Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
It (Photo: Trailer screenshot)

The best film scenes of 2017

Ryan Gosling slugging it out with Harrison Ford in a ballroom of holograms. Saoirse Ronan defiantly rolling out of a moving vehicle. Soldiers sitting like ducks on a beach as a German fighter plane dives menacingly out of the sky. All of the above moments—and a couple dozen more besides—would have made fine additions to our unranked list of the best movie scenes of 2017. But we had to draw the line somewhere, and 25 seemed like the right number, even if it meant leaving out other memorable morsels, cut from good and bad films alike. (Even Justice League came through with a few inspired minutes.) Everyone had their own transcendent experiences in a darkened auditorium this year; consider the list below more of a mixtape of favorite moments than a consensus hierarchy (though just about everyone agreed on the awesomeness of the scene we’ve chosen as 2017’s finest). And as always, beware of plot reveals—although we stuck the climactic scenes at the end, there will be spoilers throughout.

Scene of the year

Opening getaway, Baby Driver

Endings sometimes get the edge in The A.V. Club’s annual search for the best scene of the year (see: the final minutes of Whiplash or Phoenix, which we singled out in 2014 and 2015, respectively), and that’s because they carry the full, cumulative power of everything leading up to them. But there’s also something to be said for a great opening scene—the kind that instantly, forcefully captures the audience’s imagination. The first six minutes of Baby Driver are pure bliss, neatly establishing the basic premise of Edgar Wright’s rollicking genre pastiche, while also functioning as a stand-alone blast of rubber-on-road, needle-on-vinyl movie magic. It’s a heist sequence that unfolds in real time, without dialogue, and from the perspective of Ansel Elgort’s tinnitus-afflicted getaway driver, who cues up and boogies to the garage-rock swagger of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion while his associates knock off a bank. Wright already gave the trick a try in the music video for Mint Royale’s “Blue Song,” but that was just a dry run to this ecstatic prologue—a sequence that shifts gears from Elgort’s dorky-cool lip-sync routine to a hair-pin chase, featuring balletic 180-degree drifts and a game of three car Monte, all precisely cut to the tempo of “Bellbottoms.” Baby Driver never tops this perfect, irresistible syncing of vehicular mayhem to jukebox jangle, but that’s okay: Every other scene this year ate its dust, too. [A.A. Dowd]

Pennywise’s introduction, It

Director Andy Muschietti was handed both a layup and an incredible burden with It’s introductory sewer scene, an image so closely tied to Stephen King’s classic horror tome, it was right there on the book jacket. He did it justice, banishing the considerable memory of Tim Curry and setting up an unforgettable introduction for Bill Skarsgård’s shapeshifting evil clown Pennywise as he lays claim to the hit film’s first child victim. As the camera follows poor, doomed Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) chase his sailboat into a storm drain, we know exactly what’s coming. Yet it still doesn’t detract from the masterful tension that builds as Pennywise, who’s first glimpsed as just a pair of glowing eyes, steps out from the darkness to lure Georgie inside, his gibbering circus barking—including a truly sinister pronunciation of “Take it”—rendering Pennywise’s actual bite somewhat anticlimactic. It’s a scene that the rest of the film’s plentiful scares strive to live up to, and it’s destined to infiltrate the nightmares of a whole new generation. [Sean O’Neal]

Invading the pharmaceutical firm, BPM

Robin Campillo’s look back at the private and public passions of ACT UP’s Parisian wing is split between the low-key story of an activist dying of AIDS and some more stylish and pumped-up set pieces that show the protestors stirring up controversy. The first extended “action” seen in the film (and also in the American trailer, above) tracks ACT UP as they splatter blood around a drug company they think is slow-rolling anti-HIV research. The lengthy sequence is tense and exciting, with audience empathy shifting from second to second between the spirited rebels and their terrified targets. Campillo demonstrates immediately how well he can choreograph a huge cast to make sure that everyone’s choices and motivations—even when they’re not entirely pure—are perfectly clear. [Noel Murray]

