London Film Festival Wrap-Up: 2016

In which one writer rambles about five different movies he didn’t end up having enough time to review.

I ended up seeing ten films at this year’s London Film Festival, and it really has been one of the best movie-related experiences I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, life caught up with me in the form of a nasty infection and some university lectures I’m apparently supposed to attend – so I’ve had to cut down the number of full LFF reviews I’m writing to 5 (MoonlightManchester By The Sea, Your NameLa La Land & Arrival). To make up for it, I thought I’d quickly get out a few shorter thoughts on the other 5 films here.

The Red Turtle

Director: Michaël Dudok de Wit    |    Release: 20th January (US)

Studio Ghibli’s first foray into filmmaking in a post-Miyazaki era is actually one of my favourite Ghibli efforts I’ve seen. Michaël Dudok de Wit’s quiet, dialogue-free take on the classic desert island tale is a serene 80-minute meditation, blessed with a beautiful score and some stunning animation. It lacks the excitement of some of its Hollywood-funded animated contemporaries this year – but that’s really part of its charm. It’s a calming little dose of escapism, with a few turtles thrown in for good measure.


A Monster Calls

Director: Juan Antonio Bayona    |    Release: 23rd December (US)

I wanted to like A Monster Calls more. The acting is solid across the board, and it boasts its fair share of striking visuals. Sadly, the plot’s a bit of a mess. It’s a vaguely defined, somewhat artistic attempt at conveying the rage & confusion experienced by a boy over the course of his mother’s illness. The film’s relentlessly bleak tone doesn’t make for very pleasant viewing – while even the emotional moments themselves don’t hit quite as hard as Bayona intended them to. I just couldn’t make that connection.


Certain Women

Director: Kelly Reichardt    |    Release: 14th October (US)

A film about women, starring women, directed by a woman for… everyone. Touching on themes of loneliness, heartbreak, ambition and desire over the course of three beautifully told tales, Certain Women is one of the most human cinematic experiences of the year. A true ‘actor’s piece’, there’s some excellent work from Laura Dern & Michelle Williams, but it’s a brilliantly understated performance from Kristen Stewart & an equally phenomenal breakout turn from Lily Gladstone that ends up stealing the show. Gorgeously shot and fittingly quiet, Kelly Reichardt’s film is beautiful in every sense of the word.



Director: Benedict Andrews    |    Release: TBA

Without doubt one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve ever had in a movie theatre, to reveal too much on Una‘s story details would be doing the film a disservice when it deserves to be taken in fresh. Rooney Mara & Ben Mendelsohn are excellent, adding a new dimension and ambiguity to the harrowing nature of the source material. Adapted from the play Blackbird, the film is erratically paced, and rarely ever takes advantage of its cinematic format. This is a tale that might’ve been best suited for the stage.


Bleed For This

Director: Ben Younger    |    Release: 18th November (US)

It’s remarkable how well suited the worlds of boxing and cinema are for one another. Ben Younger’s Bleed For This channels all the raw, physical energy its heavyweight predecessor’s in the genre possessed – without adding anything new whatsoever. Miles Teller delivers yet another impressive lead performance as the central figure in an inspirational comeback tale, while Aaron Eckhart is quietly excellent as his onscreen coach and mentor. I just wish the rest of the film had a little more… personality.


I’m hopefully looking to post those last two LFF reviews over the next few days. In the meantime, find me making painfully obvious statements about film @mintsanity.

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