Some of The Big Picture’s regular contributors share their choices for the best films of 2021. Part 3.
2021 has been another unforgettably forgettable year. What better way to escape our woes than to delve into the magic and reverie of cinema? Films that center on the juncture of family and pure love have been a necessary reminder to pace oneself and focus on mental health; or as the cool kids say, “you do you.”
To All the Boys: Always and Forever (dir. Michael Fimognari)
Young love, high school drama, and the all-too familiar college break-up sends viewers swooning for Michael Fimognari’s final installment of Jenny Han’s trilogy, To All the Boys: Always and Forever. Irrevocably in love, Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) are at odds to remain a couple after graduating and going to separate universities. Not wanting to hurt Peter, Lana must make the difficult decision to put herself first, instead of getting caught up in the heat of the moment. The playful, witty banter amongst all characters make this an enjoyable film in which people don’t need to fear change but have hope for a positive future.
Candyman (dir. Nia DaCosta)
Another heavily anticipated film from this year was director Nia DaCosta’s horror sequel, Candyman. Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is an artist living in a gentrified neighborhood of Chicago with his supportive partner, Brianna (Teyonah Parris). Learning about an urban legend that took place in Cabrini Green, Anthony goes off in search of inspiration for his next installment. What happens after is a possession of Anthony’s actions and persona, ultimately leading him to shed the false identity he has created. Shadow puppetry from Manual Cinema provokes fear and anguish, emphasizing realistic terrors that no one can shun away from. The backdrop to this Clive Barker story exposes a chilling (and true) tale to a poor woman in Cabrini Green, and all the other souls who have familiarity with the housing projects and police brutality.
The Card Counter (dir. Paul Schrader)
A final choice for best film this year goes to Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter, starring Oscar Isaac as William Tell and Tiffany Haddish as La Linda. Recently released from prison, the very calculated Tell utilizes the skills he mastered at counting cards to make a quick profit. Both main protagonists are lacking something in their lives which they seem to find within the other. With the help of La Linda’s witty humor and charm, an unexpected family unit unfolds. Haddish’s character is a reminder that we are all entitled to find human connections, regardless of our pasts. If quarantine has taught us anything, it’s that we need human contact and acceptance.