Film reviews: hidden gems

June 28, 2022

Collage with images from Pexels. Photograph of women by Aidan Roof and movie theatre by Bence Szemerey

Shivam Chowdhary highlights three films he feels have been overlooked and shares his ratings and enthusiasm

Whilst it is important to discuss films that have been well revered, it can often lead to many unconventional, kooky hidden gems going unnoticed. These films, whilst they may be niche, transgressive or simply too unwieldy for mainstream taste, still deserve laudation for their artistic merit.

I thought it would be a great idea to provide you with some films I feel are criminally underrated, as well as their Rotten Tomatoes score, so you can decide for yourself whether you want to watch them. Who knows, your new favourite film might be on this list!

WATCHMEN – 2009

Scores

CRITICS – 65%

AUDIENCE – 71%

MY RATING – 80%
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Arguably the only decent film Zack Snyder has ever directed, Watchmen remains a strange puzzle of a film. Based on Alan Moore’s infamously graphic and complex text, it is an oddity that this high-budget superhero film even got made. With no real stars, a completely original text and gory violence with an 18 film classification slapped on, this film feels like a walking, talking oxymoron.

The film is masterful in its atmospheric grittiness, establishing the tone almost immediately through a humorous but extremely violent opening sequence. The plot itself is captivating and rich in subtext, akin to the graphic novel it is based on, although a tad overlong at a whopping 2 hours 35 minutes.

People unfamiliar to the graphic novel may scratch their heads at the beginning due to the sheer complexity of the gargantuan plot. However, it’s not long before you become utterly immersed in the complex and crazy world of Alan Moore.

To even begin describing the plot would be a waste; if you enjoyed the recent ‘The Batman’ film due to its grit, dark tone and black humour, Watchmen is definitely a film for you.

MAPS TO THE STARS – 2014

Scores

CRITICAL ROTTEN TOMATOS – 61%

AUDIENCE – 44%

MY RATING – 88%
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Bolstered by powerful performances by Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, Carrie Fisher and John Cusack, the film is an odd, satirical psychological drama set in the toxic wasteland of Hollywood with a star-studded cast to suit.

Julianne Moore stars as an ageing actress, desperate to find new arthouse roles to revive her career. Meanwhile, Robert Pattinson is a limo driver, hired by an aspiring actress, played by Mia Wasikowska who harbours a dark secret. Their two paths cross and the story unfurls in a surprising and darkly comic manner.

Directed by the infamously shocking David Cronenberg, known mostly for his ‘body horror’ films in the 1980’s, this film was simply too subtle in its satirical provocation of the Hollywood industry and too blasé in its utter weirdness to find a real audience.

I would certainly recommend this film to anybody interested in dark (and I really do mean pitch-black-dark) humour with a satirical edge, or simply anybody interested in viewing a hyperbolic re-enactment of the mechanics behind Hollywood.

MARGARET – 2011

Scores

CRITICAL ROTTEN TOMATOS – 74%

AUDIENCE – 49%

MY RATING – 100%
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Kenneth Lonergan’s star-studded magnum opus Margaret may have had one of the most unfortunate release schedules in the history of film. Filmed in 2005, it didn’t saw the light of day until 2011 due to multiple lawsuits and disputes between the director and the studio due to creative differences.

The studio wanted a lighter cut with some of the films pivotal subplots removed but Lonergan refused to budge. Ultimately, in 2011, the film was given a limited release in certain cinemas, making a mere a $600,000 against a $14 million budget.

History has not been kind to this absolutely brilliant film, yet in critical reconsideration, the film has grown a cult following, and been subsequently proclaimed as one of the best films of the decade and century, listed 31st in a BBC Critics Poll of the 21st Century’s Greatest Films.

This epic psychological drama-thriller stars Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno. It follows Paquin’s high-school protagonist as she accidentally causes a fatal bus crash with an oncoming cyclist.

The film then splits into a kaleidoscopic plot, focusing on each person involved in the crash, and how the crash affects their lives, both psychologically and physically. The plot, whilst found to be meandering by audiences, was found to be incredibly interesting by critics (and me!).

I would recommend this film to anybody who is intrigued by the spectrum of human emotion, the highs, lows, and all that lies in-between

Matt Damon and Mark Ruffalo shine here. Damon plays Paquin’s love interest and schoolteacher (yes, icky I know) and Ruffalo is the bus driver who causes the crash.

Margaret is captivating from start to finish as it spans a variety of genres – at times feeling like a shocking, grisly thriller, while also feeling like an angsty, off-kilter comedic coming-of-age film.

This multitude of human emotion is indicative of Paquin’s teenage unease and instability. The film’s tone and plot is perfectly mimetic of this uncertainty, reinforced by an intentionally jarring classical music soundtrack.

I would recommend this film to anybody who is intrigued by the spectrum of human emotion, the highs, lows, and all that lies in-between. This film, to me, is my favourite of these three and a truly mesmerising watch. Merely a brief look at the trailer’s YouTube comments will show how affecting this film really is!

On a side note, I would recommend watching the full 186-minute directors cut, as the normal cut has been tampered with by the studio and is not Lonergan’s true vision. The comments mentioned above all reference the director’s cut, not the studio cut.

Hope you enjoy these films and I’d love to know your thoughts on any of my recommendations!

🎥 🍿 🎥 🍿 🎥 🍿 🎥 🍿 🎥 🍿 🎥 🍿 🎥 🍿 🎥 🍿 🎥 

Shiv is from north-west London, currently studying Film Studies at University of St Andrews. His hobbies include writing and watching lots of films! His favourite director is Darren Aronofsky and his favourite films of all time include ‘Mulholland Drive’, ‘Festen’ and ‘Mother!’

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