If the emotional state of the times is reflected in our media, 2020 was done justice. This was one dark year for the small screen. Maybe it was the pause on Hollywood productions letting more independent films through, maybe I was seeking them out more than usual, or maybe we just have a lot to deal with (hint: it’s all of them) – the crop for emotionally devastating films this year was outstanding. These were the ones that gripped and then haunted me the most, each one a work of art worthy of its own lengthy analysis to do with themes both timely and timeless.
10. Sorry We Missed You
About a UK family trapped in the hampster wheel that is the gig economy. What the beginning of socioeconiomic collapse looks like in the western world – it’s happening now.
9. Jasper Mall
A rather loving look at the last gasps of one of the remaining malls in small town America. A mall is not just a mall in these places, so it’s like watching a community die too. Do they even realize the meaning? Maybe that’s why they seem still hopeful for the future.
8. The Assistant
The timid new worker in a particularly dysfunctional office struggles to speak up. One long silent scream culminating with the final stab – the visit to HR. What a scene.
7. White Lie
A small Canadian film about a very sick girl, and not in the way she’s trying to make everyone think. Extremely tense and so much to discuss. One of my favourite films of the year.
Domestic dissatisfaction taken to its extreme when a woman tries to take control of her body in the limited way she can. Polished, but still bleak. An actual disorder!
5. Survival Skills
Rookie cop develops consciousness and free will in a training video sounds like a fun, quirky plot, right? Yeah no.
5. Lynn + Lucy
Lifelong best friends succumb to their community’s gossip. It’s a slow burn, and by the end I had to look away not because of what was happening onscreen but what I felt the characters must be feeling. That takes talent in all ways.
3. The Swerve
Well, it’s about a woman fending off a major depression, which nobody notices, which she’s in denial of, until she gets to a point where she loses control. Incredible performance.
The one film here that should come with a trigger warning. A guy makes an investigative documentary of his own childhood abuse and cover up, using the huge collection of his family’s seemingly-innocuous home videos and interviews with family and professionals to try and fill in his memory gaps. Just incredible.
Pretty much the embodiment “bleak”. Immediately after WWII, two friends try to rebuild their lives while suffering severe PTSD (along with everyone else). The only thing not bleak about it is that it’s not of our time or place, something to be grateful for.