Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The final film of the London Film Festival and I have had such a great time. Today has been one of the longest days of my life! The film started at 8:45 this morning and I stayed in Leicester Square for the premiere this evening so, 14 hours since I left the house this morning, I am home.
Although the film was that long ago, I still can’t stop thinking about it.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a dark comedy that tells the story of Mildred Hayes (Francis McDormand) as she puts up some controversial signs on three billboards on a road out from Ebbing. 7 months prior to the story being told, Mildred’s daughter Abbie, was raped and killed and the police department had done nothing to find out who the killer was. Mildred puts up the billboards to draw attention to chief of police, Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) to persuade him to work harder on the case but it ends up leading to a surprising friendship between the two of them. Putting up these signs leads to all sorts of problems and Mildred ends up with having to deal with the police in more ways that she intends. Dragging each and every character into her problems she ends up making a final decision that leaves the audience on a bit of a cliff hanger.
The film unravels in many twists and turns and endless surprises in the beautifully written screenplay from directer Martin McDonagh, his ability to captivate the audience in the dialogue is stunning. Mildred Hayes has an incredible monologue towards the start of the film that made everyone in the screening applaud.

The casting was perfect, I always say how great I think Woody Harrelson is as an actor and hugely underrated. Francis McDormand, Peter Dinklage, Lucas Hedges and many more really shone in this film but for me the star of the show was Sam Rockwell, he plays the useless cop, Jason Dixon, who becomes a redeeming factor in the end and I think he gave an impeccable performance.

I’d give this film a very strong 4 stars, the only reason I found it 1 star away from perfect is because there were times whilst I was watching it I felt conflicted between how I was supposed to be feeling. The audience around me were laughing and I felt like the scene wanted us to cry, I understand that is the definition of a ‘dark comedy’ but maybe that’s the issue I had. It touches on some incredibly sensitive subjects; rape, murder, racism, homophobia, cancer, suicide, depression and yet people around me were howling with laughter, maybe that’s what the director wanted and if it is, he did it perfectly.

I highly recommend it to everyone, it’s something so different to anything I’ve ever seen before and it really was an exciting film to watch, and a great way to close my first film festival.

Thank you BFI, same time next year?

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

You Were Never Really Here 

I was lucky enough to see this film and on the following day I got to meet the cast and crew at the premiere. 

As this film was labelled as a “thriller/crime/drama” I was a little bit anxious about seeing it. Usually if it is described as a thriller I wouldn’t watch it in the cinema but I really didn’t want to miss the chance to see it and I’m so glad I did. It is currently my favourite film of the festival. 

It tells the story of Jo, a retired marine living in his mums house, he works for a private agent as a bounty hunter and gets hired by a congressman to find his missing daughter. Jo has a reputation of not getting attached to anything and just does the job at hand, there is a sudden shift in his character when you realise he cares for the safety of the young girl. 

The narrative is driven by Jo’s fascinating character and constant flashbacks to him as a child. You continuously see shots of his body covered in scars and eventually find out why that is. 

He is a severely depressed man who is constantly fighting demons and his want and need for suicide. 

Full of stunning location shots constant surprises this film is an absolute must see. 

Of course I haven’t mentioned the cast, which is usually something I don’t shut up about, but really what can I say? Joaquin Phoenix is one of the greatest living actors. There’s something incredibly watchable about him, almost addictive. He plays a horrible, violent, evil man in this film and yet I can’t take my eyes off him. He’s charming and funny and yet a cold blooded murderer. I said to my friend who I saw the film with, he could literally be sat still doing nothing and I wouldn’t be able to stop watching him. I can’t wait to see what he does next. 

Lynne Ramsey’s direction is stunning. This is a very visually driven film, the dialogue is almost not important. It could even get away with being silent, it doesn’t need constant conversation. Ramsey is completely gifted and I am fascinated by her work. At the premiere she said to me “please get more girls to see this film” so girls, you heard her, go and see it!
A solid five stars. Cinematic genius. 

You Were Never Really Here 

Downsizing

Downsizing 
Another film filled day at the London Film Festival today. 

The first film of the day was Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” starring Matt Damon, Kristin Wiig and Christoph Waltz. Easy enough to say what a fabulous cast it is, and it really is that, Christoph Waltz was hilarious and Matt Damon was perfectly charming. 
The film follows the story of Paul and his choice to be ‘downsized’. This is a medical/scientific procedure taking place all over the world that allows people to shrink down to 5 inches tall. The idea behind it is that we will protect the environment by being a lot smaller and thus producing a lot less waste. Complications get in the way of Paul living the fantasy dream life he had hoped. Largely from the betrayal of his wife who, half way through the procedure, decides to back out completely and Paul is left alone. 

I really enjoyed the concept of the film but did feel a bit conflicted in how I was supposed to feel afterwards. I thought it was full of whit and charm but also full of political statements and a fair amount of racism. There was quite a bold statement about Mexicans living on the other side of the big wall/dome to the North Americans. Interesting how that is famously one of Donald Trumps biggest aims as POTUS. 
There were parts of the narrative that I don’t think were needed, one being a random scene in which Paul ends up high at a Hollywood style party, there was something kind of off about this scene, I never quite understood his motivation to take the drugs and what he thought would come from it. 

