Along with the rise of the non-English film industry, I too will be looking into some of the best non-English films of the last year, because why stay in the monolingual cave when the dawn of multilingual entertainment is upon us?
Following the intensity that was Raw, this film from Julia Ducounau once again breathtakingly displays the director’s ability to push buttons and explore limits. Christened “body horror” for a reason, this film focuses on a woman who, after suffering injuries from a car accident, has a titanium plate fitted to her head. Full of gallows humour, questions about sexuality and gender identity, as well as parenthood, this is a film one must see, even if you only know the word bonjour.
Escape from Mogadishu (모가디슈)
This thrilling addition to South Korea’s ever-expanding folio of great films was released July 28, 2021, to high acclaim. Focusing on those left behind at the South Korean embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia, during the civil war in 1991, this gripping look at survival would engage any watcher until the credits roll. (Also, for any and all who are fans of popular actor Jo In Sung, this becomes a chance to watch for art related reasons, as well as for… whatever other reasons you may have.)
Yes, another French film. They do them well. However, this film is extra special, as it comes from the director of Elle, Paul Verhoeven. While French is often touted as the language of love, it is also often a story which tells of the folies of romance, and of the anguish that can be associated with sexual attraction. As daring and brutal as Elle, this film recounts the story of a 17th century Italian nun condemned for sapphism, a sexual identity still criticized today.
Riders of Justice (Retfærdighedens ryttere)
Riders of Justice. Yes, I know it is a corny name, but it belies a great narrative that focuses on the pain of letting go, the forces of the universe, and one of the biggest questions of life: “Does it have any meaning?” While most would not expect trumpet playing and Christmas jingles to pair well with intense shoot-outs and philosophical musings, this film does it (and exceptionally, at that) thanks to writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen and the subtle, yet powerful, acting of Mads Mikkelson.
The Hand of God (È stata la mano di Dio)
First unveiled at the Venice Film Festival, this lovely addition to Paolo Sorrentino’s body of work looks at the story of a young Neapolitan teenager through the trials and tribulations of his youth. Its name sounds just like the famous 1986 goal by Maradona against England at the FIFA World cup, so it must be a winner, right?
Parallel Mothers (Madres paralelas)
Released on September 1st at the Venice Film Festival, this look at motherhood shows that not only is Pedro Almodovar a master of his craft, but he is also always improving, finding new and moving stories to regale the audience with. Wherever you find yourself, at whatever stage of life you are currently in, and perhaps struggling with, this masterpiece—paired with a moving performance by Penelope Cruz—allows you to feel and emphasize with motherhood, not just as a concept, but also as something familiar, universal, even to the currently childless.
Honorable Mention: Another Round (Druk)
Though it was released over a year ago (premiering worldwide on September 12th) it deserves to be in this list because it is awesome (or maybe I am just too obsessed with Mads Mikkelson’s acting). Ever felt like drinking was the only way, and perhaps the best way, to deal with life? Find out the benefits and the negatives with this movie’s look at how integral drinking is to life and to community.