemented by an amazing new wave soundtrack, “About Time” calls the viewer to question how they spend their time in hopes that they’ll cherish it more with people they love. I understand the polarized opinions surrounding this film — the science of time travel in this film makes literally no sense and the plot is quite irregular.
However, Domhnall Gleeson shines as a bumbling romantic searching for his one and only through a plethora of bright characters. It doesn’t hurt to have Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy accompanying him as well.
4. “Days of Heaven” (1978) dir. Terrence Malick
Terrence Malick is a director who deserves his own genre. With beautiful imagery, extensive long-takes, poetic symbolism and more, Malick’s films always seem to deliver a purpose or more so a greater feeling of meaning. This is no exception for Malick’s second feature “Days of Heaven,” a film about a runaway criminal and his girlfriend’s time on a farm in the Texas Panhandle as romances and plots thicken.
Stunning in image and sound, “Days of Heaven” is also an incredibly simplistic film that relies on an eventual love-triangle to help drive the plot. However, I would argue that the beauty and seriousness of the film is because of its simplicity and imagery. A film is something that aims to entertain and captivate, and “Days of Heaven” is no exception. Although the characters go from one chore to the next, one lover to another, the viewer is dragged through the film willingly as if they cannot bear, yet lust for an outcome.
“Days of Heaven” is definitely not for those who hate slow paced films, but it is, in my opinion, Malick as his true self.
3. “Layer Cake” (2004) dir. Matthew Vaughn
Matthew Vaughn’s debut feature, “Layer Cake,” emerged out of his previous work and friendship with British crime film god Guy Ritchie. Owning up to its title, “Layer Cake” is a rich and intensely built action-thriller about a cocaine trader, played by Daniel Craig, trying to escape the dangerous London drug climate.
Messy in not just bodily fluids but bullets as well, “Layer Cake” works so well because it doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t. There’s a simple narrative that meticulously yet easily builds off the action as the film progresses.
Though a droning narration bogs down the film, “Layer Cake” deserves attention for its ability to convey so much with so little — things change in a flash, then resume and change once more. One isn’t conscious of an ending because the film doesn’t have one — it closes abruptly as if it were waiting to be played again and again.
2. “Dogtooth” (2009) dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
One of my absolute favorites from Lanthimos, “Dogtooth” tells the story of an abnormal family whose patriarchs hide their three teenage children from the outside world. The children — who think bunnies are demons, discipline is necessary and incest is natural — live in a complex harmony, forbidden from escape until they lose their canine, or “dog,” tooth. “Dogtooth” isn’t afraid to hold back in any shape or form.
The film premiered at several festivals, launching Lanthimos’ career. However, as an independent foreign film, “Dogtooth” never really saw life outside of Europe. Film has unfortunately always been a monetary business, with very few studios and companies willing to take risks, which is a shame — and ironic, because risk is what got most people to where they are in the first place.
Overall, “Dogtooth” is an incredibly original and deeply troubling glimpse at control and innocence, and stands as one of the few films that made me nauseous.
1. “Submarine” (2010) dir. Richard Ayoade
“Submarine” is a dark yet immensely hilarious story of a 15-year-old Welsh boy in search of a girlfriend. I stumbled upon this film by accident and couldn’t be happier that I did.
At its heart, “Submarine” is a film about young love that looks to question and answer societal conventions about what is good and what is bad. Past this, it works on a philosophical level to dissect family morals as well as general ethics through impeccable dark humour.
“Submarine” was well-received, but had a limited release outside of the U.K. — something I think really hurt the film’s reputation because Craig Roberts is just perfect as the main character, Oliver.
Serving as a family film that should also be watched alone, “Submarine” is completely enchanting.
Thank you to everyone who has read this series so far. I will not rest and I will continue this series next semester. Film prevails, as do I.
“The hardest thing you’ll ever learn is how to say goodbye.”
– Allison Clarke in “Taken”