In 2021 we had a stuttering return to the cinemas, but one thing remained the same, we had plenty to talk about, plenty of great movies, plenty of movies people didn’t see and plenty of movies people should check out. I have put together a list in no particular order of hidden gems from the year 2021. I believe I have found something for everyone, so if there is a genre you prefer, you should be able to find one in everyone of these picks.
1 – The Pebble and the Boy
The Pebble and the Boy follows a young man who decides to go on a journey from Manchester to Brighton, using his late father’s Lambretta Scooter, where he will get to celebrate the mod culture that swept through the country in his father’s youth. This is a story about learning about what happened in his father’s past, how the culture is still got a place in the modern world and most importantly, what each interaction in life will mean to the people involved, not just the story you will have heard. This is one of the truly British films, were anyone from the UK will understand a lot more of what is happening in the film than anyone from overseas.
2 – Cop Secret
Cop Secret is an Icelandic action comedy, that will turn the macho role on its head, when the sexually curious lead tough guy detective falls for the man looking to take his spot as the hottest cop in Iceland. When it comes to the action side of this film, it is wacky and over the top, which adds to the comedy. It is fact this film is brave enough to have gay figure in the lead role that will make this even more memorable. This is one of the action fans, that will take away from the overall pretty standard year for the genre.
3 – The Night House
The Night House is a horror movie that will follow a grieving widow that starts to get haunting visits that will reveal disturbing secrets about her late husband. This might well be the biggest known title on this list, but I feel it is one that should be seen by the horror fans. The Night House is a horror that will use the atmosphere to create the scares, giving us plenty of moments of needing to look around the scenes for the smallest clue, waiting for something to arrive from the shadows. The Night House was one of the best cinema experiences this year, with the moments of pure silence being terrifying to watch.
4 – Werewolves Within
Werewolves Within is a horror comedy that is based on a video game, that will end up going down as one of the best video game adaptations we have ever seen, (I know that isn’t hard for the die hard fans of video games). This will follow a new forest ranger Finn Wheeler, played by the brilliant Sam Richardson, that will need to put together the clues to figure out who is behind the animal attacks, or who might well be the werewolf in the community. This is filled with the comedy you would expect, and it never hits the silly level which other horror comedies might well have fallen for.
5 – Old Henry
Old Henry is a western thriller following a lone older farmer that takes in in an injured man, finding his home coming under attack by the people tracking down the injured man, forcing him to show his true self. This is a western like most that will be a slow burner, with the performance from Tim Blake Nelson being one of the very best of the year. Old Henry is a film that will leave you flawed with the final act, which is easily one of the best of the year.
6 – Censor
Censor is a horror mystery follows a film censor working on the video nasty era of cinema, that becomes captivated by an actress, believing it to be her long lost sister. Censor will see Enid getting drawn into the world, her very job is to censor, spiralling out of control, as she looks for answers about the actress. When it comes to Prano Bailey-Bond’s horror, we get to dive into a world many people wouldn’t touch, much like Berberian Sound Studio, we see a different aspect of the film making process being used, seeing how the chopping room for censor can take a toll on the viewers of the most disturbing material.
7 – Bruno
Bruno follows a homeless man searching for his dog, who finds himself joined by a young boy, as the pair wander around London searching for the dog and themselves. Bruno is a film that will give us the mystery about the homeless man, what has put him in this position and why this young boy is wandering the streets of London alone in the first place. Diarmaid Murtagh is brilliant in the leading role, leaving us with a film that will make us want to think about life and our parts in other people’s.
8 – A Brixton Tale
A Brixton Tale is a romance drama following a successful YouTuber who finds a shy youth in Brixton to be the subject of her latest project, but her involvement within the gang, will lead to a violent relationship between the two. Lily Newmark and Ola Orebiyi are both wonderful in the leading roles, as the story looks to examine the culture clashes within this area of London.
9 – Lapwing
Lapwing follows a mute English girl in a small community in 1555, who finds herself drawn towards an Egyptian young man against the leader of her community. In what is a very dark, down beat thriller, we see the darker sider of the world at a time when not everyone would have been expected to be equal. This is a film that isn’t going to be for the people looking for a good time, this could easily be compared to ‘The Nightingale’s for subject matter.
10 – The Retaliators
The Retaliators is a violent horror that will follow an upstanding pastor searching for answers about his daughter brutal murder, who uncovers a twisted underworld. The Retaliators is a horror that will go in a direction you won’t imagine, leaving you shocked and never holding back what we are put through as an audience.
