LFF 2017 Highlights Part 2

With the BFI London Film Festival drawing to a close this evening, it has been another year of some very good films, and a few excellent ones. The best films of the first week of the festival can be viewed here. Below are some LFF 2017 highlights from the second half of the festival…

LFF 2017 Highlights – Unmissable

You Were Never Really Here

Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here is tense, black, and redemptive. It is anxiety-inducing, gripping filmmaking. amplifies conventions of a psychological thriller, combining these with a revenge flick. READ MORE

Brawl in Cell Block 99

S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a brutal action thriller with a great central performance from Vince Vaughn. It is certainly not a film for the faint of heart. The violence is exceptional. It is wince-inducing, and sometimes harrowing. READ MORE

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh’s black comedy drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is well-written, well performed, and thoroughly engaging. The cast have an excellent screenplay to work with. The dialogue is great, and always appears natural. READ MORE

LFF 2017 Highlights – The Best of the Rest

The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi fairy tale The Shape of Water is at times beguiling, at times surprising, and a joy to watch. From the first shot of the film, spectacle is almost assured. And the film does not disappoint in this respect. READ MORE

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a macabre tale which offers the requisite tension and horror. The film is reminiscent of an Edgar Allan Poe story, albeit one rendered in a very contemporary fashion. Lanthimos’ skill here is the ramping of the tension, leading to some awful realisations. READ MORE

The Florida Project

Sean Baker’s The Florida Project is a bittersweet drama. The film is a great exploration of childhood in challenging circumstances. It is frequently humorous, without detracting its the poignancy. READ MORE

Lucky

Directed by John Lynch Carroll and starring Harry Dean Stanton in his second and final leading role, Lucky feels like an ode to character actors. Lucky is highly amusing and will give pause for thought. READ MORE

The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

Patrick Imbert and Benjamin Renner’s The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales is a collection of most amusing stories. Each of the three stories is a neat length; long enough to feature a decent narrative, but short enough to feel sprightly. READ MORE

Thelma

Director and co-writer Joachim Trier’s Thelma is an engaging psychological thriller. The film offers a strong element of mystery. It straddles the uncanny; for a significant period it is unclear whether the strange occurrences are supernatural, or whether there is a rational explanation. READ MORE

Princess Cyd

Stephen Cone’s Princess Cyd is an alluring character study. What could have been a derivative teenage drama turns into something much more textured and rewarding. READ MORE

The BFI London Film Festival ran from 4th to 15th October 2017.

Film Review: Thelma

Director and co-writer Joachim Trier’s Thelma is an engaging psychological thriller. It is an enjoyable watch, despite some breaks in momentum.

From a conservative Christian family, Thelma is leaving home to attend university. There she forms an attachment to a friend, but at the same time starts to experience strange phenomena…

Written by Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt, Thelma mixes a science fiction with a thriller. The narrative works on a number of layers. There is the aspect of Thelma’s upbringing which has an impact, there is her burgeoning relationship with Anja, and there are her unexplained seizures. These three strands combine rather well. The film offers a strong element of mystery. It straddles the uncanny; for a significant period it is unclear whether the strange occurrences are supernatural, or whether there is a rational explanation. Psychological themes are prevalent in the film. At first it is unclear whether the activity is coming from within, or externally. Later this seems assured, yet viewers are still kept into suspense over the cause. Trier plays on this to a good degree, keeping viewers guessing as to the cause of the bizarre activity. Trier waits until the right time to reveal pertinent information.

Thelma functions well as the protagonist caught between the wishes of her conservative parents and her desire to explore the freedom of being away from home for the first time. Trier and Vogt do a good job of marrying this theme with the supernatural aspects of the narrative. As the film progresses, it is clear that this is a story about exercising free will. The supernatural activity acts as a conduit for this theme.

Art direction in the film is great, with the use of lighting to position viewers with the protagonist. The only real downside to the film is that it takes a little too long to get going with one of the main strands.  The film suffers with some pacing problems, but these do not make the film unsalvageable. Eili Harboe is great in the leading role, and has good chemistry with Kaya Wilkins’ Anja.

Thelma is an enjoyable thriller which sees Joachim Trier execute his themes precisely and successfully.

Thelma is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.