20th Century Women

20th Century Women ★★★★

Simply brilliant slice of life filmmaking.

20TH CENTURY WOMEN feels lived in. These characters are moulded by their environments, experiences, and attitudes. The spaces they occupy are as active and functional. Their stories - both past, present, and future - are tangible, melancholic, and eloquent.

Writer-director Mike Mills harnesses his best work to date here. His film is utterly gorgeous; benefiting from a rushing colour palette, delicately coordinated cinematography, sublime art direction, and some of the sharpest usage of soundtrack this awards season. It is richly edited, and sensibly implemented, helping to make the accompanying songs work like bookends for the many flowing moments of intimate beauty.

The collective cast are firing on all cylinders, with Annette Bening continuing her long tradition of exemplary performances when working with complex female creations. Playing a somewhat fictionalised account of Mills' own mother, she brings a real earthiness and humanity to the role; texturing it as her own, whilst clearly paying key attention to what defines and identifies the woman she embodies. It is likely her finest performance since AMERICAN BEAUTY, and it's a crime that she failed to attain an Academy Award nomination.

Elle Fanning is also fantastic, as is Greta Gerwig; the twosome playing extremely different roles, yet both decadently rendered with pathos, sincerity, and warmth. Billy Crudup and newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann round out the principal male cast, and they both deliver excellent work.

Laden with whip-smart dialogue, important subtext, and a vibrant aesthetic which births whimsy even during moments of despair, 20TH CENTURY WOMEN is an almighty achievement. A robust and durable character drama which will long-stand as an important piece, overcoming the Oscar buzz that many of its competitors simply need in order to sustain.

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