Sunday, 14 October 2012

LFF 3: Take a swim

Another sunny day (with spots of rain) at the 56th BFI London Film Festival as huge crowds gather around the city to watch movies from off the beaten path. Here are a few Sunday highlights, including Rust and Bone (above), my favourite film of the year so far...

Rust and Bone
dir Jacques Audiard; with Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts 12/Fr *****
With an almost unblinkingly honest approach to relationships, this French drama crushes every cliched romance in its wake. The story and characters are messy, tetchy and fiercely passionate, forcing us to experience the pain and joy in equal measure... REVIEW >

End of Watch
dir David Ayer; with Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena 12/US ****
Off-handed performances and an earthy, gritty style elevate this police thriller above the fray. And it's made all the more watchable since Ayer has abandoned his usual corrupt-cop theme, instead focussing on two realistically complex good guys... REVIEW >

West of Memphis
dir Amy Berg; with Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin 12/US ****
This lucid, harrowing documentary recounts a 20-year miscarriage of justice so thoroughly that it leaves us slack-jawed at the corruption, self-interest and intractability of the Arkansas legal system. It's also sharply well shot and edited to leave us with no doubts about the truth... REVIEW >

Beyond the Hills
dir Cristian Mungiu; with Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Flutur 12/Rom ****
Dark and unsettling, this drama juggles its provocative subject matter and unusual setting in ways that constantly surprise us. Not because we can identify with the situations, but because filmmaker Mungiu is so skilled at finding larger truths in his characters. It's about two young women who grew up in an orphanage but took very different journeys: Alina (Flutur) moved to Germany to find work, Voichita (Stratan) joined a rural monastery. And now Alina has come back to collect her friend, but instead she ends up upsetting the delicate balance of religion and superstition that infuses life in this oddly timeless place where there's no electricity or running water. There are all kinds of social issues at play here, from underfunded hospitals to child abuse. Not to mention the bigger theme of a group of deeply religious people struggling to deal with someone they see as a dangerous interloper. Rather long and repetitive, it's also scary and emotional film that leaves us with a lot to chew on.

dir Eran Riklis; with Abdallah El Akal, Stephen Dorff 12/Isr **.
Lively characters and a series of offbeat events make this movie watchable, except that we never believe anything that happens. The script feels contrived to tell a heartwarming story using a series of corny touches. So there isn't much tension. And no insight into the thorny political situation... REVIEW >

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