After a record-breaking and history-defining 2019, 2020 has not been a good year for movies. But these releases might just save the day.
Since March, most movie theaters around the world have been closed and only now are seeing a slow and steady re-opening. Most big movies were either delayed to later this year or pushed back to the next. We are already halfway through the year and it feels like there hasn’t been any significant movie release with the coronavirus taking up most of our attention spans.
With that being said though, there were some movies released in the past few months that were great but didn’t get that much attention either, because it was a digital release or had a short run in theaters. There were also some gems released earlier this year that need more attention.
Here are 6 great yet underrated movies that were released during the first half of the year that should definitely be checked out.
Released back in April on HBO, Bad Education follows Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman), a beloved superintendent from Long Island, New York as he gets caught up in the largest public school embezzlement scandal in American history. Don’t let the straight-to-TV movie release fool you, Bad Education is an excellent film. Based on a true story, this movie has a nice mix of a mundane setting with a career-ending scandal and an interesting set of characters. Frank’s life turns upside down as he tries to save his and his school’s reputation by lying and twisting the truth. Hugh Jackman delivers one of his best performances here as his charming persona gives way to his darker parts. The rest of the cast is also great with Allison Janney being a standout. The movie also has a timely message about the importance of reporting the truth and standing up for what is right. Bad Education is a dark comedy that warrants viewing from audiences.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
This movie follows Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), a 17-year-old living in rural Pennsylvania. Her life turns upside down when she learns that she is pregnant. This revelation leads her, along with her cousin Skyler, to travel to New York City to seek an abortion for the unplanned pregnancy. What makes this film so good is its focus on the emotional aspect of things. The movie’s center and focus are Autumn and the emotional journey she goes through to get what she needs to be done. Autumn’s journey is portrayed as a gloomy, often isolating experience that isn’t an easy decision. She has to deal with outside factors as well as her own inner turmoil. Sidney Flanigan delivers arguably one of the best performances of the year as the tough yet vulnerable Autumn. She fits the role like a glove and her performance hopefully sheds a light on the feelings that young women who do this go through. Abortion is a hot-button topic, but the film deals with the subject matter in a careful, honest, and respectful manner.
Sorry We Missed You
The coronavirus epidemic has exposed a lot of ugly truths in this world and one of them is how fragile people’s jobs are in an economy that relies more on the money rather than the human being. Sorry We Missed You feels like a movie made for today’s time with its honest look at a middle-class family struggling to get by in the UK. Ricky (Kris Hitchen), his wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood), and their two kids are struggling with debt after the 2008 financial crash. A chance for financial stability appears when Ricky gets a chance to run a franchise as a self-employed delivery driver. Things go downhill from here though as Ricky and Debbie struggle with their jobs and balancing a family-work life. The film is about family and compassion but also on the dark side of capitalism and a system that views your worth through the money you make. The movie doesn’t shy away from showing the exploitative nature of Ricky’s job that negatively affects both him and his family. This isn’t a feel-good experience but if you ever wanted to see a good movie that focuses on the modern-day gig-economy, give this movie a watch.
Swallow follows Hunter (Haley Bennett), a newly pregnant housewife who spends most of her days at home. When she is with her husband, she mainly serves only as a showpiece and isn’t given the opportunity to express herself. She soon discovers that she has an addiction to consuming hard objects from rocks to pebbles, marbles, and even screws. This addiction, later medically diagnosed to be Pika, gives Hunter a newfound sense of confidence, but it’s unhealthy for her. This change in her life leads her to confront the darkness both around her and within her. Swallow shines best in its visuals. Every scene and shot is done well with great use of color and space. This is director Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ first feature-length film, yet the movie has a sense of polish to it. Haley Bennett also delivers an amazing performance that is both reserved and shy, yet emotional and strong as Hunter goes from housewife to independent woman. Despite the dark subject matter, the film shies away from the gorier aspects of things and instead focuses more on the mental and emotional journey of Hunter. Swallow has one of the more interesting set-ups from films released this year and is a recommended watch for film lovers.
The movie industry has seen a big change in recent years with the #MeToo movement and exposing of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men in Hollywood. The Assistant is one of the first movies to tackle this subject head-on in a way that is both stunning yet shocking. The movie centers on Jane (Julia Garner), a fresh college graduate and aspiring film producer who lands a job as an assistant to a powerful entertainment executive. Only three months on the job, Jane isn’t fully integrated into the work environment, and she soon realizes that her dream job isn’t as good as she thought it would be. The thing that makes The Assistant unique is that the events of the film take place in one day, from early morning to late night, yet it remains an eventful movie. The film succeeds on the micro-level, with small details that highlight the nature of the job Jane is working in from the sexism in the workplace to the way she is treated and spoken to. What’s worse is that since the film happens in one day, the things that Jane sees and experiences is seen as normal for her line of work. It’s a quiet film that speaks volumes. The Assistant is a bold movie that from the outside looks a bit boring, but actually has a lot to say.
The Invisible Man
The Invisible Man was released on theaters back in February but due to the coronavirus outbreak, it didn’t have that much time in the spotlight which is a shame since it’s the best horror movie of the year and one of the best movies of the year so far. The movie follows Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss), an architect who escapes her abusive boyfriend Adrian. A few weeks later, Cecilia is informed that Adrian has committed suicide, but strange things start occurring around her which makes her think that Adrian may not be gone and that he’s looking for revenge. The film uses the fear of the unknown to its advantage by making every scene feel like something is going to happen. Since the villain is invisible, Cecilia and the audience don’t know what’s going to happen next which builds the tension and leaves the viewer on edge. This fear is elevated further by a powerhouse performance from Elisabeth Moss who by the end of the film, goes through a roller coaster of emotions. The movie also gives a subtle commentary on abusive relationships, gaslighting, and who people are supposed to believe in these kinds of relationships. If you haven’t already seen this film, it’s highly recommended.