Wednesday, 7 October 2015

LFF 1: Kick it off

The 59th BFI London Film Festival kicks off tonight with the red carpet European premiere of Sarah Gavron's Suffragette. Over the next 10 days, a busy programme of acclaimed films floods cinemas across the city, largely drawn from the premiere festivals Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, Toronto and Venice. So this is a great chance for Londoners to see many of this year's awards hopefuls before they arrive in cinemas, plus a lot of superb smaller independent and foreign titles that will sadly never get UK distribution. Here are some highlights from the first two days...

dir Sarah Gavron; with Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter 15/UK ****
With a smart script by Abi Morgan, this drama about the British suffrage movement is challenging and deeply moving, avoiding cliches to find present day relevance in a fight that took place a century ago. And it's elevated by a full-throated performance from Carey Mulligan that never hits a false note... MORE >

Beasts of No Nation
dir Cary Joji Fukunaga;
with Abraham Attah, Idris Elba
15/US ***.

Strikingly well shot and edited, with rumbling, raw performances from its cast, this dark thriller immerses its audience in the chaotic horror of civil war in Africa, where young boys are pressed to participate in atrocities. And filmmaker Fukunaga's remarkable attention to detail just about sustains the story when it loses focus in the final third... MORE >

dir Paul Weitz; with Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner 15/US ****
A sharp script and another beautifully measured performance from Lily Tomlin seamlessly mix comedy and pointed drama to tell an engaging story that isn't afraid to ruffle a few feathers along the way. It may feel both constructed and slight, but between the lines there's plenty of gristle to chew on... MORE >

James White
dir Josh Mond; with Christopher Abbott, Cynthia Nixon 15/US ***.
This is an unusually focussed character study, both in terms of script and camerawork, offering a seriously complex role for likeable actor Abbott. It sometimes gets bogged down in its central melodrama, almost sidelining the eponymous character's journey, but it continually catches the audience with its resonant themes and emotions... MORE >

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C R I T I C A L    W E E K

Non-festival films screening to London critics this week included Ryan Reynolds in the entertaining but thin Mississippi Grind; Patrick Stewart in the moving but melodramatic Match; Gaspar Noe's controversial and rather brilliant Love; nutty British animation for adults in The Big Knights; and the engaging astronomer doc Star Men. Everything else was festival related, as is my intensely overcrowded screening schedule over the next 10 days. The only two non-LFF titles are Guillermo Del Toro's Crimson Peak and the circus acrobat doc Grazing the Sky.

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