Roman J. Israel, Esq.
In choosing to title itself after the main character, Dan Gilroy's lacerating study of an eroding man awash in a concrete jungle of legal jargon and human indifference, "Roman J. Israel, Esq." holds true to this singular vision by never straying too far from Denzel Washington's increasingly distracted view of himself. Highly reminiscent of wiry 70's films like John G. Avildsen's "Save the Tiger" or Robert Mulligan's "The Nickel Ride", Gilroy's intelligent script places a decent man at a moral crossroads and then slowly tightens the atmosphere around him. Diversions are explored- especially in the role and performance of activist lawyer Carmen Ejogo who forms a tentative relationship with Roman- but the film stays locked on the increasingly bad decisions made by Roman after his basic support system fails him. I've heard some call this a slow-burn fizzler, but for my money, this is exactly the type of perceptive, oft-forgotten film that doesn't quite get made anymore.
I think the moment Greta Gerwig's lovingly detailed and emotionally attuned coming-of-age masterpiece "Lady Bird" completely wrecked me is the moment Saoirse Ronan finds a handful of crumpled papers in her luggage... placed their surprisingly by her father (Tracy Letts) to let her know the complicated and unsung emotions her mother (Laurie Metcalf) was never able to convey. The same type of thing happened to me once..... a letter of compassion, remorse and half-spoken truths written by my parents at a crucial age in my life. I imagine people will find other select moments within Gerwig's film that relate to their own confused, tumultuous experiences in life which is exactly why "Lady Bird" feels more like a communal memoir than a single film. There's so much tiny beauty and personal affectations riddled throughout "Lady Bird" that it becomes a monumental ode to a certain time in life where everything feels exaggerated and explosive. And its performances are so perfectly realized and its mood so assured that it speaks volumes about actress turned director Gerwig and her natural ability to coax something at once personal and universal. I could gush about this film for days.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
While Martin McDonagh's latest film keeps in step with his black-hearted, vicious characterizations, it also manages to pierce through with some insanely honest moments as it careens through an angry tale of inherent racism, police brutality, and the sneering reverberations of violence.