Woody Harrelson and Frances McDormand in THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI.

Call Me By Your Name (2017) – This wears its luxury more lightly than Luca Guadagnino’s previous films: the characters’ wealth is expressed in cultivation rather than consumption, their freedom to translate and transcribe music and study old things while their servants, happy peasants, bring them fish still gasping from the river. Guadagnino also, thank goodness, drops the arbitrary deaths, there to raise the stakes, that marred his last two movies: he trusts this love story to hold us, and it does. I was sometimes uneasy about the age difference between Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer): Elio, with his skinny boy’s body, and his reactions – the petulance, the quick tears – that are still those of a child, is at a disadvantage both physically and in experience. Crucially, though, he is not an object but the subject – the film is told almost entirely from Elio’s perspective – and the movie captures the consternation, the insistent physicality of teenage sexuality. Guadagnino, with his gift for surfaces, find the gestures that lodge in the memory, creates a texture – the characters slipping in and out of clothes and water, onto bicycles – that is all body. ***

The Florida Project (2017) – This takes the sharp, specific social observation of Tangerine and inundates it with beauty: shot on 35mm film, environments that might otherwise seem squalid – the purple motel where people live more or less permanently, but without the rights of tenants; the abandoned homes; the outlandish businesses that line the roads – bloom in front of Alexis Zabe’s camera. In this it mirrors the perspective of the movie’s heroine, six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince, extraordinary) and the feral band of kids who range around with her, bumming cash, spitting on cars, testing the patience of the well-meaning motel manager (Willem Dafoe). This is their neighbourhood, and they know it with loving intimacy. Director Sean Baker captures the way kids move, the exaggerated way they swing their elbows or slouch against a wall, testing out their bodies, looking at their friends to gauge the effect of their postures. At the same time (and this is what distinguishes it from Beasts of the Southern Wild, which attempted something similar), it does not use the kids’ resilience to excuse their neglect: the movie is very clear on how adults let children down. ****

Mudbound (2017) – The basic story – the histories of two families occupying the same patch of land, their lives shaped by race, weather and war – is familiar, but the manner in which it’s told is not. From the outset, there is no narrative centre: the perspectives are dispersed among members of both families. At first, a chorus of voiceovers helps orient us, but Dee Rees’ direction is so skilful that even as the voices recede, we retain a sense of both the individual points of view (and their blindspots) and how they fit into a collective. The film is distinguished, too, by its feeling for the physical, and its interest in the details of farm life: Rachel Morrison’s cinematography captures both the hard slog of their routine and the occasional sublimity of the sky above their flat land – a sky that both dwarfs and inspires. This double-edged beauty extends to the human relationships too, finding small moments of grace despite the unthinking entitlement of the whites and the violently curtailed opportunities for the black farmers. ***½

Paddington 2 (2017) – The Paddington films, with their bright colours, their gentleness and their celebration of eccentricity, mount the most delightful argument for Englishness since Wallace and Gromit. (One might object that Englishness does not deserve to be celebrated in quite so uncomplicated a fashion, or that the movies pride themselves on their depiction of London as a melting pot without granting any significant roles to people of colour, but the films mostly banish such cranky thoughts.) Visually they’re splendid, honouring the old-fashioned and the handmade: the gags are elaborate contraptions (my favourite here involves a bucket of soapy water, a pulley, and a flowerpot), and the movies’ elastic sense of reality can dive effortlessly into the pages of a fold-out picture book, or pull out to reveal that a house or prison is an elaborate scale model. It all feels like the work of a keen and gifted hobbyist: director Paul King aims to surprise and delight, and he constantly finds new styles in which to tell his story, new environments to deck with bunting. The sequel is every bit as good as the original, Hugh Grant’s fatuous, scheming actor as satisfying a villain as Nicole Kidman’s chilly scientist. ***½

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) – There are some flaws in Martin McDonagh’s writing: the Abbie Cornish character is not a person but ‘the wife’ (Cornish is miscast; she doesn’t belong in this town); two other young women are too much alike, identical sweet scatterbrains; and McDonagh overdoes the attempt to be even-handed with Woody Harrelson’s sheriff, spending so much time establishing what a nice guy he is that he becomes a sort of angel, dispensing wisdom from the afterlife. But McDonagh’s movie powerfully captures the seductions of anger: Frances McDormand, her hair shorn at the back, ready for action in her overalls and bandanna, strides through the film like the antagonist in a Western. Her willingness to offend and injure makes her powerful. You feel her exhilaration as she violates social compact after social compact – as immune from consequence as the town’s violent cops – and the ease with which those violations escalate, until the whole town is involved in her rage and grief. ***