/It's a fool's gambit to declare "The Best Film of the Year" in August. Just, really, really stupid. The studios never release the good stuff before Thanksgiving. Remember 2003, when every watchable film of the year was released after mid-December? Never a good idea to start "best of" lists before January.

That said, Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers is the best film of 2005.

The plot is a delicate thing, that you almost certainly know already: Bill Murray plays Don Johnston (voice the "t," if you please), a once-and-current lothario who receives an anonymous letter from a woman he left 20 years earlier, informing him that he has a son. With the over-enthusiastic help of his neighbor (Jeffrey Wright, waltzing off with every scene he's in), Don tracks down the women who may have authored the letter. He goes to find them.

Going into the film, I had been led to believe that Murray's performace would be the culmination of the Rushmore/Lost in Translation/The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou school. This is not accurate. In those films, Murray played a lonely man seeking companionship and meaning. Here, he plays a man who is too alone to realize that he is lonely. In the earlier films, Murray's characters grew out of the desire to reach out to another soul, however briefly. Here, he does not reach out. He does not wish to reach out. Each of the women who he visits would prefer he not be there, and he clearly wishes the same. The film is built on Bill Murray doing nothing - not speaking, not moving, not thinking.

I will not spoil the film by describing the arc of Don's development. Or stagnation. It is somewhat hard to tell which happens. It is hard to tell if they are not the same thing.

The film functions on many, many levels; I do not want to tell you what they are, because the joy of the film is finding them for yourself. This is a perfect film - perfect in conception and writing, perfect in performance, perfect in craftsmanship. After the final shot cut to black, I was aware of slumping forward in my seat, and gasping for breath. When a movie's ending leaves you literally breathless, you have just seen something pretty special.