What To See At 2018’s BFI London Film Festival

So, it’s been an exciting time recently hasn’t it?! With the release of the full BFI London Film Festival schedule, we now know what we have to look forward to. Last week the Members tickets went on sale and tomorrow the general public will also be able to buy tickets (you know, whatever is left once the Members have had at them!)

With this I thought I’d roundup what I’m most looking forward to 13 days after it’s been announced BUT 1 days before the public booking is released. There’s a staggering amount of films on offer for the 62nd year of the festival. Here’s what I think you should be watching.

Beautiful Boy

Starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet as father and son in this brutally heartbreaking film about a lifelong struggle with addiction. Directed by Felix van Groeningen and based on the novel of the real life father and son, the film is one of the festival’s main attractions this year. If you didn’t cry at the trailer WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!

Widows

Steve McQueen returns with his first feature film in 5 years which he has co-written with Gillian Flynn. His previous film was the Oscar winning 12 years a Slave and this time with Widows, he’s gone for a character driven action movie. Starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Carrie Coon, the quartet become widows to their criminal husbands after they are ambushed in shootout with the police. Wanting to finish what they started, the four find unexpected solidarity and empowerment as they work together.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The latest in the Cohen brother’s plethora of films, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a Netflix film which has also received a small distribution into cinemas. Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck star in this western comedy drama, centred on the title character. The anthology western follow multiple storylines including a bank robber who gets his due and a gothic tale about a couple of travelling performers.

Happy New Year, Colin Burstead

As you can see from the image below, at one point this film, by Ben Wheatley, was called Colin You Anus which is a much catchier title I’m sure you’ll agree. However I assume for marketing purposes they had to change it. Oh well! Starring Joe Cole, Charles Dance, Neil Maskell and Alexandra Maria Lara, the story centres around a new years celebration in which Colin feels under threat to his position of power within his own family after the arrival of his estranged brother David.

The Elephant Queen

Shot over eight years, The Elephant Queen is a documentary about a herd of elephants. One of the mothers, Athena wants to do everything to protect them as they are forced to leave their watering hole. Narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor, the narrative takes place across the African savannah as it tells the tale of loss, love and family.

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché

Alice Guy-Blaché is the first ever female director, creating her debut film in 1896 at the age of 23. She then went on to write, direct or produce more than 1,000 films. This is her story.

The Favourite

The latest from director Yorgos Lanthimos, the man behind Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Lobster returns with his latest oddball movie which is part comedy, part drama, part wincing at something on screen. Starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, it tells the story of early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne (Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah (Weisz) governs the country in her stead. When a new servant Abigail (Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.

Sometimes Always Never

Starring Bill Nighy, Alice Lowe and Sam Riley, Sometimes Always Never is director Carl Hunter’s first ever feature film. He works with screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce to bring this drama to the big screen. Nighy plays Alan whose eldest son storms out of the house never to return. Years later, he and his other son (Riley) a still searching for him.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Being in production hell since the 80s with multiple attempts to get this project going, it’s finally been filmed and and is ready to be released by Terry Gilliam. Telling the story of Toby (Adam Driver), an advertising executive who is pulled into a fantasy world of of time jumping and a Spanish cobbler. Jonathan Pryce and Stellan Skarsgård join Driver on this psychedelic sounding break from the norm.

The Vice of Hope

A gritty and gripping depiction of someone who is striving to escape her life of vice and crime. Here, Maria (Pina Turco) a tough and determined young woman lives in a bleak neighborhood with horrible memories of childhood trauma as she deals with being a prostitute and child trafficking. Becoming used to this way of life, she find that everything changes when she falls pregnant.

Tehran: City of Love

Director and co-writer Ali Jaberansari creates a relateable trio of stories surrounding the subject of love, seen from the point of view of different people in different way. One is a woman who is unhappy with her weight but addicted to ice cream. she catfishes men she encounters at work. Another who is a funeral singer is urged to perform at weddings instead after his long-term girlfriend leaves him. Meanwhile a retired bodybuilder is cast in a film with an actor he has never heard of but who the producer claims is actually very famous. An interesting collection of stories coming from a Persian storyteller, who second feature film comes with a Q&A on the 14th October.

