Xavier Dolan pushes boundaries, Gregg Araki goes 80s and Miles Teller destroys drum kits – we round up the surprises at the capital’s biggest film fest
From '71 to Zero Motivation, the BFI London Film Festival is bringing 248 essential movies to the capital this year. As it prepares to kick off tomorrow, you’ve probably already gone through the official programme with a neon yellow highlighter pen. But just in case you’re a little bit late to the party, here’s ten films that totally blew us away.
David Ayer's intense war movie sees Brad Pitt return to the trenches he bellowed through in Inglorious Basterds (2009) to guide new recruit Logan Lerman through the duel horrors of tank battling and having to hold his nose around Shia LaBeouf (the not-famous film star who went 'method' by not washing on-set). Powerful, pulse-pounding and packed full of impressive performances, this has to be one of the first tickets you purchase for this year’s Festival.
Showing on Sunday 19 October
Essentially a mash-up between Harmony Korine and Larry Clark with its own distinctive voice, Guy Myhill’s The Goob is a devastatingly impressive debut. Following 16-year old Taylor (newbie Liam Walpole) and his attempts to survive his explosive father (a scary Sean Harris), The Goob is an intense, but darkly rewarding experience.
Showing on Friday 10, Sunday 12 and Wednesday 15
WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD
IT’S LIKE: Pretty In Pink meets Snowcatcher
Gregg Araki returns, and it’s like he’s never been away. From its (Cocteau Twins scored) opening to closing credits, this 80s-set candy-coloured beauty hypnotizes; as we follow Shailene Woodley’s confident teen Kat combining a search for her missing mother with a sexual awakening. Featuring a captivatingly manic turn from Eva Green, a grizzly Thomas Jane, and Precious’ Gabourey Sidibe in support, this is one of the best casts Araki’s worked with; and they’ve created one of his best films.
Showing on Thursday 16 and Saturday 18
CATCH ME DADDY
You’ll have seen Daniel Wolfe’s music videos — including Time To Dance by The Shoes, which features Jake Gyllenhaal murdering the sort of people who visit our website — here, Wolfe makes his feature debut with a stunning modern western that follows a young Pakistani girl as she tries to escape her family and make a new life with her boyfriend. But her father isn’t prepared to let her go, and has sent a gang of thugs to find her… Beautifully shot, with an eclectic soundtrack, Daddy is a constantly surprising thriller that comes complete with an ending that’ll keep you in conversation for weeks.
Showing on Thursday 16, Friday 17 and Sunday 19
Ambitious jazz musician Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) meets teacher Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons), who’s so unrelentingly tough he makes Michelle Pfeiffer’s marine in Dangerous Minds (1995) look like a kitten on a trampoline. This astonishing film fizzes with passion in every frame, as Fletcher pushes Neyman to the limits of his drum skills; then far beyond them. Delivered like it’s a psychological action thriller, Whiplash will drop you off your seat, before pulling you back up with shaking hands, ready for the next onslaught of explosive emotion.
Showing on Wednesday 15, Thursday 16 and Saturday 18
MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN
Juno (2007) director Jason Reitman’s smart(phone) adaptation of Chad Kultgen’s coming of age novel overlaps texts, tweets, emails, and Facebook posts onto the screen like that IKEA scene in Fight Club (1999), only with much more poignancy. There, the technique was played for laughs, here, the onscreen messages are used to evocatively explore the ironic isolation we experience in a (Wi-Fi) internet-connected world. Featuring Adam Sandler with a beard of sorrow and Jennifer Garner’s most impressive performance since… well, forever, this is essential viewing — just make sure you don’t wait to watch it on your iPad.
Showing on Thursday 9, Friday 10 and Saturday 11
Mid-20s wunderkind auteur Xavier Dolan has made five films in five years — so you can almost see how he could label Orson Welles “A late bloomer” in a recent interview. Coming from anyone else, the statement might seem preposterous, but Dolan’s rapid development as a filmmaker is so impressive he could well eventually make his very own Citizen Kane (1941). Mommy, his latest, certainly has its fair share of experimentation — this tale of the relationship between weary mother Diane and her ADHD teenage son Steve is shot in a 1:1 aspect ratio — basically, the same framing as an ice bucket challenge video — which makes our protagonists look like black walls are closing in on them. Which, thematically, they very much are.
Showing on Thursday 16 and Sunday 19
Director Carol Morley teams with cinematographer Agnes Godard and Game Of Thrones’ Arya (Maisie Williams) to deliver this exquisite exploration of an English girls school at the end of the 60s. With Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn on soundtrack duties, this is a stylish examination of emotional abandonment and brittle emotions.
Showing on Saturday 11, Monday 13 and Sunday 19
THE WAY HE LOOKS
Following blind high school student Leonardo’s quest for his first kiss, exploring his lifelong friendship with the devoted Giovana, and detailing how handsome new student Gabriel complicates both, this Brazilian drama is almost impossibly charming. Moving, joyous and enchanting in equal measure, you won’t take your eyes off it.
Showing on Thursday 9 and Friday 10
How I Live Now (2013)'s George MacKay takes centre-stage in Duane Hopkins’ haunting drama, following sensitive Tim’s travails as he cares for his terminally ill mother on a heroin-ravaged post-industrial satellite town in the north-east of England, whilst stealing to ensure his sister’s survival. An intense score enhances the harrowing events documented by Hopkins' near-magical camera.
Showing on Saturday 11 and Tuesday 14