LFF 2018 Day 8 – Madeline’s Madeline | The Fight | Angelo

We’re in the final sprint now, not long to go. Before you know it this blog will regrow its cobwebs and my Instagram will revert from me bragging about the films I’ve seen to me bragging about the plays I’ve seen. Until then, there are film to discuss.

Madeline’s Madeline

Madeline’s Madeline is indefinable, indescribable, and a bitch to write about. The focus is on Madeline (Helena Howard), obviously, a teenager who struggles with her home life but thrives when rehearsing with her improvised theatre troupe. At home her mother (Miranda July) struggles to relate to or control a daughter whose mind works in a different way to her own. At the theatre she looks up to the leader, Evangeline (Molly Parker), who starts to use Madeline as her creative crutch.

Writer-director Josephine Decker infuses parts of the film with a dreamlike quality as we see Madeline’s world through her eyes. The result is a film that may not be telling us the truth all the time and that contains scenes that some might find pretentious. You have been warned. This is a film involving an improv theatre troupe after all.

Theatre nonsense and dreamlike qualities aside this film has three complex female characters at the forefront; each brilliant played to imperfection. The real revelation is Howard who, in her first professional acting role, becomes the film’s anchor and has to both act and act at acting. Howard is a phenomenal talent and allowed me to put aside my initial trepidation at being told, “You are not the cat, you are inside the cat”, and instead let the emotions of the film pull me in.

A masterpiece or low-key pretentious? Maybe both.

Madeline’s Madeline screens at the festival on 17th, 19th, and 21st October.

The Fight

Jessica Hynes has always been a major writing talent but often gets forgotten, especially when people are talking about how much they love Simon Pegg’s Spaced. At last Hynes has fully struck out on her own with a film she has written, directed, and stars in.

With the title of The Fight and promotional images like the one above it can be easy to mistake this for a film about a boxing champ, or at the very least focus on someone learning to fight. Whether this is a deliberate misdirect or not it’s far from the truth. The Fight is actually about the everyday fight to raise your children, deal with your parents, reconcile with your mistakes, and occasionally to learn to box.

Hynes plays Tina, mother of three, daughter of two, and wife of one. Her parents (Anita Dobson & Christopher Fairbank) are perpetually on the verge of breaking up and her eldest daughter is struggling with a bully at school. Stuck in the middle of various conflicts it is up to Tina to keep everyone, and her sanity, together.

The Fight has an easy charm and a healthy dose of sentimentality that thankfully never tips over into tweeness. Far from the mum-turns-boxer story I had been expecting I instead got a humble tale of family, humanity, and a tiny bit of boxing too.

Almost criminally engineered to get tears out of you by the end.

The Fight screens at the festival on 17th, 19th, and 21st October.


Angelo is a film told in three acts; intrigue, tedium, and nausea. In 18th century Vienna an African slave boy is plucked from a line up to be raised in high society as an experiment and an oddity dubbed Angelo.

In the first act we see Angelo taught the ways of his new world. He learns languages and instruments and is dressed in fine clothes so that he can be paraded at parties. In the second act we see Angelo as a young adult, starting to question his identity and wanting to step out on his own. In the third and final act we see something I will never forget, something that had me recoiling physically in my seat.

Prior to that Angelo is relatively placid. The film is two hours of quiet scenes and painfully long shots. Perhaps this is to highlight the tedium of Angelo’s life but it brought out audible snoring from one critic sat behind me.

Angelo is a singular creature, much like Angelo is treated in his high-class world. The film is admirable but at no moment enjoyable. To enjoy the film would feel like a betrayal of its central character. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s something you want to experience or not.

I gave a similar hesitant recommendation for director Markus Schleinzer’s last film Michael back in 2012. You have been warned.

Angelo screens at the festival on 17th, and 18th October.

LFF 2018 Day 7 – Dragged Across Concrete | Etangs Noirs | In Fabric

We’re getting close to having spent a week in a self-inflicted perpetual cinematic prison. I often expect the films to start to blur together but no, I can remember the way each made me laugh, made me cry, and left me so bored I almost fidgeted out of my seat.

