From Barbie to Cat Person: The Most Anticipated Films of 2023

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Pearl, 2023
Pearl, 2023(Film still)

From Greta Gerwig’s Barbie to an adaption of Kristen Roupenian’s viral short story Cat Person, here are some of the most exciting film releases of the upcoming year

Pearl (Ti West, 17 March 2023)

The prequel to West’s X (2022) this violent horror, set on a 1918 Texas homestead, shows how a young, unstable would-be chorus girl, Pearl (Mia Goth) escapes the isolation and toil of hopeless humdrum. With references to iconic Hollywood films, including The Wizard of Oz, Pearl’s brutality is made all the more discordant thanks to the film’s immense beauty. The action is set between the remote farm – which Pearl sees as a prison – and the local movie theatre, complete with a projectionist she has a crush on – which symbolises a glittering future full of promise. Pearl is rich with disturbing imagery: rotting pig flesh, ravenous alligators, and countless abuses of power.

Enys Men (Mark Jenkin, 13 January 2023)

Unsettling horror on a bleakly beautiful, deserted island off the coast Cornwall (Enys Men is Cornish for ‘stone island’) – this is the story of a solitary woman (Mary Woodvine) whose daily surveillance of an unusual flower begins to blur the lines between reality and dark fantasy. This is one of those films which is long on imagery and short on dialogue – the sound of one woman alone in nature is so heightened it’s almost abrasive. Fractured memories and hallucinations all add texture to what is an eerie, uncanny film.

Tár (Todd Field, 13 January 2023)

This creepy, suspenseful examination of exploitation and power abuse sees Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár – an orchestral conductor with a shady past. Audiences bear witness to the complete downfall of a supremely talented – with the ego and entitlement to match – monster. But they also must question how much of what they are seeing is real and how much is in Tár’s head? There are shadows and silhouettes and spectres – figments or supernatural fact? There’s horror in among the realism and the contemporary social commentary, which at its heart aims to unpick the difference between cancel culture and just desserts.

Cat Person (Susanna Fogel, 22 January 2023)

In 2017, The New Yorker published a short story by (then) little-known writer Kristen Roupenian. Cat Person went viral – largely because it so perfectly pinpointed a certain strain of male entitlement. It is no surprise that it has been adapted for the screen as a psychological thriller in which Emilia Jones plays Margot – a student who meets an older man, Robert (Nicholas Braun, Aka Greg in Succession) in the movie theatre where she works part time. They bond over both being cat owners. After sleeping together – at his place, where she sees no sign of a cat – Margot becomes wary.  Even if you know the ending, it’s still sickening in the way that any revelation of true colours tends to be.

The Whale (Darren Aronofsky, 3 February 2023)

There has been plenty of controversy around The Whale, mainly relating to the fat suit Brendan Fraser wears to play Charlie, a 600lb English teacher struggling with obesity and isolation. And it’s easy to see why some critics have dismissed the movie as just a vehicle for the sick fascination certain viewers will undoubtedly have with this ill-fated man. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is significant – giving the film its title and providing symbolism and parallels to Charlie’s life and plight. The Whale does make for uncomfortable viewing: the entire film is set in Charlie’s dingy apartment – a small, gloomy space that his body fills like a too-big bear stuffed into a doll’s house. It feels too close, too much and too sad, but there are some truly beautiful performances and so to dismiss it as nothing more than a shock value story is simplistic.

Women Talking (Sarah Polley, 10 February 2023)

Based on Miriam Toews’ novel of the same name, this drama is inspired by real-life event in the ultraconservative Manitoba Colony – a Mennonite community in Bolivia – and boasts an impressive cast that includes Rooney Mara, Claire Foy and Ben Whishaw. The story centres on the women of the colony’s realisation that they have, over years and years, been repeatedly drugged and raped by a group of men who live alongside them. The women have been made to believe that their experience of the attacks were just figments of their ‘hysterical’ female imagination – or some kind of demonic plague. Haunting, harrowing and hard to believe that all of this actually happened.

Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan, 21 July 2023)

Starring Cillian Murphy as the eponymous lead, Nolan’s debut biopic about the physicist who created the atomic bomb is set to be one of the weightiest films of the year. Oppenheimer was part of the Manhattan Project which, between 1942 and 1946, developed the world’s first nuclear weapons – those which razed both Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the ground, killing some 100,000 people. With Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr and Florence Pugh joining Murphy, it’s easy to see why there is so much hype around this release.

Barbie (Greta Gerwig, 21 July 2023)

What does Barbie – the last word in unrealistic beauty standards and the definition of an antifeminist toy – offer a 2022 audience? With Greta Gerwig at the helm, preconceptions are sort of void and no one seems to know quite what to expect, despite there being an extraordinary amount of hype around seeing Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) brought to life. What we do know is that it’s heavily stylised. Think pink and full-flavour cheesiness: sticky orange tans, rippling muscles and huge mouths overpopulated by rows of icy teeth, Barbie is as lurid and camp as anyone’s wildest nostalgia dreams could serve up. But its merit is more than skin deep. “It’s not what you think it is, unless it is,” is what Gosling said of Barbie, which only adds to the intrigue.

Dune: Part Two (Denis Villeneuve, 3 November 2023)

The sequel to Dune – based on Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi novel of the same name – is even more highly anticipated than the first instalment. Starring Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya and Florence Pugh, the film promises to be the dramatic climax of the Dune story. It picks up the plot from the cliffhanger of the previous film, when Paul Atreides (Chalamet) has joined the Fremen to avenge the destruction of his family. If this doesn’t make any sense to you, it might be best to watch Dune first, which will undoubtedly whet your appetite for this.

Bottoms (Emma Seligman, release date TBC)

Two unpopular queer high school girls start a fight club, the sole purpose of which is to enable them to hook up with cheerleaders before graduation. It’s a witty premise that has plenty of comic potential, especially when you consider that writer-director Emma Seligman also wrote the critically acclaimed Shiva Baby. With a cast including Ayo Edebiri and Kaia Gerber, we’re thinking this is American Pie for a Gen Z audience, with plenty of nods to Euphoria.