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The Best Films of 2019 (So Far)

We’re just about halfway through a year that has been packed so far with terrific movies. If you’ve seen major hits like “Avengers: Endgame” (returning to theaters on Friday) and “Us” (which can be found on streaming services), this is your chance to catch up on some overlooked gems that our chief critics, Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott, say are the best of the best:

THE STORY Based on an episode in the life of its writer-director, Joanna Hogg, this drama follows a British film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) and her relationship with a boyfriend (Tom Burke) who may or may not work for the Foreign Office but is certainly a heroin addict.

A.O. SCOTT’S TAKE This is “one of my favorite movies of the year so far, but I almost want to keep it a secret. Partly because it’s the kind of film — we all have a collection of these, and of similar books and records, too — that feels like a private discovery, an experience you want to protect rather than talk about.”

READ The full review.

WATCH THE MOVIE It’s still in theaters. Here’s the list.

THE STORY In this quiet tale that touches on issues of race, class and gentrification in the Bay Area, Jimmie Fails (played by the actor of the same name) is determined to take possession of the Victorian house that was once his family home.

MANOHLA DARGIS’S TAKE In this film from the director Joe Talbot, “the desire for home is at once existential and literal, a matter of self and safety, being and belonging. This is of course part of the story of being black in the United States, which perhaps makes the movie sound like a dirge when it’s more of a reverie. Or, rather, it’s both at once and sometimes one and then the other.”

READ The full review.

WATCH THE MOVIE It’s still in theaters. Here’s the list.

THE STORY Elisabeth Moss is Becky Something, a rock ’n’ roll singer who bears more than a passing resemblance to Courtney Love in this tale of art and dysfunction from the writer-director Alex Ross Perry.

A.O. SCOTT’S TAKE “Moss is deep in Becky’s skin, and Perry is steadfastly on her side. Not that he condones or forgives. She is gleefully cruel and monstrously inconsiderate to everyone around her, daring them to fight back or flee.”

READ The full review.

WATCH THE MOVIE It’s available to rent or own from Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes and Vudu.

THE STORY This character study follows Gloria Bell (Julianne Moore), middle-aged and divorced with grown children, as she seeks to connect and find fulfillment in Los Angeles. It’s a remake of the Chilean film “Gloria,” by the writer-director of that movie, Sebastián Lelio.

MANOHLA DARGIS’S TAKE Working with “a transcendent Julianne Moore,” the director “is acutely sensitive to the absurdities of everyday life, including the comedy of humiliation, both petty and wounding.”

READ The full review.

WATCH THE MOVIE It’s still showing in a few theaters, or buy or rent it from Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes and Vudu.

THE STORY Headed to the Ivy League in the fall, Molly and Amy are dismayed to learn that their far less studious peers are going to top colleges as well. On their last day in high school, the best friends (Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever) decide they need to gain a reputation for partying before they graduate.

A.O. SCOTT’S TAKE “Infusing some familiar situations with an exuberant, generous, matter-of-factly feminist sensibility,” this comedy directed by Olivia Wilde is “sharp but not mean, warm without feeling too soft or timid.”

READ The full review.

WATCH THE MOVIE It’s still in theaters. Here’s the list.

[Olivia Wilde narrates a scene from “Booksmart.”]

THE STORY Subtitled “A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese,” this documentary chronicles the free-form concert tour that Dylan and assorted colleagues began in 1975 and blends scenes shot at the time with new, fictionalized episodes.

MANOHLA DARGIS’S TAKE “It’s at once a celebration and a rescue mission (it draws heavily on restored film footage), as well as another chapter in Scorsese’s decades-long chronicling of Dylan.”

THE STORY This documentary examines Brazilian politics — two recent presidents in disgrace, the current one leaning toward authoritarianism — from the outraged point of view of the filmmaker, Petra Costa.

A.O. SCOTT’S TAKE Costa’s take “is by turns incredulous, indignant and self-questioning.” Her film is “a chronicle of civic betrayal and the abuse of power, and also of heartbreak.”

READ The full review.

WATCH THE MOVIE It’s in theaters and on Netflix.

THE STORY Set in an indeterminate time when soldiers are invading Paris, a German émigré (Franz Rogowski) there flees to Marseille, where he meets other refugees as he awaits the papers that will let him leave the country.

MANOHLA DARGIS’S TAKE The director Christian Petzold “doesn’t over-explain the trickier plot entanglements, confident in his audience’s ability to sort through its thickets. He embraces ambiguity as a principle but also sometimes gives the movie the accelerated pulse of an action flick.”

READ The full review.

WATCH THE MOVIE It’s available on iTunes.

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