There’s another scene towards the end where Paul and his three companions travel to Norway in the wake of the end of the world to the first downsized colonie to join them and relocate inside a mountain to stay safe and eventually save the human race. I didn’t get this bit at all. I understand that the whole point of this scene was that Paul was forced to make the ultimate decision, but really it could have been much quicker had he never travelled all the way to Norway to make the decision. 

I really loved the first and second acts, I like the concept and the general story of people becoming small, it’s funny and original. As I always say, theres not enough originality coming out of Hollywood at the moment. 

Ignoring all the political statements and themes it is a charmingly funny film with a few unexpected twists and turns. I recommend seeing it if only for the lovely Matt Damon. He looks great without eyebrows……

Downsizing

The Lovers

This was the second film I went to see at the LFF today, The Lovers, another romantic comedy but this time instead of following the stories of young, conventionally attractive, creative people living trendy lifestyles in New York City, this film tells the story of a middle aged, married couple who are both having affairs.

The film starts off by setting the scene of Mary (Debra Winger) and Michael (Tracy Letts), a married couple of 30-ish years, living in a quiet suburban town both working boring office jobs. Both Mary and Michael have relationships going on outside of their marriage, we can see that their home life is boring and unsatisfying and the only happiness the two of them have comes from their affairs with other people. We learn that their son is coming to visit in a matter of weeks and with their respective partners they decide that that is going to be the time they come clean about their relationships and go their own separate ways. Of course these conversations are happening without the other one being aware of it. Just like in most comedy films, events get in the way that cause tensions between both couples, one of the main issues being that Mary and Michael realize they are still largely sexually attracted to each other which leads to more problems between them and their other partners. There’s a lot of crossed wires and betrayal between each other but what the film does so cleverly is makes those relationships seem utterly hilarious.

The film is charming and heart warming, its a wonderful story that tells the audience that an unhappy marriage is not always the answer and to simply, do what makes you happy. The whole film is absolutely hilarious, the two lead characters and portrayed with complete realism and warmth. I really can’t be more complimentary about the lead actors, they were just fabulous.

One thing I found utterly brilliant about this film is the lack of dialogue, it is such a quiet film, with majority of the narrative told purely through action, a true art and brilliant ability from the writer/director Azazel Jacobs.

I would give this film a strong 4 stars, easily one of my highlights of the Festival so far.

The Lovers

The Boy Downstairs

Today I went to see three films at the London Film Festival, The Boy Downstairs was the first one.
This charming romantic comedy follows a young couple, Dianna and Ben, as they deal with their relationship ending and they both move on with their own lives. After Dianna has lived in Europe for a substantial time she moves back to New York City and moves into a beautiful apartment, what she doesn’t know is that Ben has also recently moved in to the apartment downstairs.

Written and directed by Sophie Brookes, this film is full of great performances from the entire cast. I particularly loved Deirdre O’Connell’s character, Amy, she is the most wonderfully warming character who despite having her own demons to deal with, including the loss of her husband and her tired acting career, she still finds time to look after the tenants of her building. I found her so heartwarming and caring and she always put Diana first regardless of what she was dealing with. A truly motherly character.
Diana is also a really wonderful character, played perfectly by Zosia Marnet, her witty, sarcastic nature makes her addictive to watch.

I found this film so easy to watch and fall into, whilst watching it I developed a lot of care for the characters and their relationships with each other. I often say that there isn’t enough feel-good films around these days, it’s all doom and gloom or heavy stories, this is the perfect curl up on the sofa on a Sunday evening film.

I was lucky enough to see this film at the BFI London Film Festival, but I recommend catching it when it’s released in the Spring.

 

The Boy Downstairs

Manifesto

I really don’t have a lot I can write about this film because after the first 10 minutes I really hated it. And I knew I had another hour and 20 minutes to get through. Tedious, contrived, patronising, arrogant film. 

I’ve never been much of a fan of Cate Blanchett, I’m not saying she’s a bad actor because that’s not true, but at the red carpet events I’ve been to that she’s attended she swans down the carpet without even looking at her fans or the press and I think that says a lot about a person. Anyway, this isn’t supposed to be a bashing Cate Blanchett post. 

I just really did not like this film, maybe I’m ignorant but they do say that’s bliss, and I’d take bliss over than pretentious crap any day. 

Manifesto

Wonderstruck

Today is my first day at the London Film Festival as an official press pass holder (very exciting, I know!) 

My first film of the festival is Wonderstruck, an adaptation of the best selling novel of the same title. 

Honestly, I’d probably only give it ⭐️⭐️. 

My initial thought was it was far too long, they could have lost half an hour at least and it wouldn’t have lost anything vital. 

The film set in the 1970s tells the story of Ben, a young boy who after an accident involving a telephone and lightning (never a good combination!) looses his hearing. It also follows the parallel story of a young deaf girl, set in black and white 1920s New York, who is looking for her workaholic mother. 

The premise of the film was very clever albeit quite confusing. 

After Ben has his accident he runs away from the hospital to NYC in the hope of finding his birth father. Along the way he meets a young boy called Jamie who becomes his friend and teaches him sign language. I personally think Jamie is a completely irrelevant character and quite frankly a waste of time. 

The performances in general were good, I loved Oakes Fegley and I look forward to seeing what else he has to offer in the future. Julianne Moore has a completely silent role throughout the film despite playing two characters and I think she really holds the whole thing together, really fantastic performance. 

Overall I didn’t love it but it wasn’t awful. I think it would have made a very good 20minute short, loose all the dialogue but keep the artistic flair from the colour vs. black & white.  

Wonderstruck