Since the first half of 2018 is behind us, it is time to reflect on the best of what cinema has offered us thus far so let’s delve into some of the best performances from the first half of this year. Now, when making this list, one thing I noticed is that 2018 is already quite a strong year for female performances. Whether they’re in lead or supporting roles, comedy or horror films, women are currently dominating the silver screen in various ways.
Without further ado, here’s a look at some of the year’s best performances so far (in no particular order):
1. Toni Collette in Hereditary
As a family matriarch having an immense breakdown, Toni Collette delivers the best horror performance of the decade so far in Hereditary. From her subtle eye twitching to the way she snaps like a ticking time bomb, Collette crafts together a performance that is bombastic and unhinged yet calm and precise. Watching her character go on a deep descent is honestly much scarier than the supernatural forces the story deals with. I mean, the way she bursts into a fit of rage and self-loathing during the film’s dinner scene would make Jack Torrance from The Shining wet himself.
2. Rachel McAdams in Disobedience
While Rachel McAdams has wowed us before in films like Mean Girls and Spotlight, she manages to be in top form in Disobedience. As Esti Kuperman, McAdams plays a woman of very few words. Yet, she is still able to give us an idea of what kind of woman Esti is. Through the use of her shaky voice and the way she always walks with her head down, McAdams brilliantly portrays a woman trapped in her idyllic house life. While Esti may say she is comfortable with the life she lives, she still becomes more awake as the romance between her and Ronit (Rachel Weisz) blossoms. Their romance blossoms to the point where during one pivotal scene, Esti tearfully breaks free from the lies she’s been telling herself as she confronts her husband (Alessandro Nivola). While Rachel Weisz may possess top billing and a performance with more star power, it is Rachel McAdams who is the film’s heart and soul.
3. Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther
One chief complaint often thrown at films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is their poorly developed villains. Well, leave it to Michael B. Jordan to solve that problem in Black Panther. As Erik Killmonger, Michael B. Jordan brilliantly portrays a villain who is vengeful yet still possesses understandable motivations. He may seek retribution against his home kingdom yet some of his intentions still make him a perfect foil for our main hero. However, even though Killmonger has been badly wronged, he still slowly becomes the kind of villain that has wronged him. Truth be told, aside from Loki, MCU villains have never been as three-dimensional as Killmonger. While part of his complexity lies in the screenplay, most of his impact stems from Michael B. Jordan’s performance which is packed with diabolical charisma and rage-fueled emotional depth.
4. Gina Rodriguez in Annihilation
Annihilation has many brilliant things about it, ranging from the haunting score to the deceptively luminous cinematography. There’s also the scene-stealing performance by Gina Rodriguez as paramedic Anya Thorensen. Rodriguez serves as a source of both humor and badassery which makes (spoiler alert) an unfortunate end her character meets rather heartbreaking. Also, even though Anya possesses a stubborn, swaggering exterior, she still becomes vulnerable to the perilous forces within The Shimmer. The other four ladies in the main cast are impressive in their own right. But it’s Gina Rodriguez who leaves the biggest impression out of all the actresses and proves that she deserves to have more starring vehicles thrown her way.
5. Charlize Theron in Tully
One word that I can use to describe Charlize Theron’s performance in Tully is transformative. Not necessarily because of her highly publicized weight gain for the role. But because it feels like a complete 180 from her career-best work in Young Adult, her last collaboration with Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman. In Young Adult, she plays an ornery yet depressed novelist trapped in the rubble of her teenage years. Whereas in Tully, Theron portrays a woman who is thorny yet still more congenial than Young Adult’s Mavis. The character of Marlo may be someone at the end of her rope but Theron lets Marlo’s warmth shine through with dryly humorous line readings.
6. Michelle Williams in I Feel Pretty
Michelle Williams is one of the most accomplished dramatic actresses working today. But she gets to deliver the most complex comedic portrayal of the year thus far in I Feel Pretty. With her robotic arm movements and squeaky voice, Williams brilliantly plays a woman as artificial as the industry that she works for. However, the humor in her role isn’t just portrayed on the surface. As Avery LeClaire, the CEO of a cosmetics company she inherited from her grandmother, Williams demonstrates Avery’s dramatic insecurities over living in her grandmother’s shadow through many off-kilter line readings. Since the film isn’t quite on the same level as her performance, Williams makes it immensely watchable every time she appears on screen.
7. Barry Keoghan in American Animals
At the age of 25, young Irish actor Barry Keoghan has already proven there’s little he can’t do. Just last year, he played sweet idealist George in Dunkirk and did an immediate departure as the sinister Martin in The Killing Of A Sacred Deer. Now, in the black comedy American Animals, he plays a character completely different from the previous two. As Spencer Reinhard, a former college student who took part in an art gallery heist with three other colleagues, Keoghan acts as both a dramatic moral center and comedic straight man. A pitch perfect performance that is completely in sync with the film’s tragicomic sensibilities.
8. Martin Freeman in Cargo
In the zombie drama Cargo, typical supporting actor Martin Freeman is given the rare opportunity to carry a film on his shoulders. As a father who slowly turns into a zombie and must find a guardian for his infant daughter, Freeman is earnest and heartfelt. His profound portrayal of strong-willed parental love makes the inevitability that his character slowly faces quite devastating. As an actor, Martin Freeman epitomizes the everyman archetype and he puts it to such great use in Cargo, delivering what is perhaps the best performance of his career.
9. Anya Taylor-Joy in Thoroughbreds
Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy are quite a dynamic duo in the pitch black comedy Thoroughbreds. However, as terrific as Olivia Cookie is as the apathetic Amanda, it’s Anya Taylor-Joy who runs away with the picture. As the more empathetic Lily, Anya has a trickier part to play. Lily is someone who has a lot of feelings yet there are moments that hint at how the feelings she showcases are at a surface level. She shows feigned attempts at kindness and there’s even a scene of her twirling her hair to play up her innocent facade. The empathy she appears to showcase slips through the cracks as the film progresses. It’s a performance as three-dimensional as her breakthrough turn in The Witch and one can only hope she’ll be given more complex roles to sink her teeth into.
What do you think are some of the performances of the year so far? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.