Film Review: Non-Fiction

Oliver Assayas’ Non-Fiction is a witty and endearing exploration of life, truth, and publishing. The film is a most satisfying watch.

Author Léonard hopes that publisher Alain to take on his latest manuscript. Alain is worried about the future of the publishing industry in the digital age. Léonard meanwhile is concerned with the perception of his work, as well as his private life..

Focusing on a group of friends involved in the worlds of publishing and media, Non-Fiction explores multiple ideas about the industry and the contemporary world. The film is as much about these ideas as it is about the characters. That is not to say the characters are disposable; on the contrary they are well crafted and often affable. Yet writer-director Oliver Assayas clearly wants to explore various ideas with the film.

These ideas are introduced through the various discussions that take place. Sometimes these are one-on-one conversations and sometimes group discussions. Assayas is concerned with the digital divide, the effect of social media on writing, the public personas of politicians, among other things. What really becomes apparent is that Non-Fiction is about truth. The discussions on post-truth are resonant, and the filmmaker feeds this notion about the nature of truth throughout the entire movie. 

At the very beginning of the film, Alain and Léonard discuss witticisms. This is no coincidence; the film is littered with humour. Assayas gives several subjects a gentle ribbing, and even has a joke with his viewers at the end with a reference to the film’s lead actress. 

The conversations are frequently filmed in an intimate style. Scenes featuring group discussions cut back and forth rapidly, making viewers feel as if they are part of the conversation. Vincent Macaigne delivers a memorable performance as Léonard. His delivery is superb; he is responsible for several of the film’s laughs. Guillaume Canet and Juliet Binoche are as reliable as ever. 

Non-Fiction illustrates Assayas’ versatility as a filmmaker. A brilliant script and skilful direction make for an indelible film.

Non-Fiction is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

BFI London Film Festival 2018 Launch

Today saw the BFI London Film Festival 2018 launch. Now in its 62nd year, the festival is screening 225 feature films, including 21 world premieres. Here are some highlights from the festival programme…

Headline Galas

The Opening and Closing Gala films had already been announced. The BFI London Film Festival 2018 opens with Steve McQueen’s hotly anticipated Widows, starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Colin Farrell. McQueen co-wrote the  screenplay with Gillian Flynn. McQueen’s last film, 12 Years A Slave, screened at the 2013 London Film Festival to great acclaim. Stan & Ollie, which features John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan as the legendary comedy duo, closes the festival. Other headline galas include Luca Guadagnino’s hotly anticipated Suspiria, Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, and Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?. A particular highlight is Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest. The Favourite is about Queen Anne’s court, and stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weiss, and Emma Stone. 

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

There are several great looking films in the Strand Galas and Special Presentation programmes. They include Barry Jenkins’ follow up to Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, which is an adaption of James Baldwin’s novel. Others in this category include Lee Chang-dong’s thriller Burning, and Alfonso Caurón’s first film since Gravity, Roma, and Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Special Presentations include Michael Moore’s Donald Trump documentary Fahrenheit 11/9, Carol Morley’s noir thriller Out of Blue, and George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give. 

Official Competition

There are some big names in this year’s Official Competition. Films include David Lowery’s (A Ghost Story) The Old Man & The Gun starring Robert Redford, László Nemes’ (Son of Saul) Sunset, and Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year, Colin Burstead – Wheatley’s Free Fire closed the 2016 festival. Also competing is Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer, starring Nicole Kidman. Meanwhile the Documentary Competition features Putin’s Witness (Svideteli Putina’s film featuring footage of Putin from 1999-2000) and Julien Faraut’s John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection. First Feature Competition includes Isabella Eklöf’s Holiday and Paul Dano’s Wildlife. 


As in previous years, the eleven programme strands are back. Love features Fred Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and the Sandra Hüller starring In The Aisles. Debate includes Oliver Assayas’ latest, Non-Fiction, starring Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet, and Catherine Corsini’s An Impossible Love. Laugh includes New Zealand comedy The Breaker Uppers, about two women running a relationship break-up service. Amongst the Dare programme is The Green Fog, which sees filmmakers Guy Maddin and Evan and Galen Johnson remake Vertigo using clips from other people’s films. Thrill includes Kim Nguyen’s The Hummingbird Project (starring Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård), while Cult features Nicolas Cage in Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. 

Jessica Hynes directorial debut The Fight is part of the Journey strand, and Create includes Joan Jett documentary Bad Reputation. Richard Squires’ Doozy, which recreates the career of Hanna-Barbera’s villain actor Paul Lynde is one of the Experimenta films being screened. The Family strand features Linda Hambäck’s animated detective tale Gordon & Paddy. Finally, there are some great films being screened as part of the Treasures strand. These include Billy Wilder’s classic Some Like It Hot and Mae West in My Little Chickadee.

