8 Movies Like Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) On Rokuchannel

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Understated in budget but lavished with praise, this semi-autobiographical drama by Daniel Destin Cretton flings its audience into the chaotic lives and personal crises of at-risk youths and the passionate social workers that aid them. In his first feature film, the young director draws the viewers into the storm of events and the emotional ups-and-downs of social work in America, going from uplifting to depressing and back – and every emotion in-between.

Set in the real-life and eponymous group home Short Term 12, devoted but troubled foster-care worker Grace is played by Brie Larson, whose shining performance in her first leading role was lauded by critics. Fans will also recognize the supporting actors Lakeith Stanfield and Rami Malek, who broke out in this movie. Short Term 12 is now considered one of the most important movies of 2013 – some say of the decade – owing to its immaculate writing, intimate camerawork, and gripping performances.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alex Calloway, Angelina Assereto, Brie Larson, Diana Maria Riva, Frantz Turner, Harold Cannon, Joel P. West, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Keith Stanfield, Kevin Hernandez, Lakeith Stanfield, Lydia Du Veaux, Melora Walters, Michelle Nordahl, Mohammad Shiravi, Rami Malek, Silvia Curiel, Stephanie Beatriz

Director: Destin Cretton, Destin Daniel Cretton

Rating: R

The Kid With A Bike is a deceptively simple title for a film this stirring. At 12 years old, Cyril (Thomas Doret) has been abandoned to social care by his father (Jérémie Renier) — but what’s really heart-wrenching is that he’s in denial about the finality of their separation. Cyril’s muscles are seemingly always coiled, ready to spring him away from his carers and onto the next bus that’ll take him to his disinterested dad, who has secretly moved away to “start anew.” It’s only through the random force of Cyril’s few words — like the moment he asks the first stranger to show him some kindness (Samantha, played by Cécile de France) if she’ll foster him on the weekends — that we get to sense the depth of his desperation, because neither the film nor Doret is showy in that regard.

The film pulls off transcendency because of these restrained performances and its unfussy realism. In the quietness of the storytelling, emotion hits unexpectedly — and deeply. The everyday tragedy and miraculous hope of Cyril’s life are set off by some enormously moving orchestral Beethoven, the very grandeur of which underscores the effect of the humanist filmmaking: affirming the inherent preciousness of his troubled, oft-rejected child.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Cécile de France, Fabrizio Rongione, Jérémie Renier, Myriem Akheddiou, Olivier Gourmet, Thomas Doret

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Alejandro González Iñárritu's cleverly layered directorial feature film debut follows three persons whose lives are connected by a car crash in Mexico City. It directly involves two of them: a young man who enters the world of dogfighting to earn enough to elope with his sister-in-law, and a supermodel whose life is changed for the worse after she is fatally injured. The third segment of the film centers on a mysterious homeless man on the street who witnesses the crash.

The title, Amores Perros, refers to the characters’ love of dogs as well as love being a source of misery, and it’s a hint of the chaotic, unforeseen circumstances they each face. Iñárritu’s film shows his brilliance in direction. Despite the film being an early work, his ingenuity shines through and the compelling performances propel all three stories to gritty heights.

Cut-throat editing, handheld cinematography, and Guillermo Arriaga’s intricate screenplay flesh out each character. The viewers are pushed to the edge of their seats as we navigate the gripping miseries of life along with the rest of the cast. The tightly woven film is a painful must-watch, a brutal and uncompromising look at despair and animalistic aggression among humans that is also mirrored in the cruelty their dogs suffer.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Adriana Barraza, Alvaro Guerrero, Dagoberto Gama, Dunia Saldívar, Emilio Echevarría, Gael García Bernal, Gerardo Campbell, Goya Toledo, Gustavo Muñoz, Gustavo Sánchez Parra, Humberto Busto, Jorge Salinas, José Sefami, Laura Almela, Marco Perez, Mauricio Martínez, Patricio Castillo, Ricardo Dalmacci, Roberto Medina, Rodrigo Murray, Rodrigo Ostap, Rosa María Bianchi, Vanessa Bauche

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Rating: R

Based on the book by John Le Carre, this slow-burning thriller tells the story of a half-Chechen, half-Russian immigrant suspected of terrorism, who is suddenly spotted in a big German city trying to get his hands on money that was left to him. Gunter (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the head of an international counter-terrorism unit created after 9/11 to spot threats like these early on. Whether this man is a terrorist or not, what he is doing in Germany, how he fits in the grand scheme of things, and whether Gunter will succeed in his efforts - all of these are questions you will be begging to find answers for. Witty, supremely acted, and with a very provocative story line, A Most Wanted Man is perfect if you're in the mood for a sharp thriller.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Bernhard Schütz, Daniel Brühl, Derya Alabora, Franz Hartwig, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Herbert Gronemeyer, Homayoun Ershadi, Imke Büchel, Kostja Ullmann, Martin Wuttke, Max Volkert Martens, Mehdi Dehbi, Neil Malik Abdullah, Nina Hoss, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Rainer Bock, Robin Wright, Tamer Yiğit, Ursina Lardi, Uwe Dag Berlin, Vedat Erincin, Vicky Krieps, Willem Dafoe