The hospital, Hostiles

Even when working with a canvas as large and obvious as the Western landscape, the big picture continues to elude writer-director Scott Cooper. But his brand of downcast macho sorrow can make for some terrific individual scenes, as in the brief sequence in the grim, talky Western Hostiles where the hard-hearted Captain Blocker (Christian Bale, sporting a glorious mustache) pays a visit to Henry Woodson (Jonathan Majors), a wounded comrade-in-arms who is now laid up in an Army hospital. Woodson has up to this point been mostly a background character, and it’s likely that the two men will never see each other again. Like the reunion scene from Cooper’s Out Of The Furnace (which made our list of the best scenes of 2013), this highly emotional parting suddenly brings grim characters to life—and plunges us into the distant, traumatized, contradictory, largely male world they inhabit more thoroughly than any of the movie’s gruesome violence. Cooper’s genre films strain to be taken seriously, but sometimes they earn it. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

No Man’s Land, Wonder Woman

The essence of Wonder Woman can be distilled down to one image: Diana of Themyscira, revealing her Amazon garb for the first time since her arrival in the “world of men,” holding her position on a desecrated Flemish battlefield under a barrage of machine-gun fire. The dialogue immediately preceding Diana’s noble charge, in which the well-meaning but decidedly mortal Steve Trevor tells her to forget about the plight of villagers trapped on the other side of No Man’s Land, reinforces her character’s guiding moral principle—to protect the innocent—while her calm, confident stride as mortars explode all around her wordlessly conveys both her courage and naïveté. Enhanced by a rousing score and Patty Jenkins’ assured directing, the scene is a powerful depiction of grace and heroism that reduced longtime Wonder Woman fans to tears when it played in theaters. [Katie Rife]

Finger food, Raw

Julia Ducournau’s cannibalistic spin on the coming-of-age drama isn’t the grisly endurance test its pre-release reputation suggested; any gruesomeness was probably going to provoke waves of nausea from a highbrow festival crowd. But if Raw is fairly tame by gore-hound standards, it does feature one unforgettable gross out. During an ill-fated attempt to give her little sister Justine (Garance Marillier) a bikini wax, Alexia (Ella Rumpf) ends up accidentally cutting off her own finger, then immediately fainting from shock. While she’s out, Justine—a college freshman who suffers from the same peculiar appetite as her older sibling—examines the severed digit, until her urges get the best of her. The hungry feast that follows is revolting in its vivid detail, but it’s also a rather funny expression of inhibitions compulsively abandoned: Even those reaching for the barf bag may recognize a little of their own campus wild days in the look on Marillier’s face after she takes her first exploratory bite of forbidden, uh, fruit. [A.A. Dowd]

“Take Me Home, Country Roads,” Logan Lucky

Steven Soderbergh’s talent is restless and relentlessly brainy—not necessarily qualities that blow open the floodgates of emotion. But toward the end of Logan Lucky, he pauses his twisty plot for a scene that sounds shameless but may be his most affecting. Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), the young daughter of hard-luck heist mastermind Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), is performing at a child beauty pageant. Jimmy, fresh off an ingenious stadium robbery, slips into the audience just in time to hear her make a last-minute song change, from Rihanna’s “Umbrella” to John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” It’s a payoff to the very first scene of the film, wherein father and daughter talk casually about the song, which is Jimmy’s favorite. Sadie isn’t much of a singer, and she’s not mending a busted relationship; she’s just showing, plainly and sweetly, what their relationship means to her—and, inadvertently, what his whole elaborate plan is for. Criminal activity for the sake of a child is a narrative cliché; Soderbergh makes it sing again. [Jesse Hassenger]

Performance art gone wrong, The Square

There are a half dozen excellent cringe-inducing scenes in Ruben Östlund’s art world satire The Square, from the foul-mouthed interruption of an artist’s talk to a round of tug-of-war over a used condom. This one, a slowly escalating piece of performance art, goes further, tipping the scales from discomfort to danger. When a shirtless, gorilla-imitating man enters the gilded ballroom of a museum donors’ dinner, stalking the space on all fours and pawing at the monied art lovers, it first seems like mere entertainment, a bit of culture before the salad course. But soon the ape-man is howling and crashing atop tables, eventually running an alpha male artist out of the room, before getting too close for a young woman’s comfort. The scene distills a few of the film’s many heady concerns: Art is often silly and pretentious, yet can still be dangerous, and most people prefer to keep some distance between themselves and the things they claim to care about. To be fair, most art doesn’t attack you, at least not physically. [Laura Adamczyk]

