Earlier this year I had a moment of realisation – when I tried to think of films directed by women that I had watched last year, I could only come up with two – Little Women and Hustlers. I realised this while writing my dissertation, when I learned that only one woman has ever won an Oscar for Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker.
Although this is one awards ceremony, it reflects on everything beneath it and that inspired me to make more of an effort to actively look for more female directed films to watch. Some of those films absolutely blew me away, so I’m going to discuss some that I’d recommend in this post.
The Farewell was directed by Lulu Wang, who aimed to bring together American and Asian cultures through this film. The Farewell follows the story of a Chinese family who are reuniting in China under the pretence of a wedding, when in fact they are there to say their goodbye’s to the grandmother of the family who only has a short amount of time left to live. The catch is that the grandmother is the only one who does not know that she is dying, and granddaughter Billi (Awkwafina) is kept out of the plan as she is the one who is most likely to let it slip.
I learned from reading interviews that this film is based on the true story of Lulu Wang’s grandmother, the funniest part being that she is still alive and still doesn’t know that she has cancer. Even after being on set and after the film coming out she still doesn’t know!
This film is beautifully made both in the acting and in the production. It touches a perfect balance between emotion and comic relief, and the performances of Awkwafina as Billi, and Zhao Shuzhen as her grandmother are some of the most poignant ones seen in this film.
I was honestly blown away by Hustlers – maybe because I went into it expecting not much more than pretty lights and colours, but this movie delivered so much more than that.
Directed by Lorene Scafaria and shot in just 29 days, Hustlers tells the story of a young stripper, Destiny (Constance Wu) as she begins a job in New York, as she is taken under the wing of Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), the top dog at this club. The film follows these girls through the boom of the 2000s, right through the Wall Street Crash of 2007-2008 when they are forced to earn their money by other means.
This is more of a female gangster movie than your usual rom com – at the heart of it lies a story about how far these women will go to protect their families, whether that is by blood or adoption into Ramona’s clan. From the start the production value tells us as an audience that this is a movie to be taken seriously, but with moments of entertainment throughout.
Booksmart is the directorial debut by Olivia Wilde. This is a coming of age film which follows overachieving teenagers Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) on the eve of their graduation, as they realise that they haven’t. experienced life as a teenager fully due to always having been focused on school and grades. This prompts them to go on the adventure of their lives the night before their graduation to make up for their lost time and fit in everything they’ve missed out on during high school.
The sense of humour in this movie is quirky and light hearted, however there are some moments experienced by the two girls which hit in a more emotional, heartfelt way. While this isn’t a movie I’d watch loads of times, it’s definitely one for when you’re looking to escape and relive those cringe teenage moments.
Queen & Slim
Queen & Slim (Malina Matsoukas) follows the story of a traffic violation gone wrong – Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) and Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) are on an awkward first date, and after getting pulled over by the police on the way home, they end up on the run when the policeman is shot and killed in self defence. This is a modern day Bonnie and Clyde story, as the two main characters go on the run across America in the hopes of getting to Cuba. Along the way they come across people who both want to help them but also turn them in, as after a video of the incident goes viral and incites violence across America, there is a very large bounty put on their heads.
Queen & Slim is the kind of film that will stay on your mind after watching it. This is the debut feature film by Malina Matsoukas, director of Beyoncé’s Formation, and although the outlaw on the run story is one that has been seen before, she puts a new twist on it through character development and exploration of racial prejudice. Queen & Slim was shot beautifully by Tat Radcliffe, mostly taking place outdoors and he uses the outdoor light to his advantage in his overall cinematic but natural look.
This is a hard but gripping watch and I would highly recommend it.
Most of you will have already heard of or seen this one – directed by Greta Gerwig, Little Women is a story that is already familiar to many of us. Although the book was written in the 1800s, the story is still very relevant and adaptable to different times. Every generation has almost had a different adaptation, and this one has been driven by Greta Gerwig.
The story of the March sisters remains the same in major details – four young girls, Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth March, finding their way in the world as they grow from children to women. Each is determined to find their own path which leads them to develop a friendship with their neighbour of the same age, Laurie (Timothée Chamalet). The main difference in this version is the timeline is slightly altered in regards to where we begin the story, but at the core it is the same story with a few more modern awarenesses.
The reason I have included this film on my list, although its existence is already known by most, is that when I went to see it and discussing it after I found that most men either had no clue of its existence or had an adverse reaction to the idea of seeing it. For this reason I’m including it on this list and keeping it in any discussion of films made by and featuring female protagonists!
Until next time x