Top 15 Films of 2021 – Allen’s Picks

3) Flee

Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee succeeds on multiple levels. It is a beautifully rendered animated film, a piercing documentary, and a moving character study. We follow the real-life story of a man named Amin, born and raised in Afghanistan and the perilous journey he took immigrating to Denmark. Amin’s path is one of childhood joy, trauma, tragedy, and self-realization. As he makes his way to a new life in a foreign land, Amin navigates the sketchy immigrant system all while being a minor. Along the way, he discovers himself in ways he was not expecting, feeling like an outsider both in another country and within his own family. This was poignant and touching, made even more impactful knowing that Amin’s story is just one of countless others happening as we speak.

2) A Hero

Asghar Farhadi has made his best film since A Separation (2011). Based out of Iran, A Hero is an intricately plotted story where there are no good guys or bad guys, but people all trying to survive. At the center is Rahim (Amir Jadidi, in one of the year’s best performances), a father servicing prison time for not paying a debt. During a short reprieve, Amin commits a small act of selflessness for another person. But it is this good deed that unravels his entire life, as everyone he is involved with becomes entangled in a web of jealousy and animosity. Everyone is willing to accept adoration but struggle to accept the truth when it is all based on lies. The story plays out like a screw getting twisted too tight, as Rahim tries to keep everything from falling into pieces. Farhadi’s writing and direction is a masterclass, setting up the dominoes in the first half and watching them all tumble over in the second. He proves yet again that he is one of the world’s best living filmmakers.

1) The Green Knight

No other film in 2021 affected me as powerfully as David Lowery’s brilliant epic fantasy. The Green Knight is a stunning achievement, following Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) as he fulfills a Christmas oath he made to the mysterious Green Knight (Ralph Ineson). But Gawain’s odyssey is not just about traveling a great distance to keep a promise, but an exploration of his very soul. What does it mean to have a good life? Is honor found in great feats of bravery or in simply being a decent person? Throughout, Gawain’s resolve is tested. It is easier to ignore one’s problems than it is to face them head on. That is the challenge that confronts Gawain. How he comes to realize the kind of person he is leaves a profound and lasting impression.

From the cinematography, music, production design, editing and everything in between, The Green Knight is crafted with tremendous skill and imagination. When we are in the hands of filmmakers that have complete confidence in their abilities, we can follow them wherever they go. Lowery shows this from the first frame all the way to the breathtaking final moments. He has made a movie that feels both classic and modern. We sink into the atmosphere of this medieval world and yet the themes are universal, allowing us to wonder what we would do if we were in the shoes of these characters. That is the film’s great accomplishment and why it is the best film of the year.

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Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

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