The Best Films of 2021 that Most People Haven’t Seen

From box office failures to festival darlings

Travis Weedon
9 min readDec 6, 2021

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DAYS (dir. Tsai Ming-Liang; dist. Grasshopper Film)

Lee Kang-sheng quietly watches a storm brew outside his window.

What little dialogue there is in Tsai Ming-Liang’s Days is intentionally unsubtitled. The content of the communication is less important than its presence or absence. The deftly precise soundtrack draws on the ambient sounds of spaces, such as the rain against a window or the cacophony of passersby on a bustling street. Within these spaces are two men, separated by wealth, age, and health, but joined by a deafening isolation. When the two come into contact, the warmth of their intimacy and the charge of their touch is a brief respite from the solitude they share.

Days is a big-screen experience. Its still spaces are to fall into. Its sounds are to envelope. It is an atmospheric absorption. Unfortunately, few had the opportunity to see Days at its optimal scale. Distributed by Grasshopper Film, its theatrical release was very limited, but it is widely available to stream at Projectr.tv. Seeing it at home is better than not seeing it at all.

THE LAST DUEL (dir. Ridley Scott; dist. 20th Century Studios)

Matt Damon’s mullet bids adieu to Jodie Comer.

Nothing in The Last Duel glimmers or shines. All is dirty and worn, lived-in and used. It’s a film put together by hands, and it’s that craftsmanship that evokes the medieval France of the film’s setting. Its Rashomon-lite screenplay was written by Academy Award-winners Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and Academy Award-nominee Nicole Holofcener. It stars Hollywood mainstays Damon and Affleck and rising elite Adam Driver and Jodie Comer. Marshaling this pedigree of personality is none other than Ridley Scott, one of the most commercially successful directors of all time, who counts Alien, Bladerunner, Thelma and Louise, and Gladiator among his triumphs.

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