London Film Festival Diary – Part 3

londonfilmfest-xy-460Part three of our epic London Film Festival Diary, read on for reviews of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Mayfair Hotel Gala Wild and Carol Morley’s The Falling.

Day 5 – Sunday 12th October

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Director Morgan Matthews is mostly known for his documentary work. This is his first dramatical feature, the story of which was adapted from his acclaimed documentary Beautiful Young Minds by award-winning playwright James Graham.

Nathan (Asa Butterfield) is a slightly autistic maths wizz. Through his relationship with multiple sclerosis suffering maths teacher Mr Humphries (Rafe Spall) he is encourages to apply to join the UK team in the Mathematical Olympiad. The film follows Nathan and his team’s journey to Teipei and onto Cambridge for the competition. Throughout the film Nathan goes on his own internal journey, meeting his first girlfriend and processing the death of his father.

This is a strong film with excellent performances from Asa Butterfield and Rafe Spall (Prometheus, Life of Pi). Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky, Blue Jasmine) is also fantastic as Nathan’s mother, and it is moving to see her character struggle with the affects her son’s autism has on her.

In brief: A sensitive and engaging representation of autism and the effects it has on the individual and it’s relationships. A true gem of a film.
UK release date:   13th March 2015
IMDB

 

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
A unique Iranian-USA film from director Ana Lily Amirpour, the dialogue is in Farsi, but was filmed in LA with a predominantly American cast.

Set in Bad City, the film follows a skateboarding vampire‘s (Sheila Vand, Argo) killings of drug dealers and wasters, alongside Arash’s (Arash Manadi) struggle with life and his stoner father Hossain (Marshall Manesh, yes Ranjit from How I Met Your Mother). Arash dresses as a Dracula on Halloween and meets the real life vampire and is instantly intoxicated. The film then follows their relationship and Arash’s discovery of who his mystery woman really is.

Shot in black and white with a film noir aesthetic, the film is visually stunning and beautiful and it feels like every shot has been really thought-out. Music is used to great effect throughout, and there is a particular scene in which White Lies’ “Death” is used, which is absolutely spellbinding.

In brief: A rather compelling film with stunning imagery. Could be seen a little style over substance, but a brave first feature from Ana Lily Amirpour.
UK release date: Non set yet
IMDB
Ana Lily Amirpour’s website

 

Come Back to The Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
As part of the festival programme there are Treasures, films newly restored from the worlds archives. The 1982 film was directed by Robert Altman, and stars Cher and Kathy Bates in a predominantly-female ensemble cast. The film follows the ‘Disciples of James Dean’ the local James Dean fanclub, who meet up on the 20th anniversary of Dean’s death, as they reminisce about their past and the paths their lives have taken in the last twenty years.

Being one of Cher’s (Moonstruck, The Witches of Eastwick) first acting roles, she approaches is with aplomb and is absolutely fantastic and full of that swagger we associate her with. Karen Black (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces) must be praised for her performance and Sandy Dennis (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) is commendable as the rather delusional Mona. Kathy Bates (Misery, American Horror Story) wears a pink suit and cowboy hat and is as you expect her to be, straight-talking and compelling.

The film is based on the play by Ed Graczyk and it does have the feel of watching a filmed play. There are times earlier in the film where the time frame is played with, but without a change of clothes or a footnote, it is a bit confusing as it what is happening, but the film pulls it together well and has a rather fantastic ending.

In brief: A slow start, but keep going. Some fine performances from some remarkable women.
UK release date: NA
IMDB

 

Day 6 – Monday 12th October

Wild
Wild tells the true story of Cheryl Strayed’s (Reese Witherspoon) 1000 mile trek across the Pacific Coast Trail.  Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) with a screenplay by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About A Boy), the film is highly anticipated. Told through a mixture of flashbacks and present day we find out the reasoning behind Cheryl’s trek and the positive changes it brings to her.

Reese Witherspoon is reliably great in this,  Laura Dern is as ever mesmerizing as Strayed’s mother and there’s an all too brief appearance from Gaby Hoffman.

In brief: This will undoubtedly be popular when it’s released and is enjoyable in a ‘does what it says on the tin’ kind of way with a great performance from Reese Witherspoon.
UK release date: 16th January 2015
IMDB

 

Eden
Eden follows the story of fictional French Garage DJs Cheers from their inception in the mid 90’s, up and til the present day, whilst also loosely following Daft Punk’s skyrocketing career.

This film features the first of the three unconvincing cocaine habits we witnessed at the festival courtesy of central character Paul (Felix De Givry). Paul spends the film DJing, taking drugs, flitting around aimlessly from woman to woman, spending money, all with very little consequence. It’s hard to feel much sympathy for Paul and even when the group are faced with tragedy, you don’t feel much emotion for the characters or their plight.

Maybe if I had felt more emotion towards the musical subject, been living in Paris around that time and knew the songs and the scene it was referencing I could have felt more of a connection to the film, however without that personal frame of reference it left me a bit cold. The most exciting part for me musically was when they played the first Daft Punk single at a party.  Maybe if they’d made a film about Daft Punk it could have been more interesting?

In brief: A rather interesting and novel story idea, however even a Greta Gerwig cameo couldn’t save this rather aimless film. You may have more interest in the movie if you know more about the Paris scene from that time, however I’m unable to really tell how accurate it is depicted.
UK release date: Unknown
IMDB

 

In The Basement (Im Keller)
In The Basement is an Austrian documentary all about things which people do in their basements. You have the nazi memorabilia collector, S&M dominatrix, huntsmen and more.

With it’s unrestrictive concept, this documentary had the opportunity to go in all directions. Though a lot of the content maybe included for shock value alone, is rather entertaining, novel and beautifully shot. No spoilers, but there are scenes you will see in this movie that you have never seen before.

In brief: Not for the faint hearted but thoroughly entertaining, recommended.
UK release date: Unknown
IMDB
Website

 

The Falling
The Falling is a new film by Carol Morley (Dreams of a Life, Edge) set in a 1960’s girl school where the girls unexpectedly start fainting.  Bringing to mind films such classics as Picnic at Hanging Rock and Wolf Rilla’s Village of the Damned, the film sets out to be stylistic in approach, using stifling 60’s-esque dialogue and aesthetic and an evocative sound track composed by Tracey Thorn.

What Carol Morley is trying to achieve with this film is brave and at some points she pulls it off, however in some ways it falls a bit flat, however with Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) involved there will be some interest. The story will definitely surprise and shock you at times.

In brief: If you want to see a modern British film not at all like anything else out there then give this a go, you may not love it, but you will definitely remember it.
UK release date:
IMDB

Part four and the last of our diary will be up soon with reviews of Whiplash, Ping Pong Summer, White Bird in a Blizzard and more.