So as I’m writing this I’m on the train heading back from the London Film Festival. It’s been one of those festivals that I’ve wanted to go to but never had the chance until now. Having been, I have to say it is a great experience, got introductions for most of the films from the directors and a few Q&A’s afterwards, it was a great time. Now I’m going to go through each of the films, not in too much detail to avoid spoilers (I may do full reviews for them in the future) but enough to let you know my thoughts. With that said, let’s dive in.
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead
Now I’m a big fan of the films of Ben Wheatley and when I heard this was playing, I wanted to see it, even though I knew it was going to be on BBC2 over Christmas. For Wheatley, this is something more along the lines of Down Terrace (although without the crime element), focusing on a new year’s eve party for a dysfunctional family. The whole family dynamic, mainly between the main characters Colin and Dave, is fascinating, giving a real insight into the family and, being a Ben Wheatley film, it is darkly hilarious. It doesn’t lose sight of a sense of darkness in the family though, with issues of depression, affairs, money troubles and long term resentment coming to the forefront. There’s even a bit of commentary on Brexit and the aristocracy in there as well, which adds to the power of the film. A lot of this is aided by an excellent cast of reliable British staples including Neil Maskell, Sam Riley, Charles Dance, Bill Patterson, Hayley Squires, Asim Chaudry, Joe Cole, Doon Mackichan and Richard Glover. For those in the UK, I highly recommend it when it’s on over Christmas.
My Rating: 5/5
Now this was an interesting film, focusing on two young people living in Sardinia. Basim, a refugee from the Ivory Coast, and Anna, a mute runaway. The circumstances of how they ended up together are fascinating and the chemistry the two leads share is incredible and what makes the film, especially since the actor playing Basim is an actual refugee from the Ivory Coast, giving a sense of truth and rawness to his performance. I wish more of the film focused on him, although it doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of refugees living in Sardinia, but on the whole this was a powerful film. I don’t want to say more so I don’t give the game away though.
My Rating: 4/5
The Old Man and the Gun
Now this was the main film I wanted to see. People who listen to the Lambcast know that when I was on the Most Anticipated Films for the Rest of 2018 episode a few weeks ago, I put this at the number three spot. I’m a massive fan of David Lowery and this felt like a perfect swansong for Robert Redford. All my hopes for the film were realised. This is just an incredibly charming film, the scenes Redford and Sissy Spacek share together being electrifying because of their chemistry and Redford shows he is still one of the most charming actors working today. There’s a lot of great humour in the film but also a sense of nostalgia both for Redford’s films and for lost youth and living a happy life. The supporting cast is great, even massive creep Casey Affleck, with his character showing a sense of the joy of the chase. I don’t know what more to say now, this is just a charming, comforting film.
My Rating: 5/5
The last film I saw was the surprise film of the festival. In the past, films like Lady Bird, Birdman and Anomalisa have played in that slot so I was excited to see what it was, keeping myself away from any discussions over the film. It was only when I saw Viggo Mortensen that I knew it was Green Book and this was another great time. The chemistry that Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali share together is great, really showing how the friendship between the two built up over the car journey, with little things like an argument over a rock and the two eating KFC together leading to some great comedic moments, with scenes of letter writing in particular showing the skill at comedic dialogue between the two. There’s also some good culture clash comedy with Mortensen playing a working class Italian American and Ali playing a highly educated musician. It also doesn’t shy away from the reality of being a black musician travelling in the Deep South in the 60s, with Ali’s character not being allowed to eat or use the toilet at the places he’s performing at, but he also feels a disconnect with black culture as well, not feeling like he belongs anywhere except with his music. This gives the film some real weight at certain points. I do have some problems in terms of the ending and some parts of the message of the film being a bit confused, but this is still an excellent film.
My Rating: 4.5/5
So those were the films I saw at the London Film Festival. As I said, I had a great time there and I hope to go back soon, maybe for a longer period of time.