So, LFF was some time ago but perhaps some films are a dish best served cold.
Ingrid goes west
This may well have been my favourite film of the festival. It will probably slip by without much fanfare save for a few indie recommendations but it’s sharp, entertaining and very topical with a standout performance from Aubrey Plaza. Aubrey is the eponymous Ingrid, something of a loser at real life. So she looks to instagram life for meaning and comes across Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) who has, like, the most amazing, perfect, #blessed life ever. And poor Ingrid wants to be her. So she takes her inheritance out west to Venice beach and LA’s bohemian, rich hipsters who are always at the forefront of every new (mostly expensive), social media friendly trend.
The film is a mix of tales; a little coming of age, a little fish out of water, a little Single White Female psychological horror.. But it’s consistently enjoyable while also getting in jabs at modern life that sting like a dozen paper cuts.
Witty and at times painfully raw, Ingrid Goes West takes you, seamlessly, from laugh out loud comedic moments (you’ll never watch Batman in the same way again) to full blown out tragedy. This film is a little gem. It deserves to be unearthed by a big audience.
The history of rock is littered with the untold stories of the women who helped create the myths around the men who became the rock gods. Where you get Jagger, you will invariably, at some point, get Faithfull. Marianne Faithful, the beautiful, blonde image of the decadent, swinging 60’s. The good, convent schoolgirl gone bad. But there is much more to Faithfull than just being Mick Jagger’s one time girlfriend. She is an accomplished singer/songwriter in her own right who still performs live and continues to push the boundaries of her talent and musical journey. She’s also a woman who has lived many lives and is still, as she candidly admits in this intimate portrayal, trying to find herself. The honesty makes her an engaging subject and her personal warmth makes her well known story worth watching again in this intimate and searching documentary.
The Florida Project
The indie awards darling of this year could be The Florida Project. And I will cheer if it is. I attended a Bafta screenwriters talk with the writer, director and editor of the film, Sean Baker and it was every bit as compelling as his sad/joyful film.
Six year old Moonee (Brooklyn Kimberly Prince) lives with her mother and other misfits in a motel near Disney World. Their lives are as far removed from the Disney dream as it’s possible to be but the high jinks and mischief mother and daughter get up to in their world of ‘live for the moment, damn the consequences’ are every bit as compelling as any story served up by the house of the mouse.
It’s impossible not to fall in love with the astonishingly good Prince and her little cohorts as they indulge in spitting contests and hustle for ice-cream as something prescribed by the doctor….for asthma! Willem Dafoe is excellent as the kindly motel manager who is a father figure not only to the feral children but also to their unmatured parents.
The ending, when it comes is both inevitable and genuinely heartbreaking. This is one of the best films of the year and what last year’s American Honey could and should have been.
Anyone who is on social media will know how Islamic extremists can be almost romanticised by the naïve who think that being ‘non racist’ means embracing any and every ethnic belief system. These people should spend a day in the shoes of a female living under the control of groups like the Taliban
The Breadwinner is an animated tour de force about life in Afghanistan under the brutal regime of the Taliban. It tells the tale of 11 year old Parvana who, in the absence of her father and brother, finds that she, as a female, cannot even shop for bread for her mother and sister without a male to accompany her. In desperation Parvana disguises herself as a boy in order to carry out the most basic of daily tasks. In doing so she places herself at constant risk of exposure and danger as she goes in search of her father who has been imprisoned by the Taliban.
Despite its setting, however, the film is far from bleak. Not everyone shares the extremists’ warped view of the world and women. There is constant kindness around Parvana and even magic in the depiction of a time when Afghanistan was a land of freedom and rich culture. The Breadwinner is ultimately a film of hope, determination and inspiration as well as a plea for the recognition of women and their rights.