The BFI London Film Festival 2018 runs from 10th-21st October. The full programme can be viewed here.

Film Review: Last Night

Massy Tadjedin’s Last Night is a commendable as directorial debut. The film is visually appealing but lacks the depth that a drama of this nature should have.

Joanna and Michael Reed have been in a relationship for years, and married fairly recently. When they attend a party, Joanna notices that one of Michael’s colleagues is a very attractive woman. Joanna is jealous that Michael is about to go on a business trip with Laura, but becomes distracted when she bumps into an old flame…

Last Night offers a microcosmic view of the complexities of infidelity. Concentrating on a couple and their dalliances with others, the film provides a snapshot into their lives. The entire film takes place over the course of less than two days, aside from brief flashbacks.

Writer-director Tadjedin’s intentions seem clear from the very beginning of the film. Last Night balances on a precipice; the film is engineered to keep the audience guessing about the faithfulness of the protagonists. Tadjedin attempts to maintain a level of intrigue as to how far each partner will go, whether they will individually succumb to the advances of others. It is rather disappointing that the characters live up to stereotypes in the end. At times, it seems that the film wishes to comment on the nature of infidelity, but in the end the narrative relies on banal conventions.

Perhaps what hampers the film most is the performance of the leading lady. Keira Knightley is distractingly bad as Joanna. The actress’ delivery is poor and her mannerisms seem false. Given how pivotal her role is, Knightley’s performance takes something away from the film.

Sam Worthington’s delivery is also a little hit and miss as husband Michael. His scenes with Eva Mendes’ Laura fare a lot better. Mendes is well cast as Laura. At the beginning of the film, Joanna’s slight frame is really accentuated when she changes clothes. Laura’s curvaceous figure seems the antithesis of Joanna’s emaciated-looking body, so it is easy to see why Michael would find her attractive. Guillaume Canet offers the best performance of the film as Alex, the ex-lover of Joanna. Griffin Dunne offers good support as Truman.

The shooting style is fluid, but is overindulgent in its aesthetics. The overlaying of sound on different shots, the minor flashbacks and flash-forwards, and some of the jump-cut editing are all unnecessary tricks. The locations featured in the film are glamorous enough not to need this superficial chicanery.

With different casting, perhaps Last Night would have been a better film. Even so, there would still be some issues with the dialogue and plot. A glossy effort with all too apparent flaws.

Film Review: Little White Lies

Guillaume Canet’s Little White Lies is an amusing and thought-provoking comedy drama. At 154 minutes however, the film feels overlong; half an hour could have been trimmed and the effect would still be the same.

Restaurant-owner Max and his wife Véro invite their group of friends to their beach house for vacation; a yearly tradition. After their close friend Ludo is seriously injured in an accident, the group still decide to go on holiday. Ludo’s condition seems to have an impact on the group, as tensions rise and secrets come out…

Little White Lies provides a good mix of comedy and drama. The last section of the film is overly emotional, but this can be forgiven for the laughs that Canet has provided up to this point. There is nothing particularly original or spellbinding about Little White Lies, it is simply a film that effectively balances comedy and drama to create an enjoyable watch.

Aside from the dramatic accident at the beginning of the film, incidents are all rather normal and commonplace. The events that take place and the issues that come to light are all fairly identifiable, especially to those of a similar age as the characters. The beauty of Little White Lies lies in Canet’s fantastic writing. Situations are humorous, dramatic or endearing precisely because they seem so natural.

The film is a real character-driven feature. Despite the size of the ensemble cast, each character is given sufficient depth. The group of friends are a diverse bunch, yet it is clear why they are friends, as well as the bonds that tie them together. Although there is an initial selfishness in leaving for a holiday when their friend is so ill in Paris, all of the characters are depicted as multi-dimensional. Actions may sometimes be startling, but none of the group can be described as wholly good or bad.

Canet captures the beauty of his surroundings in Little White Lies. The locations are idyllic, and certainly are a successful tourism advert for the region. Moreover, given the setting, everything looks so placid and natural, a stark contrast to the opening club scene. The soundtrack is also great.

François Cluzet is aptly cast as Max. Cluzet accurately portrays the frustration of the character, and accentuates peculiarities. Benoît Magimel is solid as Vincent, a character struggling between personal feelings and public appearance. Marion Cotillard is great as Marie, bringing the right level of emotion to the character.

Little White Lies is a commendable slice of life picture, boasting great writing and performances. Those undeterred by the duration will find the film rewarding, if a little prolonged.