Director: Anton Corbijn

Rating: R

A Ken Loach type of vibe drives The Selfish Giant  to be an interesting mix between anger,  desperation, and the beauty and humor often found in tough circumstances (think I, Daniel Blake but with kids as main characters). This sort of contemporary fable tells the story of two friends who skip school and hustle for work from a local scrap-dealer.  As they get more and more involved with him and his entourage, the grim realities of what once seemed a way out start to cast a shadow over their lives. The script is based on a short story by Oscar Wilde, it's a beautiful, ultimately sad portrayal of the British underclass.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Conner Chapman, Elliott Tittensor, Ian Burfield, Joseph Priestly, Lorraine Ashbourne, Macy Shackleton, Ralph Ineson, Rebecca Manley, Robert Emms, Sean Gilder, Shaun Thomas, Siobhan Finneran, Steve Evets

Director: Clio Barnard

Rating: Not Rated

Lauren Greenfield’s film follows the Siegel family’s decline from opulent abundance to gaudy ruin. Mega wealth, delusions of grandeur, and grotesquely opulent taste—the Siegel family were the perfect subjects for the film, which sets out to document their most lavish expense: their Versailles home, a mansion sprawling more than 85,000 square feet and modeled after the Palace of Versailles.

The Siegels, no doubt, are entirely out of touch with reality. David Siegel, the owner of one of the world’s largest timeshare developers, married Jackie, a former Mrs. Florida who is 30 years younger. The Versailles home is to be Jackie’s castle, an enormous home for her eight kids and numerous pets.

But the 2008 recession does not spare the Siegels, and their company is devastated. After layoffs and desperate attempts to recover financially, the family struggles to pay back the banks. Construction halts. The Versailles home remains vacant and unfinished.

While the film does not sympathize with the Siegels, Greenfield creates a space where pity is possible as well as criticism. And from there comes the universal: desperation, longing, hope for better, if not also more, more, more.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Lauren Greenfield

Though it starts off somewhat slow, I was delightfully surprised at how much I loved this movie. A 28-year-old man ventures through Europe with a buddy, ending in Copenhagen, where he hopes to contact the last of his family. There he enlists a local girl to help him. An interesting relationship unfolds as they take a captivating journey through Copenhagen in search of William’s grandfather. The tag line of the movie is “When the girl of your dreams is half your age, it’s time to grow up” and William really does have to grow up when he’s faced with his own personal tumult. The girl is played by Frederikke Dahl Hansen, who gives an exceptional natural performance, which adds even more to the abundance of charm in this film.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Romance

Actor: Asbjørn Krogh Nissen, Baard Owe, Christian Brandt, Frederikke Dahl Hansen, Gethin Anthony, Gordon Kennedy, Hélène Kuhn, Martin Hestbæk, Martin Hestbæk, Mille Dinesen, Olivia Grant, Sebastian Armesto, Sebastian Bull Sarning, Silja Eriksen Jensen, Tamzin Merchant, Zaki Nobel Mehabil

Director: Mark Raso

Rating: Not Rated, Unrated

, 2013

Robyn Davidson decided to cross 1,700 miles in the Australian desert with four camels and her trusty dog, and this film recounts her real-life journey. In many ways this is a companion piece to Reese Witherspoon’s Wild, also released in theaters in 2014. While I enjoyed Wild, it went out of its way to make the protagonist’s journey understood to audiences. Tracks gives Robyn some light shading and backstory, but unlike Wild it almost focuses solely on her journey across the desert. And what a desert it is! The scenery is shot beautifully and we feel as though we are truly on this daring journey with her, traveling alien landscapes with little to depend on beyond our animal companions and our wits. We know the outcome (since this is a true story) but we are still thrilled to see how it unfolds. What does it all mean, and what was the journey’s purpose? Thankfully, in the end, the answer is left as enigmatic as the heroine herself.

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Actor: Adam Driver, Bryan Probets, Daisy Walkabout, Emma Booth, Felicity Steel, Fiona Press, Ian Conway, Jessica Tovey, John Flaus, Lily Pearl, Melanie Zanetti, Mia Wasikowska, Philip Dodd, Rainer Bock, Robert Coleby, Rolley Mintuma

Director: John Curran

Rating: PG-13