Tag Archives: LFF

Beautiful Boy – Review

There have been many movies made on addiction. Even A Star is Born focuses on  the debilitating disease. Stories like these need to be told because we need to understand the struggles of those suffering, the heartache of the families, and support ways we help people blighted

Director Felix Van Groeningen, the open and honest story about addiction. Based on the memoirs of Nic and David Sheff, Beautiful Boy revolves around a father struggling to keep his eldest son Nic of drugs. Going over several years, Nic recovers and relapses repeatedly, unaware of the impact his addiction is having on his family.

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Timothée Chalamet came into prominence with Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (and also made millions and millions fall in love with him.) As brilliant as his performance is in that film, the end roaring fireplace credit sequence a particular highlight, it’ll not prepare you for how astonishing he is in Beautiful Boy. Chalamet has the difficult task at portraying Nic Sheff’s constant battle with addiction,  Chalamet is captivating which makes the film more brutal. From Nic’s candidness about why he chose to take drugs to his relapses, Chalamet gets into the grittiness of addiction. The young actor is open and each experience Nic goes through here is palpable. Scenes of desperation, illness, and disease are harrowing yet you can’t keep your eyes off him. He’s haunting here and no matter what lengths he goes too, you feel compassion, pity, and solace for him.

 

Steve Carell has made impressive strides in dramatic performances such as Foxcatcher, Battle of the Sexes, and The Big Short. Here, however, is certainly his best work. Carell is tremendous as David, hopelessly and urgently trying to help his son, no matter what he puts him through. Each agonizing phone call to every late night search, Carell inhibits this father who is slowly abandoning his son through sure resignation. But also he has to be a father to his other children and a husband to his wife whilst also working at a writer. His balance to control Nic’s recovery with his day to day life.

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Carell and Chalamet make an earnest and heart-breaking pair; with all the chemistry of a father-son pairing whilst honing in the tragic gravitas of drug-addiction for a family. Director and co-writer Van Groeningen does well to keep Nic as a sympathetic character but also shows the impact of his struggle on the rest of his family. Not just his mother Vicki (an brilliant as always Amy Ryan,) and his step-mother Karen (a phenomenal Maura Tierney,) but his little brother and sister who feel the ripples of each of Nic’s deterioration.

Beautiful Boy is an emotive experience. There is some uneven filmmaking which has some very confused editing and leaps through time. Yet with the intimate and stirring performances, you’ll find yourself captivated even if it is an excruciating watch.

Van Groeningen ends the film on statistics. It’s clear that the Sheffs’ impacting stories serve to tell a bigger story. One of the biggest epidemics in the USA, it’s important that these movies make an impact on you and see how you can help those in need.


Beautiful Boy is out on DVD & Blu-Ray.

Border – Review

Fairy-tales.. They have seeped throughout time and history. Chattered imagination has been whispered in bed-time stories and campfire horrors. For centuries with been spooked by spectres, haunted by horrors, and frightened by fantasies.

In Scandinavia, adults and children have been particularly terrified by their own particular historical creatures. Creatures which Ali Abbasi has spun into a glorious modern yarn.

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Border revolves around Tina, a woman who has an “ugly” facial structure, who works for the Swedish Border Agency that screens people coming off ships. Tina has a special ability at sniffing out people’s guilt and shame. Living off the grid in a woodland area and with dog-breeder Roland, she spends her time walking the forests nearby or caring for her ailing father. When she comes across a man, Vore, who she can’t sniff out and looks like her, she becomes drawn to him. It becomes apparent that he might be uncover secrets about who she is and the pair become closer…

Border is a subversive and mysterious drama that unravels in a glorious manner. Iranian director Abbasi, whose work includes the much acclaimed Shelley, implements an intriguing modern fairy-tale. The film is an enchantment in some scenes, ghoulish in others, but utterly captivating from start to finish. The film works greatly with these tonal shifts. Offering up some impeccable sequences, including one frivolous and endearing frolic through the sun-streaked trees, the film can be a romantic story one second then horror to ponder the next.

