8. Non-Fiction (Olivier Assayas)

The film’s French title, Double vies (or Double Lives) hints not only at the many extra-marital affairs lurking beneath the film’s surface — just assume everyone on screen is involved with everyone else — but at the duality of life lived in the digital age; its English title is equally fitting, though, given the constantly shifting truths and un-truths of our modern reality. One might call Non-Fiction a film about social media, though doing so might be a disservice to its cracking-smart screenplay, in which debates about the internet, changing reading habits and the ownership of stories in the Twitter age are had entirely through dialogue. Screens barely feature in the film at all. Instead, we’re introduced to Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper follow-up through the dueling perspectives of publisher Alain (Guillaume Canet), his actress wife Selena (Juliette Binoche), novelist Léonard (Vincent Macaigne), whom Alain spurns, and Léonard’s imposing wife Valérie (Nora Hamzawi), a woman navigating the world of politics. As far as Assayas’ explorations of modernity go, Non-Fiction may be his most entertaining, not to mentions as his biggest gut-punch if you happen to work in publishing.

9. Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda)

Opening with a father and son stealing groceries together, in a scene with the coordinated energy of a Hollywood heist, Shoplifters is a warm, tender and at times exciting drama about found family and collective survival that takes more than a few interesting turns. Kore-eda approaches the traditional understanding of family from an oblique vantage, focusing on a band of outcasts headed by a mischievous grandma (the late Kirin Kiki, in her final performance) who all come together as a “family” outside the bonds of both blood and legality. They steal in order to eat, but when they do eat, they dine together and exchange playful barbs, a welcoming camaraderie that extends to a little girl who they decide to rescue from an abusive household. Legally? It’s kidnapping. Morally? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?

10. The Wild Pear Tree (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

Clocking in at three hours and change, The Wild Pear Tree takes a nuanced approach to the “angry young man” (Sinan, played by Ayd?n Do?u Demirkol), a writer and college graduate trying to figure out his worldview. It features some of the most exciting filmmaking of Ceylan’s career, capturing the enormity of intimate realization as Sinan comes into contact with older writers and younger women and clerics attempting to answer questions of their own. The entire feel of the film shifts at times, often mid-scene, as Sinan attempts to craft a personal history while trying to break free from the shackles of history at large; he’s trapped by the forces of both family and bureaucracy, but his rebellion is hardly righteous. Then again, the alternative is military service (the ultimate conformity), so he continues ploughing through the vast unknown that is his very self, for better and most definitely for worse, in a simple film that remains riveting for its entire runtime.

11. Wildlife (Paul Dano)

Directed by Paul Dano and co-written by his partner Zoe Kazan, Wildlife is an immense first feature that plays like an actor’s dream. Set in Montana in the 1960s, Joe Brinson (Ed Oxenbould) watches helplessly as his parents’ marriage falls apart. His father Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal), too proud to be re-hired by the men who fired him, heads off to fight a nearby wildfire, leaving Joe and his mother Jeanette (Carey Mulligan), a woman who married too young, to figure out how to navigate their suddenly structure-less existence. As their lives unravel in unexpected ways, Joe is forced into adulthood sooner than he’d have liked, having to re-drawn the lines of his familial loyalties when his mother starts acting out. It’s a coming-of-age story unlike any other, though what makes Wildlife such a scintillating watch is the ways in which Dano and editors Matt Hannam and Lou Ford hold on each and every close-up for just a hair longer than they ought to. They let their characters soak in their own discomfort, while the actors continue to search for answers beyond the instructions of the page.

Wildlife, like so many great films from this year’s New York Film Festival, lives in the beats between dialogue, capturing something fundamentally human in the process. Unspoken stories that come to life between words. Moments that transcend the boundaries of language and help us understand who we are.

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