Brace yourselves. It’s that time of year when I start warming up the blog in the hopes of spending a good chunk of my October watching the best films the world has to offer at the BFI London Film Festival. The full programme is revealed next week but some of the highlights teased so far have me restoring my faith in cinema again. Below are the three that have caught my eye; each from an LFF stalwart. All male directors though… Sorry.
Steve McQueen’s Widows
It has been five years since McQueen had me weeping into my press pass with 12 Years a Slave. Having given us enough time to collect ourselves he returns to London with Widows; a female crime thriller co-written by Gillian Flynn and adapted from a Lynda La Plante TV series. If that pedigree weren’t confusing enough the cast includes Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson. What an embarrassment of riches.
Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite
Having confounded me in previous years with The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer Lanthimos is back at LFF with what is likely to be a festival favourite. Starring the highest paid non-Marvel actress in cinema Emma Stone, and UK TV’s most powerful actress Olivia Colman, The Favourite is an 18th century English farce about Queen Anne and her correctly spelled favourite. As someone who considers The Lobster to be Lanthimos at his best I can’t wait to see him reunited with Colman in a much meatier role.
Mike Leigh’s Peterloo
In 2010, my first year in London, I watched Boris Johnson introduce Mike Leigh’s Another Year. The film had been funded by the UK Film Council which the Tories had just scrapped. Ah the fun we all had back then! Leigh is the only filmmaker I have seen watching a film at LFF when he had nothing at the festival himself – he sat behind me for the five hour Japanese drama Happy Hour in 2015 – so has proven himself as a true patron of the festival. Returning to the period genre he mastered so well with Mr Turner, Leigh is this time portraying Manchester’s 1819 Peterloo Massacre with the film’s premiere actually taking place in Manchester not London. Mass violence is not something that screams Mike Leigh, but I have no doubt he will tackle it masterfully.
Let’s forget The King’s Speech for a moment and remember a british film from the past year with a slightly less uplifting tale to tell. Another Year may be a bit meandering at times but it truly touched me, and in a wholly appropriate way.
Yes, the changing colour palette was far from subtle, and there was a random appearance from Imelda Staunton that no one seems to mention, but besides that the film was amazing. Despite this it has just one Oscar nomination and it is for the Screenplay… something Mike Leigh tends to go without.
All I’m asking for is some recognition for Lesley Manville’s performance of the deeply flawed Mary. Sure she might not stand a chance against Hailee Steinfeld but she was a hell of a lot better than Helena Bonham Carter. It’s not that Carter was bad, just that Manville completely blew me away. The whole cast was fabulous but anyone that has seen the film will know that Manville completely owned it.
Give her an Oscar!
Last night Boris Johnson bumblingly introduced Mike Leigh’s Another Year, slightly awkward when Mike Leigh later thanked the UK Film Council, an institution axed by Johnson’s own party. That’s enough of politics though…
Another Year is beautiful, sad and not quite perfect. Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent play the happily married couple Tom and Gerri who act as a strong contrast to Lesley Manville’s tragic singleton Mary.
The film takes place over a year, split into four seasons in the lives of Tom and Gerri. Each season has subtly different colouring barring Winter where the grey tones are a bit jarring, and the film becomes nothing short of depressing before fading to black with no real conclusion.
The film is a masterclass in brilliant dialogue heavy scenes and good old fashioned character acting. Lesley Manville steals the show and is at first hilarious and then utterly heartbreaking. The lack of a proper ending allows the film to live on in your head, even if it is dissatisfying.
Not quite sure what was going on with Imelda Staunton at the start.
After the film Leigh, Manville, Sheen and Broadbent did a short Q&A that was barely audible. They mostly discussed the way the film was written, with Leigh building up each character from birth with each individual actor before they got together and created dialogue. It’s a unique method, but one most writers don’t have the luxury of. And now for another poor quality photo:
Another Year is on general release on 5th November 2010 and is good stuff 80% of the time.