The Most Underrated Movies of 2017

split underrated

8. Split

Why aren’t we talking more about Split? Did everyone just forget it, since it came out on January 26, which feels like it was approximately five hundred years ago? After a rough patch, M. Night Shyamalan is back in full form, and Split is one of his most well-crafted films.

At the center of the thriller are two stellar performances: James McAvoy, playing an abductor overcome with multiple personality disorder, and Anya Taylor-Joy, playing one of his captors who refuses to become just another victim. McAvoy’s is clearly the showier of the two performances, giving the actor plenty of personalities to sink his teeth into and gleefully chew the scenery in the process. But Taylor-Joy’s work here is not to be ignored – it’s subtle, and somber, in ways that are easy to miss. The way the actress handles multiple traumatic scenes, letting her large eyes convey a lot of her inner-workings, makes for some of the best acting of the year. A scene where she stands perfectly still watching McAvoy dance like a lunatic has to be seen to be believed.

Shyamalan captures all of this with his usual visual storytelling flair – Shyamalan is a student of Steven Spielberg, and he’s very good at mimicking the type of visual grammar that Spielberg can concoct in his sleep. The end result is one of Shyamalan’s best films in years; a film that fully signals his return, and paves the way for his long-awaited Unbreakable sequel.

Kedi Underrated

7. Kedi

Ceyda Torun‘s documentary Kedi may seem to some like a feature-length YouTube cat video, but this Turkish film has a lot more on its mind. Torun and company track the thousands of street cats who roam freely through Istanbul, as well as the human beings who are kind enough to care for them. The end result is a stunningly empathetic film that’s not so much about cats as it is about what it means to be kind. There’s a give or take to the universe; a certain semblance of order to things, and Kedi suggests that you get back what you give out. This is perfectly illustrated in a segment involving a man recovering from a nervous breakdown who finds a sense of inner peace by going out of his way to feed a horde of stray cats.

With beautiful on-the-ground photography (as well as some drone work), Kedi is a carefully constructed, altogether lovely portrait of kindness. It’s not the most ground-breaking documentary you’ll ever see; it’s not an issue-driven story that will inspire people to take action. But it is a remarkably unique, ultimately soothing experience that has the power to briefly remove you from your troubles. It’s hard to hold onto hope when life is increasingly hopeless, but Kedi makes a strong case for hopefulness. Plus, there are a ton of cute cats on display.

Professor Marston Underrated

6. Professor Marston & the Wonder Women

Wonder Woman had a huge year in 2017, but her origin story, sadly, did not receive as much love. Angela Robinson‘s Professor Marston & the Wonder Women turns what could’ve been a by-the-numbers biopic into a smart, funny, sexy romance that takes more than a few liberties with the truth, but still works remarkably well.

Luke Evans is William Moulton Marston, a college professor who invented the lie detector. Marston is assisted at almost every turn by his fiercely intelligent wife Elizabeth, played by Rebecca Hall. William and Elizabeth soon enter into a polyamorous relationship with their teaching assistant, Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), and from this unconventional romance blossoms the idea for Wonder Woman.

Professor Marston does, from time to time, slip into standard biopic cliches, but they’re far outweighed by the strong chemistry the three leads have with each other, and the overwhelmingly positive portrayal of their relationship. Professor Marston happily rejects “the norm”, and happily adheres to the message that love is love, no matter what. At the center of it all is Hall, who gives one of the best performances of the year as the conflicted, passionate Elizabeth. The fact that Hall’s name is being tossed around constantly during this awards season is a crime.

lost city of z underrated

5. The Lost City of Z

James Gray, one of the best working director’s you’re probably not paying attention to, released this frequently jaw-dropping tale of obsession and exploration, and almost everyone has seemingly forgotten it. Channelling Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Gray’s The Lost City of Z recreates the true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett, who vanished after his life-long quest to find a legendary lost city in the Amazon.

Gray is such a talented filmmaker that he’s able here to get a legitimately great performance from the usually wooden Charlie Hunnam, who plays Fawcett with an ever-present glint in his eyes. Hunnam is backed-up by Robert Pattinson, giving a strong supporting turn as one of Fawcett’s fellow explorers. Deliberately paced though never short of visually spectacular, The Lost City of Z lingers with the viewer long after the credits have rolled. Just as the fabled city seemed to infect the brain of Percy Fawcett, so, too, does Gray’s Lost City of Z. You can practically feel this film burning its dreamy visuals on your retinas as it unfolds.

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