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The Top Films You Need to See in February 2020

the best movies to see February 2020

Spending the month hibernating and need something worthwhile to do to pass the time until spring? Grab some popcorn and make time to watch some of the top new film releases this month! Our resident cineaste and film expert Abbie Martin Greenbaum has curated a list of the top new indie movies you (and we) need to see in February 2020, many of which have strong women in leading roles. Here’s what to watch in February 2020.

this february, lots of films about strong women

With the Oscars and Sundance behind us, and SXSW not yet here, February can seem like a cinematic wasteland. We have to wait another couple of months until the summer’s long-awaited blockbusters begin to surface. And even longer until the 2020 round of festivals really begins. 

But never fear, dear reader, there are still plenty of great pictures to see this month. And lots of them have strong female leads and messages about female empowerment.

The top movies to see in February 2020: Lakeith Stanfield and Issa Rae in The Photograph. Courtesy Photo.

Like the freewheeling Harley Quinn spectacle Birds of Prey. And The Photograph, a hot romance starring Lakeith Stanfield and Issa Rae, perfect for Valentine’s Day weekend and its aftermath. Also being released this month? The much-discussed Sonic the Hedgehog, and the hilarious-looking new adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma.

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Want more ideas about what to watch this February? We highly recommend these five films, all of which are about women fighting to prevail against circumstances outside of their control.

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What to Watch This February 2020

1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Directed by: Céline Sciamma. Written by: Céline Sciamma. Starring: Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenele.

Sciamma’s romantic masterpiece was technically released last year, with some calling it the best movie of 2019. Now it has returned to theaters. Give yourself the gift of seeing this gorgeous film about the short-lived, electric love affair between Marianne and Héloïse, a young painter and the obstinate woman she is hired to paint.

what to watch

The top indie movies to see in February 2020: Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Courtesy Photo.

The film crackles with the joy of an unexpected snow day. The two girls end up alone on an island for a short while, with only Héloïse’s young maid Sophie to keep them company. Every scene feels like a lovely little female miracle, both because almost no men ever appear on screen, and also because of the tender way the film equates what it is to see someone fully with what it is to fall in love.

This film could even make the cynics among us forgive the author of Romeo and Juliet for asking us to believe the extremely rapid manner in which its protagonists fall for one another. After watching this movie, it feels possible that no love story has ever been as easy to believe as the one between Marianne and Héloïse.

2. Beanpole

Directed by: Kantemir Balagov. Written by: Kantemir Balagov. Starring: Viktoria Miroshnichenko and Vasilisa Perelygina.

In some ways, Beanpole is the perfect counterpart to Portrait of a Lady on Fire. It, too, features a love between two women who may or may not end up together. But where Portrait of a Lady on Fire is gentle and majestic, Beanpole is dark and often cruel. Set in Leningrad, in the brutal aftermath of World War II, friends Iya and Masha are reunited when Masha returns from the front lines of battle to collect her child from Iya’s care.

best new movies february

The top indie movies to see in February 2020: Beanpole. Courtesy Photo.

Indeed, the ability to have and to raise children – especially as birth connects to a woman’s autonomy – becomes the major push and pull of the story. And central to the relationship between these two very complicated women.

The movie confidently plunges into moral quandaries outside of most films’ imaginations, creating a landscape of grief and consequence that will have you constantly questioning your allegiances to the characters on screen.

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3. Weathering With You

Directed by: Makoto Shinkai. Written by: Makoto Shinkai. Starring: Kotaro Daigo and Nana Mori.

Shinkai’s Your Name was called one of the best films of the last decade. And so it is no surprise that Weathering With You, a supernatural story about two teens in Tokyo, is a brilliant successor.

There is an infectious giddiness to this film, inspired by the flavor it shares with your favorite children’s books. Its three adolescent protagonists are all pointedly operating outside of adult supervision, acting in opposition to the authority figures who would try to stop them. This, coupled with the movie’s sincere ask that you take its premise – a girl who can control the weather – at face value, will transport you to a viewing mode where you are more able to suspend your disbelief, and are ultimately more fulfilled.

best new movies about strong females february 2020

The top indie movies to see in February 2020: Weathering With You. Courtesy Photo.

But what really sets the film apart is the way it traverses beyond this earnest place, sinking into a set of choices that are much darker and more nuanced than you would expect from a children’s adventure story. The way the movie chooses to sweetly and uniquely grapple with the question of an ecologically altered planet feels like a gift for the present moment. And though hopefully none of us ever have to literally decide between the person we love and a habitable earth, the choice as it’s presented here is worth your consideration.

4. Jezebel

Directed by: Numa Perrier. Written by: Numa Perrier. Starring: Tiffany Tenille and Numa Perrier.

Jezebel, based on director Numa Perrier’s own work as a camgirl, was first released at SXSW to rave reviews. It was then picked up by Array Now. And though it had only a brief theatrical run, the film went up on Netflix late last month. Shot in ten days, the film is remarkable in what it accomplishes with a small cast and only a few sets. In the wake of her mother’s death, Tiffany follows her sister’s lead into sex work in order to be able to support herself.

what to watch with strong female movies 2020

What to watch this February 2020: Jezebel. Courtesy Photo.

This is a coming-of-age story that never feels melodramatic, even as it delves into the many obstacles that Tiffany faces. She faces her sister’s boyfriend’s aggression toward her, racism and sexism at work, and the constant betrayals of the women she works alongside. The film allows Tiffany to seem simultaneously eager and naïve, sparkling with charisma, and also like someone who has experienced so much sadness at a young age.  It’s clear that she has not yet even begun to process all of it by the film’s conclusion.

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5. The Assistant

Directed by: Kitty Green. Written by: Kitty Green. Starring: Julia Garner and Matthew Macfadyen. 

This quietly vicious film seems at first like nothing more than a day in the life of a film executive’s assistant. The dialogue is sparse, reserved mostly for when Jane books hotel rooms and orders car services over the phone. She even speaks to her boss’s increasingly incensed wife. But then the film steps into a story about sexual misconduct (and if you’ve seen the trailer, ignore it, this isn’t a thriller), and it becomes something else.

strong female movies 2020

What to watch this February 2020: The Assistant. Courtesy Photo.

More than anything, this movie plays like a sorely-needed echo.  It is a validation of how hard it can be to be kind and female in a world that is corporate and male. It shows how doing the right thing can sometimes feel just about impossible. Deliberate and understated, it acutely summarizes so much of what has been buzzing around everyone’s heads over the last few years. Seeing it all laid out on the table here, and executed so precisely, feels like an exhale we have all been waiting for.

the best new movies in February 2020

Those are our thoughts on what to watch this February. What’s at the top of your list?

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Abbie Martin Greenbaum grew up in New York City and currently lives in Brooklyn, where she drinks a lot of coffee and matches roommates together for a living. At Oberlin College, she studied English and Cinema, which are still two of her favorite things, along with dessert and musical theater. She believes in magic.


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