This year I saw five films at the London Film Festival: Wounds, Jo Jo Rabbit, The Lighthouse, Knives out and…the surprise film! Here I look at each one, giving my opinions on which you have to keep an eye out for.
Director/Writer: Babak Anvari
Starring: Armie Hammer, Dakota Johnson, Zazie Beetz
After a fight breaks out in the bar that alcohol-abuser Will (Armie Hammer) works at, a group of college friends leave a mobile phone behind and Will takes it home. After receiving a number of disturbing text messages and scrolling through the phone’s photographs, Will realises that there’s something very creepy going on. His girlfriend, Carrie (Dakota Johnson) starts researching on the internet and ends up acting strangely. Will’s life starts falling apart. Also…lots of cockroaches.
The director, Babak Anvari, spoke after the screening. The film was adapted from a novella and Anvari discussed how amazing it was working with Hammer, Johnson and Beetz, who plays Will’s best friend. I enjoyed the weirdness and creepiness of the film; I’m a fan of horror and jump scares, as well as occult based plot lines. Obviously, not a film for the faint of heart, but a throughly enjoyable cult film. My only criticism is that Will is SO unlikeable that I didn’t care what happened to him. Best part? Dakota Johnson is such an amazing creepy chick.
Director/Writer: Taika Waititi
Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell and so many others…!
Based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens, JoJo Rabbit follows the story of ten-year-old JoJo (Roman Griffin Davis) whose mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a seventeen-year-old Elsa, a Jewish girl, in their attic. JoJo is a member of the Hitler Youth and believes strongly in the values of the Nazis, pepped up by his imaginary friend Adolf (Taika Waititi). The film follows what happens when JoJo discovers Elsa and how they both deal with the final weeks of the war.
For those of you who know me, you probably know I came into this with a lot of existing knowledge of the war and the Holocaust, but here’s the thing – it didn’t ruin it one bit. This movie is fantastic. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, actual-tears sad and there isn’t one performance that isn’t wonderful. Easily my favourite film of the year so far.
Director: Robert Eggers
Writer: Robert & Max Eggers
Starring: Willem Dafoe & Robert Pattinson
I don’t want to say too much about the plot here, only that Tom (Willem Dafoe) has a lighthouse, which Winslow (Robert Pattinson) comes to work at.
As with Eggers’ last film, The Witch, this creepy horror is all in black and white. It nods towards mysticism, fantasy, time-jumping and psychological thriller. The Lighthouse is very very tense. As Paul (of Screen Mayhem) described it to me: I wanted that to end every minute, in the best way possible. A strong stomach required at points, but worth it for the twisty-turny journey of The Lighthouse.
Director/Writer: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daniel Craig, Toni Collette, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Katherine Langford, Michael Shannon, Christopher Plummer, Don Johnson and others! So many people!
Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is dead. His eclectic family, along with his loving nurse (Ana de Armas) have collected to mourn his passing. Two police officers turn up and start questioning the family, the “suicide” may actually be a MURDER! P.I. Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) has been hired by an anonymous person to help solve the mystery. Ensure a hilariously funny mystery with an ending that keeps everyone guessing up till the very last minute.
Rian Johnson said before the movie that this was a love letter to Agatha Christie and it certainly was. This twisty-turny murder mystery was both laugh-out-loud funny and used so many Chekov’s Guns I didn’t know which ones to trust!
The Surprise Film: Uncut Gems
Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Writers: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, Ronald Bronstein
Starring: Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel, Kevin Garnett (as himself)
Howard (Adam Sandler) is a jewellery shop owner who buys an uncut black opal and has a gambling problem. Ensue one of the worst films I’ve seen in recent years.
I’ve never walked out of a film before. But an hour in to this I turned to Paul (of Screen Mayhem) and said ‘this film is going to give me a panic attack. I’m leaving.’ And he walked me out before going back in so he could review it. Not only was the plot weak, but the acting was stressful; there was a lot of shouting and talking over each other. There was loud, obnoxious music and badly choreographed fights between various characters.
Generally, I’m not a fan of Sandler OR heist movies (not that this even fell into this category) but this really took the biscuit in terms of films that I’ll never try to watch again. Give it a go if you really want, but bear in mind, I warned you.