There is also an undercurrent of social commentary here. When the film digs deeper into how we treat those who are different and especially those we deem as “ugly.” The film asks you to shift your perception through graphic sexual scenes or simply Tina being. It also gender-bends throughout and it’s non-conforming ideals make it a magnificent watch.

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The whole of the film wouldn’t work if it weren’t for Eva Melander as Tina. My god is she breath-taking here. Though unrecognisable due to her prominent prosthetics, this doesn’t sop her convey earnest and intimate emotions. Tina is a sympathetic character but doesn’t require pity. She is determined, strong, with an upstanding set of morals whilst also being vulnerable, sweet, and funny. As this film is all about her becoming, Melander beautifully develops Tina and makes a truly cinematic heroine.

Opposite her is Eero Milonoff as Vore. The pair have an instant chemistry with one another the minute they meet but Milonoff keeps his character as mysterious as possible, revealing bit by bit. Though this is Melander’s film, Milonoff is also as expressive and great as Vore, balancing between love interest and possible villain, the actor is unexpectedly alluring.

Border is a brooding film that will stay with you long after watching. That may be because of the graphic sequences and detail, but it’s also because of the soulfulness . The mood and tone matched with some gorgeous imagery are truly affecting, haunting even. There’s also a soulful and mournful message about nature and finding who you are, against the backdrop of an isolating and brutal society. Blending fantasy with social commentary, Border is a riveting and redolent affair.


Border is out 8th March

The Favourite – Review

The world of Yorgos Lanthimos is a bizarre yet beautiful one. From bored teenagers in Dogtooth to animals in The Lobster, there is something about the filmmaker’s mind that you want to immerse yourself completely in; soaking in every stilted word, every bizarre premise, and every Colin Farrell mustache.

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Although there is no Farrell facial hair here, Lanthimos is on top form with The Favourite. Blending voluptuous and superb British period dramas with the humour as black as their dresses, Lanthimos produces his most accessible movie yet.

Starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz, The Favourite tells the story of the later years of Queen Anne. Miserable, gluttonous, and egomaniacal, Anne spends her life stuck in the walls of her stately home. Her council is led (and manipulated) by Sarah, the Duchess of Marlborough who uses her status as the Queens confidant to pull the strings of war. When Sarah’s cousin Abigail arrives, the pair find themselves locked in a battle for the admirations and love of Anne. Who will win in their sick vying?

The Favourite is certainly one of those movies in which you’ll happily feast upon. It’s an impeccable balance between this ornate and gorgeous Stuart time period whilst also having cutting modern humour surrounding it. Playing fast and loose with classical language and updated curse words, the fluidity of the dialogue mixed with the satirical comedy brings a fresh beat to stuffy period dramas. There are some hilarious one-liners that’ll be trotted out for years to come.

Shot by natural light, Lanthimos’ updated black comedy looks divine. Filmed at Hatfield House, the large and gorgeous spaces lend themselves to some pretty beautiful scene set ups (as well as echoing the tedium and the emptiness that is rife here. The décor is ornate and splendid whilst Sandy Powell’s impressive costuming harkens back to the era immensely. The detail on display here is fantastic, including mud splatters, tears, and more.

There has been much talk about what actress deserves what award. Indeed, this is a film of three leads. Olivia Colman, who has been an undeniable tour-de-force on British programming and movies finally gets the royal role she’s been waiting for. Here she plays her Queen as petulant child but the bratty behaviour is not merely from her status and wealth, but also from her grief. She’s a pained woman – physically and emotionally – and her work is phenomenal here.

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Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone play two different breed of players. The former, as Sarah, is a more pragmatic in her approach. She’s honest, if albeit unkind, and one of the few people who does not play into the Queen’s whimsy. So naturally when Stone’s sweet and ambitious Abigail comes as a fallen Lady turned scullery maid, Sarah finds herself matched in manipulation and drive. The pair make great enemies, using Anne’s fancies and desires as a ploy so when the final hits, it smarts for all three.

There’s also great support from Fop Nicholas Hoult (who is clearly having the best time,) and Joe Alwyn make adequate male accompaniments but fail to shine under the shadows of this brilliant trio.

