Meet our favourite female characters of the year
We pick the most impressive and intriguing girls on screen
Imperator Furiosa, Mad Max: Fury Road
This dystopian action film, a continuation of George Miller’s revenge-driven ‘80s sci-fi series, might be the most feminist film of the year. Despite the title, its true protagonist is Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a lieutenant who rescues the five brides of the Citadel’s insane leader, and escapes with them. Max comes along for the ride (and it’s some ride) and helps Furiosa, but this shaved-head, bionic-arm wielding heroine is the leader of the operation. She doesn’t fear pain or death and is single-minded in her mission. She might sound more machine than woman, but when you discover that her childhood home – a maternal community – has been destroyed, you see her anguish. We can’t wait to see what she does in the planned next edition – Mad Max: Furiosa.
Devi and Shaalu, Masaan
Neeraj Ghaywan’s sensitive Masaan is more honest about the lives of contemporary Indian women than most other recent films. It’s unfortunate that depicting a good-hearted female character that desires and enjoys sex – Devi – is a radical act in 2015. Masaan doesn’t pull punches about the sort of things that can happen to a woman who dares to be progressive, but Devi remains strong, and pursues her independence and happiness, despite cruel challenges. Shaalu, too, is forthright about the man she’s interested in – no timid flirting here – and when he tells her he’s a scheduled caste member, she says she’ll marry him even if her parents disapprove. More of this, less of whatever was happening in Katti Batti, please.
The year’s most unexpected buddy comedy saw Deepika Padukone and Amitabh Bachchan team up as a dad and daughter who spend most of their time shit-talking each other and, well, talking about shit. Piku (Deepika Padukone) checks all the modern girl boxes, though she does spend much of her time caring for a man – her father – whose problematic bowel movements guide the film’s narrative. Their relationship is actually codependent, at least emotionally, but Piku doesn’t mind that – she doesn’t feel a pressing need to find a serious romantic partner (although Irrfan Khan is hanging around in case she changes her mind).
Valentine, Clouds of Sils Maria
As women, we’re expected to retain our youth for as long as we can. At the same time, the tastes, interests, and behavior of young women aren’t exactly privileged in contemporary culture. In this meta-fiction, Valentine (Kristen Stewart) is the young assistant to a celebrated older actress, Maria (Juliette Binoche). Maria belittles Valentine’s defense of girl-friendly pop culture (yes – like Twilight) and of a young, brash actress, but Valentine recognizes Maria’s criticisms as a product of her insecurities. Valentine proves that a young woman can be cool and measured, but she’s sharp, too, standing fiercely by her opinions. She doesn’t back down from conflict, but she’s also mastered that undervalued millennial skill: knowing when to ghost on a bad situation.