Dragged Across Concrete

Dragged Across Concrete is a complicated offering. On the one hand it is written and directed by the singular mind that brought us the exemplary Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, S. Craig Zahler. On the other hand it stars the notoriously right-wing, and otherwise problematic, Vince Vaughan and Mel Gibson. Vaughan and Gibson co-star as police detectives who are put on a six-week unpaid suspension for an overly aggressive, and racially insensitive, arrest that someone caught on camera. What the camera missed was that they were being misogynistic too. As they are told of their suspension the two cops lament the overly PC world they live in, a moment where I hope Zahler is gently mocking his conservative cast rather than endorsing their views.

Meanwhile, Henry Johns (Tory Kittles) has just been released from prison and returns home to find his mother selling herself to pay for a drug habit while his disabled younger brother locks himself in his room when the “guests” are round. It’s that kind of film. As the cops look to supplement their six weeks missing income and Henry tries to find his feet again all three find themselves involved in a bank heist heist as they separately try to steal a large amount of cash and gold from notorious and violent occasional bank robber, Vogelmann.

Sorry that took so long to cover but this plot is dragged across a concrete two hours and forty minutes so I’m in no rush. Funnily enough though the one thing I can definitely say about this film is that I did not feel the running time; I sat patiently engaged throughout. Zahler knows how to keep his audience’s attention and somehow earns his bum-numbing running time.

From Zahler’s previous efforts I was primed for lots of extreme graphic violence but in that respect this might be his most restrained work yet. There is even some genital mutilation that happens off-screen rather than in detailed close-up. Can you imagine? Instead he is focused on character interactions, be that the grumblings between Vaughan and Gibson, or the nervous reassurances between Henry and his fellow out-of-his-depth-criminal Biscuit (Michael Jai White). That said we do see a few fingers and faces blown away and an entrail or two but Zahler makes sure we care about the characters before he mutilates them.

Not as surprising as Bone Tomahawk or as otherworldly as Riot, this is its own beast. There are problematic elements but after some reflection I have decided that we don’t need to sympathise with the corrupt cops or their counterparts. There are no good guys to root for but sometimes that is the way life goes.

Could have done without those “I’m not a racist but…” scenes though.

Dragged Across Concrete screens at the festival on 16th, and 18th October.

Etangs Noirs

I’ll be brief here because I don’t want to be mean. Pieter Dumoulin and Timeau De Keyser co-write and co-direct a brief Belgian drama about a young man called Jimi (Cédric Luvuezo) who is delivered a neighbour’s parcel by mistake and becomes determined to track her down and redeliver it by hand. This turns out to not be a straightforward task so we follow Jimi for a full 70 minutes as he struggles to complete his mission.

Through the film we learn little about either Jimi or his postal target and as such I couldn’t get invested in whether he succeeded or not. In general I really struggled with this film, more so than any other this year, as I remained disconnected and completely missing the point.

This is the shortest film I’ll be seeing this year but it felt like the longest.

Etangs Noirs screens at the festival on 16th, and 18th October.

In Fabric

Peter Strickland does nothing by halves. In Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy he created unique worlds in which reality was just outside our grasp. With In Fabric he is here to challenge the upcoming Suspiria remake with a very British horror with obvious Argento influences.

Marianne Jean-Baptiste plays Sheila, a newly single mother who wants to get her groove back. Part of the process involves buying a new red dress from her local demented department store, Dentley & Soper’s Trusted Department Store, which may as well be run by the Three Mothers. The red dress in question has a deadly past and through the film we see it has a deadly present and future too. You really do need to see the film for yourself and let the plot unfold. You’ll learn the joys of washing machine repair and never look at a mannequin the same way again.

The film is a delightful mix of the sexual, the surreal, and the satirical as Strickland makes his own new genre of giallo comedy. The vibrant colours, synthetic sounds, and miscellaneous European accents delivering cryptic dialogue scream giallo while appearances from some of Britain’s finest, including Julian Barrett and Steve Oram, add a comedic air to proceedings. The result is an undefinable, irresistible cinematic stew.

Both hysterical and hysterical this is the film of the festival so far.

In Fabric screens at the festival on 18th, and 19th October.

