Let’s start with the positives: 2019 has been a fantastic year for cinema.

I’ve not reviewed as many films as I’ve seen this year due to work commitments, but I’m hoping the short reviews below will make up for it!

There were quite a few to choose from and I’ve really had to narrow it down to my top four. From the Russo’s epic Avenger’s finale Endgame to Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego’s hypnotic Birds of Passage to Scorsese’s sombre, brooding The Irishman, it’s been difficult to reduce it all- but here they are (in no particular order):

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (Director: Barry Jenkins, based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel)

Jenkins’ follow-up project after his award-winning Moonlight continues the director’s intensely intimate style. He locates the essence of Baldwin’s story (even though Jenkins often softens the author’s grittier, sharper novel): the beauty and fragility of Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny’s (Stephan James) dream to be together and raise their family against the racism of 1950’s America. Jenkin’s sublime camera-work is conjoined with a deeply resonant score from Nicholas Britell. Featuring wonderful supporting performances from Regina King and Brian Tyree Henry, If Beale Street Could Talk resounds with pain, tenderness, joy, despair and love.

My Verdict |★★★★☆

BOOKSMART (Director: Olivia Wilde, Screenplay: Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, Katie Silberman)

Wilde’s feature directorial debut it an absolute hoot. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein raise the roof with their brilliantly misguided antics as two studious American high-school seniors determined to have the night of their lives before graduation. Booksmart tries to subvert established conventions of this high-school coming-of-age comedy, offering some introspection, but gets top grades for its wit, hijinks and warmth.

My Verdict |★★★★☆

FOR SAMA (Director: Waad Al-Khateab)

Without doubt, one of the most harrowing documentaries I’ve watched in recent years. Al-Khateab’s unflinching documentation of her life in besieged Aleppo during the Syrian Civil War pulls you through the inevitable decline of life and hope during conflict. An incredibly powerful piece of cinema that continues to haunt me, For Sama deserves to be seen widely.

My Verdict |★★★★★

SORRY WE MISSED YOU (Director: Ken Loach, Screenplay: Paul Laverty)

My review here. Loach remains as unremitting as ever in his exploration of austerity Britain, this time skewering the ‘gig economy’. This is a difficult watch but has some deeply moving performances from Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone and Katie Proctor. As with I, Daniel Blake, you walk away from Sorry We Missed You filled with inspiration from the dignity of the lives portrayed and anger at the system which has attempted to reduce them. There should be more British cinema like this- especially now.

My Verdict |★★★★★