And, just like that, the credits roll on this year’s BFI London Film Festival. It’s been an amazing few weeks not just for the biggest, best and undiscovered gems in cinema; but also for the profits of central London’s coffee brewers.. I’m not sure we would’ve made it through so many screenings without you. But you’re not here to talk about hot beverages! you’re here for the insider scoop on what films are worth your time in the coming months, so just like I did for week one of the festival; I’ve picked out five highlights that you'll definitely want to be keeping on your radar. In no particular order, lets dive in..
I don't think anyone would've guessed Luca Guadagnino's follow-up to 'Call Me By Your Name' would be a brooding, unnerving and blood-soaked re-telling of a horror classic.. but it happened, I saw it, and it hasn't left my head since. Remaking a film as iconic and loved as Darrio Argento's Suspiria is no easy task; but Guadagnino takes key elements and morphs it into a completely fresh, unique vision, which no doubt will prove to be one of the more divisive films of 2018. Swapping the vivid colour palette of the remote German dance academy in Argento's original, with the drained colours of a politically (and literally) divided 1977 Berlin; Guadagnino's take is a longer, slower, more unnerving re-telling - complete with not one but TWO Tilda Swinton performances (honestly, could we have more of this all the time please?), and an incredible score from Radiohead's Thom Yorke.
Lee Chang-Dong's feature length adaptation of Haruki Murakami's short story 'Barn Burning' is difficult to talk about on lists like these, mainly because its the sort of film that is best approached with as little knowledge of its story or characters as possible. The central themes and plot of this South-Korean thriller are so expertly woven, and the unravelling story is constantly engrossing in its mystery; rest assured this is undoubtedly one of the best films of 2018. 'The Walking Dead's Steven Yeun is a particular stand out, but the three central actors feel utterly believable in each of their roles, making for a truly captivating experience. It's also one of the best looking films of the year, thought it may prove divisive in its willingness (or lack thereof) to answer the questions it poses. Ultimately, however, that ends up being its strongest quality. I found myself pondering it's many themes and topics long after I'd left the cinema. I already can't wait to see it again, if not mainly just to pick it apart and analyse its various different interpretations..
Writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos is known for creating absurd, off-kilter worlds in all of his films - and this year he brings the period-drama genre kicking and screaming into his crazy mind. And yes, it's just as wonderful as it sounds. Probably the most accessible of Lanthimos' filmography (working from a screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara is perhaps to blame for a slightly lighter affair than last year's 'Killing of a Sacred Deer'...) and with three amazing performances from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone; The Favourite is not only the funniest film of the year, but also sure to be a frontrunner for awards recognition come Oscar season. Colman will no doubt get most the praise for her child-like tantrum-throwing Queen Anne, but Weisz is just as engrossing as the cunning cousin to Emma Stone's social rank-climbing maid, and their rivalry is incredibly entertaining. They're all great, and the film feels all the more re-watchable for it. Its no doubt one of the better films of the year, and its sure to be a real crowd pleaser when it goes on full release later in the year.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Director Barry Jenkins wowed pretty much everyone with a heart with 2016's 'Moonlight' (even if you didn't see the film you'll no doubt know about it from the Oscars La La Land fiasco last year..), and this year he's back to prove he's the master of pulling heart strings with an adaptation of James Baldwin's classic novel 'If Beale Street Could Talk'. Its a love story at heart, which sees a young woman fighting to clear her partners name from a crime he says he didn't commit. If it sounds kind of uninspiring, on paper the story sort of is - but Jenkins' typical humanist approach to storytelling and exquisite feel for tone and emotion elevate this story to wonderful heights. Grounded by wonderful central performances, and boasting an incredibly affecting score (in a similar fashion to Moonlight's sombre chopped & screwed approach to soundtracking); Beale street is simultaneously romantic, moving, timely and funny. It's a difficult balance of tones to get right, but Jenkins' weaves it all so expertly that it's hard not to fall in love with it all. Are we about see another Oscar win on the horizon?
Birds of Passage
Drug gangs and family disputes, at this point, are tried and tested conventions of the crime genre. But with Birds of Passage, Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego (the filmmakers behind 2015's stunning Embrace of the Serpent) take a different approach to the Columbian crime epic; Looking at one family's decade-spanning rise through the ranks of drug trafficking, within the framework of an indigenous community's traditions. It's a fascinating new angle, which adds a rarely seen perspective to the conventions of the genre, and makes for an incredibly captivating and tragic watch. Transitioning from a charming and light-hearted tone into a much more bleak, violent and intense atmosphere is jarring but effective, as we follow the central character's decent into the darker world of drugs; and Guerra and Gallego are unflinching in their exploration of what power and money will do to people. It's especially effective in its duality between gang and business power rankings and those of the indigenous families from which these figures arise. With Birds of Passage, Guerra and Gallega are positioning themselves as two of the most interesting voices in modern cinema, and this is absolutely one to keep on your radar.
And that's it! Those are the final 5 recommendations from this year's London Film Festival. It's been a great year, proven by how difficult it was to narrow down to just five here.. but do let us know in the comments below what some of your highlights from this year's festival have been!