11 – The Toll
The Toll is a dark comedic tale of a lone toll-booth operator who finds his past catching up with him, when a new group of criminals find their way into the area, despite his own deals around the area. This uses the small Welsh town setting to show up how criminals could be hiding in the smallest locations, with the connections having plenty of comedy about reactions going on, the deals that are wanted too. Michael Smiley is fantastic in the leading role, making us want to watch every scene he is involved with, as his comedic delivery is perfect.
12 – Me, Myself & Di
Me, Myself & Di is a romantic comedy follow a Bridget Jones type of woman Janet Brown, who hasn’t found love, but remains constantly positive in her life, always living in the shadow of her popular best friend Di. When Janet wins a holiday to a summer camp, she can’t wait to get away, but she must learn about Di’s true nature, as she might finally learn more about world, than the town she was born, raised and lives in. In what is a very British comedy, we get to see how a very British holiday, with the summer camp being a caravan location we might all have stayed in when we were younger. When it comes to the comedy on show, the jokes do come thick and fast, leaving you with a feel-good feeling by the end of the film.
13 – When the Screaming Starts
When the Screaming Starts follows a young man that hires a filmmaker help him make a documentary as he looks to build a serial killer team. When the Screaming Starts will have a story that will go as well as planned, as the man finds his plan going down the drain and the killers he recruits start showing a deadlier side than he could have ever imagined. When the Screaming Starts does hit the comedy well, as well as using the documentary style, trying hard to capture the magic ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ had.
14 – Dreams on Fire
Dreams on Fire is a vibrant intoxicating look at Japanese dance and subculture, as we follow a character through the different worlds. Dreams on Fire is one of the movies that will give us an amazing journey, one that we would never normally go on within film.
15 – Language Arts
Language Arts is a drama that follows a study between autistic youth and senior dementia patients and what it will send the professor on a journey into his past, as he learns of the errors of his youth. Language Arts will bring the emotional core to a movie that will examine health issues that are not easy to understand.
16 – The God Committee
The God Committee is a fascinating movie that will give us an insight into how doctors will be needed to make a decision on who will receive a organ transplant, along with the consequences of their decision. When it comes to asking these questions, we dive into ever possible decision that could make someone the right or wrong choice, making for a film that will leave us thinking about just how difficult this decision will be for anyone. The God Committee is one of the films that you will be left thinking about what you would do in the same situation.
17 – Before I Go
Before I Go follows a woman that recalls her life and musical career choices in New York City, where she will get to go down memory lane, while sorting out her life achievements. Before I Go is carried by a wonderful performance from Annabella Sciorra, guiding us through the characters life.
18 – Christmas at the Ranch
Christmas at the Ranch is a romantic movie that will see a businesswoman who needs to return home for Christmas to help with her family’s finances, when she meets a woman, she believes is perfect, until she learns about how she works on the ranch, and doing everything to keep the family business alive. When it comes to the Christmas romance movies, we do go through them every year, we will also have a few that standout more, with this one being one of the main stand outs for me.
19 – The Karma Effect
The Karma Effect follows a man searching for the person that sexual assault his younger sister, leading to her suicide, to get his revenge on them. The Karma Effect is a film that will present us with one story before turning plenty on its head by the end of the film, leaving us shocked and surprised with how everything unfolds. The Karma Effect is a low budget movie that uses the story for the biggest impact on what we are seeing.
20 – Space Sweepers
Space Sweepers is a sci-fi film that follows a crew of a space junk collectors that find a humanoid robot named Dorothy that is a known weapon of mass destruction, leading to the crew heading down a risky business, as everyone wants to get their hands on Dorothy. When it comes to world building sci-fi films, everything will always be in the shadows of the Star Wars or Star Treks of the world, but this little gem does a wonderful job building a universe we could easily return to one day and see more of their adventures along the way.
21 – Let Me Be Frank
Let Me Be Frank is a comedy drama following an aspiring musician that moves to LA in search for stardom, where he will get to rent an apartment from dispirited apartment manager, who once had his own dreams in the city of dreams. Let Me Be Frank looks at an unlikely friendship built between the manager and the young man, as they show the generational divide, pass the lessons in life and go on adventures, that parts of their lives, would never see the two men from different backgrounds mixing together for. Let Me Be Frank movie that will focus on the discussions in life, ones that can only be described as one for the dreamers.