Last week the BFI revealed the program for this year’s London Film Festival. Unsurprisingly the festival continues the tradition of bringing you the highlights from previous international festivals, such as the Festival de Cannes, Toronto International Film Festival, or Venice International Film Festival, which is currently taking place.
This year, for the first time in the festival’s history, female directors make up half of the films in official competition. Female filmmakers include Karyn Kusama (Destroyer), Alice Rohrwacher (Happy As Lazzaro), Dominga Sotomayor (Too Late To Die Young), Cristina Gallego (Birds Of Passage), and Sudabeh Mortezai (Joy).
But apart from the higher-than-usual number of amazing female-directed films, the festival has a lot more to offer. Take a look at our top picks for this year’s London Film Festival below.
A movie about women empowering each other and kicking ass? Check. Viola Davis in a lead role? Check. Directed by Steve McQueen? Check. Co-written by Gillian Flynn (of Gone Girl fame)? Check. As you can see, Widows checks all the boxes for what you’d expect to be a great film and more, and it’s no surprise that the BFI elected it to be its Opening Gala. In addition to Davis the cast features a number of A-listers including Liam Neeson, Michelle Rodriguez, Daniel Kaluuya, and Colin Farrell.
“When Veronica’s husband (Davis and Neeson) is killed during a daring heist, she and the wives of the men he worked with discover money was owed to some particularly nasty people. And now they want it back.”
Take a look at the trailer here.
THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL
Why are global audiences still sleeping on Florence Pugh? Pugh has shown her talent in the British thrillers The Falling (2014) and Lady Macbeth (2016), and is likely to dazzle in this BBC mini-series as well. The 6-episode shindig, produced by the team behind The Night Manager, is based on the book with the same title by John le Carré, and stars Alexander Skarsgård, and Michael Shannon. The first two episodes of The Little Drummer Girl will be screened at LFF.
“Charlie (Pugh) is an actor working London pub theatres. She’s confident, forthright, a political lefty and a very good liar. When a mysterious patron whisks her drama troupe to Greece, she finds herself drawn to a stranger on the beach (Skarsgård). Meanwhile, Kurtz (Shannon), the leader of an Israeli counter-terrorism unit, is working in West Germany to apprehend a cell of brothers who have murdered a diplomat and his family. As Charlie and Kurtz’s worlds grow closer together, she swiftly discovers that her survival depends on keeping her wits about her.”
Ready for a tear-jerker? That’s exactly what Beautiful Boy promises to be. The film is based on the memoirs of David and Nic Sheff, and tells the real story of how a family deals with their son’s drug additions. Beautiful Boy was produced by Brad Pitt (yes, THE Brad Pitt), and directed by Belgian Academy Award nominee Felix Van Groeningen, and stars Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, and Amy Ryan. (Yes, it’s a Michael/Holly reunion for you Office–aficionados).
“David Sheff (Carell) has a life many would envy: a beautiful older teenage son Nic (Chalamet) to whom he is close; two younger children from his happy second marriage to artist Karen (Maura Tierney), a loving stepmother to his first son; a house near the north California coast; and notable success as a journalist with major publications like The New York Times and Rolling Stone. An open, communicative father, he isn’t too alarmed when Nic casually experiments with marijuana. Then, without warning, Nic’s interest in drugs transforms, becoming more urgent, desperate even. The boy who loved books, music, surfing and his family is withdrawn, agitated, mercurial and dishonest. By the time David realises what’s happening, Nic is hooked on crystal meth.”
Let’s continue with another surefire tear-jerker. Dan Fogelman has broken hearts left and right with his emotional television series This Is Us, and there’s no doubt Life Itself will be just as beautifully soul-crushing. The writer/director gets helped by an impressive ensemble cast including Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Antonio Banderas, Olivia Cooke, and Annette Bening.
“Isaac and Wilde play a New York couple driven apart by tragedy. Charting their love affair from their college days through to married life and the birth of their first child, we experience their transcendental highs and crushing lows. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a couple in the lush Spanish countryside endeavour to make their relationship work in the face of mounting external influences. Through one single incident, the lives of these seemingly disparate people prove inextricably linked, impacting each of them in unforeseen ways.”
Take a look at the trailer here.
Admittedly, Yorgos Lanthimos’ films are an acquired taste, and not universally loved. The director made waves with The Lobster (2015) and The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), both of which are somewhat genius in their absurdity. Judging by the trailer, The Favourite will firmly fall into that category, too. It stars Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult and Joe Alwyn.
“It’s the early 18th century, England is at war with France and Queen Anne’s (Colman) poor health finds her relying on her doting friend Lady Sarah (Weisz). When Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Stone) arrives at the Palace, her charm soon wins the Queen’s attentions and the shrewd girl sees a way to restore her social status, lost through her father’s disastrous wagers. With stakes of the heart high, the two women soon become rivals for the Queen’s affections in a wickedly funny game of one-up-womanship.”
Take a look at the trailer here.
THE HATE U GIVE
This adaptation of Angie Thomas’ bestseller has been long anticipated. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement this movie features a young black girl as the lead, whose life is turned upside down when she learns of the extent of police brutality in her community first-hand. Amongst this year’s powerful films about black communities, BlacKkKlansman and Blindspotting, The Hate U Give is the first one to offer a predominantly female perspective, and we are ready for it. Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russel Hornsby, KJ Apa, Anthony Mackie, Issa Rae, and Common star.
“The Hate U Give is an expansive and electrifying hybrid of coming-of-age tropes and powerful social drama. It boasts a remarkably textured lead performance from Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games)as code-switching Starr Carter, who presents one face to family and friends in her predominantly black neighbourhood, but a different one to her white prep-school classmates and boyfriend Chris (Apa). Initially playing like a smart teen movie, the film’s effervescent flow is brutally disrupted when Starr witnesses the fatal police shooting of her childhood friend.”
Of course, the films listed are only a small part of all that the festival has to offer. Take a look at the official LFF website for more films and specific screening dates and times. Tickets for all public screenings will be available for sale from September 13, 10:00am.
The London Film Festival takes place from October 10-21.