Best Of 2019 So Far – Hayley Paskevich

2019 has been quite the year for me already, filled with adventure and unforgettable experiences. It’s also been a year that’s produced an outpouring of media content when it comes to the landscape of film and television (and I’ve seen a lot of films and shows this year!). So, when it came time to take a moment to reflect on my absolute favourites so far, narrowing the scope down to five was a bit of a challenging task. In the end, all of these spoke to me in some way:

5. Booksmart (dir. Olivia Wilde)

This witty, fresh, and socially relevant take on the typical high school teen comedy is one of the most memorable films I’ve seen in a while, and with good reason. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever play best friends Molly and Amy (respectively), who have spent their entire academic careers living by the book and decide to finally live it up for the first time the night before graduation. As the two venture into the foreign territory of partying hilarity ensues, deep truths are revealed and their friendship is put to the test. What really makes Booksmart stand out amidst its predecessors of the genre is how unflinchingly feminist and queer it is. One of the film’s protagonists is an endearingly awkward lesbian, and it’s quite refreshing to see her sexuality treated as an integral part of her character instead of a mere punchline. A triumph of a film that made me laugh so hard I cried, Booksmart truly succeeds in hitting the mark when it comes to relating to its target audience.

4. Stranger Things Season 3 (Netflix)

Look. I don’t even know where to start when it comes to talking about the new season of Stranger Things, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who may still be watching, but I will happily say that I think it’s the best season of the show thus far. There’s a lot of elements that really worked this time around, such as the various group dynamics and pairings (both platonic and romantic) that the show chose to focus on. There’s some excellent stuff that happens in terms of character development and it would be remiss of me not to mention how much of a delightful addition newcomer Maya Hawke is as Robin! Season 3 also strikes a fantastic balance tonally, sliding back and forth between ridiculous fun and full-on horror and even landing somewhere between the two. An emotional rollercoaster ride full of twists and turns from start to finish, it really gave me hope for the future of the show… hurry up, season 4!

3. Unicorn Store (dir. Brie Larson)

Brie Larson’s directorial debut Unicorn Store tells the story of Kit (Larson), a young woman with boundless creativity and a vivid imagination who struggles to meet the adult expectations of the real world. When she finds herself faced with the opportunity to turn her biggest childhood dream into a reality, though, Kit ends up embarking on a quest that teaches her some valuable life lessons in unexpected ways. Whimsical, charming and at times surprisingly honest and relatable, Unicorn Store shows us that it’s okay to still be figuring yourself out and that growing up doesn’t mean abandoning your inner child or giving up on your passions. It’s a comforting reminder that resonates with me, and I’m ever grateful for it.

2. Killing Eve Season 2

One of the most intriguing dynamics on television is the deliciously toxic relationship between Sandra Oh’s MI6 operative Eve Polastri and Jodie Comer’s assassin Villanelle in the psychological spy thriller Killing Eve. Season 2 ups the stakes (and the tension) as the two are drawn even closer together, tangled up in a twisted web of mutual obsession that  leads to some deadly consequences. Brilliantly executed and not afraid to pull the rug out from underneath viewers at any given moment, Killing Eve works as well as it does because we, like Eve, can’t help but become fascinated with Villanelle. While both Oh and Comer are phenomenal, Comer arguably steals the show in the second season. She pulls off a truly insane performance that includes a myriad of accents and personas, able to flip the switch from innocent young woman to cunning psychopath in the blink of an eye. Give her all the awards, please.

1. Captain Marvel (dir. Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck)

This one not only easily tops my personal list for the year so far but has become one of my favourite films overall. Like many of us, I was eagerly looking forward to seeing what Marvel’s first big screen female-led superhero offering would bring. After all, it was high time we got to see a strong female character playing more than a supporting role within the Marvel universe’s pantheon of cinematic heroes. What I didn’t expect, though, was just how much I would fall in love with Brie Larson’s performance as Carol Danvers – former Air Force pilot turned alien warrior, who finds the very foundation of her identity shaken to its core after unearthing a surprising truth about her past. Full of heart (Carol’s relationship with Maria, anyone?) and humour, as well as some pretty epic action sequences, Captain Marvel shows us that embracing the emotions and flaws that make us human is one of the most powerful things we can do – and we don’t need to prove ourselves to anyone who makes us feel lesser for it. There’s going to be a whole generation of little girls who get to grow up with Captain Marvel as their hero, and they’re incredibly lucky to have her. In fact, we all are.