6 years since his last film - the Academy-Award winning Beginners - and Academy-Award winning writer and director Mike Mills is finally back for yet another film. This time: 20th Century Women.

Set in Santa Barbara, California, in 1979, the film opens with single mother Dorothea (Annette Bening) and her son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), discovering that their beloved Ford has caught fire outside the grocery store in which they were shopping. It's a witty scene, full of such heart and charm and it quickly sets the stage for what's to come. Back at their house, we're introduced to Dorothea's tenants - wild 28-year-old Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and the suave William (Billy Crudup) - and Jamie's best friend Julie (Elle Fanning). Struggling to raise Jamie on her own, without a father figure in his life, Dorothea enlists the help of Abbie and Julie to share the burden of upbringing by helping Jamie find himself and find his purpose in life. However, in doing so, a journey of love, life and self-discovery occurs for not just Jamie, but everyone.
I loved 20th Century Women. This is one of those rare swirling, magnetic and enamouring pieces of cinema that will just sweep you up and swallow you whole for about 2 hours and leave you feeling so euphoric and charmed, with a smile on your face and perhaps even a tear in your eye. Mike Mills' impressive career only continues with what is easily his finest endeavour yet; 20th Century Women is a work of true beauty and it's just something so genuinely special. For starters, it's masterfully directed; the film has a very steady, rhythmic pacing that is by no means slow but never rushed either and Mills brings the perfect balance of heart, wit and emotion. The costume and set design are flawless too, so superbly creating an authentic, stylish 70's environment and atmosphere and one that's wholly enrapturing and believable; the cinematography is equally as unique and dazzling, with many gorgeous, sweeping shots of California in all of its true beauty - the opening and closing shots, especially, are breathtaking.

20th Century Women is a film that can only work if the characters and the writing are all spot-on; this is a film composed of many dialogue scenes between said characters so it requires us to really invest as an audience. Thankfully, this is one of the most original, finely written screenplays for any film in some time. Mills' - who also wrote as well as directed - writing here is genius and just so compelling; there's such nuance to every sentence and every character on-screen. The dialogue never feels contrived nor does the premise ever got too convoluted for its own good, but rather this film thrives on its authenticity and just how rich and genuine the dialogue and the characters feel. There's a real sense of relatability to these characters, from the reserved Dorothea to the wild, carefree nature of Abbie; the ambiguity of Julie; the straight man in William and the lost Jamie trying to fit in and find himself. It's perhaps why we find ourselves so invested in them; we're angered by their bad decisions, rooting for them to succeed and just won over by their charm. The performances are all stellar across the board too, as expected; everyone from Elle Fanning to Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup and even Lucas Jade Zumann shine; they give such grounded, charismatic performances, relishing in the innocuity of it all. However, it's Annette Bening that steals the show - clearly having the best time ever - giving one of her best performances yet.
Mike Mills has really created something so special with 20th Century Women; this is a truly dazzling, euphoric and original film. The writing is fresh and funny and so rich and laden with such nuance and charm. The word masterpiece is often used rather lightly these days... but this film is genuinely a masterpiece, in every sense of the word - it's a masterful work of art. In a time where this industry is so caught up in big blockbusters and reboots and remakes and sequels, it's films like 20th Century Women that are the saving grace. This is the kind of film that will remind you just why you love movies. It's hilarious. It's emotional. It's beautiful. The characters are so well realised, the premise is so simplistic yet enthralling and the film is just wholly captivating. 20th Century Women is a swirling sensation, that is essential viewing for everyone.

VERDICT:

20th Century Women is one of those rare cinematic gems that will just sweep you up entirely and Mike Mills is that rare artist able to create such a swirling, enamoring work of art.



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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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