Onward and upwards, we continue with the ten best films of 2018. So far there have been five terrific films spotlighted; Paul Dano’s Wildlife, Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year, Colin Burstead, Felix van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy, Matthew Holness’ Possum and Timo Tjahjanto’s violent martial-arts epic, The Night Comes for Us. However, beating them all to the number five spot is Boots Riley’s science-fiction satire Sorry To Bother You.
Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out, Short Term 12) stars as Cassius “Cash” Green, a young man living out of his uncle’s garage with his artistic activist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson). They both reside in an alternate reality of modern-day Oakland, evidently a place expensive to survive in any version of reality. Struggling to financially fend for himself, he takes a job at a soulless telemarketing firm. While there, Riley decides to have him literally drop into the homes of those he is required to telephone, humorously highlighting the invasive nature of the job. After having slim luck with potential customers, fellow co-worker Langston (Danny Glover) urges him to use his “white voice” to aid in sales, arguing that this voice is the key to success. It’s not how they sound, Langston argues, but how they think and want to sound. Heeding the advice, Cassius begins his ascent to the status of “power-caller” aside the firm’s elite, but simultaneously triggers his moral descent.
This is an astonishing directorial feature-debut, and it’s clear that these ideas and creative glimmers have been building up for a lifetime. There is such a social awareness here, and Riley has the artistic chops to utilise the medium to explore this wealth of bizarre and metaphorical concepts. The film has been compared to the work of Spike Lee, Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman, and while these comparisons and cited influences are there, this is the work of an emerging filmmaker in possession of his own unique voice. It’s a film which demands to be discussed, and its lifespan extends far beyond the realm of the cinema. Every year there is an independent film which breaks into the mainstream and demands analysis: Sorry To Bother You is this year’s example.
Riley wishes to prompt moral discussion, and have us all question the justifications for the characters’ actions. Stanfield provides the narrative a terrific protagonist, as we can relate to him even at his lowest. The film works well as a commentary on race, greed, corruption, social mobility and temptation, and Cassius provides such an authentic vessel from which we can explore these amplified themes. It is excessive, bizarre, surreal, and often nightmarish, but behind all of the film’s extremities is a truth – a resemblance to issues in our own society.
Sorry To Bother You is thematically broad, and there really is so much here to analyse and dissect. Yet, against all odds it remains wildly entertaining throughout, never feeling like a lecture. Riley wants us to come to our own conclusions, while making his own; as the narrative suggests, this is a film which encourages and platforms the importance of independent thought. This is without a doubt one of the best films of the year, and deserves widespread consideration.