Film Review: The Favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos hits the target once more with the brilliant The Favourite. The film is Lanthimos’ most enjoyable to date. 

It is the early 18th century, and England is at war with France. Queen Anne, in an ailing state, is guided by her friend and confidant Lady Sarah. When Lady Sarah’s cousin arrives, there is an upheaval at court…

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos with a screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite is a superb film. Set in the court of Queen Anne, the film mixes social manoeuvring with political intrigue. It plays for laughs, but there is much texture to proceedings. The Favourite still radiates the darkness of Lanthimos’ other films, but it is delivered in a subtler format. This works incredibly well.

The Favourite focuses on characters vying for the attention of the queen. The main characters in the film are very well drawn. They are multi-faceted, with each showing shades of grey. The film could have easily painted everyone as irredeemable, yet there is much more nuance than this. It is surprisingly moving at times, thanks to the script and great performances.

As a comedy, The Favourite is very, very funny. Humour is derived from multiple sources. The script is incredibly funny; there are great lines, and great delivery. There is also slapstick humour which is at times absurdist. The ballroom scene in particular is a joy. Lanthimos’ trademark dark humour is present here, but the scriptwriters inject some very dry, British humour that complements it ever so well.

Performances in the film are great all round. Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz are perfect in their respective roles. Coleman adds depth and heart to the character, which could have easily appeared a mere caricature in the wrong hands. Emma Stone is wonderful; sometimes it is a simple expression from her that can generate a great laugh. Nicholas Hoult is also a revelation in a supporting role.

Lanthimos and cinematographer Robbie Ryan have created quite the aesthetic in The Favourite. Some shots could just as well be oil paintings. Ryan makes the most the location, such as the sweeping halls of the palace. The soundtrack is fantastic, particularly when it is juxtaposed with some absurd imagery. Sandy Powell’s costumes are sublime.

The Favourite is a world away from other period romps. Lanthimos’ film is hilarious, consuming, and at times touching.

The Favourite is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

Film Review: Wuthering Heights

Andrea Arnold’s atmospheric adaptation of Emily Brönte’s Wuthering Heights is a thought-provoking experiment. The film is far more earthy than a typical costume drama, which will either please or put off viewers depending on their inclinations.

The Earnshaw family are well off, living in Yorkshire. One day, Mr Earnshaw brings home Heathcliff, a young boy he finds wondering alone, and insists he is welcomed into the family. As Heathcliff adjusts into his new home, he develops a strong bond with Kathy, the youngest daughter of the Earnshaw family…

Arnold’s version of Wuthering Heights is more brutal than most adaptions of Brönte’s classic. The first half of the film is stronger than the second. It is more emotive; there is a real tragedy to Heathcliff. It is difficult not to empathise with the outsider character, and to feel strongly about his cruel treatment.

Dialogue in the film can be sparse, with plenty of prolonged shots of the landscape and close-ups of the protagonists. These shots work well to generate atmosphere. There is a coldness to the entire film, emphasised by the harsh environment and the brutality of nature. Furthermore, there is a preoccupation with animals and their treatment, perhaps likening the treatment of creatures to the treatment of certain characters.

Shannon Beer and Solomon Glave are great as the young Kathy and Heathcliff. Their burgeoning friendship is very believable. Kaya Scodelario and James Howson fair less well as their adult counterparts; at times their inexperience shines through. Robbie Ryan’s cinematography is instrumental in setting the tone.

Wuthering Heights plunges its audience into distinctive but uncomfortable world. An interesting adaptation of well-known material.

Wuthering Heights was screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011. It is released on 11th November 2011.