Saturday, 13 October 2018

LFF: Flights of fancy

The 62nd London Film Festival continues on without me, as I wish I was there! But I saw several films before I flew off to the other side of the earth, and here are some highlights from days 4 to 6, including some gorgeous animation, a fumbled multi-strand all-star drama, an auspicious directing debut, a Cannes best actor winner, and a couple of extraordinary docs...

dir-scr Mamoru Hosoda; voices Moka Kamishiraishi, Haru Kuroki 18/Jpn ****
Japanese anime features are terrific at combining flights of fantasy with deeper, resonant themes. And this movie is a beautiful portrait of family connections, exploring the nature of relationships between spouses, siblings, parents and children through the generations. The story is relatively simple, and yet its flourishes are packed with provocative meaning for both adults and kids in the audience.

Life Itself
dir-scr Dan Fogelman; with Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde 18/US **
Writer-director Dan Fogelman has gone from his hit TV series This Is Us to a film with an even more anodyne title. His approach here is similar, leaping around various timelines to tell the story of a family over three generations. And this time he ambitiously weaves in a second family and continent. But even the persistent voiceover can't connect the leaps in logic or overwrought sentimentality... FULL REVIEW >

dir Paul Dano; with Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal 18/US ****
Beautifully shot to emphasise the unspoken feelings of the three central characters, this film gets deep under the skin with its dark emotions and intense drama. It's a terrific directing debut for Paul Dano, cutting through the noise to quietly expose the inner lives of the characters from the perspective of a singularly sensitive teen boy... FULL REVIEW >

dir Matteo Garrone; with Marcello Fonte, Edoardo Pesce 18/It ****
There's a gritty, gloomy tone to this Italian drama, but filmmaker Matteo Garrone cleverly undermines the overt sadness using a steady stream of wry humour. With themes that echo through classic Italian cinema (strong parallels with Fellini's Nights of Cabiria), the film skilfully and artfully explores the idea of hope even amid darkly violent situations. The characters are vivid, as are the emotions... FULL REVIEW >

Bad Reputation
dir Kevin Kerslake; with Joan Jett, Kenny Laguna 18/US ****
With a driving rock 'n' roll vibe, this documentary traces the career of one of our most iconic rockers: Joan Jett. As a take-no-prisoners woman, her story seriously inspiring, even if she would balk at the thought. This is a hugely entertaining film, recounting her life with humour and texture, revealing her as a dedicated musician who has never forgotten who she is... FULL REVIEW >

Won't You Be My Neighbor?
dir Morgan Neville; with Fred Rogers, Joanne Rogers 18/US ****.
Warm and engaging, this documentary lets the iconic TV personality Fred Rogers narrate his own story using extensive archival interviews and a wide range of clips. Director Morgan Neville skilfully crafts a film that's both fast-paced and deeply personal, exploring exactly what made Rogers such a one-off. It also vividly captures his message that the essentials in life are invisible to the eye... FULL REVIEW >

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