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 

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. A charming rom-com about a young couple told through parallel narratives at different points in their relationship set in beautiful New York City.

Written and directed by Sophie Brookes, this film is full of lovely 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. 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 almost addictive to watch.

I found this film so easy to watch and fall into, you develop a lot of care for the characters and there 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.

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

 

The Boy Downstairs

The Limehouse Golem

*SPOILER FREE REVIEW*

As always, I will start this post with an apology for my absence to my 2 readers… This summer has been a crazy one, I worked an amazing job at an exciting “film casting related” company and moved house twice. Today I will be enrolling into my new University. But before any of that starts, I needed to get to the cinema, it had been too long. I think I’ve been twice over the last 6 weeks or something.

So I went to see the new Bill Nighy drama, The Limehouse Golem. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much, but thanks to one of my best friends I am getting much better at going into films with an open mind, so that’s what I did.

The film is set in 1800’s London and follows D.I Kildare (Nighy) as he tries to unveil a series of murders that have taken place. It’s a good old fashioned murder inspection film with detail to gore and interesting characters. I was very impressed with the casting, I usually don’t speak particularly highly of Douglas Booth however in this film he really blew me away. He was incredible, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him dedicate himself so much to a role. Olivia Cooke was also brilliant, she lead the cast perfectly and her character development was impressive. And just a quick shout-out to Daniel Mays who plays the D.I’s assistant copper, I always love Mays in everything he’s done and it was really nice to see him get a big role in something totally different. The story is full of twists and turns and some big surprises. I loved the script, the dialogue was fast paced and kept you wanting more.

Just a quick final note to the production designers of the film, this is a nerdy film student thing to have noticed, but there really are some stunning shots throughout. The use of lighting is perfect, I couldn’t help noticing the use of silhouettes and how powerful they are. They really captured the eerie-ness of London in that era, from the people living in poverty to the grand home of the Creeds, it really is stunning.

I’m happy to say (as you can probably tell) I really loved this film, it was perfect for a gloomy Sunday afternoon. If you want to see a good old fashioned British drama, this is the one for you.

The Limehouse Golem

Ready Player One

After perusing through IMDb this morning whilst I was supposed to be doing college work (it still counts as research, right?) I made my first stop at my favourite (living) directors page and was completely taken aback by the amount of work this man has lined up. Steven Spielberg has been my favourite director/producer since I first found out what a director/producer was, his work has inspired me, and continues to do so every time I watch one of his masterpieces. Because, in his world, everything IS a masterpiece.

He has 18 producer jobs in the works, 5 of which he is directing himself. And although the hype seems to be focusing on the “Untitled Steven Spielberg Project” formally known as “Posts” being given an awards season release date, my heart and eyes are set on Ready Player One. I recently read the book, and it has shot straight to the position of my favourite book I’ve ever read (Harry Potter doesn’t count on that list, it has a list of its own, for obvious reasons). RPO follows the story of Wade, played in the film by Tye Sheridan who I adore and I had the honor of meeting at the X-Men Apocalypse premier, Wade lives the world we know, only different, it has been completely destroyed by the ever-marvellous human race, and now practically everyone lives within a VR video game called the Oasis. Wades mission is to complete a game set up by Oasis inventor James Halliday, played in the film by SIR Mark Rylance (anyone who knows me, can now see why I am so excited about this film). Completion of the game will result in Wade being a multi-millionaire, give him the chance to escape his horrible family life, and be free of the horrors of the modern world.
James Halliday is obsessed with 80’s pop culture, something I am also quite the fan of, and throughout the book there are constant references to films, books, music and comics that rose to fame in the 80’s.

As I was reading the book I couldn’t help but imagine seeing this incredible story, written by Ernest Cline, on the big screen.

I don’t doubt for a second that the 18 films that Spielberg is currently producing will be wonderful, incredible and as always masterpieces, but for me, the excitement lies in Ready Player One.

And so, the countdown begins.

351 days to go.

 

(also – read the book. do it.)

Ready Player One

20 films in to 2017

It’s now March 14th, I have just seen my 21st film of the year. Kong: Skull Island. I have actually been keeping a hand-written film diary which seemed like a great idea at the start of the year but apparently it means I write a lot less on here.

There’s already been some incredibly successful, high-budget, blockbusters this year that I have thoroughly enjoyed, things like; Logan, Passengers, Kong, The Great Wall (despite Matt Damons dodgy Irish accent, I still love him) and Hacksaw Ridge and we still have so many to come, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Thor: Ragnarok and Power Rangers to name a few. I have also just started hearing a bit more about the new Charlie Hunnam hit, The Lost City of Z, which at first I thought looked boring and ridiculous but actually after reading some reviews and watching some trailers for it I’m actually very interested in seeing this film. It looks like it could be something great.

I also followed all of the Oscar nominees like a hawk, I managed to see all the Best Picture contenders before the awards took place, my favourite from the day dot was Arrival, I also loved Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion and Hell or High Water. I was disappointed in Moonlight and Fences, which unfortunately Moonlight went on to win Best Picture, in my opinion it didn’t deserve it, it was a film made for all the wrong reason, political drivel that was made with one intention, to win the BP Award at the Oscars, props to them – they did what they set out to do. But I truly believe Hidden Figures should have won, it was a beautifully told important story. (I’m aware this is a controversial opinion, I don’t think I need to worry about the half a dozen people that actually read this blog, but it is my opinion and I don’t expect anyone to agree with me, I just didn’t like it.)

Aside from all of that, one of the films from this year that seems to have stuck with me from the first moment I watched it was Manchester by the Sea (again, controversial, I like it for the film and the talent, not the actors themselves). It was one of the most visually beautiful films, New England is such a beautiful place and it’s nice to see the scenic shots on the big screen. Casey Afflecks portrayal of a man dealing with guilt, grief and trauma is so compelling, you felt every single word he said and it was the first film, in a long time, that I actually managed to have some empathy for the characters. I am now currently reading the screenplay and have downloaded the soundtrack because I just can’t get enough of it. Kenny Lonergan is an absolute genius and his words are so soothing yet heartbreaking at the same time. I true visionary. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

So 2017 seems to be going off with a bang, we’re now into the third month of the year, second of the film year, and I’m excited to see what the rest of the year brings.

I am still working on my challenge to see every Oscar Best Picture winning film, I think I might have ticked a few more off the list since I last wrote. I watched Million Dollar Baby the other night and found it extremely dull. I’m surprised it won as much as it did, but that’s just me.

What’s next? I’m not sure, the dreaded remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is being released world wide on Friday so maybe I’ll drag myself kicking and screaming to see that at some point and I want to see Ben Wheatleys Free Fire once that’s released, see if it’s any better and less pretentious than High Rise. But until then, I’ll just stay sat on the sofa working my way through my ever-growing DVD collection.

MTFBWY

20 films in to 2017