LFF 2018 Day 6 – Wild Rose | Holiday | Believer

The theme of day six was me constantly second guessing my choices before each screening and then thoroughly enjoying every film I saw. I also made a great curry when I got home but that’s a topic for a different type of blog.

Wild Rose

Jessie Buckley caught everyone’s attention in this year’s Beast as a shy young woman who is awoken by a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. In Wild Rose she is no shrinking violet and the tracks are on the other foot(?) this time. She plays Rose-Lynn, a single mother fresh from 12 months behind bars who dreams of becoming a country star in Nashville. Unfortunately the realities of life, living in a dingy flat with her kids and an ankle tag in Glasgow, make those dreams seem impossible.

Rose-Lynn is supported, and brought back to reality, by her mother, Julie Walters, who has held the fort while Rose-Lynn was in prison and the children’s father was noticeably absent. Starting a new job as a cleaner Rose-Lynn finds her dreams indulged by her boss, Sophie Okonedo, and starts leading a double life. At work she is a single young woman with a unique talent that could take her anywhere, whilst at home she is struggling to relate to her children and can’t leave her flat past 7pm.

The film excellently shows Rose-Lynn’s internal struggle as she bounces between her two realities and the conflicting advice of her mother and her boss. Her mother’s advice coming from years of working class struggle and experience, and her boss’s from a few years of struggle and then middle class utopia. What is achievable in the sending of an email for one is a fantasy for the other.

Wild Rose is a beautifully messy story about figuring out life’s priorities. I kept expecting the film to put a foot wrong and offer up a trite ending but it stayed the course beautifully.

Wild Rose screens at the festival on 15th, 16th, and 20th October before being released in the UK on 19th April 2019.


Isabella Eklöf’s directorial debut is not an easy watch. The film centers on Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne), the painfully young employee/girlfriend of Michael (Lai Yde), a Danish drug lord. When Sascha goes on holiday to Turkey with Micheal and his motley crew she expects days full with lazing in the sun wearing complicated swimsuits and nights filled with drinking, dancing, and drugs. She is right for 90% of the time. It is the other 10% that made me wince.

When Michael is happy then Sascha’s vacation meets her expectations. When Michael is upset, by some miscellaneous drug trade gone wrong or his girlfriend flirting with another man, then things get unpleasant quickly. Michael turns against his trophy in violent and sexual ways that we are forced to watch in single, unflinching takes. Even when the violence has abated a sense of tension pervades the quieter moments of the film and even people or places that seem like safe spaces fall foul of the film’s simmering aggression.

A beautiful and grotesque portrait of toxic masculinity in the sun.

Holiday screens at the festival on 15th, 16th, and 17th October.


A film of this length rarely rattles along at quite the pace that Believer achieves, a film which starts off jogging for a few minutes before sprinting away for the next two hours. Won-ho (Cho Jin-woong) is a narcotics cop on the hunt for the mysterious Mr Lee who nobody has seen but who runs a major drugs operation in South Korea. After Mr Lee’s senior staff are blown up in a meth lab, Won-ho gains the confidence of the explosion’s sole survivor Rak (Ryu Jun-yeol), a drug runner on the lowest level of the drug empire.

With Rak’s help Won-ho and his team quickly infiltrate a world of million dollar (billion won) drug deals to slowly work their way towards Mr Lee. This journey begins with a spectacular set piece where Won-ho impersonates both sides of a high level drug trade on different floors of a hotel, in the first meeting picking up the mannerisms he would then have to replicate in the second. From here the film kept moving so fast it was up to me to scramble to keep up and I think I just about managed it.

Believer is a big, bombastic Korean thriller that never pauses long enough for you to worry about whether it makes sense or not. This is a silly film that takes itself very seriously and I had a lot of fun.

Believer screens at the festival on 16th, 17th, and 19th October before being released in the UK on 19th April 2019.

LFF 2018 Day 5 – A Family Tour | Vox Lux | Destroyer

I’m five days into the festival now and starting to hit my groove; the films get better and I’m slowly forgetting what life was like before the festival began.

A Family Tour

Director Ying Liang is in exile from mainland China having run foul of the Chinese government. With A Family Tour Liang brings us the story of a director (Gong Zhe) in exile from mainland China having run foul of the Chinese government. The film is set in Taiwan where the director, her husband, and young son are attending a film festival while meeting up with her mother who is ostensibly on a package tour from China.

