8. Black Pond
Directors: Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe
Stars: Chris Langham, Simon Amstell, Amanda Hadingue, Colin Hurley, Will Sharpe, Anna O'Grady, Helen Cripps
With a title like Black Pond, and a story that explores the events that led to British media to dub the Thompson clan the “Family of Killers," you might expect something bloody and grotesque. What you get in first-time feature filmmakers Will Sharpe and Tom Kingsley’s black comedy, which received a nomination for Outstanding Debut at this year's BAFTAs (awards presented by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts), is something far more subtle and rewarding.
The Thompson family is on the verge of collapse, thanks to resentment lingering between mother Sophie (Amanda Hadingue), father Tom (Chris Langham), and their two daughters (Anna O'Grady and Helen Cripps), when an eccentric but genial stranger, Blake (Colin Hurley), wanders into their lives. He is a bit morbid, but he also puts smiles on the faces of Sophie, an unfulfilled poet, and Tom, a businessman who does soul-crushing work so he can enjoy a pool and tennis court for a little while each year.
Then the family's charming, three-legged dog, named “Boy” because he responded when Tom called him that once, mysteriously drowns in front of Blake in what is described as either a fit of hysterical flailing for survival or an ecstatic dance to celebrate departure from a depressing existence. When the daughters and their friend Tim (co-director Will Sharpe, who also co-wrote the story and wrote both the screenplay and the film’s poetry) come home for the beloved pet’s burial, things get even stranger, and eventually the group finds itself burying Blake as well.
Full of wonderfully dry British humor (Tim's sadistic, belittling psychotherapist, played by British comedian Simon Amstell, is particularly hilarious), poignancy found in the mundane, and beautiful surreal visuals that defy the film's £25,000 budget (roughly $40,000), Black Pond is a near-death experience that makes you want to celebrate life and the meaningful moments that sneak up on you.