Film Feature: The 10 Best Films of 2020, By Patrick McDonald

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Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Photo credit: Focus Features

It is with gratitude that there are opportunities for female filmmakers (in this case Eliza Hittiman) to express their perspective on the abortion debate. On the heels of SAINT FRANCES (see above) there is this film, a simple story of an average teenager from Pennsylvania having to travel out of the state – where she needs parental consent – to New York City to get her abortion procedure. The title refers to a series of questions she has to answer at a pre-procedure check up which highlights those four quizzical states of being. The film is thoughtful about the situation, and argues for a woman’s privacy, where the whole issue belongs. Streaming on HBO MAX, or available through digital download.

HIGHLIGHT: The performance of actress Sidney Flanigan as the main character Autumn, whose quiet determination becomes aspirational.

Click here for an on-air review of NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS.


I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Photo credit: Netflix

Surrealist screenwriter and filmmaker Charlie Kaufman (BEING JOHN MALKOVICH) adapts a 2016 novel and puts his peculiar spirit upon the story of a couple, Jake (Jesse Piemons) and his girlfriend of seven weeks (Jessie Buckley), who are traveling to meet Jake’s parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis). The nature of relationships are explored throughout, manipulating character function and timelines along the way. This is absorbing throughout, especially in the way the coupling comes down to a series of decisions regarding how we perceive the other. The use of a high school and the musical OKLAHOMA adds to the atmosphere, and it’s all bundled in a world that eventually has to make sense for survival. Streaming on Netflix.

HIGHLIGHT: Jessie Buckley has the distinct assignment of being the traffic cop in all the chaos, including a hilarious and faux academic dissection of the John Cassavetes’ film A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE.


Photo credit: Focus Features

The mind of hybrid artist Miranda July (ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW) contributes to the scenic landscape of the human experience. The title of her third feature film refers to the child-like term for big money, expressed by Robert (Richard Jenkins), the head of a family of con artists … the trio includes wife Theresa (Debra Winger) and daughter “Old Dolio” (Evan Rachel Woods). As their proud minimalist life begins to close in on them, they meet an eccentric named Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) who uncomfortably infiltrates herself into the family dynamic. This is basically a farcical character study, with intentional settings like the family’s soap factory home. But July always manages a connection with her characters, and this family is no exception, even as they painfully disintegrate. KAJILLIONAIRE is a rich journey. Available through digital download.

HIGHLIGHT: The reveal at the end allows for a bit of redemption, understanding and a better future for all.

Click here for an on-air review of KAJILLIONAIRE.


Sound of Metal
Photo credit: Amazon Prime Video

As you look at the promo picture above, the same things may come to mind that came to mind with me. Ruben (Riz Ahmet) is a metal drummer for a rock band, so what is the film going to be about? His touring? The potential rock star downfall? Well, it turns out that this drummer going deaf, and he suddenly has to adapt to a life he never expected. The story, screenplay and debut direction is through Darius Marder, the screenwriter for THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, and like that previous work there is unpredictability to the story. What is also unique is that even the secondary characters have bridges to cross, which provides a lesson that we are all handicapped in our own way, and how we adapt will define our lives. Plus there is an easy lesson on not judging books … or films … by their covers. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

HIGHLIGHT: The drummer’s girlfriend/bandmate (Olivia Cooke) has a handicap of her own, which in its own way is as serious as the hearing loss.

Click here for an on-air review of SOUND OF METAL.


Promising Young Woman
Photo credit: Focus Features

How is a person’s potential “promise” stripped away? This amazing new film attempts to analyze that phenomenon, through a ex-medical student named Cassie (Carey Mulligan) who is obsessed with vengeance after a former classmate is raped. How she goes about revenge and what becomes her endgame is the stuff of the drama, structured provocatively like a mystery thriller. This definitely has roots in #MeToo, as first time director/writer Emerald Fennell crafts a cinematic portrait of both a woman on the edge of a breakdown and a world that won’t or can’t care. The embers of what is left is up to her to turn into flame, and the newly generated light and heat will conjure a new alchemy. Unforgettable. In theaters now, available for digital download TBD.

HIGHLIGHT: Complicity, thy gender is male.

Click here for an on-air review of PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN.

To directly access the reviews, interviews and writings of Patrick McDonald, Editor and Film Writer, click here. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor and Film Writer

© 2021 Patrick McDonald,

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