Shopping spree, John Wick: Chapter 2

The John Wick franchise continues to delight as much for its bizarro mythology as for its dazzlingly choreographed gunplay. Chapter 2 sees Wick travel to Rome, which has its own version of the luxury hotel and high-end boutiques that cater exclusively to hired assassins. His need for supplies inspires a droll montage of inconspicuous consumption, with the film cross-cutting among Wick’s visits to a book dealer (who provides blueprints for a job), a tailor, and—most amusingly—a weapons merchant. Each of these professionals displays his wares with the same urbane politesse one would encounter at Harry Winston or on Savile Row, seemingly indifferent to the lethal ends their customers have in mind. The sequence is as witty as it is elegant, from the gun merchant being called a sommelier (Wick requests a “tasting”) to the tailor making the lining of Wick’s custom-made suit jacket “tactical” (i.e., bulletproof). James Bond getting outfitted by Q looks positively vulgar by comparison. [Mike D’Angelo]

Walking into focus, The Woman Who Left

The Filipino writer-director Lav Diaz is the definition of a “not for every taste” filmmaker: His movies are stark, long (like, four-plus hours long), and patience-testing, filmed mostly on black-and-white digital video in static master shots. But he pulls a coup of simple yet brilliant staging in a climactic scene of one of his most accessible films, The Woman Who Left. Set in 1997 and loosely inspired by a Tolstoy short story, Diaz’s meditation on vengeance and grace centers on Horacia (Charo Santos-Concio), a matronly middle-aged woman who has spent 30 years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit and has now returned to look for the ex-boyfriend who framed her. As Horacia puts two and two together at a key point late in the film, Diaz gives his own spin on a hokey, century-old visual trope by placing the entire scene out of focus; his heroine only comes into sharp definition as she walks away, toward the camera. The result perfectly follows the psychological flow of a realization; it isn’t a sudden epiphany, but an aftereffect. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

A visit from Bud Cooper, Suburbicon

Photo: Paramount
Photo: Paramount

If ever one needed proof that the Coen brothers’ twisted screwball alchemy isn’t easily replicated, Suburbicon provides it: Though directed by one of the filmmakers’ regular collaborators, George Clooney, from a script Joel and Ethan wrote themselves, this ’50s-set crime caper often plays like a cut-rate Fargo. (It doesn’t help that Clooney, ever the bleeding heart, shoehorned in a wildly incongruous subplot about racial oppression.) Still, a few glimmers of the old Coens mojo shine through—most noticeably in the film’s dark-comic highpoint, featuring Llewyn Davis himself, Oscar Isaac, as a suspicious fraud investigator. Showing up announced, Isaac’s smiling Bud Cooper corners Margaret (Julianne Moore) about the fishy details surrounding her twin sister’s death—a conversation that gradually ramps up from phony politeness to outright accusation, as Cooper bats around his guilty target like a cat playing with a mouse. Isaac, in a wonderful extended cameo, makes a meal out of the character’s deceptive decorum and deliciously wry dialogue; for a few minutes, you can almost pretend you’re watching some lost Coens caper, not this awkward approximation of one. [A.A. Dowd]

The Sunken Place, Get Out

Even in a year that contained fanged clowns, 2017’s most terrifying scene involved little more than a teacup, a spoon, and the sound of Catherine Keener’s voice. These are the banal evils employed by Jordan Peele’s Get Out to lure Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) into the Sunken Place, the formless void Peele’s sociopolitical horror creates as a stand-in for black people’s suffocation beneath the veneer of “post-racial” America. Backed by the spoon’s gentle, then quietly malevolent scraping, Keener’s Missy hypnotizes her daughter’s new boyfriend under the guise of helping him quit smoking—but of course, it’s just another means of subjugating him, the first reveal that there is something hostile lurking behind her smiling hospitality. As Missy manipulates him using the memory of his mother’s death, a frozen Chris begins to cry, then sinks helplessly into the floor at Missy’s command. It’s an image that quickly became one of the year’s most iconic, just as “the Sunken Place” instantly became an idiom capturing the kind of polite, systemic oppression Get Out warns us about. There’s nothing outwardly “scary” about it—which is precisely why it’s horrifying. [Sean O’Neal]

