With the programme officially released and the festival around the corner, the BFI London Film Festival can leave you both spoiled for choice and at a standstill of not knowing where to start. To help, we’ve selected our top ten must-sees of this year’s festival.
Opening the festival this year is Breathe, the directorial debut from Andy Serkis, best known for being The Hobbit‘s Gollum and The Planet of the Ape‘s Caesar.
Breathe packs a one-two punch with powerhouses Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy as Robin and Diana Cavendish. It follows the Cavendishes as Robin is diagnosed with polio, sentenced to live out the rest of his days in his hospital bed. Determined to make the most of what little time he has left, they escape the hospital ward with the help of Diana’s twin brother, played by Tom Hollander, and inventor Teddy Hall, played by Hugh Bonneville.
If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, the fact that Breathe is written by two-time Academy Award nominated writer William Nicholson and shot by three-time winner Robert Richardson should be sure to win you over.
The Shape of Water
Director Guillermo Del Toro is known for his darkly indulgent films, and The Shape of Water seems to be no exception.
In recent festival screenings, Sally Hawkins has been lauded for her stellar portrayal of a deaf and dejected janitor who falls in love with a mysterious creature, played by Doug Jones (a Del Toro regular), who is being studied and experimented upon in the basement of a U.S. Government facility. Hawkins fights for his freedom among others fighting against the man during the height of the Cold War.
With supporting cast including Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, and Richard Jenkins rounding out the film, Del Toro’s “adult fairy tale” is a must-see from this year’s program.
You Were Never Really Here
The long-awaited return of Lynne Ramsay rocked Cannes when it first premiered, snagging both the Best Screenplay and Best Actor awards.
The brutally violent film follows Joaquin Phoenix as a troubled law enforcer tasked with saving a young girl from sex slavery. Corruption, vengeance, and violence curse his path ahead, but it just might prove to be the right mix to save him from himself.
Talk surrounding the film hasn’t slowed since Cannes, and it’s due for a second wave when it shows again in London.
Norway has already announced that Joachim Trier’s Thelma will be their official entry for this year’s Best Foreign Language Oscar, and for good reason.
The film’s namesake, Thelma (Eili Harboe), a quiet girl from a religious family, leaves home to go to university in Oslo. While there, she suffers a strange and violent seizure, after which she finds herself distracted by Anja, her beautiful classmate (Okay Kaya). The closer they get, the more their attraction grows, and the more supernatural Thelma finds herself becoming.
Netflix turned many heads when they revealed they would be working yet again with David Fincher, this time on a television series reminiscent of his mega-hit Zodiac.
Based on a novel by Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas, Mindhunter follows two FBI agents, played by Holt McCallany and Jonathan Groff, in 1979 as they work their way into the heads of serial killers in order to decode their patterns and prevent them from striking again.
The first two episodes of the series will be screened at the festival.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Fresh off the success of The Lobster, his first film in English, Greek auteur extraordinaire Yorgos Lanthimos returns to English-language cinema with The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
Collin Farrell also returns with Lanthimos, this time as Steven, a charismatic surgeon plagued by Martin, the son of a man that died on his operating table. Martin delivers an ultimatum that he feels will avenge his father’s death: Steven must kill one of his family members, or watch them slowly die. Alongside Farrell stars the heavy-hitting Nicole Kidman as his wife, as well as Alicia Silverstone as Martin’s mother.
Be prepared for Lanthimos’s signature pitch-black, awkward humour and disturbing imagery when going to see this one.
Call Me By Your Name
Luca Guadagnino’s Sundance darling Call Me By Your Name is already being heralded as the next great film in the recent uptick of beautiful and delicately portrayed films about sexuality such as Carol and Moonlight.
Call Me By Your Name is based on the novel by André Aciman, revolving around 17-year-old Elio’s (Timothée Chalamet) sexual awakening. Set in Italy where Elio lives with his professor father, he finds himself not only caught in the sights of the beautiful girl down the road but also caught in the repressed desire for manly Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year old scholar who has come to study under his father.
The Florida Project
Anyone who has seen Sean Baker’s Tangerine can attest to the fact that he is the king of glamour and grit. In his latest film The Florida Project, Baker returns to his tried and true method of utilizing first-time actors, often from the very settings he shoots in.
Baker’s free-flowing narrative is centred around six-year-old Moonee, played by Brooklynn Prince. Under the lax supervision of her rebellious young mother Halley (Bria Vinaite), she runs rampant around the Orlando budget motel in which she lives. Subject only to the rules of the property manager, played by Baker’s first name actor Willem Dafoe, Moonee lives a life of mischief, blissfully blind to Halley’s struggle to care for herself, let alone Moonee.
Baker never fails to deliver a beautifully sobering slice of reality, and this is one you won’t soon forget.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Closing the festival is Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh’s dark dramedy, Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Francis McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a mother upset by the lack of response from the police investigating her daughter’s murder. She takes matters into her own hands, painting three billboards that read: “RAPED WHILE DYING,” “BUT STILL NO ARRESTS,” and, finally, “HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?” This leads to a standoff of epic proportions between Mildred, Willoughby (Woody Harrellson), and his violent second-in-command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell).
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is sure to be as dark as it is witty, following in accordance with McDonagh’s track record of similarly toned films.
London Film Festival Surprise Film
Of course, the real One To Watch will be the festival’s surprise film. Each year, the festival’s surprise film is one of the most sought-after tickets, and for good reason. Though some might be wary of the risk of buying a ticket for an unnamed movie, films shown in past years, such as Anomolisa, Birdman, No Country for Old Men, and Silver Linings Playbook, speak volumes for the calibre of film it will surely be.