The family’s trip to Taiwan is carefully stage-managed, with the director’s mother taking part in a sightseeing bus tour while her banished family members follow along in taxis while pretending to be family friends who happen to live nearby. Liang directs the film with a gentle pace, his love of long shots clearly a staple of his work as he has a taxi driver criticise the fictional director’s work for the very same trait. Through the family’s interactions we learn of the difficulties inherent in speaking out in China. The directors critical work has not only forced her to relocate but has a lasting effect on those she left behind. And as she prepares for her latest semi-autobiographical film we see the deep emotional effect creating art from her life has on her.

While at times testing the audiences patience A Family Tour is a moving film with a serious message to share. Go see the film the Chinese government would rather you’d never heard of.

A Family Tour screens at the festival on 15th, and 16th October.

Vox Lux

In a film narrated with a wry gravel by Willem Defoe we see the career of a pop diva flicker into life after a near death experience. Celeste (Raffey Cassidy & Natalie Portman) is Lady Gaga, Sia, and Taylor Swift rolled into one glittering star. We first meet Celeste at school where a tragedy thrusts her into the spotlight, in which she performs a song with her sister (Stacey Martin) and enters the nationas hearts. From this small level of fame she is plucked by a manager (Jude Law) and when we next meet her in 2017 she is a household name preparing for her comeback tour.

Vox Lux presents us with the musical artist as deity narrative with its tongue firmly in cheek. This is the darkest of comedies and opens with, what I imagine will be, controversial scenes and from there holds celebrity to the light so we can see right through it. In the film’s first half Cassidy gives us the fledgling version of Celeste. She is nervous and unsure of herself but is gradually finding her inner confidence. By the time Celeste has morphed into Portman we have a strutting, quaffed, and sequined nightmare to deal with.

A film that walks with a swagger and doesn’t care if you like it or not. Can you tell I loved it?

Vox Lux screens at the festival on 15th, and 16th October.


“Nicole Kidman as you’ve never seen here before!”, is precisely what this film wants us to say about it. But do you know what? Destroyer does show us Nicole Kidman as we’ve never seen her before so… well done them. Kidman stars as Erin Bell, a deeply troubled detective who is forced to confront a past trauma when an old adversary reappears on the scene. Bell is a broken woman; a non-functioning alcoholic, failed mother, and a shell of a human being. As she hunts down her nemesis she revisits members of a gang she once infiltrated and we see glimpses of the past that created the ghoul we see before us.

Kidman is at her best playing both the nervous novice cop and the hard-boiled, and well pickled, detective she becomes. Director Karyn Kusama, fresh from impressing with The Invitation, has created a crime classic with a worn-in authenticity and gripping scenes of both explosive violence and quiet reflection.

There are a few silly moments and clunky lines of dialogue but I would happily put Destroyer alongside Hell or High Water as crime dramas I will happily watch a decade from now.

Destroyer screens at the festival on 14th, 15th, and 20th October before being released in the UK on 25th January 2019.

LFF 2018 Day 4 – Last Child | Roma | Non-Fiction

Day 4 will mark the day I lost my patience with my fellow delegates as a handful, worried they wouldn’t get into the super popular Roma, ran (literally) from the back of the queue to secure themselves seats. As a result I ended up sat at the foot of the screen with subtitles looming above me. But who am I to complain? An over privileged blogger is who!

Last Child

Myself and five other critics who weren’t thinking tactically enough about what time they needed to start queueing for Roma braved the early morning screening of Last Child; a South Korean drama about two parents (Chi Moo-seong and Kim Yeo-jin) who recently lost their son when he drowned while saving one of his classmates.

The couple are going through the motions; conflicted about how to best move on from their tragedy and struggling for closure. A small spark starts to reignite their lives when the husband offers an apprenticeship at their interior decorating company to the boy whose life their son died saving. Kihyun (Seong Yu-bin) is wary of the couple at first but slowly he looks to them as surrogate parents in the same way that they seek to fill the hole their son has left behind. Slowly, subtly, their lives start to improve. Until the inevitable turn in Act III that is…

Last Child is deeply authentic and affecting. You feel the couple’s sadness and loss and understand their need to find someone to fill the open role in their lives. While the overall synopsis could lead to an over the top melodrama instead director Dong-seok Shin opts for a bubbling under the surface mellow drama.

