BFI 62nd London Film Festival Preview: Five weeks before it even kicks off, this already has the feeling of a vintage year for the BFI London Film Festival. There wasn’t a seat to be had for the launch event in Leicester Square’s Cineworld in London’s West End, and such a buzz as the mouth-watering line-up was unveiled, boasting titles from some 77 countries, with 39 movies from the UK.
About time too, I hear you say when I tell you that half the films in the official competition are made by female filmmakers – with 60 per cent of those in the first film category from women. And across the entire roster, there’s 38 per cent either with female directors or co-directors. Yay!
But cutting to the chase, you want to know what the big blockbuster titles are that’ll knock your socks off at this year’s festival? And what are our tips for those under-the-radar movies that might be worth taking a punt on? Here goes…
Widows (above) looks a slam-dunk, based on the old hit TV series (of the same name) from Lynda La Plante, transplanted to the States, with a script from Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), and directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave). What’s more it stars Viola Davis, Cynthia Erivo, Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez, plus Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson and Daniel Kaluuya. With pedigree and casting this strong, it looks like critical and box-office catnip – and opens the festival.
Steve Coogan and John C Reilly as silent comedy geniuses Laurel and Hardy in Stan and Ollie sounds like a coup, and when you add in support from one of my favourite Broadway comic actresses, Nina Arianda, alongside our own Shirley Henderson, plus a script from Jeff Pope of Cradle to Grave and Cilla fame) it promises to hit the heart and the funny bone – and has the honour of closing the festival.
Anyone who loved The Lobster is in for a treat with The Favourite (top pic), from director Yorgos Lanthimos. There are big juicy roles here for Lanthimos favourites Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman, along with Emma Stone, in an 18th Century romp based around Queen Anne’s court and friendships. Guaranteed to be visually arresting and very, very odd.
There are a few movies on offer that will also be available in other places. Like Netflix’s series of Western tales by The Coen Brothers, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs (above), starring Tim Blake Nelson, Tom Waits, plus Liam Neeson again. Alfonso Cuaron comes back down to earth after Gravity, with Roma, his love letter to his Mexico City upbringing and the women who made him, also on Netflix, along with a documentary They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead about Orson Welles’ unfinished, lost classic, The Other Side of The Wind (which you can also catch on Netflix). Then there’s the world premiere of the highly-anticipated BBC thriller series, The Little Drummer Girl, directed by the stylish Park Chan-Wook of The Handmaiden fame, and starring another of my personal Broadway favourites, Michael Shannon. And in a festival first, Mike Leigh’s epic Peterloo, starring the riveting duo of Maxine Peake and Rory Kinnear in the true story of the 1819 people’s uprising and inevitable crushing, will actually premiere in its hometown of Manchester, swiftly followed by London.
An attention-grabbing film from Peter Jackson, They Shall Not Grow Old, hand-colourising original black and white footage, is released to mark the end of the First World War with 2D and 3D screenings. Carol Morley follows up The Falling with her thriller Out Of The Blue, starring the always-riveting Patricia Clarkson, which looks unmissable. Finally, after decades of trying to make the Cervantes’ classic novel, Terry Gilliam completes The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, with leading men Jonathan Pryce and Adam Driver tackling a version of the comic tome. And if you loved Moonlight, you’ll definitely have Barry Jenkins’ own, eagerly awaited follow-up, If Beale Street Could Talk, on your must-see list, which is an adaptation of James Baldwin’s account of his experience of love and racism. Gonna give Luca Guadaguinino’s definitely-not-just-a-remake of Suspiria a wide berth though…
Looks like you’ll need a good-sized hankie for a couple of powerful, emotional movies: Life Itself, from the creator of This Is Us, Dan Fogelman, and Beautiful Boy, starring Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) and Steve Carell. Also worth a look is Border, an unconventional, provocative Swedish love story based on a novel from the writer of Let The Right One In.
There’s rich pickings for those who love in-depth portraits of real people. Doc director Matthew Heineman moves into drama with A Private War, starring Rosamund Pike as war correspondent Marie Colvin. And Jason Reitman tackles the story of the rise and fall of charismatic US presidential hopeful Gary Hart in The Front Runner (above), set during the pivotal 1968 campaign.
Ralph Fiennes again shows himself to be a fine filmmaker with The White Crow, his biopic of the young, hungry dancer, Rudolph Nureyev. Jumping further back in time, Chris Pine plays Robert the Bruce in historical epic Outlaw King, and Keira Knightley is literary legend Colette. Another literary ‘legend’, Lee Israel, who forged plausible correspondence from all manner of writers to boost her bank balance and profile, is played by Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me? – which looks a hoot.
Just For Laughs
One comedy that really jumped out in the festival preview reel was Kiwi movie, The Breaker Upperers, from the people behind Hunt for the Wilderpeople – and the director and writer combo of Madeline Sami and Jackie van Beek also star as the two women who start their own agency to break up couples.
I’ll definitely line up to see a new Scandi-com, Denmark’s That Time Of Year, starring The Killing’s Sofie Grabol; plus Ana Katz’s Argentine comedy Florianopolis Beach. Oh, and the promising, semi-autobiographical film from stand-up comedian Simon Amstell, Benjamin (above), getting its World Premiere, and focusing on the story of a young filmmaker under emotional and professional pressure.
Go to page 2 for more films in my BFI 62nd London Film Festival Preview!
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.