Of all the 248 films showing at the 58th London Film Festival I managed 37. Some I’d anticipated from the beginning of the year, some I curiously waltzed in on after being caught up in the current of hype, and some, I’ll admit, I watched as I didn’t want to be the only one in the pub who hadn’t see THAT film.
Based on what I saw, here’s the top five in my humble opinion. In no particular order:
p.s, missed Whiplash and the surprise screening of Birdman (‘hashtag gutted’). Have a feeling this list could have been somewhat different…
Dear White People
Behold, this is satire at its slickest. Dear White People isn’t just a jab in the ribs for white people, it’s a slap in the face to anyone, black or white, privy to stereotype. The acerbic comedy follows a group of black students who are weary of being stuffed into ill-fitting boxes by their white peers. But don’t be fooled by the title, as we glide up to the boiling point of the ‘Afro American themed party’ – a stage ripe for racial ridicule – the film also looks at how the black students grapple with their own understanding of what qualifies as being ‘black enough’. Read: Dear White People full review
Director: Justin Simien
Next To Her
Next To Her is a highly-strung treacherous tightrope of a movie that follows Rachel as she cares for her disabled younger sister Gabby. Directror Asaf Korman’s startling debut dangerously flirts with what’s appropriate between family and lovers in an intense and intimate portrayal. Grim? A bit. But be prepared to be winded by the wonderful performances and eerie look at the dark side of dependency.
From Argentinian director Damián Szifrón (now, thanks to this ensemble of films, a new personal fave), comes six films for the price of one. Wild Tales is a dozen short stories each with revenge in the veins. The rich, busy scenes are counterbalanced with shots of meticulous symmetry making the on-screen chaos beautifully harmonious. The stories are dark, furious, desperate and messy but Szifrón, executes each tale with a silky, satirical class. Worth it for the wedding tale alone – a fine example of ‘saving best ‘til last’.
UK release March 2015.
It’s 1971 in war-torn Belfast. Jack O’Connell is Gary – the enthusiastic new soldier who finds himself left behind after a failed peacekeeping strategy goes to pot. Gary’s mission to get back, limbs intact, is a tense, jolty ride with the nagging concern of who to trust.
If you loved Top Boy and swooned over Jack O’Connell’s talents in Starred Up, ‘71 will be your cup of tea with a double teabag and no sugar. Director Yann Demange has stepped away from directing gritty TV dramas (he also directed Criminal Justice), and added a filmic string to his bow with this explosive, accomplished movie. (Out now)
Girlhood follows four fierce females as they grow from cubs to lionesses in their city jungle. They earn their stripes with fake hair and flying fists and form bonds with tough initiation games to ensure everyone in their pride has a bite to match the roar. The cinematography is stunning and uses blues of industrial denim to electrifying azure to paint a beautiful picture.
Any woman who remembers jumping on beds singing along to pop songs (or the exuberation of finally needing a bra), will melt with nostalgia for this truly thunderous film.
Director: Céline Sciamma
Others on the list were…
Three restless young men – one road trip to Mexico. Each shot is a vision to cherish and is luxuriously poetic in its script and scenery. An outstanding and imaginative debut from new Mexican director Alonso Ruizpalacios
Peter Strickland’s rich, sensual and gothic look at the perversions of power. All all female cast brilliantly perform this oddball ride.
Benedict Cumberbatch shakes off his Sherlock shackles with a brilliant performance of Alan Turing. Would love to see a separate film on the story of Keira Knightley’s role of Joan Clarke…
Enlightening, gorgeous and confident. Kalki Koechlin playing a rebellious young woman with cerebral palsy – just wow.
A Persian, bisexual hipster trying to mend a broken heart. It’s funny, refreshing and sexy and I fell a little bit in love with director and writer Desiree Akhavan.