Its been nearly a week since the BFI London Film Festival kicked off, and like every year, that means an October filled with early mornings, lots of coffee and more importantly: arguably too many film viewings per day. And so far, its been a pretty stonking great year for festival flicks. We've had no shortage of great new films from some of the best directors working today, as well as a handful bold debuts too - but with weekend one out of the way, I thought I'd get my reflective hat on to offer my best recommendations for films to look out for post-festival season. So, in no particular order, here are my five highlights from this year's London Film Festival so far..
Last year, Timothée Chalamet blew everyone away with his Oscar-nominated turn as Elio Perlman, in Luca Guadagnino's wonderful 'Call Me By Your Name' - and this year it's his portrayal of real-life addict Nic Sheff that might tip him for his first win at the Academy. Felix Van Groeningen directs Chalamet alongside co-star and on-screen father Steve Carell, in this heart-wrenching true story of a family's struggle with drug addiction. With a soundtrack spanning everything from Neil Young to Aphex Twin, and a career-best performance from Carell; Beautiful Boy feels like a collage of family memories and emotions, grabbing you by the heart and refusing to let go until the credits roll. Its a serious powerhouse of a film, and I have no doubt it'll be a big contender come this year's awards season.
Netflix has made more and more of a push in recent years with its original content, and this year it hopes to add 'Oscar winner' to its resume with Alfonso Cuarón's latest semi-biographical feature. Acting as a sort of year-in-the-life look at a housekeeper and the family she works for in 70s era Mexico-city; Roma is absolutely brimming with life and charm. Those wondering how the director's trademark technical feats might come to play in a 2 hour drama about life as a housekeeper, can rest assured: this is the best shot film of the year, with long-takes and perfectly executed and composited panning shots (all the more impressive when you consider Cuarón's DP is.. well.. himself). You will not want to miss this one when it drops on Netflix come December.
Sorry To Bother You
Boots Riley made his name as a rapper - but he swaps the microphone for a camera here, in his debut feature film 'Sorry To Bother You'. Starring a typically great Lakeith Stanfield (who you may recognise from last year's surprise hit 'Get-Out'), the film follows a telemarketer as he tries to make it up the corporate ladder. A witty, absurd, surreal and at times downright insane story; Riley comes out all guns blazing in a satirical look at capitalism's dark implications, that ends up being one of the most simultaneously hilarious and baffling films of the year. I think it might be the understatement of the century to say this might not be for everyone - but it certainly has to be seen to be believed.
12 Years A Slave saw British artist-turned-director Steve McQueen take home the prestigious golden Oscar for 'Best Picture' - and this year he follows it up with.. a heist film based on an ITV series that aired in the 80s? I'd love to say its the biggest surprise of the year, but honestly 2018 has been.. well 2018. McQueen completely nails his first foray into pulpy, genre film; delivering a hugely enjoyable thriller that sees a group of recently widowed women attempting to pull off a heist. Viola Davies is typically amazing, but we also get fantastic turns from Daniel Kaluuya, Elizabeth Debicki, Liam Neeson and a new contender for dog of the year (although, don't worry, I haven't forgotten Bradley Cooper's goldendoodle from 'A Star Is Born' just yet).
At first I wasn't sure whether to include Brady Corbet's arthouse portrait of a troubled popstar born out of tragedy on this list (it was, after all, one of the more divisive films of the festival so far); but a best-of-the-year performance from the Natalie Portman and a thought-provoking spin on commercial fame, make this a film to keep on your radar - at least if you're up for a more challenging viewing experience. Corbet's unflinching and troubling second feature explores the relationship between acts of terror and the sculpting of commercial success in the west, and is certainly not one you'll easily forget. Although I can't promise you'll love it, I can promise it'll get you thinking - and hell, if like me you'll watch anything Natalie Portman does at all, you won't want to miss her craziest performance in years.
Those are just five of many films I've been watching at this year's festival - If you've been able to catch any other films that I've not included here, let us know in the comment section down below! I'll be back next week for a further 5 recommendations after week 2 has come to an end.