Wildlife

Starring Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ed Oxenbould, Wildlife is Paul Dano’s feature directorial debut which he co-wrote with Zoey Kazan. That’s a lot of pretty well-known names and going by the trailer, it’s going to be an emotional ride. Joe (Oxenbould) and his parents (Mulligan and Gyllenhaal) move to the suburbs in Montana after needing a change. However the teenager soon witnesses the disintegration of his parents marriage as his mother find another man.

Soni 

As an Indian female police officer, Soni (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan) has seen her fare share of abusive treatment, especially when she is used as live bait in order to trap sexual predators and violent men. This calls for her to be well-equipt when it comes to self-defense, however one incident in which she is particularly hot-headed causes he to be charged with misconduct and threatens her career. An interesting sounding film in which male and female roles will be looked at and possibly defined. In a country where women are seen as second class citizens, this will be a very interesting character study.

Peterloo

A first for the London Film Festival, Peterloo will premiere in Manchester due to the historical importance linked with the city. Retelling the story of a peaceful protest which British forces attacked, Mike Leigh serves as writer and director. Starring Maxine Peake and Rory Kinnear, the tale of a protest of wanting reform due to the rising living costs and the hard working being ripped off which cause the government to become increasingly nervous. One for the history books me thinks.

The Little Drummer Girl (First two episodes)

A first (as far as I know) for the festival in that a couple of episodes of a TV show are going to be shown before it’s general release later this year on BBC1. Starring Michael Shannon, Alexander Skarsgård, Florence Pugh, Clare Holman and Kate Sumpter, the plot revolves around an English actor who is asked to infiltrate a group as an Israeli in order to bring an end to the series of bombings.

So there you have it! My choices for this years London Film Festival, whether I get to see any of them, well I suppose I’ll have to see. I have my eighth and final wedding (no, that’s not me getting married eight times!) of the year which is during the festival. Oh well!

Keep. It. Reel.

Battle of the Sexes, review

After becoming the most successful female player of all time, Billie Jean King is challenged to a match from retired male player, Bobby Riggs.

Tennis movies are a difficult one to crack. It’s not the most cinematic event to watch and it’s only occasionally exciting. How do you create an exciting film in which one ball gets hit around a court by two people? Well, you cut it out of most of the movie. This is what Battle of the Sexes has done, which focuses more on the of politics of man vs. woman than the sport itself. A smart move from directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

Based on true events from 1973, it begins with Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) winning a pivotal match which makes her the most succesful female tennis player of all time. Shortly after, she’s told by her sassy friend Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman, clearly enjoying herself a lot) that the women’s prize money will be considerably less than that of the men’s. This news triggers a surprise meeting with Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman), the man who has made this decision based on his own sexist views which essentially boils down to men are better than women. It’s this encounter which spurs Billie to start a rival tournament.

It’s impossible to keep count of the amount of sexist and patronising comments said by men which, whilst frustrating, serve a narrative purpose to the feminist story being told. Billie takes on the establishment for not helping her and other female tennis players despite selling just as many tickets as their male counterparts. The discourse in female rights, social politics and male dominance is rife throughout the movie’s central plot. Steve Carell’s Bobby Riggs is one one of these men. Frustrated by his post tennis career and working at his father in-laws business, he gets the idea to play against Billie during a late night tennis match which is funding his gambling habbit.

The pacing of the film is perfectly executed, going from the rise of Billie’s defying tournament, and moving on to her personal life whilst weaving it into her career. There’s a real sense of creating a narrative which links together very nearly, and with it’s smart writing from Simon Beaufoy, it achieves this with ease. The tension between King and Riggs builds before the climax towards the end.

Carell and Stone both give perfect performances. The former as the flamboyant, over the top, annoyingly charming (despite his sexist remarks) Riggs. He has channelled what it’s like to go from world phenomenon to working in an office, becoming increasingly irritated by his own mundane existence. The latter convincingly battles with countless men regarding their views on what women can and can’t do as well as concealing her sexuality during a time when it was not considered wholesome to be anything but straight and married with children. At one point she meets the open minded and going with the flow Marilyn Barnett played by Andrea Riseborough. The pair have an immediate spark which is difficult to fake. Stone embodies the most perfect version of Billie Jean King; an activist in a repressive time. 

It’s an impressive sports film without much sport, it deals with the gender politics perfectly and accurately looks at how tough women had it (and still have it). It’s final match fails to get to the lofty heights of excitement you usually witness in a boxing movie however it’s more than that. It shows how far we’ve come and how far we’re yet to go.

4 out of 5. 

Keep. It. Reel.