Sunday 31 October 2021

London Film Festival (LFF) 2021 #22 Sundown & #23 Lamb

And so we reach the end of this year’s filmathon at the BFI* with two films that feel very representative of the diversity at the Film Festival (as well as some nice synchronicity to finish off).

Dir. Michel Franco / Dur. 83 mins
Strand:- Official Competition

In A Nutshell:-
As an interrupted family holiday prompts a return home, Neil fakes a lost passport in order to remain and invent a new life for himself, free from old constraints…

The Good:- I really enjoyed Michel Franco’s entry into the festival last year, New Order, so was looking forward to this one. It’s a different pace to Franco’s previous effort but no less compelling for it. I feel like, outside of Tarantino films, I haven’t really seen Tim Roth in anything for ages and I’d forgotten how good he can be. Roth plays Neil with a quiet, enigmatic style that holds the attention throughout. There’s a moment where Neil’s motivations become clearer that prompted na audible response of surprise from the audience that was quite satisfying,

The Bad:- Nothing particularly springs to mind on this one.

The Verdict:- It’s a slow burn character study of a man in crisis and Tim Roth’s performance holds the attention throughout. One to watch.

No Q&A at this screening.

Last film…

Dir. Valdimar Jóhannsson / Dur. 106 mins
Strand:- Cult

In A Nutshell:- A grieving sheep-farming couple discovers an unusual birth from one of their ewes and raises the offspring as if it were their own. (I’m not sure a nutshell really will do justice to this one.)

The Good:- It’s as if, very consciously, the filmmakers have bolted together two very distinct films - a family drama about isolation and loss and an insane fantasy horror. The tone that this creates is strange and unsettling which is perfect for the sort of film they’re clearly aiming for. It’s also another in the recent trend of brightly lit horror films, with the horror playing out in the broad light of day for the most part (see Midsommar and others). The cast are strong in what is essentially a three-hander (plus one more, hard to really judge on performance being a product of a combination of an actor and CGI).

The Bad:- Some of the CGI in a couple of scenes is a little wonky looking which slightly undermines the effect that they were going for. Also, the ending is extremely underwhelming and anticlimactic after the brooding, menacing build up - there was a real sense of deflation in the cinema at the end.

The Verdict:- It’s an absolute mental premise and is, for most part, carried off in a stylish and thoughtful, only maybe slightly let down by a lacklustre ending.

No Q&A at this screening.

Random Synchronicity:- Without realising it, I’d booked Icelandic films as the first and last films for the fest. Also, given the relatively small nature of the Icelandic film industry, both films had an actor in common - both films featured Björn Hlynur Haraldsson in key roles.

So there we have it - another film festival done for another year. Closing thoughts next time…

* To be replaced next month by another bumper bundle of screenings at the BFI as I go to a load of Mike Leigh films with him doing Q&As, the new Edgar Wright film (again with Q&A) and an animated
 reconstruction of a missing Doctor Who story. Oh, plus doing a load of gigs and going to see some live comedy too. Sleeping? Sleep is for sleepy people. Let’s get a kebab and go to a disco.

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