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The Underrated Films of 2023

Last year was huge for cinema, with new films from powerhouses like Scorsese, Gerwig, Fincher and Nolan. And in a year of countless blockbusters and record-breakers, it becomes easy for some amazing films that deserve their flowers to fly under the radar of the public as content streaming complicates and theatrical releases decrease. So here are five underrated films from 2023 that are, in my opinion, absolute must-watches from last year.


Rotting In the Sun

Rotting In the Sun ©

Directed by Sebastian Silva. Starring Sebastian Silva, Jordan Firstman, Catalina Saavedra and Mateo Riestra. Rotting In The Sun is a dizzying dark comedy about Silva, a suicidal ketamine-addicted filmmaker crossing paths with an egocentric American influencer at a gay nudist beach. A detached, deadpan comedy about the worst parts of ourselves, Rotting in the Sun satirizes internet culture with flamboyance and makes for a truly insane film full of erect penises, dildos, poppers, and ketamine. Silva and Firstman give hilarious turns as themselves in this film, however Catalina Sevaadra’ performance as Vero, Silva’s resigned housekeeper, truly makes the film. Silva directs an intelligent and witty film that I would recommend to fans of campy satires along the lines of Triangle of Sadness or The Square, but also to fans of stomach-churning films like Beau is Afraid.


Scrapper

Scrapper ©

Directed by Charlotte Regan. Starring Harris Dickinson, Lola Campbell, and Alin Uzun. The film follows Georgie, a feisty and independent young girl whose mother recently died, and her journey reconciling with her estranged father, played by Dickinson. Scrapper, a heartfelt film about parenthood and growing up, is the directorial debut of Charlotte Regan and introduces the charming Lola Campbell to the big screen. The film shows the hardships of a young girl being forced to grow up too fast and a man who has never quite grown up fully. The warm chemistry between Campbell and Dickinson drives the movie and shows the audience the way a father and daughter can help each other grow. A sweet, earnest, and character-driven comedy, I’d recommend this for fans of Aftersun or The Florida Project.


Polite Society

Polite Society ©

Directed by Nida Manzoor. Starring Ritu Arya and Priya Kansara. Polite Society is a fiery action comedy following Ria Khan, a Pakistani-British teenager who dreams of being a stunt performer, on her quest to save her older sister from getting an arranged marriage and giving into her parents’ dreams of a ‘traditional’ life. Ria’s traditional family doesn’t quite accept her non-conventional dreams, and she goes on a mission to make sure her sister won't end up in the same boat. A surreal, insane film, Manzoor’s debut is punchy and hilarious while also telling a genuine story of sisterly love. Polite Society also highlights a star-making performance from Priya Kansara as Ria. I would recommend this film for fans of Everything Everywhere All at Once, Snatch, or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.


Femme

Femme ©

Directed by Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping. Starring Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and George MacKay. Femme is a tense and erotic thriller that follows Stewart-Jarrett as Jules, a drag queen who experiences a horrific hate crime and, after spotting one of the culprits at a gay sauna, seeks his revenge. This film is an intense character study with nail-biting tension. Both leads give electric performances, but Stewart-Jarrett commands the film and the audience with his charisma and anger. The directors, Freeman and Ping, use the remnants of overdone and homophobic tropes often found in media and weave the scraps into a film that keeps you on your toes, constantly pulling the audience’s strings. However, a warning is necessary as this film depicts graphic violence and assault. I'd recommend Femme for fans of Gone Girl, Memento, or Mulholland Drive.


La Chimera

La Chimera ©

Directed by Alice Rohrwacher. Starting Josh O’Connor, Carol Duarte, Isabella Rossellini, Alba Rohrwacher, and Vincenzo Nemolato. La Chimera, a fantasy romance film that premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival and competed for the Palme d’Or, follows O’Connor as Arthur, an archaeologist who recently was released from prison, on his journey to the underworld to find his late lover Beniamina, encountering a band of characters along the way. La Chimera draws from the genre of magical realism from Latin America and South America, encapsulating some of the magic found in the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Jorge Luis Borges. Rohrwacher directs a fantastical film that reflects on life and lost loves, utilizing a truly charming performance from Josh O’Connor as the awkward Arthur and a powerhouse performance from Isabella Rossellini as Flora, Beniamina’s mother. I would recommend this film to fans of Big Fish, Birdman, Amélie, or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

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