Texts on the train, Personal Shopper

Numerous 21st-century horror movies have worked hard to make modern technology scary, but it took an egghead French auteur to craft a genuinely unnerving sequence centered on texting. Midway through Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper, Maureen (Kristen Stewart), who’s been trying to communicate with her dead brother, starts receiving mysterious anonymous text messages, just as she’s boarding a train from Paris to London. The unsettling conversation continues over the course of the entire train ride (and beyond), as Maureen quizzes her correspondent about their identity, then starts asking questions like “R u alive or dead?” Assayas sustains the tension for a remarkably long time, especially given that much of that time is devoted to Maureen staring apprehensively at the ellipsis signifying that the other person is typing. A spine-tingling payoff, hinging on her iPhone’s airplane mode, arrives later in the film, but it’s the ubiquitous modern experience of engaging one stranger, surrounded by other strangers, that resonates. [Mike D’Angelo]

Big Market, Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets

Regardless of the quality of the surrounding film, Luc Besson can still be counted on for at least one moment per movie that does what he does best: blending high-concept, stylish stupidity with rock-solid action beats. His latest sci-fi opus, Valerian, gets its entry in the Besson Hall Of Fame out of the way early, sending smartass super-spy Dane DaHaan running and gunning in multiple dimensions through the intergalactic marketplace known as Big Market. In one universe, the market is a flat desert plain, full of tourists milling aimlessly about while wearing goofy VR goggles. In the other, overlapping reality, it’s a sprawling alien bazaar, full of vertical drops, pissed-off guards, and over-protective extraterrestrial mothers. Besson’s genius lies in making such a complex conflict flow effortlessly on the screen, as Valerian attempts to simultaneously navigate both worlds at once, while his guardian angel, Cara Delevingne’s Laureline, hijacks the market’s security from the outside in order to keep him alive. [William Hughes]

Poison dinner, Lady Macbeth

William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth depicts the corrosive effects of oppression and repression on a 19th-century English manor home, and in particular on Katherine, the sociopathic lady of the house. Katherine takes the cruelty inflicted on her by her husband and his father and inflicts it on their servants in turn, a toxic cycle that plays out in miniature in one particularly memorable scene. After putting a poison mushroom in her father-in-law’s dinner, Katherine calmly pushes him into a nearby closet, jams a chair under the doorknob, then sits back down to drink her tea. That’s unsettling enough, but then Katherine gestures to her dumbfounded maid Anna to sit down in his empty seat and eat. When Anna refuses, Katherine harshly reprimands her, and Anna dutifully complies. Oldroyd films the impassive Katherine and terrified Anna’s subsequent silent meal in a long, static shot that’s as chillingly detached as Katherine herself, soundtracked only by the old man’s agonized offscreen death throes. It’s as cold as a blast of February air, and similarly able to suck all the air out of your lungs. [Katie Rife]

Drive to the dance, Spider-Man: Homecoming

Only one of this year’s generally strong superhero movies boasts a memorable villain: Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes, a.k.a. the Vulture, the disgruntled business owner turned weapons dealer whose compelling motivation and personality helps power Spider-Man: Homecoming. That doesn’t stop the movie from descending into a drab-looking airborne climax, but the filmmakers deserve credit for engineering a prelude that outshines the physical conflict. When Peter Parker (Tom Holland) shows up at the home of his dream date Liz (Laura Harrier), he’s greeted by her dad: the Vulture himself. Toomes volunteers to drive the kids to the dance, in a quiet scene of genuine menace, as he sizes up the kid he slowly realizes is his high-flying opponent. When he asks Peter to stay behind for a “dad talk,” he lays his cards on the table with frightening, no-nonsense honesty. Soon enough, they’re tussling through a battle, but this uncomfortable confrontation is Homecoming’s strongest evocation of the logistical and emotional nightmare of being a teenage superhero. [Jesse Hassenger]