Last Child screens at the festival on 13th, and 14th October.


Alfonso Cuarón’s two most recent films were a Harry Potter and 2013’s most talked about(?) film Gravity. After five years away he has returned to his roots with a black and white period drama set in Mexico City. Rather than another effects laden blockbuster he has gone for a properly cinematic portrait of a middle-class family in the 1970s and the maid who takes care of them. And while the film screams art-house cinema release, Cuarón has sold it to Netflix so there are no limits to who can add it to their queue.

The real star of Roma is the maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) who we cling to during our time on the bustling streets of Mexico City. We follow Cleo as she takes care of three generations of her employer’s family, as she indulges in romance, and as she experiences trauma and has to sweep it aside knowing that her own needs come second.

Cuarón has made a deeply personal film that sees him turn his back on what he has been praised for in recent films. He has stripped away the special effects, the star names, and even the colour to leave just his characters without distractions. Roma is a refreshingly old-fashioned film that is likely made more remarkable for who made it than what it contains.

Roma screens at the festival on 13th, 14th, and 15th October before being released on Netflix on 14th December.


Writer-director Olivier Assayas has been on a great run in recent years with the industry-satirising Clouds of Sils Maria and the ghostly/sexy Personal Shopper. This year he reunites with Juliette Binoche and turns his attention to the publishing industry.

Using a handful of characters as his mouthpieces Assayas debates with himself about the future of publishing, the relative benefits of digital vs. pysical media, and who has a right to access art. Giving the characters something to do when they aren’t debating are a few affairs here and there but these scenes have the screen fade to black only to return us, post-coitus, to yet more debate.

The film has its charms and the endless dialogue is interesting and amusing but I couldn’t see if there were characters behind the theorising or if they were just props holding up Assayas’ argument. There is genuinely only one topic of conversation on these characters lips so your enjoyment of the film is directly correlated with how compelling you find this discussion.

Non-Fiction screens at the festival on 13th, 14th, and 21st October.

LFF 2018 Day 3 – Out of Blue | The Spy Gone North | Duplicate | Green Book

Day three of the London Film Festival saw me avoiding the big hitters in search of a hidden gem before hitting up the surprise film in the evening. As you’ll see I had mixed success…

Out of Blue

Carol Morley’s first film, The Falling, marked her out as a new talent with an uncompromising style and introduced the world to the wonderful Florence Pugh. In her follow up she turns her attention stateside and treads more familiar ground with a noir murder mystery. Clarkson stars as a detective investigating, with magnifying glass and everything, a killing that brings to the surface repressed memories from her own life.

I wanted so badly to like this film that it hurt all the more that I couldn’t. If most aspects of a film jar does that make it coherent? The dialogue was heavy-handed, some of the acting from supporting parts was ham-fisted, and the visuals, in sharp contrast to The Falling, were bland. When a whodunnit becomes a whocares you know you’re in trouble.

I’m sorry. I can’t go on.

Out of Blue screens at the festival on 13th, 14th, and 16th October.

The Spy Gone North

It is the mid 1990s and a South Korean spy is recruited to head North and find out what their nuclear capabilities are. With the code name “Black Venus” our spy, played by Hwang Jung-min, deliberately gets himself into a crippling level of debt before reinventing himself as a businessman with an interest in trading with the DPKR. Before long we are deep in a plot involving numerous briefcases of money, advertising deals, and a few appearances from Kim Jong-il himself.

The film looks nice and glossy and is filled with period detail and good actors in boxy suits. The plot at times gets more complex than my tired brain could follow and the film dispenses with tension in favour of endless reams of dialogue. The result is a spy thriller that delivers a history lesson rather than many actual thrills.

The Spy Gone North is a fascinating peek into the history of relations either side of the border in Korea but is a film that could do with a little less conversation and a little more action. Bonus points however for a lovely bromance that holds the film together across the DMZ.

The Spy Gone North screens at the festival on 11th, 13th, and 16th October.


