This year saw the launch of the BFI Player, a platform devoted to expanding the range of on-demand programming in the UK and supporting British and independent films. But while the major commercial VOD platforms arguably have more focus on the mainstream, crowd-pulling titles, there are still smaller gems to be found. And, like all independent films, the best ones showcase creativity, ambition and talent that impress, regardless of budget.
To shine a light on a few, we rummaged through Netflix’s “independent films” category. Here are our top indie films on Netflix UK:
The world’s finest auteur duo, the Coen brothers have been knocking out masterpieces at a scarily consistent rate for decades (see O Brother, Where Are Thou? – also on Netflix UK). One of their first was this pitch-black comedy, which turns film noir into a snow-covered tale of kidnapping, wood-chipping and funny-looking men. Funny and gripping in equal measure, it’s the epitome of their offbeat, unpredictable style, which jumps from high-minded to hilariously silly with the flash of a gun. A modern classic. Oh, yah.
Shane Carruth’s fiercely independent production of Upstream Color saw him effectively distribute it himself in the US. His debut film, Primer, was even more astonishing; a time travel flick made for barely any money at all. It took years to fit in the movie alongside everyone’s schedule, but what was lacking in practical means is more than made-up for with imagination and ambition. The result is one of the best modern sci-fi films and an intricately plotted piece of writing that demands to be watched twice – at least – if only to understand what the hell was going on.
This 2009 film sees 15 year old Mia get a little too close to her mum’s boyfriend (Michael Fassbender). Shot in an apartment block with a raw immediacy, it won the Jury Prize at Cannes – announcing Andrea Arnold as one of Britain’s most exciting filmmakers. A free-wheeling, intimate drama that captures the claustrophobia of council flat living, and (like many of Arnold’s films) captures the rolling Essex landscape with the shadow and colour of a Constable painting. Superb.
Steve McQueen is arguably the most interesting male British director around. After making Hunger, a near-silent drama about Bobby Sands and the Irish prison hunger strikes, he took on sex addiction in modern New York. The result is a cross between an art installation and a more conventional character study which uses McQueen exquisite composition to stare sex straight in the face – and look right thought it.
There’s something about a writer’s first script that seems to burst with untrimmed ideas – the possibly haphazard thrill of potential yet to be curtailed by the real world. With Charlie Kaufman, every script feels like a first script. Nowhere is that truer than Adaptation, a film about writing that sees Charlie insert himself into his own screenplay – along with his imaginary twin brother. When they both end up with writer’s block and do the same, the result is a relentlessly silly assault on the notion that there’s a formula for a perfect movie. The fact that Charlie is played by Nic Cage is a bonus.
Safety Not Guaranteed
There’s something about time travel and indie films that seems guaranteed to produce briliance. “Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed.” That newspaper classified ad was enough to inspire director Colin Trevorrow to exploire the idea of a homemade time machine. Played heartwarmingly by Mark Duplass, is the writer of the ad a genius, a madman or liar? The film’s charm lies in its open-hearted acceptance of all of the possibilities, as Aubrey Plaza’s outcast intern gradually becomes friends with the reclusive traveller. The result is a stunning little gem: a romantic, funny, serious drama… that just happens to be about time travel.
What Richard Did
Based on a real life assault in Dublin, Lenny Abrahamson’s powerful drama stars Jack Reynor as the unexpected assaulter, Richard. What he does is shocking – and devastating for his life and those around him. According to Wikipedia, this was most commercially successful Irish film of 2012 – and with good reason.
Did we miss anything? What are your favourite indie films on Netflix UK?