Girl Talk’s 2021 Favourites

By Eleanor Antoniou, Lexi Covalsen, Caitlin Judd & Audrey Lim 

Here at Girl Talk we’ve been reflecting back on the cultural highlights that got us through 2021, including art, literature, film and more.  Keep reading for a list of our committee favourites and hopefully find some recommendations for 2022! 

Lexi, Managing Director

BOOK: Rough House: A Memoir, Tina Ontiveros 

The most life-changing book I read in 2021 was Rough House by Tina Ontiveros.  Born into a family of loggers, Ontiveros chronicles her childhood growing up in the forests of the Pacific Northwest with her abusive father. Despite the heavy subject matter, I would struggle to find a book brimming with as much love and respect for life as Rough House.  Everyone should read this. 

FILM: Louise 

My favourite film of 2021 was Louise, a short film produced by a group of Gobelins graduates: Constance Bertoux, Camille Bozec, Pauline Guitton, Pauline Mauviere, and Mila Monaghan. Set at the Garnier Opera in 1895, Louise explores survival prostitution in the ballet world. The animation style is like a Jean-Louis Forain painting come to life: haunting and imbued with a fairy-tale-like darkness. 

ART: Danielle Mckinney

Discovering the artist Danielle Mckinney was a highlight of my 2021. Her narrative paintings focus on Black female solitude, capturing those everyday epiphanies experienced in quiet domestic spaces, and always leaving the viewer wanting more. My favourite pieces are The Secret Garden and Facade. Plus, she went to uni in my hometown of Atlanta! 

Eleanor, Editor

BOOK: My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante 

My favourite read of the year has to be My Brilliant Friend, which I devoured over two days.  Set in Naples, the story follows the friendship of Lila and Elena from childhood to adolescence.  This is one of the most beautiful and realistic portrayals of female friendship that I have ever read: I quickly fell in love with the characters and became so invested in their lives.  I can’t believe I’m this late to discovering Ferrante’s writing, but now that I have, the rest of her novels are on my TBR list for 2022! 

PODCAST: Goes Without Saying, Sephy and Wing  

This podcast will literally change your life.  I discovered Goes Without Saying at the start of 2021 and have been obsessed ever since: I’ve now listened to every old episode and never miss a new one.  Sephy and Wing have the most amazing friendship: no other podcast has me laughing so much whilst also offering such insightful discussions on all things feminism, mental health, friendship and body image.  I honestly look forward to Monday mornings now because it means a new episode!

MUSIC: All Too Well (10 Minute Version), Taylor Swift 

My list wouldn’t be complete without Red (TV), which I’m still playing on repeat.  Further down, Caitlin has so accurately described the feelings it brings as an older sister!  But the All Too Well (10 Minute Version) deserves its own recommendation as Taylor’s true masterpiece.  I can’t get over how beautiful and emotional this song is and am still unable to watch the short film all the way through without bursting into tears!  

Caitlin, Publicity Officer

FILM: Spencer

Kristen Stewart’s performance in Spencer – directed by Jackie’s Pablo Larraín, who has solidified himself as a director adept at garnering tense and emotional performances from female actors – was without a doubt one of the best of the year. A film filled with such soft-focused intensity that I felt I almost stopped breathing at some points, and a performance handled with such dignity and empathy that it did seem as though Diana herself was on screen. 

BOOK: Before the Coffee Gets Cold, Toshikazu Kawaguchi

A book that has been on my TBR pile for such a long time, Kawaguchi’s Before the Coffee Gets Cold is one of the first books that I have read in a single sitting in a long, long time. Sat in the sun on Parker’s Piece in Cambridge at the end of Easter term, I found myself devouring this book, the time travel element one of the best I’ve seen, and the relationships portrayed seeming so real that they jumped off the page at me. 

MUSIC: Red (Taylor’s Version), Taylor Swift

As an older sister, I do feel that it is my duty to introduce my 15-year-old sister to Taylor Swift, and introduce her I did, with a playlist almost exclusively made up of songs I listened to when I was 15. And shape her I did, with the release of Red (Taylor’s Version) enabling her to have the exact same experience – thank you Taylor! 

Audrey, Resident Artist

MUSIC: In The Heights (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Also one of my top films of 2021, Lin-Manuel Miranda once again displays his musical genius by seamlessly combining various styles of music, including rap, hip-hop, soul and, most prominently, the Latin rhythms of salsa and samba. The rhyming combinations of Spanish and English are essential to the storytelling, creating beautiful lyrics which convey the immigrant struggle. My favourite song is 96,000, where everyone expresses so earnestly their unique dreams.  Miranda’s skilful use of polyphonies throughout the score really IS music to my ears!

BOOK: The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides 

A compelling debut by Alex Michaelides, which won the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, told from the perspective of a therapist, who becomes increasingly obsessed with uncovering the truth behind the story’s mystery.  A famous painter is convicted of murdering her husband, refuses to speak one word after, and is confined to a mental institution as a result.  Reading this psychological thriller in one sitting on the train to Edinburgh left me with chills. I almost forgot to get off at my stop! 

FILM: Dune

It’s clear to anyone watching Dune that director Denis Villeneuve has revered Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic since first reading it at 13. The epic is a visual masterpiece. One scene that I found particularly impactful was the Baron submerging himself in the bath of oil: the angle of the shot and the stark colour contrast of the emulsion bubbles emphasise the character’s grotesqueness and ruthlessness, both outwardly and within.  Rebecca Ferguson’s convincing performance also gripped me from start to finish; she shows Lady Jessica, mother of protagonist Paul, desperately torn between her love and instinct to protect her son, and her continued loyalty to the eerie Bene Gesserit order. 

Featured artwork by Audrey Lim, GT Resident Artist

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