LFF 2016 highlights
Best films : LaLaLand is magical, dreamlike and bitterly real at the same time. If you loved The Artist, that whimsical love letter to old Hollywood, then you will love this. Best Picture Oscar sorted.
Manchester by the Sea is brittle and heartbreaking and will make you shed the tears Casey Affleck just won’t. It’s a quiet, painful study of grief and loss. Affleck has to be a shoo-in for a best actor nomination.
Unexpected delights: I didn’t care for Ben Wheatley’s High Rise but I loved Freefire. It’s funny, sharp and bristling with Tarantino style dialogue that keeps you fully engaged despite the whole story being in one location and a warehouse at that. (Fun fact, the warehouse supposedly in Boston was actually in Brighton).
Their Finest may not have a compelling title but it’s a hugely enjoyable British people during the war delight of a film. Sam Claflin and Gemma Arterton both put on their best stiff upper lips but are far more believable as lovers than many of the other pairings LFF served up.
The Young Offenders is a little Irish gem which deserves big success. See afternoon teas below
Queen of Katwe is an enjoyable, uplifting film.
Most frustrating and ultimately annoying: American Honey. This much hyped new film from Andrea Arnold starts on fire. It’s fresh, exciting and daring for about an hour. Then it just goes on and on and on. Shia Le Boeuf is great. But the film becomes like that fun party guest who out stays his welcome and ends up a bore. Sasha Lane’s lead character, never likeable anyway, ends up being incredibly irritating.
A United Kingdom : a potentially great story reduced to a politically correct TV movie.
Most interesting speakers: Both Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel were intelligent and articulate guests at the talk for their new film Lion. ( see the itsalawyerslife YouTube channel for extracts from the talk). The film has an excellent beginning reminiscent of Salaam Bombay and a sob your heart out ending but it sags in the middle with an unconvincing love story.
Best Afternoon tea guests: the LFF afternoon teas are a real pleasure. I always meet the nicest directors there. This year was no exception.
Peter Foott, director of The Young Offenders said he set out to make the county of Cork in Ireland one of the main characters in the film. He certainly succeeds. Ireland is lovely beyond words in this film and its people are portrayed with equal love. Foott said he wanted to show the parts of the country that it’s people always talk most proudly about; the stunning coastline, the English market. His characters too, he wanted to be real people, fantastic, funny people, the kind he grew up around. ‘The least moneyed in this area tip the most. That sums them up.’ The film had the biggest opening of any Irish film in Ireland.
Foott also inspired me to look up local rappers from the area on YouTube!
Adam Smith, the young director of Trespass Against Us was another charmer at the afternoon teas. I didn’t manage to see all of his film starring Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson but what I did see looked very promising. The film enjoyed a raucous premiere.
Smith told me that in Toronto an audience of 1700 had fully engaged with the film despite struggling with the dialects in it. However, critics were divided. ‘ That’s to be expected,’ Smith observed with an accepting shrug. ‘It’s harsh and brutal in parts. But is also very funny and the public connect with that.’
Smith also confirmed what we all know; Fassbender is an ‘alpha male. He’s strong, macho, a man you believe can fight, really hardcore but he can also be sensitive and vulnerable. There’s not any other actors like that out there. Well, not many anyway.’ Quite!