Courtesy of the British Film Institute, we’ve been treated to an advance look at some of the films being screened as part of this year’s 55th BFI London Film Festival (supported by American Express).
If you’re planning to go along here’s a few titles to look out for:
Drake Doremus directs this romantic drama about young lovers Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones).
Besotted with her new American boyfriend, British student Anna fails to return to the UK after her tourist visa expires.
That decision pitches couple against the US immigration system, one of the most draconian and unforgiving in the world, and threatens to destroy their love.
As months of legalistic wrangling pass, the pair find themselves having to work hard to keep their love alive but physical separation brings with it an emotional distance which they struggle to bridge.
The cast, which also includes Alex Kingston as Anna’s mother, ensure the characters and their relationships feel natural and true and Jones is superb as the lovestruck Anna.
There are couple of plot niggles – why does a magazine blogger need to change jobs merely because they move from the UK to the US? – but overall this is a great exploration of consequence and romance.
Our Verdict 5/5
Jack Black is superb in this ‘based on a real story’ film about a small town undertaker who embarks on a friendship with Shirley MacLaine’s unlovable and recently-widowed Marjorie Nugent.
As the pair get friendly, the local district attorney (Matthew McConaughey) becomes suspicious about whether Bernie is quite as clean-cut as he seems. His snooping about exposes a surprising secret which divides the community.
Despite the plot taking a dark turn in the third act, the script is peppered with some great one-liners and which reveal just what some Texans think of their less well-educated neighbours.
Director Richard Linklater strikes the ideal balance between comedy and tragedy while Black delivers a gloriously understated and deft performance.
Our Verdict 4/5
A Norwegian comedy about curling champion player Truls Paulsen (Atle Antonsen) whose obsession with accuracy leads him into a sanatorium and then onto a quest to raise the funds for a friend’s life-saving operation.
Paulsen is reminiscent of John Cleese’s head teacher in Clockwise in this fairly broad, knockabout comedy which, while it has surprises, readily transcend language and national borders.
Our Verdict 3/5
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson and John Hawkes star in Sean Durkin’s tale of a young girl who runs away from a cult.
The film cuts between Martha’s time with the group and her strained reunion with her sister and brother-in-law as she attempts to shake off her conditioning.
In the flashbacks she’s shown to have taken part in some terrible crimes – helping prepare a newcomer to the group for a raping and is present at the stabbing of a homeowner – yet disappointingly the film never touches on the themes of justice or atonement.
The cast all turn in decent performances but Hawkes steals the film with an impressive turn as the creepy and hypnotic cult leader.
A powerful portrayal of how strong personalities can influence and ultimately control the weak and their struggle to return to normality but it’s sadly let down by a confused and unnecessarily ambiguous ending.
Our Verdict 4/5