Bookended by two Tom Hanks films, Paul Greengrass’ Somali-pirate thriller Captain Philips and the more sedate P L Travers biopic, Saving Mr Banks, the LFF’s second year under the directorship of Clare Stewart is packed to the gills with great films. Not only does the festival’s structure, offering films defined by their emotional effect rather than their country of origin, really pay dividends, the competition strands offer a strong and diverse range of features, shorts and documentaries.
10 Films to Watch Out For:
Starred Up – Written by pyschotherapist Jonathan Asser, who employs his experiences working with inmates as inspiration for this story, Starred Up promises a fresh, original take on the prison drama. Dramatising what happens when a violent young offender is transferred to an adult prison and starring trailblazing young actor Jack O’Connell in the lead role, it’s directed by David Mackenzie (About Adam, Perfect Sense) and rightly finds Asser nominated for the Best British Newcomer Award.
Night Moves – After her excellent slow-burn Western Meek’s Cut-off, Kelly Reichhardt shifts into thriller territory with this dark, inventive take on the aftermath of an eco-terrorist attack and the psyhcological effect on its perpetrators. The strong cast includes Jesse Eisenberg, Peter Sarsgaard and Dakota Fanning.
Gravity – Alfonso Cuaron’s stunning account of an astronaut sent spiralling into orbit around the Earth following a collision between the debris of a Russian satellite and the space shuttle to which she was tethered is one of Autumn’s must-see films. Converting even the most die-hard opponent of 3D with its mindbending effects, Cuaron never allows the visuals to overwhelm the human story of Dr. Ryan Stone’s terrifying predicament, and Sandra Bullock delivers her best performance in that rarest of things: an intelligent blockbuster.
Blue is the Warmest Colour – This year’s Palme d’or winner may have have gained noteriety for the extended lesbian sex scenes and the brouhaha surrounding the lead actresses’ fallout with director Abdellatif Kechiche, but there is no denying the power of this portrayal of a love affair. Léa Sedoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos excel as Emma and Adèle, whose relationship is charted across a period of years. Frank, intimate and emotionally charged, it is one of the year’s best films.
Inside Llewyn Davis – The Coen’s most evocative film since O Brother, Where Art Thou?, this finely nuanced recreation of the Greenwich Village folk scene circa 1961 is a delight. Dominated by Oscar Isaac’s star-making performance, and ably supported by Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and Coen stalwart John Goodman, Inside Llewyn Davis is also impressively scripted, drawing on the vernacular of the period whilst avoiding pastiche.
Labor Day – Jason Reitman, whose previous work (Thank You for Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air and Young Adult) highlighted his skill in handling satire and acerbic middle-class comedy, enters more emotional terrain with his adaptation of Joyce Maynard’s novel. Kate Winslett plays the depressed single mother who embarks on an affair with Josh Brolin’s prison escapee.
La Maison de la radio – The LFF has always offered a strong line-up of docs and this year is no different. There are epics by Frederick Wiseman and Claude Lanzmann, as well as films from all corners of the globe, including the latest by Etre et Avoir director Nicolas Philibert, La Maison de la radio. Charting 24 hours in the life of Radio France, his skill as an observer will surely make this one of the festival’s must-see docs.
The Past – Asghar Farhadi’s follow up to the Oscar-winning A Separation once again reveals the filmmaker’s similarity to the work of Jean Renoir in the way its humanism allows us to see events from the perspective of each character central to the narrative. Ali Mosaffa and Berenice Bejo, who picked up the Best Actress award at Cannes, play a divorcing couple whose strained relationship has ramifications for all those around them. As in his earlier work, Farhadi eschews judgement in favour of empathy and understanding.
Exhibition – Joanna Hogg’s third feature after the compelling Unrelated and Archipelego, Exhibition is another relationship drama, this time set in London, which focuses on a couple who are selling their house. Expect though-provoking, emotional acuity, engaging performances from Viv Albertine (of femme punk band The Slits) and Liam Gillick (conceptual artist and former YBA) and the requisite appearance of Hogg regular Tom Hiddleston, playing the sort of estate agent we would all want to deal with.
Enough Said – The initial sadness of seeing the late James Gandolfini in one of his final roles is compensated for by the fact that it’s one of his best. Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a single mother and masseusse who, by chance, finds herself dating the ex of a new client. Rather than come clean, she continues both the professional and personal relationships, with one slowly impacting on the other. Gandolfini, who employed his immense physicality to brilliant, often intimidating effect in The Sopranos here uses it both comically and movingly to mine the deep well of insecurity and emotional pain that writer-director Nicole Holofcener invests in his character. The result is the kind of comedy drama – emotionally rich and genuinely funny – that Hollywood could and should be producing more often.
The festival runs from 9-20 October. For more information and to book tickets visit the festival website.