The top 5 female led OSCAR / BAFTA films you need to watch

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January 16th 2018

There are some strong female led films this year nominated for Oscars and BAFTAs so i've chosen my top five, I highly recommend you see them all, there are films to inspire, films to fall in love to (well fall in love with a fish thing anyway), films to be empowered by and films to reflect on.

5. Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig (the Director of this film) charms me, in this film shes does a great job of making a touching and amusing "coming of age film" that doesn't lay on the sauce too thick. This balance enabled me to put myself in the shoes of and be moved by the starring actor  - which is no mean feat considering that shes a young high-school girl who has named herself "Lady Bird". Lady is full of insecurities, fears and funniness. The main actor - Saoirse Ronan does an awesome job (not surprising for someone who at 23 has won a Golden Globe and has 3 Academy and 4 BAFTA noms). In this she delivers a perfectly balanced "simple complexity" - life might look simple on the outside but its always complex under the skin. Its nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, as well as Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for Best Screenplay. Personally it not an award winning film for me - I don't tip it to win - but it's a lovely film to watch.

Can you believe Greta Gerwig on only the the fifth woman to be nominated for Best Director at the Oscars?? Er.... sorry???

4. Elle

This film has been out for a while, its up for a best foreign language BAFTA and everybody can see it as its streamed on lots of every platforms. Its by Paul Verhoeven, the guy who did Basic Instinct, and what struck me when I watched it is how I just don't see many empowered female characters like Elle, portrayed by the brilliant Isabelle Huppert, in film. Isabelle was nominated for an Oscar for this role last year and plays Michèle, a Parisian CEO who responds to being raped by a home invader by going after him and also doing things that make you question if she is behaving as she "should". By doing so you realise you are judging her, and her extraordinary and empowered way of dealing with the experience - and It makes you question the way we treat all victims. Its powerful, provocative and super smart. Its a film that deserves to be seen and discussed and again, Isabelle is amazing.

3. I, Tonya

The story of Tonya Harding is pretty tragic, the film is kind of a Tragi-comedy and Margot gives it comedic moments, but never does she let you forget  what's really going on in Tonya's life.  Its sympathetic to Tonya and portrays a devilish Mother who pushes her to the limit, the Mother is played by the incredible Allison Channey - what a character she creates on screen. Some people have slammed it for not focusing more on the story of the victim - but that's not what this is about. What it is, is an awesome character portrayal of Tonya by Margot Robbie - she does an outstanding job - bravo Margot.  Will it win big awards - no.

2. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

This is one of those stories that sounds pretty awful, its about a daughter being raped and killed - urrgh. BUT, for the vast majority of the film you are uplifted, you are amused you laugh and love the characters - particularly the main ones. It even does that thing to you where some of the villains you end-up connecting with, always morally confusing. It reveals the ugly truth that people who do bad bad things are capable of goodness - that's what I call the "ugly greyness of life" - it would be so easy if life was black and white - it aint. The film has everything , humour, drama, pain, release. It threads the line of creating characters who could, at first look, seem over-the -top, but end up being beautifully three dimensional. The class of the acting and the script just make it such a compelling film.  Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) Sam Rockwell (Moon) - hes my tip for best supporting actor -  and the star of the film, the mighty, mighty Frances McDormand, just put this film into another level. Its brilliant

1. The shape of water

This film has just stuck with me, and I think it a masterpiece. iI's pretty weird, and again, if I explained what happens in it you probably would question wanting to watch it, but it is so heartfelt, so brilliantly acted, and so poignant that its emotional and philosophical echo just lasts and lasts. Even now, 3 months after first seeing it, it jumps into my mind at unexpected moments. If the measure of a film is the effect it has on way after you've left then this will be one for the ages. And then there is Sally Hawkins, good Lord. She plays someone who cannot speak, and she is just brilliant, just brilliant brilliant brilliant, for me this is the best film of the year, its my pick to win best film at the Oscars and Sally is my pick for Female best Lead. Bravo Guillermo!

PS  Emma Stone in "Battle of the sexes" gets a notable mention as does the mighty Merryl in "The Post".

Dudley Nevill-Spencer