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The 10 Best Child Performances Of 2013

Features
by The Playlist Staff
December 16, 2013 2:48 PM
19 Comments
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Elyes Aguis - “The Past”

7. Elyes Aguis - “The Past”
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi sure loves his familial discord and heartbreak. In “A Separation,” he depicted an estranged couple on their way to a divorce. And in “The Past,” he weaves a complex narrative four years into a separation that’s belatedly about to conclude in a finalized divorce. Caught at the center of it all is, well, everyone, but perhaps especially, Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), the Iranian ex-husband who has agreed to come back to France to grant his wife a divorce. He arrives into the tumult of a new and tenuous family—his ex wife Marie (Bérénice Bejo) and her new lover Samir (Tahar Rahim)—but of course, the children too are caught in the crosshairs. With two kids from a previous marriage, Marie's about to move on to her third husband, which further wounds her teenage daughter Lucie (an excellent Pauline Burlet). But perhaps most uncertain and therefore discontented and tantrum-prone is Samir’s 7 year old son Fouad. Played by Elyes Aguis, Fouad has seen his share of confusion and suffering at far too young an age. His mother’s in a coma due to a suicide attempt and he’s recently upended his life by moving in with Marie and her children. When Ahmad arrives and tensions arise between the adult trio, it reaches a kind of tipping point for the boy and his bewildered confusion. At one point, he tries to escape his own father in the subway much to his father’s outraged disbelief. Scolded, little Fouad is a ball of resentment he doesn’t even even quite fully comprehend what's going on: he's all tears and little fists of anger. Aguis’ performance doesn’t ask for sympathy, it just is the authentic face of the wounded and contains all the elements of teenage angst in the making.

Annika Wedderkopp - “The Hunt”

6. Annika Wedderkopp - “The Hunt”
If there’s a single villain in this complex, modern witch hunt drama from Thomas Vinterberg, fingers could point toward Annika Wedderkopp’s Klara. The young girl in “The Hunt” has a crush on her teacher Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), who with absolute correctness, gently turns her away when her declaration of affection veers toward inappropriate. As an act of revenge, she then accuses him of revealing himself to her. The community responds, ignoring Lucas’s denials and taking Klara’s word, with Lucas then becoming the victim of harassment and violence. What she does is reprehensible (and Klara is only slightly vindicated when she admits the truth), but the character isn’t damned due to both her innocence about the consequences and Wedderkopp’s realistic, heartbreaking performance. In the early, lighter scenes, she has wonderful chemistry with Mikkelsen, where her admiration is clear. Later in “The Hunt,” when she makes her accusation, it’s gasp-inducing, not only because of the lie she tells but because of how well Klara does it (communicated by Wedderkopp perfectly). The subject matter here is incredibly mature, and we can’t imagine grappling with even shades of that at such a young age. This is Wedderkopp’s only screen credit, and we’re curious what she’d do in the future with material that’s less disturbing.


Like Father, Like Son

5. Keita Ninomiya - “Like Father, Like Son”
“When I choose child actors, I chose them for their personalities. And then I work with their own vocabulary, so I'm not imposing text or dialogue on them, I'm just receiving. I'm catching their dialogue and putting it in my film,” Kore-eda Hirokazu recently told us in Marrakech about his technique when working with kids. And he certainly got a personality in the young Keita Ninomiya who plays the six year-old at the center of “Like Father, Like Son.” The tender drama centers on Keita (so named in the film too), whose parents find out he’s actually not their child, and that their baby was accidentally switched at birth. And while the movie mostly investigates what the parent/child relationship really means, and if it can be tied by bonds other than blood, Keita is given a particularly difficult challenge for a young kid, in only his second film. Not only does he have to react to his own, already stern father, who begins to pull away as he questions his feelings for a child who is now a stranger in his house, Keita also has to navigate his life with his “real” family whom he begins to spend time with. And while all due credit is certainly deserved for Kore-eda in evoking some very naturalistic performances from all the kids in the film, none of it works unless the actors are able to get to the wavelength required for what are more than a few emotionally complex scenes. And Ninomiya does, beautifully conveying the innocence of a son who loves with the kind of unquestioning openness his own father seems to be unable to achieve. The pull of the heart strings this film accomplishes succeeds because of Nimomiya’s unaffected work, which is all the more impressive given the nuanced terrain he has to navigate.

