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The 30 Best Film Performances of 2017
The 30 Best Film Performances of 2017

Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The divisive craziness of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri thrives on characters who serve the tempo of any given moment rather than of a grand structure. The miracle of Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell’s performances, then, is that their work isn’t only coherent but consistently heartbreaking. McDormand tempers her vengeful mother with a lucid steadiness that transcends the narrative’s lurid hugger-mugger, while Rockwell goes in the other direction, riffing wildly and viscerally on the cruelty and self-pity of a madman who randomly assigns himself a purpose. Bowen

The 30 Best Film Performances of 2017

Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle, A Quiet Passion

It’s natural to think of Jennifer Ehle’s Vinnie Dickinson as a necessary audience surrogate: the responsible, beloved sibling whose nearly boundless sympathy for her sister, Emily (Cynthia Nixon), helps the audience to accept the poet’s bracing social mores and deep self-loathing. The thrill of Terence Davies’s A Quiet Passion, though, lies in how the sisters seem constantly to be pushing one another to be smarter, sharper, and more forthright. Few biopics have ever been so devoted to the life of the mind, and few actors convey the mind at work with as much gravity and mischief as Ehle and Nixon. Gray

The 30 Best Film Performances of 2017

Josh O’Connor, God’s Own Country

Josh O’Connor’s performance in God’s Own Country stands in great contrast to Timothée Chalamet’s in Call Me by Your Name, as O’Connor’s Johnny has trained his face and body to inhibit any and all expression of feelings, let alone queerness. Here lies O’Connor’s virtuosity: his capacity for conveying repression and lack, despair and its disavowal, the ebullience of love and the rigidity of belonging, at the same time in a perennial state of hetero-masculine exhaustion. O’Connor embodies the British everyman whose survival relies on alcohol-induced suppression of everything that could come out of the human body for fear that such thing would denounce the fact that we actually have one. Whereas desire is the very home of Chalamet’s Elio, giving into desire seems to be the most agonizing, and exceptional, of heroic acts for O’Connor’s Johnny. Semerene

The 30 Best Film Performances of 2017

Robert Pattinson and Benny Safdie, Good Time

As Good Time’s bank-robbing brothers on the lam, Robert Pattinson and Benny Safdie forge an affecting and commanding musicality that’s true to sibling relationships. Pattinson has a light, comically desperate intensity that’s reminiscent of Vincent Gallo, while Safdie embraces slower rhythms, playing a mentally limited man with a sense of majesty and respect that’s unusual in American cinema. The actors understand brotherhood as a series of negotiations between self and family, which are often tempered with love as well as chaos. Bowen

The 30 Best Film Performances of 2017

Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, BPM (Beats Per Minute)

Writer-director Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute) finds in Nahuel Pérez Biscayart a face and voice to communicate the by turns ecstatic and wrenching role of being an activist for ACT UP Paris during the early 1990s. As Sean Dalmazo, Biscayart conveys the passion necessary when seeking justice in the face of oppression. Though AIDS gradually depletes Sean’s livelihood, Biscayart’s performance helps the film to retain an unwavering and finally mournful certainty that to be alive means to fight for body, community, and sex. Dillard

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