This year’s Golden Globes nominees include some really great filmmakers. But unsurprisingly, there is a lack of recognition for films directed by women, particularly in the Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Motion Picture – Drama, and Best Director categories. It’s important to note that this isn’t to say films made by women should skyrocket to the top of the HFPA’s shortlist simply in order to meet a gender quota. Still, when the organization fails to recognize such films year after year, that shows a broader systemic pattern that requires change.
What’s more is that women really brought it to the table this year. Desiree Akhavan’s Miseducation of Cameron Post, a tale about a gay-conversion therapy camp, won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the festival’s highest honor. We were also graced with gems like Tamara Jenkins’ indie dramedy Private Life, Jennifer Fox’s heartbreaking The Tale, and Crystal Moselle’s urban skateboarding flick Skate Kitchen, which is my personal favorite of the year.
But among these and countless others of this year’s best female-made films, there’s a handful of titles that have been a consistent part of the awards conversation. Unfortunately, when it came down to it, many of these received no nominations, and the ones that did were only recognized for their performances. However, the impeccable craft of these films is undeniable. Here are some of the year’s most awards-worthy films directed by women:
Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?): Heller, who previously directed the Sundance hit The Diary of a Teenage Girl, stepped into the world of biopics with the true story of Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a struggling writer who began forging the letters of famous literary figures to get by financially. Both McCarthy and Richard E. Grant were recognized by the HFPA for their stellar performances, but the film failed to receive honors in broader filmmaking categories. It holds vast critical acclaim nonetheless, currently standing at an impressive 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. Heller had a stronger chance at getting a Best Director nomination than any of the other women-helmed films this season, but unfortunately, it still didn’t make the cut.
Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here): The latest from the director of We Need to Talk About Kevin is a glorious work of art — each of its shots is deliberate, meaningful, and stunning to look at. The film, which follows Joe (Joaquin Phoenix), a quiet man hired to rescue trafficked girls who must also deal with his own personal traumas, premiered and won awards at 2017’s Cannes Film Festival and was nominated in several categories at both the British Independent Film Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards, receiving Best Director and Feature Film nod at each. Perhaps the early release date made it more of a long shot, but You Were Never Really Here has remained one of the year’s most talked-about films, and it would have been a great addition to the lineup of Best Director nominees at the Golden Globes.
Chloé Zhao (The Rider): The Rider, a Western drama about a man (Brady Jandreau) who suffers a brain injury after an accident during a riding competition, has made its way steadily through every independent awards ceremony this year. It most recently surprised the industry by winning Best Feature at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, and earlier this year, Chloé Zhao was the first recipient of the Film Independent Spirit Awards’ new Bonnie Award, which recognizes visionary work from women mid-career. The Rider currently holds an approval rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it failed to receive any nominations at the Golden Globes.
Josie Rourke (Mary Queen of Scots): The highly anticipated period piece Mary Queen of Scots, starring Saoirse Ronan as the title character and Margot Robbie as her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, is another film that had plenty of hype leading up to awards season. The historical premise makes it a seemingly great fit for the HFPA, and while this may be Rourke’s feature debut, the fact that her leads were both nominated actresses in the previous year helped to further boost its prestige. Unfortunately, this tale of two royals clashing couldn’t reign in enough support from the HFPA to get nominated.
Karyn Kusama (Destroyer): Kusama has long been familiar with the struggle of building a career as a woman behind the camera, since her debut film, Girlfight, in 2000. Her latest work with Destroyer has been highly praised following its screenings at the Telluride and Toronto International Film Festivals, which stars Nicole Kidman as a troubled undercover cop who must face the demons of her past when she revisits an old case. Kidman did receive a nomination for her role in the film, but recognition for Destroyer stopped there. Although the actress’ performance can surely be considered a knockout, Kusama is responsible for constructing the fantastically gripping narrative that unfolds onscreen.
Despite these titles being left out of the major filmmaking categories at this year’s Globes, their heavy inclusion in awards discourse is still a positive thing. Even if some of these films were nominated solely for performances, that still brings more attention to them than would have otherwise been paid — it’s a step forward for recognizing female-made films, and that’s something to be celebrated. But until it is no longer an anomaly for films directed by women to consistently receive accolades, the industry still has a long, long way to go.