In our first example of HeKniSciFi of the festival Ansel Elgort stars as both Jonathan and John; two brothers who share the same body for 12 hours a day each. Only able to communicate via video messages the two brothers live a life of strict routine and a few simple rules. Their carefully controlled world starts to crumble when Jonathan suspects John of lying to him and the brothers find themselves in conflict. What do you do when you fall out with the person closest to you, and you share the same body?

Duplicate is a lovely example of what I would call proper Science Fiction; it explores an idea to see where it leads without the distractions of spaceships, flashing lights, or killer robots. I won’t spoil how things unfold but Duplicate sticks to its remit and explores emotions over explosions and offers up a healthy dose of self reflection.

A smart slice of science fiction that is pleasingly unsoiled by genre trappings.

Duplicate screens at the festival on 14th, and 16th October.

Green Book

The big surprise about this year’s surprise film was that it was a film I had never heard of, and a film I probably have never gone to see if I had. Even more surprising was the fact that it is a film directed by Peter Farrelly that is a relatively straight drama without any scenes of semen in hair.

Green Book is set in 1960s America and follows the tentative working relationship between touring classical pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his new driver/valet Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) as they drive between gigs in the American South. But wait, there’s a twist! Don Shirley is an African-American which makes his time in the South complicated and Tony is a massive racist (to begin with at least) which makes his time working for Shirley a fraught experience.

Through the film we repeatedly see Don Shirley experience a strange mix of respect and discrimination; often performing at venues at which he cannot use the same facilities as his audience. Meanwhile Tony gradually becomes (spoiler alert!) less and less racist as he finally gets to see what life is like for someone on the receiving end of his prejudices.

The film is well made, built on top of two solid central performances, and filled with plenty of laughs with a final tug on the heartstrings at the end. I can’t decide if it oversimplifies Tony’s transformation or not and whether that even matters. Green Book is a fun film with a serious heart. It isn’t going to trouble the Oscars or my DVD shelf but it not to be sniffed at either. A solid “it’s OK” from me.

Green Book is released in the UK on 1st February 2019.

LFF 2018 Day 2 – Wildlife | Sorry to Bother You | Happy New Year, Colin Burstead.

For my second day at the London Film Festival I saw a pair of debut features from Paul Dano and Boots Riley before finishing up with Ben Wheatley’s latest film about which I had previously known nothing. The theme of the day was probably slight disappointment but will I ever learn to not raise my expectations too high?


Jeanette, Jerry, and their son Joe (Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Ed Oxenbould) live an idyllic family life in 1960s suburban America. Adapted from Richard Ford’s novel by Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano, and directed by Dano, Wildlife placidly observes this family as it slowly unravels while wildfires rage in the nearby forest.

Wildlife is a gorgeously shot and meticulously acted portrait of a family in turmoil. When Jerry loses his job and Jeanette becomes the breadwinner their traditional family dynamic is disrupted and poor Joe is, like us, forced to simply stand by while the grownups in his life fail to act responsibly. The wildfires that are frequently referenced become an obvious reference for not just the unstoppable destruction heading for this nuclear family but also the slow burning pace of the film as a whole.

Wildlife is an impressively restrained debut. Dano has created an aesthetically pleasing picture and clearly knows when to give his actors space to do what they do best. Mulligan in particular shines here; showing roughly three conflicting emotions with each expression. Somehow the resulting film is slightly less than the sum of its parts however. While formally impressive and a pleasant watch Wildlife is unlikely to stick around once it has been seen; there’s something in the film’s restraint that stopped me getting fully involved.

Wildlife screens at the festival on 13th, 14th, and 15th October before being released in the UK on 9th November.

Sorry to Bother You

If Dano’s debut is defined by his restraint then Boots Riley is sprinting in the opposite direction. Acting as both writer and director Riley brings us a world almost like our own but dialled up to eleven. The volume of ideas that fill most films are churned through each minute as Riley satirises capitalism, race relations, and anything else that comes into view.

