2017 was a brilliant year for women directors. Notable films included Julia Ducournau’s French-language shocker Raw, which found a place on many ‘Best of 2017’ lists; and, of course, Wonder Woman from the American director behind Charlize Theron vehicle Monster, Patty Jenkins. These are just two of the standouts from plenty of others we could mention. As 2018 gets into gear, here are nine women directors we’re expecting big things from this year.
1. Ava DuVernay — ‘A Wrinkle In Time’
With A Wrinkle in Time, the big-budget Disney adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 science fantasy novel, celebrated Selma director Ava DuVernay makes the leap to big studio fare. Not only is it brilliant to see a voice that doesn’t belong to a white male helming this kind of picture, but it’s also exciting to see a woman of colour bringing life to a screenplay penned by a woman – Jennifer Lee – adapting a book written by another female of the species. We can’t wait to see what DuVernay does with the source material, not least because the cast includes Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
A Wrinkle in Time hits screens in the US on March 9 and the UK on March 23.
2. Lynne Ramsey — ‘You Were Never Really Here’
The Scottish director behind 2011’s troubling We Need To Talk About Kevin picks up the tools of her trade once again for another literary adaptation – this time of the Jonathan Ames story You Were Never Really Here.
Ramsey’s vision is as haunting as her previous work, calling to mind the seminal Taxi Driver and its antihero Travis Bickle. Joaquin Phoenix plays Joe, a damaged man-for-hire who is recruited to rescue the teenage Nina, played by young talent Ekaterina Samsonov, from a sex-trafficking ring.
You Were Never Really Here hits screens in the UK on March 9 and the US on April 6.
3. Haifaa Al-Mansour — ‘Mary Shelley’
Haifaa Al-Mansour first came to prominence with her 2012 release Wadjda, which she wrote and directed. The story centred around a Saudi girl intent on buying herself a bicycle and signing up to her school’s Koran recitation competition as a way of securing the cash she needs.
Al-Mansour is Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker, so of course this pioneering director makes the list with Mary Shelley. A biopic, the film explores the celebrated author’s affair with poet Percy Shelley and its impact on her famous novel Frankenstein.
The film stars Elle Fanning, Maisie Williams and Douglas Booth as well as The Diary of a Teenage Girl’s Bel Powley and X-Men: Apocalypse’s Ben Hardy.
Mary Shelley hits UK screens on July 6. A US release is yet to be announced.
4. Jennifer Kent — ‘The Nightingale’
If you saw innovative Australian horror The Babadook, you’ll know what a promising talent director Jennifer Kent is. Set in early 19th century Tasmania, The Nightingale follows a young female convict seeking revenge for the murder of her family and stars Game of Thrones actress Aisling Franciosi alongside British hot property Sam Claflin.
It’s a drama rather than a horror this time, but we’re willing to bet there’s more to The Nightingale than meets the eye.
The Nightingale hits US screens on August 10. A UK release has not yet been announced.
5. Jennifer Yuh Nelson — ‘The Darkest Minds’
Yuh Nelson’s background in animation led to her directing Kung Fu Pandas 2 and 3. The Darkest Minds is the director’s first live-action feature, and it’s based on the Alexandra Bracken-penned Young Adult novel of the same name. A teenage girl goes on the run from the government when she survives a disease that wipes out 98 per cent of American children. She and the other survivors develop superpowers that see them rounded up and incarcerated in internment camps.
The Darkest Minds features Amandla Stenberg, Mandy Moore and Game of Thrones and Star Wars star Gwendoline Christie. The film hits screens on September 14.
6. Marielle Heller — ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is Marielle Heller’s follow up to The Diary of a Teenage Girl. And it couldn’t be more different – on paper at least. Heller tackles the true story of celebrity biographer Lee Israel, whose work falls out of favour because of changing tastes. So she “turns her art form to deception”, according to the official synopsis. Like The Diary of a Teenage Girl, the film is based on written source material – in this case, it’s the memoirs of Lee Israel.
The screenplay is co-written by Nicole Holofcener and the film stars Melissa McCarthy in a role that looks set to showcase another side of the funnywoman.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? hits US screens on October 19. A UK release has yet to be announced.
7. Josie Rourke — ‘Mary, Queen of Scots’
British theatre director Josie Rourke brings together Golden Globe nominees Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie in historical drama Mary, Queen of Scots. It charts the titular Scottish queen’s attempt to overthrow her cousin, Elizabeth I, which landed her in prison before she was ordered executed.
Rourke’s illustrious career has seen her preside over stage productions including Coriolanus starring Tom Hiddleston and Les Liaisons Dangereuses featuring Dominic West and Janet McTeer. Both of which were broadcast live in cinemas. She also brought a version of Much Ado About Nothing starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate to the screen.
Suffice to say, there’s much excitement surrounding Mary, Queen of Scots – not least because of those striking pictures of Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I.
Mary, Queen of Scots hits US screens on November 2. A UK release has yet to be announced.
8. Hélène Cattet — ‘Let the Corpses Tan’
Cattet is married to Bruno Forzani, who is also her collaborator. To date, they’ve made two feature films paying homage to 1970s Italian horror – Amer and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears. But this year sees the release of their third feature. This time, they turn their attentions to meticulously recreating elements of European crime thrillers from the same era, while also drawing from spaghetti westerns.
Let The Corpses Tan is the intriguing title, translated from the French title of the Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jean-Pierre Bastid novel Laissez Bronzer les Cadavres! from which it takes its inspiration. The plot concerns a heist orchestrated by a woman, Luce, and a crime boss called Rhino. In true film noir fashion, the plot gets complicated as double and triple-crossings come into play.
The talented duo take delight in reveling in the hallmarks of the genre and era they’re playing with, and Let the Corpses Tan is free and easy with its references. Expect crudely presented flashbacks, spraying bullets, dizzying facial close-ups and gratuitous nudity. Oh, and let’s not forget its retro soundtrack which includes classic Ennio Morricone sounds.
Let the Corpses Tan screened at film festivals in the US and UK in 2017 but will get a wider release in 2018.