The Favourite is intriguing and beguiling. Yet it does not have a satisfactory conclusion. In fact, as the film progresses into its final chapters, it struggles to muster to sharp wit and interest as the first hour or so caught. Though this may be the case, Lanthimos’ work is a delicious one and you’ll want to gorge on repeatedly.

Until you vomit.

Then want to gorge again.


The Favourite is out Boxing Day in  West End Cinemas
It is out New Year’s Day! 

Nancy – Review

Andrea Riseborough is one of our most gifted actresses. The British star has made a name for herself in movies such as Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance,) Welcome to the Punch, and television series National Treasure. With big haunting eyes and the ability to transform like a shape-shifter into her characters, Riseborough is an amazing performer. Her gifted talent has spectacularly captured us all. She also backs female led movies and has her own small production company Mothersucker. The actress definitely continues her Rise…borough.

Awful puns aside, Riseborough is one of the few actresses that has two films in the BFI London Film Festival where she plays the titular role; Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy and this, Christina Choe’s Nancy.

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The brooding drama is a spectacular exploration of the anti-heroine. Also written by Choe, the film revolves around Nancy Freeman, a woman who, through boredom, concocts fantastical stories online to connect with strangers. She writes blogs for miscarriage websites, Photoshops her holidays, and lives in a social media world beyond that of her bitter and ill mother. When Nancy watches a TV spot about a missing child, she discovers that the “thirty years later” photo composite looks exactly like her. Nancy decides to hunt down the couple – Ellen and Leo – to see if they are really her parents…

Christina Choe has crafted a delectably intriguing tale that blurs the lines of lying and life. The film quietly delves under the hood of a maligned person who has crafted many different falsehoods about herself to the extent that she is unsure of who she is. As a viewer too, you also battle with the truth as you are equally convinced and unconvinced about Nancy’s true identity. The film is an assured debut by Choe that uncovers an emotional connection between us all – the want for connection and completion.

Andrea Riseborough is impeccably cast as the tedium riddled woman struggling to find an identity yet falling into home and finding herself yearning to be this couple’s estranged daughter. Riseborough magnificently digs under the skin of her character and her role as an anti-heroine is really defined her. Nancy isn’t a likeable character; in the first half she tricks a grieving father into believing she is a pregnant woman with an ill child. Yet Nancy is also alone, living with Ann Dowd’s vicious mother and unable to connect to the world around her without it being a falsehood. Riseborough confidently exhumes the character as she grows close to Leo and Ellen, achingly wanting to belong there.

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Playing opposite Riseborough is J. Smith Cameron’s desparate Ellen. Here’s a woman whose mourning has been constantly open. Never knowing the true whereabouts of her daughter, she’ll never have full closure and Cameron portrays this so well that upon the instant Ellen and Nancy first speak, you hope that Nancy is their daughter. Ellen takes to Nancy with an alarming closeness that is realistic of lamenting and longing. As their relationship develops, it is gloriously enticing and that’s largely through Smith’s performance.

There’s also this wonderful bubble of grief to both Nancy’s lack of belonging and Ellen’s struggle with losing a daughter for over three decades. In many ways the grieving mother and the lost daughter could very well be kindred spirits – related even – and the reveal will never change that.

Nancy is a slow drawling film that may take time for it to claw into your flesh but in a snow-ladden forrest, or the haunting familiarity of a distant memory, Nancy really evolves.

Choe’s astute character study is a phenomenal feature debut.


Nancy is available to watch on Amazon Prime

Wildlife – Review

Remember when people created first features and they were terrible? You know, really awfully shot and badly put together farcical movies so people can test out their skills? Why are people coming out there with this films so gorgeously put together and wonderfully compelling?

Actor Paul Dano turns his talents to directing in brooding drama Wildlife and it shows that he has a real talent for visual film-making.

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Based on a novel by Richard Ford, Wildlife is set in 1960s Montana and follows young Joe Brinson as he deals with his parent’s marriage. As his father Jerry decides to leave to battle a forest fire which is sweeping across the country. With her husband gone, Joe’s mother Jeanette starts to overanalyse herself and begins to fall in love with another man.

