There were so many fantastic films at the London Film Festival last year that I wasn’t able to see, and I decided to try and see as many as possible when I could. Luckily due to my work I was able to see a lot of the cinema releases but thankfully there were also a lot of films distributed by sites such as Netflix.
Abominable (Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman, China/USA, 2019) – Mainstream cinema release in October 2019
Part of the Family Gala
Three teenagers must help a Yeti return to his family while avoiding a wealthy man and a zoologist who want it for their own needs.
The story of a young girl meeting a yeti and taking him back to his home of Mount Everest is pretty formulaic, however, this story has real heart and emotion behind, and a fantastic soundtrack. Visually it’s beautiful, and I liked that the fact is centred around Chinese characters and culture was just natural rather than being forced in as a ‘diversity quota’.
Wounds (Babak Anvari, USA/UK, 2019)- Netflix release in October 2019
Part of the Cult Strand
Disturbing and mysterious things begin to happen to a bartender in New Orleans after he picks up a phone left behind at his bar.
Wounds wasn’t really on my radar at the Festival, but I heard so many people raving about it that I knew I had to see it. Honestly, I don’t know what I feel about it. While I wasn’t bored, it didn’t hold my attention very well, so I feel like it was a film that should be experienced in a cinema setting. That being said, it is very unsettling and creeped me out for days after. The performances also make the film, and Armie Hammer was definitely the strongest point of the film. 6/10
Official Secrets (Gavin Hood, UK/USA, 2019) – Mainstream cinema release in October 2019
Part of the Debate Gala
The true story of a British whistleblower who leaked information to the press about an illegal NSA spy operation designed to push the UN Security Council into sanctioning the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Official Secrets had an interesting concept to me but didn’t necessarily grab my attention, until it came out at my cinema. I was so wrong to overlook this film, because it was so good. Keira Knightley was so believable as Katharine Gun and the plot was well paced and intriguing. I didn’t know much about this situation before watching the film and I came out of the film wanting to research more. 8/10
Knives Out (Rian Johnson, USA, 2019) – Mainstream cinema release in November 2019
Part of the American Express Gala
A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family.
This film is very reminiscent of Clue (Jonathan Lynn, 1985) and that could be a big factor in why I liked it so much. It’s a really well made murder mystery but to me really stands out because of the dramatic cinematography, which I loved. This is Rian Johnson’s first mystery film after 2005’s Brick, and I hope he makes more in the future, as this was fantastic.
Little Monsters (Abe Forsythe, Australia, 2019) – Sky Cinema release in November 2019
Part of the Thrill Strand
A washed-up musician teams up with a teacher and a kids show personality to protect young children from a sudden outbreak of zombies.
I loved Little Monsters! This film was absolutely hilarious and took a few twists I did not expect. Josh Gad was hysterical but Lupita Nyong’o stole this film as Miss Caroline. Even though the film has several prominent American actors as it’s stars, it definitely does not have an American feel, which is refreshing and sets the film apart. 9/10
Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waitiki, USA, 2019)-Mainstream cinema release in January 2020
Part of the Headline Gala
A young boy in Hitler’s army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.
This film sold out almost immediately and I was lucky in that I didn’t have long to wait before its cinema release. When I think of Taika Waitiki’s films, I typically think more of the comedy, so I was really taken aback by the intensity of emotion within the film. I went in expecting mainly to laugh but came out really thinking more about Germany within the Second World War and how the people inside were affected.
The Two Popes (Fernando Meirelles, Italy/Argentina, 2019) -Netflix release in January 2020
Part of the Journey Gala
Behind Vatican walls, the conservative Pope Benedict and the liberal future Pope Francis must find common ground to forge a new path for the Catholic Church.
This film, to me, was fascinating. Although I remember the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, I didn’t really know a lot about the situation, or indeed the central people involved in the situation. I found this possible recreation really interesting, and I immediately started researching the situation after watching the film. I also thought the cinematography was beautiful, and I’m now looking forward to going through Meirelles’ filmography.
Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, USA, 2019)-Cinema release in November 2019/Netflix release in December 2019
Part of the Mayfair Hotel Gala
Noah Baumbach’s incisive and compassionate look at a marriage breaking up and a family staying together.
Marriage Story is a difficult film for me. While I thought it was beautifully made and had incredible performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, I didn’t really like it, although I don’t have a concrete reason why. I do feel that perhaps it might be to do with the characterisation; I felt that both Driver and Azhy Robertson’s characters are shown in much less sympathetic lights than Johansson’s character. That being said, it is a very well done representation of the breakdown of a marriage and has a beautiful love story at its heart.
I Lost My Body (Jeremy Clapin, France, 2019)-Netflix release in November 2019
Part of the Dare Strand
A story of Naoufel, a young man who is in love with Gabrielle. In another part of town, a severed hand escapes from a dissection lab, determined to find its body again.
This is truly an unique film. It is beautifully animated and has a rich story, and is like nothing I’ve seen before. I liked the two plot lines going on and even though it’s a short film at 81 minutes, it didn’t feel overlong or too short. I wasn’t engaged by the film the entire time, however I thought it was wonderful.
Earthquake Bird (Wash Westmoreland, UK/USA/Japan, 2019) – Netflix release in November 2019
An enigmatic translator with a dark past is brought in for questioning after an ex-pat friend, who came between her and her photographer boyfriend, ends up missing and presumed dead.
I was initially going to see this instead of Maternal, and I’m so glad I did get to see it because I really liked this film. There is a dark, brooding atmosphere during the entire film that sucks you in, I couldn’t draw my eyes away. There is also some beautiful scenery of Japan that made me want to revisit the beautiful country. Alicia Vikander was stunning throughout the film, and she really is an overlooked star.
There was such a massive range of talent on display at the London Film Festival, and I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to experience it.
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