From a canine uprising to blind, young love: adolescence takes to the stage as one of the BFI London Film Festival's biggest #trending #topics
From Woody Allen's fretful spermatozoon in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex to the many deaths of Sean Bean, cinema has documented every facet of human life. Of all the stages in man's steadfast march towards the grave, however, adolescence is perhaps the one most naturally suited to film. It is a time of dramatic firsts and outsized emotions, when physical senses are at their keenest and the world at its most vivid. There are personal discoveries to be made, friendships to be endangered, goals to be struggled for and loves to be lost. Such potent narrative ground explains why out of the 248 features screening at this year's London Film Festival – which kicks off today – many of the strongest focus on characters coming of age. As diverse as the films below are in approach, they share a common fascination for that odd string of years where life is filled with glorious and dreadful possibility.
This Hungarian canine caper won the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes. Lili stays with her father for a few days. When he neglects to take care of her pet dog Hagen, leaving him by the side of the road, Hagen (the dog) initiates a full-on woof of a canine uprising, recruiting street mutts to help get some killer revenge.
Showing on Friday 10, Sunday 12 and Monday 13
Céline Sciamma's third film is a jubilant and empathetic portrait of Marieme (Kadja Toure), a 16-year-old girl trying to define herself while becoming a part of a gang in the suburbs of Paris. Ingeniously divided into four sections as Marieme explores different identities, Girlhood is scored to thrumming electro music and features the striking cinematography of Crystel Fournier.
Showing on Thursday 16, Friday 17 and Saturday 18
While Casa Grande seems at first to be a straightforward story of a cocky, privileged teenager, the film becomes more complicated as it emerges that the boy's wealthy parents are in serious debt. Previously assured of his place in the world, Jean (Thales Cavalcanti) finds himself developing a social conscience amidst his family's struggles and a messy relationship with a girl from a less affluent school.
Showing on Friday 10, Sunday 12 and Tuesday 14
Models-turned-actresses have an unfairly maligned reputation, but fortunately Electricity is set to banish memories of Elle McPherson in Batman & Robin or Estella Warren in Planet of the Apes. Featuring a riveting performance from former supermodel Agyness Deyn, Bryn Higgins' film details the experience of an epileptic girl who leaves behind her job at a cash desk in a seaside arcade in order to find her long lost brother.
Showing on Tuesday 14 and Saturday 18
WHEN ANIMALS DREAM
The stylish directorial debut of Jonas Alexander Arnby, When Animals Dream is about a shy Danish teen who starts transforming into a werewolf while working in a fish factory, leading to a grimly inevitable confrontation with the people of her remote Danish village.
Showing on Thursday 16 and Friday 17
SOMETHING MUST BREAK
Another fiction film by an innovative documentarian, Ester Martin Bergsmark's Something Must Break is a subversive, formally daring romance. Reflecting upon the permeable membranes of sexuality and gender, the film concerns Sebastian (Saga Becker), a transgender teen who falls for the straight-identified Andreas (performance artist Iggy Malmborg.)
Showing on Friday 10 and Sunday 12
THE WAY HE LOOKS
The Way He Looks stars impressive newcomer Ghilherme Lobo as Leonardo, a blind teenager discovering his homosexuality while trying to grasp some independence from his overprotective parents. Without the traditional physical signifiers of attraction to draw upon, writer-director Daniel Ribeiro makes great use of sound and touch to depict Leonardo's burgeoning feelings for his new classmate Gabriel (Fabio Audi).
Showing on Thursday 9 and Friday 10
The concept of David Robert Mitchell's provocative, uneasy horror It Follows is brilliant in its simplicity: after having sex on a date, 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe) receives something akin to a STD, the symptoms of which are visions of being pursued by a nightmarish, shape-shifting presence. The only cure, she discovers, is to find someone else to pass it along to.
Showing on Saturday 11 and Monday 13
A profoundly moving documentary about two African-American teenagers trying to develop careers in the ultra-competitive world of basketball, Hoop Dreams was shot over five years and touches upon a wealth of issues in contemporary American life, from race to poverty to the complicated ethics of giving children nearly-unachievable aspirations. Recently voted the 17th greatest documentary of all time in a Sight & Sound poll, Hoop Dreams is fully deserving of its towering reputation.
Showing on Friday 17
Inspired by the experiences of her brother Sven, who co-wrote the screenplay, Goodbye First Love director Mia Hansen-Løve makes a surprising left turn with Eden, an intoxicating, sprawling history of French house music set over two decades.
Showing on Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15 and Friday 17