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19 Comments

  • wynton | January 2, 2014 1:24 PMReply

    no hush puppy from beasts of the southern wilds!!!!!

  • Pedro | January 5, 2014 4:53 PM

    "Beasts of the Southern Wild" came out in 2012.

  • Alex | January 1, 2014 2:36 AMReply

    I'm really glad you included Annika Wedderkopp from The Hunt on here, but based off your analysis of her character, I wonder if you watched the same movie I did. It's pretty clear she never intended to accuse Lucas of exposing himself to her. Her words are misinterpreted by the teacher and she is later pressured by the adults to say that it happened. The scene where she is interviewed by the nursery personnel is so badly mishandled that I can't understand at all how the author found Klara's actions to be "reprehensible." It is the mob mentality of the adults that is the real problem. Klara only ever seems to be confused and regretful of what happened; it's far too easy and downright inaccurate to put any blame on her.

  • Naked | December 28, 2013 2:14 PMReply

    I know it was very little seen, but Daniel Patrick Carbone's "Hide Your Smiling Faces" which played at Tribeca was stunning and the two leads and anchors of the film, Nathan Varnson and Ryan Jones, were incredible and so unbelievably natural and I think they captured that transient boyhood that you described in "Kings of Summer" and "Mud" better than any film this year.

  • alex | December 27, 2013 2:32 PMReply

    i thought Ron Burgandys son in anchorman 2 was really funny

  • David | December 22, 2013 9:56 PMReply

    Both roles from "The Book Thief" were also very good.

  • prudhvi raj | December 18, 2013 1:21 PMReply

    The kids from The Rocket and BadHair. How can you miss them ?

  • Q_Q | December 17, 2013 9:39 PMReply

    The kid from Bad Grandpa was very good.

  • oogle monster | December 16, 2013 7:58 PMReply

    Mud is so widely underrated this awards season. Screw Saving Mr Banks and the rest of the garbage that is being nominated (cough Judi Dench cough). Amy Adam and Mud should be nominated!!

  • HONEST MAN | December 16, 2013 10:28 PM

    losing weight and learning to respect gays (dallas buyers club) is more oscar friendly than MUD

  • Benjamin | December 16, 2013 5:18 PMReply

    Great list, thanks for reminding us of some of the best performances of the year.

    I guess the trio of girls (Tracey Fairaway, Tavi Gevinson and Eve Hawson) in Enough Said are way too old, as teenagers transitioning into adulthood, to rank as honorable mentions, huh?

  • Kristian Lin | December 16, 2013 3:31 PMReply

    Are we counting "Ginger and Rosa" as a 2012 film? Because that's the only excuse I see for leaving off Elle Fanning.

  • RP | December 16, 2013 10:52 PM

    That is true too. We reported on that qualifying run.

  • Jeff | December 16, 2013 9:45 PM

    Actually, Ginger and Rosa technically IS a 2012 film. It appeared on the Academy's list of eligible films last year, not this year. It got a stealthy qualifying run late last year.

  • Rodrigo | December 16, 2013 4:11 PM

    Yeah, that's a good point. We kinda do consider it last year even though technically it isn't. But you bring up a salient point and I added an addendum, so thanks for pointing it out KL.

  • NewYorker | December 16, 2013 3:16 PMReply

    my 10 favorite younger actors in a movie in 2013 are defently
    1-Liam James-The Way, Way Back
    2-Moises Arias-The Kings Of Summer, Despicable Me 2 & Ender's Game
    3-Ty Simpkins-Iron Man 3
    4-Michael Rainey Jr-Luv & The Butler
    5-Skylan Brooks-The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister and Pete
    6-Cameron Boyce, China Anne McClain and the other kids in Grown Ups 2
    7-Nolan Gould-The To Do List
    8-Asa Butterfield-Ender's Game
    9-Sophie Nelisse-The Book Thief
    10-Ariana Neal-Fruitvale Station

  • NewYorker | January 3, 2014 11:07 PM

    yeap, i loved grown ups 2, even movie 43, if u got a problem with that, then don't reply

  • JM | December 20, 2013 7:37 PM

    Jesus Christ, dude. Grown Ups 2????

  • James | December 16, 2013 3:11 PMReply

    Tye Sheridan. Remember the name.

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