Almost every film Tom McCarthy has directed is worth seeing, and most of them are worth seeing more than once. Not because they’re thick or layered, but because it’s worth delving into the craft of his writing. His dialogue isn’t particularly spectacular.
He does, however, have an incredible sense of the rhythm and cadence of genuine conversation. His characters always sound real, as if they’re having real conversations; they always have interesting things to say, but their words never draw attention to themselves. Here is a ranking of every Tom McCarthy’s films, from his one misstep to his crowning triumph.
1. The Spotlight Agent (2003)
Cast- Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Tom McCarthy
Because he is a dwarf, Fin McBride, a rail enthusiast, attracts unwanted attention wherever he goes. As a result, he is a solitary and quiet individual who is wary of others. When Fin’s best friend and boss, Henry Styles, dies, Fin travels to an abandoned train depot in Newfoundland, New Jersey, which Henry had bequeathed to him. Fin encounters overly gregarious Joe Oramas, who is temporarily manning his father’s hot dog/coffee truck outside the train depot. Soon-to-be divorced Olivia Harris, who is dealing with some deep-seated mental issues. Joe and Olivia strive to get to know Fin despite his dwarfism, but he would prefer be left alone.
Fin also meets Emily, the town librarian, who is looking for a new friend in a time of need. Cleo, a little girl who is a fellow train enthusiast who initially misidentifies Fin as a youngster. Fin realises that he actually craves meaningful human contact as a result of all of these meetings. However, this understanding may come too late with this new network of pals.
2. Spotlight (2015)
Cast- Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams
The Boston Globe hires Jewish editor Marty Baron in 2001, and he orders the Spotlight team to look into the priest John Geoghan, who is accused of abusing minors, and the lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who claims that Cardinal Law was aware of his priest’s actions. Baron and their leader Ben Bradlee, Jr. fully support Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson, Mike Rezendes, Sacha Pfeiffer, and Matt Carroll in initiating the priest’s investigation, and they contact the initially reluctant Garabedian; the lawyer Eric Macleish, who has defended many victims; the leader of the victims’ rights organisation Phil Saviano; and several victims who agree to meet with them.
3. Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (2020)
Cast- Winslow Fegley, Ophelia Lovibond, Ai-Chan Carrier
Timmy is a pint-sized version of prior McCarthy curmudgeons, an inventive, rude young boy who distrusts authority and fights invading Russians. He’s played by Winslow Fegley, and he acts in a unique, often off-putting way because he’s overwhelmed with emotion and uncertainty and needs to channel it somewhere. Mistakes Were Made is a humorous, quirky, and thought-provoking novel. It doesn’t finish with the standard coming-of-age goodbye to childhood things, which is refreshing. Instead, Timmy is off on another adventure, accompanied by his faithful polar bear.
4. The Visitor (2007)
Cast- Richard Jenkins, Hiam Abbass, Danai Gurira
Widower who is lonely Professor Walter Vale’s life in Connecticut is monotonous. He only teaches one class at the local college and, despite his lack of musical ability, is attempting to learn how to play the piano. Walter has been asked to speak at a New York University conference on global policy and development regarding a paper he co-authored. Tarek Khalil, a Syrian singer, and Zainab, a Senegalese street trader, are living in his New York flat when he arrives. He sympathises with the circumstances of the illegal immigrants and asks them to stay with him. Tarek invites him to his Jules Live Jazz show.
Walter is enthralled by his African drum, which Tarek promises to teach him to play. Tarek is caught and transferred to an illegal immigrant detention centre following an altercation in the metro. When Tarek’s mother Mouna arrives at the residence from Michigan, Walter has recently engaged a lawyer to defend him. He invites her to remain in Tarek’s room, and while attempting to free Tarek, Walter and Mouna become closer, and he discovers reasons to believe life may be thrilling and worthwhile once more.
5. Stillwater (2021)
Cast- Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camille Cottin
Bill Baker, an unemployed oil-rig worker from Stillwater, Oklahoma, is on the verge of losing his job and facing the ghosts of his past. Bill, bereaved and persuaded of his daughter’s innocence, travels to Marseilles, France, to see estranged Allison, who has already served five years of a nine-year jail sentence for the murder of her girlfriend. Baker resolves to take matters into his own hands to exonerate his only child after failing to get Allison’s case re-opened, despite an insurmountable language barrier, cross-cultural disparities, and befuddling legal complexities. Second chances, on the other hand, are few and far between.
6. The Cobbler (2014)
Cast- Adam Sandler, Steve Buscemi, Dustin Hoffman
Max Simkin works in a New York shop that has been in his family for generations, repairing shoes. Max is dissatisfied with his everyday routine when he discovers a mystical relic that allows him to enter the lives of his customers and see the world in a new light. Sometimes the only way to know who you truly are is to walk in someone else’s shoes.
7. Win Win (2011)
Cast- Paul Giamatti, Bobby Cannavale, Alex Shaffer
Disillusioned attorney Mike Flaherty (Giamatti), who also works as a high school wrestling coach, stumbles across a star athlete while trying to sustain his family through some shady business dealings. Just when it appears that he would receive a double payment, the boy’s mother arrives, fresh from rehab and broke, threatening to derail everything.