LFF 2019 Day 2 – The Lighthouse | Monsoon | Wounds

Day 2 saw one of the festival’s big draws match high expectations and completely surprise, a sedate internal drama nearly lull me to sleep, and a Netflix horror fully live up to its reputation.

The Lighthouse

Like a vintage episode of Round the Twist, The Lighthouse follows bizarre events in a remote lighthouse. After creeping the world out with his debut The VVitch Robert Eggers returns with another distinct cinematic vision and an experience like no other.

That’s how The Lighthouse feels; more experience than film. An art-house roller coaster that is exhilarating to watch but lacks the emotional depth that made its predecessor so compelling.

From the beginning the audience is met with the jarring combination of a form that suggests an austere auteur and content that feels closer to a fever dream. Shot on black and white film with an almost square frame and a long opening act with almost no dialogue; The Lighthouse presents itself as the sort of film the casual cinema-goer would assume film snobs watch at film festivals. Beyond this however one of the first utterances we hear is a fart, some of the most beautiful shots involve piss and shit (no other words will do), and by the end the images veer towards the deranged.

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe take ownership of their roles as assistant and lighthouse keeper respectively. Through admirable facial hair they chew on their dialogue and both bring an intense physicality. As storms lash the tiny island they inhabit, waves of distrust, madness, and seagulls flare up between the two men. What unfolds has to be seen to be believed, and even then it is up to you what you take from it.

At the end of almost two hours of constant escalation I was left with numerous indelible images and the aftershocks of a score that literally vibrated my whole body. There’s a reason this film is being raved about; it is an experience I won’t forget any time soon.

Not since Annihilation have a music and a lighthouse combined to such exhilarating ends.


Hong Khaou’s debut Lilting was a deeply personal story told in a beautifully restrained film. He returns with another deeply personal story told in such a restrained tone that after The Lighthouse it felt almost static.

The recently ubiquitous Henry Golding stars as Kit; an Englishman returning to his birthplace of Vietnam to scatter his parents ashes and try to find himself in a land he can barely remember. With his parents now both deceased Kit is looking for a connection to some kind of heritage but finds Vietnam a remote and changed place. What few memories he has no longer relate to the county he finds himself in.

Despite forging new relationships (romantic, platonic, and familial) the film is mostly about Kit as an individual. We are forced to read his face to access an internal monologue we cannot hear as no narration is offered for easy understanding. Kit is often seen contemplating his surroundings and the film does not dispense much in the way of exposition; all dialogue is minimal and naturalistic. The film as a result is almost meditative; something to be gently absorbed rather than assaulted by.

At times Monsoon felt impenetrable and verged on lulling me to sleep. Somehow is skirts just past inertia to be a beautiful poetic experience about one man’s open ended quest to find a place in the world.


Well now… what to say about Wounds? Armie Hammer stars as Will; a bartender who seemingly stumbles into someone else’s horror film. After picking up a stranger’s phone in a bar he finds himself, and the 2-dimensional characters around, pulled into some kind of demonic summoning that leads to a smattering of body horror, bugs crawling all over, and a Ring inspired video.

The majority of characters in Wounds are so disposable they aren’t even disposed of properly. Instead they reach the edge of the narrative and simply fall off. The only character with any form of arc is Will who doesn’t so much slowly descend into madness as suddenly trip over into insanity. Armie Hammer does his best with what little he has to work with while Dakota Johnson and Zazie Beetz both suffer severe character neglect.

Relying mostly on jump scares and the occasional gross-out moment Wounds approaches horror tropes from a different angle but doesn’t know where to take them. The dialogue is bizarre and the plot meandering. The audience had a few good laughs however.

Best line of dialogue? “He looked murdered.”

LFF Day 2 – Good Time | Ghost Stories | The Meyerowitz Stories | Word of God

Good Time

Robert Pattinson is unrecognisable as a grungy New York criminal who robs a bank with his brother (Benny Safdie) and then proceeds to have the worst day ever as he finds himself dealing with paint bombs, escaped criminals, a lovesick teenager, and a bottle of LSD hidden in a fun fair.

Good Time is delightfully unpredictable as Pattinson’s day goes from bad to worse via the farcical without ever breaking away from its frankly unpleasant, and often ugly, realism. This is a film without any Hollywood glamour and while its plot reminded me of Victoria its camerawork lacks any smooth grace preferring instead to shove your face in the grime of violence and crime.

With a pulsing synth soundtrack Good Time provides a relentlessly gripping adventure through the scummier parts of New York. It is a lot of fun but you might occasional want to look away.

Good Time screens again at the festival on 8th October and is in UK cinemas from 27th November.

Ghost Stories

Adapted from their play of the same name Ghost Stories comes from the man behind Derren Brown (Andy Nyman) and the man behind The League of Gentlemen (Jeremy Dyson). With these combined powers you would expect something dark, witty, and deeply unsettling and that is precisely what you get here.

Nyman plays a supernatural sceptic investigating three stories of a paranormal nature as told by Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther, and Martin Freeman. Each tells their story in turn before the film takes a delightful turn that I had thankfully forgotten since seeing the stage show all those years ago.

Nyman and Dyson deftly mix the comical with the terrifying, often letting subtle gags in to give the audience a moment to laugh and release some of the tension that has been tightening their stomachs. I laughed, I jumped, I gasped with realisation, I clenched my buttocks in fear and relaxed them in laughter.

Ghost Stories has no UK release yet but screens again at the festival on 6th and 14th October.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Noah Baumbach returns with his special blend of character driven comedic drama that never lacks a cinematic sheen. Dustin Hoffman plays an aging sculptor whose children from various marriages (Adam Sandler, Elizabeth Marvel, and Ben Stiller) struggle to gain his approval and clash over their different upbringings.

Baumbach is the master of creating characters with clashing personalities and simply letting them loose in a room together for our amusement. The plot of The Meyerowitz Storie is tangential to the real pleasure of watching great actors get stuck into their craft. Stiller and Sandler again reminded me that when they let it happen they both can properly act with depth, though Sandler in particular normally tries to hide this from us.

If you like Baumbach then this film is like slipping on a comfortable baggy cardigan and falling asleep in a sunny spot by the window. For everyone else there’s always Sandy Wexler.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) screens at the festival on 6th, 7th, and 12th October and then is available on Netflix from 13th October.

Word of God

The omnipresent Søren Malling stars as a patriarch of an atheist family who refer to their father as “God”. God is a failed writer and semi-successful psychologist who prides himself on making onion soup for his wife and three sons from a secret family recipe and refers to beers as “vegetables”.

God finds out he has cancer and decides he can cure himself not with medicine but by writing his autobiography. Meanwhile his youngest son tries to write poetry to woo a classmate, his middle son becomes an agoraphobic chronic masturbator, and the eldest finds love and religion. As for his wife, well she reached the end of her tether years ago.

As you can probably sense this Danish comedy throws a lot of ideas, and onions, into the pot and the result is amusing but unfulfilling and left me distracted. I definitely enjoyed myself but not as much as some of the other people in the room. Film fatigue perhaps?

Word of God screens again at the festival on 7th October.