Wildlife is one of the most perfectly shot films you’ll ever see. Dano has a beautiful eye for the 1960s period with soft beige hues and historical colouring. Light that hits falling snow, achingly beautiful hues of orange mixed with ash, and just an incredible capture of this period drama. It is almost haunting.

It’s also wonderful Carey Mulligan is wonderfully charged with crafting most of the rage here and she is glorious. There is a bite to her character who can be quite vicious and it’s impressive to see someone so fully-realised in this manner. She coaxing empathy from her character despite the things she does and says. That’s down to the impressive acting from Mulligan and writing by Dano and co-writer Zoe Kazan.

Jake Gyllenhaal is serverly underused here and disappears pretty soon into the action. Young Ed Oxenbould, the brilliantly named young actor from movies such as The Visit and Better Watch out moves into this drama with ease. He is a captivating lead to take you through the upset as a character watching his world shift and change around him.

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The biggest problem with Wildlife is that the pacing doesn’t match the story or characters. There’s a lot of heat and fire here that could’ve used a quicker step. There’s a viciousness of Wildlife that is cutting and needs to have more grit. I mean, it feels really awkward to sit here and say “this film is impeccably made and the performances are perfect,” only to then follow it up with “it needs to be less perfect to be actually be a great film.”

The best way I can describe it is that there is a lot of material here that has the might of a boxing match but is treated like a soft ballet. It doesn’t quite punch the way it should.

Regardless, Wildlife is a fine first feature and shows that Paul Dano really knows the look and feel of a movie. Whilst there are issues with the sloth-like energy, there is a lot to admire here. If not for the look, then absolutely for Mulligan’s cutting performance.


Wildlife is out in cinemas 9th November

Mirai – Review

From the story to the animation, of latest film from Japanese director, writer Mamoru Hosoda there is no doubt about it – Mirai will win your heart over. There is nothing quite like waiting for your next dose of magic in the beautifully distinctive form of Anime, and once again this simplistic, yet poignant tale hit’s the spot satisfying your every need (minus the infamous Miyazaki, of course).

It’s hard to swallow that not even one of Hayao Miyazaki’s works of wonder has ever been lucky enough to grace the presence of the prestigious film festival Cannes. Imagine getting that call and being the first Japanese animation to be screened there – one can only dream. Mirai deservingly makes the cut and hopefully paves the way for the likes of more to be recognised in such a tight knit industry.

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Any Ghibli fan is sure to love this one! It’s truly astonishing what can be done with such a humble concept that every older sibling goes through, one way or another. When younger sister Mirai darkens toddler Kun’s door, it would seem that his life as he knows it, is completely over, well it seems to be for his little man. Fed up of being ignored, not getting his own way and Mirai’s cries he luckily stumbles into a magical garden granting him the power to travel through time and meet his distant relatives from all walks of life.  With guidance from is older, yet younger sister from the future this becomes a history lesson of sorts in order to teach those young children to appreciate what they have and where they come from. A lesson most of us are accustomed to, with a profound sense of reality and tangibility told through innovative ideas.

With familiar tropes of his previous work, The Girl who Leapt Through Time; Hosoda brings magic and an escapism that is only achievable through such imagery and scope. Gorgeously animated with a dreamy pastel colour palette, juxtaposed to the bold, fiery tints of orange and black during the most important lesson of all Kun endures throughout the narrative. Whilst consumed with fantasy, the world we enter is full of realistic representations of nature. As we are watching snow falling through the eyes of our main character; the fluffy white droplets resemble that Christmassy feeling sending tingles of magic through your limbs and an urge for a Toffee-Nut Latte. Kun’s toddler tantrums and screaming outbursts are scarily accurate, with gesticulating purpose and facial expressions one would only expect from the wonder that is animation.

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With only a touch of lingering too long back in time; Mirai has an enchantingly touching message at its heart with bundles of laughter along the way. Spiritual aspects, delicately infused with the modern world and human trifles bring four year old Kun and his baby sister together.


Mirai hits selected theatres from 2nd November, 2018