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: 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 a Navy veteran and a man of routine. When he falls at home, he must face the fact that his health will decline. With the reassessment of his condition, Lucky must examine what he believes…

Written by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja, Lucky is a character-driven comedy drama. The film focuses on the the title character, and how being faced with mortality makes him question life and its meaning. The film takes on extra poignancy with the recent passing of Harry Dean Stanton. Notwithstanding, the film would have been reflective in any case.

The film introduces viewers to Lucky as a character of rigid habits. This is established fairly swiftly, which also offers a glimpse into his personality. After his encounter with the doctor, the protagonist faces a type of existential dread which plays out with both humour and emotion.

Lucky is a well written character. He is the type of protagonist that is memorable; there is no sentimentality here. Instead, he is dry and to the point. A significant portion of the humour is derived from his unflinching delivery. The other characters in the film colour the protagonist’s world, providing a sounding board, a source of wisdom, or an antagonist.

Harry Dean Stanton is terrific in the title role, providing the droll delivery and deadpan expression he is known for. The film is also littered with character actors such as Tom Skerritt, Beth Grant, and Ron Livingston. David Lynch stands out in a minor role, providing both hearty laughs and genuine sentiment.

John Lynch Carroll has delivered a quiet picture that pulls no punches with its meditations on the essential questions. Lucky is highly amusing and will give pause for thought.

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

Film Review: The Founder

Director John Lee Hancock’s The Founder is memorable thanks to a charismatic performance from the always watchable Michael Keaton.

Ray Kroc is a milkshake machine sales man struggling for orders. When burger restaurant McDonald’s places an order, Ray is astounded by their innovative take on diner service. Ray wants to franchise the restaurant, but must convince owners Dick and Mac McDonald…

The Founder is essentially the story of how McDonald’s went from a single eatery in San Bernardino, California, to one of the most recognisable brands in the world. However, the film is the tale of an anti-hero in a world that goes beyond black and white depictions.

The most interesting thing about The Founder is that it avoids the common archetypes. Ray Kroc is portrayed as a multi-faceted protagonist. He is neither the hardworking guy who helps to monetise a great idea, nor the greedy, unscrupulous salesman who gets rich from the invention of others. Instead, he sits somewhere in between. The film is all the better for not casting too firm a judgement on his character. Similarly, his interactions with others, ranging from charming to nasty, further reflect that this is a flawed but believable character.

As the film progresses, it is clear that there will not be a satisfactory outcome for the McDonald brothers. Yet again, these two characters are not depicted exclusively as victims, although it is hard not to feel a pang of sympathy for them by the end of the movie. Nevertheless, the brothers are not depicted in an entirely positive light (their resistance to new ideas, for example), again echoing the light and shade of the central character. The film is predictable in places, but decent storytelling and good performances make it worthwhile.

Michael Keaton is fantastic as Ray Kroc. Keaton brings a nervous energy to the role, ramping it up in key scenes to deliver a most convincing performance. John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman are decent as the McDonald brothers, whilst Linda Cardellini is memorable in a minor role. Laura Dern is great as the weary wife Ethel Kroc.

The Founder pulls no punches in telling the origins tale of one of the world’s largest corporations. The film is a wonderful showcase for Michael Keaton’s talents.