The plot centers on Cassius (Lakeith Stanfield), a newly employed telemarketer who discovers he can outsell his co-workers by applying his “white voice” (David Cross) when on the phone. As Cassius moves up in his company he finds himself in conflict with his activist and performance artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) and entangled in a company that offers a worry free existence to those willing to sign away their human rights. This is a film willing to show how modern capitalism could justify the reinvention of slavery but does so with the visual flair of a restrained Michel Gondry.

Sorry to Bother You exists in a world one step away from our own; Riley makes liberal use of magical realism elements that allow his imagination to run wild and not be constrained by the laws of human nature, physics, or decency. This is a defiant and confident debut from a writer-director with a lot to say. Riley deals with themes that carry a lot of weight but handles then with such irreverence that you can’t help but have fun. Please go see this because if I type any more I will spoil the plot.

Sorry to Bother You screens at the festival on 11th, 12th, and 14th October before being released in the UK on 7th December.

Happy New Year, Colin Burstead.

Flying solo from his regular collaborator Amy Jump, Ben Wheatley has set out on his own to make a part-improvised family drama shot in under two weeks. The titular Colin (Neil Maskell) has hired a large stately home to bring his disparate and dysfunctional family together for New Year’s Eve. While his aim is to peacock in front of his family the evening quickly becomes overshadowed by his father’s financial troubles, his mother’s imbalance, and the fact that his sister has invited estranged brother David (Sam Riley) along to reconcile a miriad of differences.

With a feel closest to Wheatley’s oldest film, Down Terrace, Colin Burstead has a loose, handheld aesthetic. The cameras follow the action as best they can as the ever growing list of characters interact in seemingly infinite combinations. This is a film filled with conflict and tension; a tone that starts from the very beginning and doesn’t relent or fluctuate until the credits roll over an exuberant disco.

This unrelenting flow of talk and tension makes the film exhausting to watch. And while the dialogue is incredible funny and relatable the film keeps promising to implode in a way it never fulfils. A neat addition to the Wheatley canon but not my personal favourite.

Happy New Year, Colin Burstead. screens at the festival on 11th, 12th, 13th, and 21st October before being released on BBC Two this winter.

LFF 2018 Day 1 – Widows

Today marks the opening of this year’s BFI London Film Festival. From today until 21st October cinemas across London will be screening the latest and greatest that cinema has to offer (and a few duds no doubt too). The festival opens tonight with visionary director, and LFF regular, Steve McQueen’s latest Widows.


Liam Neeson leads a criminal gang as they steal a large cash amount from a local rival. Within minutes of the film opening Neeson and friends die in a spectacular showdown with the police that takes their illicit haul down with them. Following his death, Neeson’s widow Veronica (Viola Davis) finds herself not just losing a husband but inheriting the $2 million debt he incurred by dying mid-heist. After uncovering her late husband’s plans for another, bigger heist Veronica assembles her fellow widows (Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki) to do what their husbands were too deceased to finish.

If the above sounds less like a Steve McQueen film and more like the plot of a Lynda La Plante series then you’d be right; McQueen and co-writer Gillian Flynn adapted their screenplay from La Plante’s 1983 ITV series. The action has been moved from England to Chicago but Flynn’s experience in writing twisty thrillers means the criminal nature of the film is left intact. What McQueen has brought to proceedings is a clever focus on racial inequality in North America and cynical white politicians who try to exploit them. This mix of generic crime drama with something more meaningful elevates the script above its genre mates.

As a director McQueen absolutely excels. From the opening sequence of machismo-driven “romantic” moments intercut with the explosive events that lead to our titular widows earning their name, we are treated to a film made by a man with an eye for detail. With a simple pan of his camera McQueen can play with dialogue and make subtle revelations about the nature of his characters. McQueen has brought Widows a long way from early 80s ITV but there are moments when the necessities of plot come barging in and exposition ruins an otherwise prefect composition. It is the more traditional elements of Widows that holds it back from being a McQueen classic but equally I can see it becoming a modern crime staple.

Viola Davis is an absolute star in the lead role. She holds the film together through her steely determination as she plays a woman who is both strong and falling apart internally. Outside of the widows are a large cast of fine actors keeping the surrounding plot rolling on while Davis, Rodriquez, and Debicki give us our reason to keep caring.

Widows screens at the festival on 10th, 11th, and 12th October before being released in the UK on 6th November.