The chase, Person To Person

Photo: Magnolia Pictures
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Person To Person, Dustin Guy Defa’s affable comedy about New York eccentricity and authenticity, has a diverse ensemble cast, but the film really belongs to Bene Coopersmith, a real-life Red Hook record store owner whose character, a record collector (also named Bene), gets duped into buying a counterfeit Charlie Parker LP. Imposingly tall, with wild thinning hair, thrift-store fashion sense, and a Brooklyn accent, Coopersmith is a consistently delightful screen presence; considering that he appears to be playing a fictionalized version of himself, his quirks only lend credibility to the movie’s buried central thesis about finding pleasure in the real thing. Having tracked the man who sold him the bogus record to an acquaintance’s antiques business, the gangly Bene sets off in a hilariously ragged pursuit that takes him from the store’s tightly cramped record stacks out to a bicycle chase through the city streets. The sequence is actually broken into chunks across a 15-minute section of the movie; what makes it work is not just the sight gags (Bene isn’t exactly action-star material), but the credibility that Coopersmith brings to his character’s ridiculous determination to wreak vengeance. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

“Genius girl,” The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)

Adam Sandler’s atypically low-key performance as unemployed single dad Danny Meyerowitz has garnered him lots of praise, but it’s primarily his scenes opposite Grace Van Patten, as Danny’s teenage daughter, Eliza, that reveal this oft-abrasive actor’s tender side. Danny and Eliza’s loving, wholly functional relationship serves as a refreshing counterpoint to all the standard Noah Baumbach prickliness, and nothing sums it up better than a lovely duet they play at the piano. The song, co-written by father and daughter when Eliza was only 9, alternates between gentle jabs and “we are family” affirmations, and the bond between them as they perform it, voices thin and wavering, is palpable. But there’s also an undercurrent of sadness that comes to the fore on the repeated line “Mommy and Daddy and Genius Girl make three”—an equation that’s no longer true, no matter how good at math Genius Girl may be. In just a couple of minutes, these two characters acknowledge what they’ve lost and cherish what they still have. [Mike D’Angelo]

Okja escapes, Okja

Illustration for article titled The best film scenes of 2017

Like just about every movie by South Korean genre extraordinaire Bong Joon-Ho, Okja is hard to classify: Its genetically enhanced DNA includes strands of sci-fi, comedy, social satire, girl-and-her-pig fairytale, and earnest omnivore message movie. For a few blissfully cool minutes, the film even operates like a rip-roaring, blockbuster chase picture, as spunky preteen Mija (An Seo Hyun) flees on foot after the truck carting away her pet/best friend, the “super pig” Okja. Mija’s action-movie heroics, diving on and off the roof of the vehicle, are eventually interrupted by the appearance of amusingly polite Animal Liberation Front extremists, who free the mighty beast—a development that results in Okja charging destructively through traffic and an underground mall, pursued by multiple parties. Combining the Dark Knight armored-truck scene with the playful, fluid, CGI mayhem of Bong’s own The Host, this thrillingly kinetic set-piece climaxes with a terrific joke: a slow-motion, umbrella-abetted clash set to “Annie’s Song” (the second ironic use of the tune this year, after Free Fire). Consider our senses filled up. [A.A. Dowd]

Stairway fight, Atomic Blonde

The hallmark sequence of Atomic Blonde is actually just one part of a bravura 10-minute single-take (well, several shots cleverly disguised to feel like a single take) which also incorporates a brutal apartment-set showdown and a frenetic car chase. But the centerpiece is so raw and potent, it stands out even among those other achievements. For three minutes straight, Charlize Theron’s no-bullshit super-spy throws down against a pair of ruthless KGB thugs in a decaying Cold War apartment stairwell. Part of the thrill is the abrupt tonal shift: The sleek and stylish action thriller’s groovy ’80s synth drops out, leaving only the sounds of knuckle on flesh, desperate grunts, and soft body parts hitting the ground. But mostly, it’s memorable for Theron’s unstinting brawler skills. The actor’s jacket-clad physique is tightly framed the entire time, whether she’s being flung down stairs or breaking opponents’ bones. It’s a marvel of choreography and an adrenaline rush to equal any action film this year. [Alex McLevy]

