Top Ten Performances 2018: Actresses

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Yalitza Aparicio
The actress, with no formal background in acting, is a presence in the beautiful Roma, not a performer. Her eyes watch the world—and her life—pass by, inflicting wounds and pain—even as she finds the inner radiance to give love and tend to a household. But it is when her Cleo suffers her own tragedy that the actress breaks your heart with such natural pain that you want to reach out and protect Cleo. This is truly one of the best performances of 2018.

Julia Roberts
What a debut on streaming TV. In the Hitchcockian drama-thriller, the most inventively shot and narrated gripping Homecoming, Julia Roberts scores high and mighty. Her act is a translucent, helpless present that keeps shifting into a terrifying flashback. All through she’s firmly in charge, haunted, perplexed, and keeps herself—and you—guessing.

Patricia Clarkson
In the sharply edited and hold-your-breath-every episode show Sharp Objects, the actress, playing the matriarch of a troubled home in a troubled town, is hypnotic. She delivers a performance that’s scarily icy—as is her voice that’s sharp as a knife that softly pierces melted butter—and yet detached. Be afraid. Very afraid.

Amy Adams
And in Sharp Objects, Amy Adams delivers a hurtful, terrific performance that’s all vulnerability and angst. It’s a brave act that’s laced with courage and frailty, all of which the actress holds inside and leaches from within. And when she strips off her clothes she doesn’t titillate—she makes you want to look away from her self-inflicted pain.

Alia Bhatt
In Raazi, the actress is a powerhouse, her journey from a hesitant, doubting, picture of innocence to a  steely fifth columnist an onscreen wonder. She underlays her act with an unspoken intelligence that she randomly accesses when her character takes spot-decisions and acts on them. And when she hurts from the consequences of her actions, she makes you realize her sacrifice has taken a toll that’s irreversible.

Tapsee Pannu
In Manmarziyaan, Tapsee Pannu plays her role with a zing and passion that’s sharp and precise. Her act is complex, flawed, and conflicted, and her segue from a besotted lover to spewing volcanic emotions is a stunner. And in Mulk, the actress plays the role of a daughter in-law caught in a deadly situation with calm outward courage. And even in the climactic courtroom scene when she does explode with earnest hurt and pleading, her voice is weak, drained emotionally from all that her character and her family has had to go through.

Neena Gupta
In Badhaai Ho, Neena Gupta’s performance is outstanding— she sparkles, radiates, and comes bearing with news that throws her entire family out of gear. And even then her act is a silent, dignified protest against social mores and boundaries, all couched in a shell of hurt.

The actress is in top form in Andhadhun, hypnotic, simultaneously summoning the powers of subtle titillation, made-up helplessness, and blazing merciless power. See-sawing between resisting the urge to murder and actually doing it, she, like an addict, chooses the option that gives her—and you—the goose-bumps. Can we have more of her in 2019, please?

Rani Mukherjee
In a movie that’s staidly predictable and doesn’t bother pushing any story-telling envelope, Rani Mukherjee, portraying a character who has Tourette Syndrome, is the tour de force that gives Hichki its horsepower. In portraying the neuropsychiatric disorder, she isn’t garnering any sympathy, nor does she appear to be making any effort at all. She simply lives it, lives with it, and gives it the screen space it demands, and yet never makes it look like a prosthetic add-on or a quirk to her persona.

Toni Collette
In the horrifying Hereditary, Toni Collette is its magnetic, brilliant front-piece. Her expressions are a kaleidoscope of piercing grief, grotesque desperation, and maternal worry-lines. Collette is hypnotic, unbearably hard to look away, even when you want to. Simply, simply terrific.

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