Actor Ranked: Carey Mulligan

Making her debut role in Joe Wright’s beautiful Pride & Prejudice alongside Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan has led some of the biggest and best films of the past few years. She’s since gone onto to star alongside Michael Fassbender in Shame and Ryan Gosling in Drive, as well as leading the BBC TV drama, Collateral.

Here is my ranking of her performances (not of the films themselves) to date:

1. An Education (2009)

A really brilliant coming-of-age drama with a strong storyline and amazing performances. Mulligan is stunning and superb and completely makes this film work. Peter Sarsgaard gives a surprisingly good and, in places, charming performance, and Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike make a great supporting cast too. The style and soundtrack are also brilliant, as they come together to really bring this film to life. There’s just something about it.

2. Wildlife

Wildlife is a realistic portrayal of divorce and family breakdown and it hits the nail on the head. It may take place in a different era from one that I know, as it is set in the 1960s which is a time before even my parents were born, but it captures the emotions of a mother going through a potential divorce perfectly. If you’ve seen your own parents go through a divorce, then there’s a lot about Carey Mulligan’s Jeanette that you will recognise. She’s broken and desperate, doomed to make a fool of herself in front of her son as she tries to regain a piece of herself to feel something.

What this film also does brilliantly is to show the situation from a child’s point of view. As a son or daughter, it’s difficult to see this happen to your parents. You’ve never known a side to them other than them being your mother and father, and it can be incredibly confusing to think of them having had a life before you. As a mother myself now, I understand this even more, having to lock a side of me away and give up so much to take on this new role of motherhood, putting someone else’s needs constantly before my own. I can only imagine the desperation that would run through my head if my family life was taken away from me.

Wildlife explores this time in both a mother’s and a child of divorce’s life in one of the best ways I have ever seen it done. It didn’t need to make me cry to prove that I had an emotional reaction to it. Instead, it feels much more like a punch in the gut.

3. Drive (2011)

Brutal scenes contrast with some truly passionate ones in Drive, and I think that’s why it has been so successful. As with most films, Driver finds love during his threatening situation. But it’s not a misguided subplot, it’s a love derived from intense emotion which strengthens the film by engaging audiences even more. Unfortunately, this romance doesn’t get very far, but the few scenes of Gosling and Mulligan together give a big impact (especially when Gosling has to smash someone’s skull in straight after their first kiss).

You can read my full review here.

4. Never Let Me Go (2011)

Never Let Me Go is a classically composed British drama with stunning cinematography. Based on one of the most admired novels, I can only compliment its exceptional and unprecedented story and the dazzling acting of new performances from Mulligan and Garfield. It is an eye-pleasing film to watch with a solace soundtrack and is based on a beautiful book, both of which deserve your attention.

You can read my full review here.

5. Inside Llewyn Davis (2014)

A soundtrack can often hold the heart of a film, and that’s how Inside Llewyn Davis lured me in from the second the curtains parted. As we open to an image of Llewyn in a smokey, downbeat bar, finishing his set on stage, your breath is stolen as soon as he opens his mouth. And what a beautiful talent Oscar Isaac has, one that captured my attention immediately from his performance in last year’s 10 Years. With Mark Mumford of Mumford and Sons having given a hand in the songwriting department, as well, these songs were already determined to be topping my iTunes play count before I had even heard them. For me, the soundtrack of Inside Llewyn Davis is musical perfection.

You can read my full review here.

My Rankings Continued:
  • 6. Shame – Despite how disturbing the premise of this film is, Shame is a mesmerising and somewhat captivating drama that deals with its subject matter brilliantly. Whilst it is deeply informed, exploring the dark side of an illness that we don’t often get to see, it is also incredibly raunchy; not all the time, as it does well to show how such an illness can affect those around you, but enough to make you never want to take your eyes off the screen. Some scenes are so definitive that you had to question whether it was only just acting (not that I’m complaining), but again it was dealt with well enough that nothing reached the level of repulsiveness that can often be stretched to by addicts. Because that’s exactly what it is, an addiction; an obsession that needs constant attention, and scenes like that are not often so acceptable in a full-length film. You can read my full review here.
  • 7. The Greatest – This was just my type of film; what a charming look at how the death of a family member can affect those around them. The cast for this is incredible. Carey Mulligan is one of my favourite actresses and it is her fantastic lead that holds this film up. Her chemistry with Aaron Johnson is lovely, despite how little of it we get to see, and the final scene had a real impact on me. These strong performances really do provoke an emotional reaction and it’s therefore very easy to engage with the storyline as the characters are all brought together through their grief and individual sufferings. The Greatest may not be a dramatic masterpiece, but it’s felt me such a warmth that I can’t help but only love it.
  • 8. Far From The Madding Crowd – To be honest I wasn’t a fan of Thomas Hardy’s original novel, but I watched this because I love Carey Mulligan. However, I didn’t enjoy the story nor the romances, when I wanted to be swept away by a classic love story (by the end, at least).
  • 9. Public Enemies – Johnny Depp is great at most things he does, but I especially love it when he leads a biographical crime drama. With a great cast and fantastic style, Public Enemies is a classy crime thriller.
  • 10. The Great Gatsby – The Great Gatsby is a highly stylised film which suits the novel brilliantly. It’s also what gives the film such a fantastic, contemporary twist. The sets and costume designs are beautiful and the whole film has a great feel to it. The one thing I did think was handled badly, however, was the soundtrack. The Great Gatsby novel is all about The Roaring 20’s and the Jazz Age. Whilst the over-stylisation of everything worked well, updating the original film successfully, the use of upbeat, modern music could have worked, but the genre needed to remain jazz-influenced to bring Gatsby’s parties fully to life. You can read my full review here.
  • 11. Suffragette – Whilst I was so intrigued to see a film about this subject and I loved the cast involved, I feel like the film had the wrong focus and that it could have told us a lot more about these suffragettes then it actually did.
  • 12. Pride and Prejudice – This is a stunning film with an excellent cast all around. Matthew Macfadyen is beautiful in the role as Mr Darcy, and Keira Knightley, of course, is in her element with the character of Elizabeth Bennett. The two have a stunning chemistry to watch, highlighting the classic romance that the novel it is based on exudes. You can read my full review here.
  • 13. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – I didn’t care so much for the story about money and corruption, though I’m sure I would if I was watching the original film, but I quite liked the family drama set around this. However, that’s only because of Carey Mulligan’s performance.

Note: I still need to watch Wildlife, Mudbound, Brothers, and When Did You Last See Your Father?


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