Professor Xavier’s final lesson, Logan

The brutally violent and surprisingly emotional Logan offered heart-piercing farewells to two beloved characters while exploring why their lives were so impossible to begin with. The incongruity between the fate of an exiled X-Man and the beauty of traditional domesticity takes center stage when Logan, a failing Charles Xavier, and young mutant Laura have dinner at the home of a warm, affectionate family. The sense of impending dread is palpable as these unusual characters stick out in an otherwise familiar background, but the meal offers an invaluable window into a kind of blissful, peaceful life that the mutants have never known. When Logan carries Charles up to bed that night, his mentor tells him to enjoy the moment of this home and family, that he still has time. This sadly turns out not to be true for either of them, but the glimpse of that other life propels Logan through the rest of the movie, trying to save Laura and her fellow young mutants so that they’ll have a better future than the savage existence he was forced to live. [Gwen Ihnat]

A father’s wisdom, Call Me By Your Name

Photo: Sony Pictures Classics
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

Because Call Me By Your Name’s 17-year-old hero Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is allowed to run around early ’80s Italy with minimal parental supervision, he gets to indulge in what he thinks is a secretly torrid sexual affair with his dad’s summer research assistant, Oliver (Armie Hammer). But when Oliver leaves at the end of the summer, Elio learns that not only did his father know what was going on, the old man did all he could to let love blossom. As the dad, Michael Stuhlbarg sums up how the romantic fervor of youth is something to be treasured—and envied by their elders—in a long, spellbinding speech that encapsulates both the movie’s deep heartbreak and its embrace of joy. [Noel Murray]

The killing, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer 

The characters in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing Of A Sacred Deer speak with almost robotic cadence for much of the film, so when they eventually crack, it’s jarring and intense. Colin Farrell plays a surgeon faced with an impossible choice of mystical provenance: His wife and two children will slowly and painfully get sick and die unless he kills one of them. Rather than choose, he assembles the family in their living room to let fate decide—by blindfolding himself, spinning around, and firing a rifle until one unlucky family member takes a bullet. The sheer randomness and insanity of the scene is horrific, and the fact that we’re spared the moments before—the family being bound with duct tape—somehow makes it worse. Once Farrell picks up the gun, the camera starts to shake a bit, as if to make the audience complicit in the violent act. What might be worst of all is the sound of Farrell’s footsteps as his spins himself around, face hidden behind a winter hat, firing and reloading. It’s the kind of unforgettable moment you’ll probably never want to see again. [Josh Modell]

“The Theme From The Persuaders,” Nocturama

No working director uses needle drops as ingeniously as France’s Bertrand Bonello, and his latest film, the tremendous and poetically disturbed Nocturama, contains so many balls-to-the-wall musical sequences that’s it’s hard to pick a favorite. A fresh-faced killer lip-syncing Shirley Bassey’s recording of “My Way” on a grand art nouveau staircase? A showroom of plasma TVs filling with news coverage of a terrorist attack while “Whip My Hair” blasts from stereo system? A paranoid Steadicam shot set to Chief Keef? We’ll go with the movie’s crushing, formally inventive climax. Cutting and restarting John Barry’s theme music from the early ’70s TV show The Persuaders, Bonello dices and extends moments in time, jumping among the perspectives of several characters—mostly teenage terrorists who have holed up in a Paris department store after a series of bombings and murders—as the end catches up to them. The idea is incredible on its own; the music guides us back and forth through a minute-long sequence of events that happen across several floors of a building. But Bonello twists it further; as the scene continues, the Persuaders theme doesn’t always start (or cut out) at the same point, suggesting several subjective points-of-view in a desperate collapse. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

The ending, The Florida Project

Much of Sean Baker’s The Florida Project skips merrily through potential disaster, often taking a kid’s-eye-view look at rundown motels on the outskirts of Disney World, where families struggle to stay above the poverty line. But in its closing minutes, Baker lets the rosy filter of childhood falter, as Child Protective Services arrives to separate Halley (Bria Vinaite) and her little daughter Moonee (Brooklynn Prince). As Moonee wriggles away and makes a run for it with her best friend, the texture of the images changes. Baker, who shot most of the film on rich 35mm, reverts to the iPhone cinematography of his previous feature, Tangerine. This produces a more immediate and “real” look, but the shift still signals that the girls’ speedy trek—to the genuine Magic Kingdom, naturally, in footage Baker surreptitiously captured in the real park—may represent a break from reality. Whether they really rush through the park gates or not, it’s a desperate flight of fantasy, at once beautiful and devastating, that caps off one of the best movies about childhood in years. [Jesse Hassenger]

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