Friday, 14 October 2016

LFF 8: Back home again

I entered the press screening of Xavier Dolan's latest film here at the 60th London Film Festival with some trepidation. It was met with harshly mixed reviews at Cannes, booed by audiences, slated by critics and yet winning one of the top awards. I've been a fan of this young filmmaker since the start of his prolific career, and I was happy to immediately feel at home in his twisted, dysfunctional world. I also thought his filmmaking and the amazing cast (Vincent Cassel, Gaspard Ulliel, Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux and Nathalie Baye, above) were astonishing. This is my best film of the festival so far, and there are only two days to go. Highlights for Friday...

It's Only the End of the World 
dir-scr Xavier Dolan; with Gaspard Ulliel, Marion Cotillard 16/Can *****
Few filmmakers are as bold as 27-year-old Canadian Xavier Dolan, who regularly takes on family relationships using bravura filmmaking that brings out unexpected, unfiltered emotions. This film, based on a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, is a staggering dissection of the dynamic between parents, children and siblings. It's heightened to the point that it's often painful to watch, but it's also urgent, honest and essential.

Trespass Against Us 
dir Adam Smith; with Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson 16/US ***.
Like a slap in the face, this edgy Irish comedy-drama comes at the audience at full tilt and never really lets up. This is a story about a family stuck in a cycle of ignorance and criminality, and writer Alastair Siddons and director Adam Smith take an approach that's unapologetic. The plot isn't hugely developed, and the message is rather muddled, but the sharp cast keeps it entertaining.

The Innocents 
dir Anne Fontaine; with Lou de Laage, Agata Buzek 16/Fr ****
Based on real events, this harrowing true story is told with sensitivity and humanity, making it easy to engage with every step along the way. Even though the setting is somewhat alien - it's a Polish convent at the very end of WWII - the story resonates with themes that are instantly identifiable, especially the choices everyone has to make between following the rules and showing some compassion.

Ethel & Ernest 
dir-scr Roger Mainwood; voices Jim Broadbent, Brenda Blethyn 16/UK ***.
A collection of gentle slice-of-life anecdotes, this is a warm account of 20th century life as a son retraces his parents relationship. Raymond Briggs told their story through drawings in his graphic novel, and now those scenes have been adapted into a movie with refreshing pen-and-ink style animation and a gently involving narrative free of gimmicks.

I saw Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals in Venice, and it was also a big gala presentation here, attended by Amy Adams and Armie Hammer (both of whom also have other films at LFF), as well as Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Ford himself.

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