57th BFI London Film Festival: Final Thoughts

After 10 days of the 29 bus, Leicester Square and fast food, the 57th London Film Festival is over. Over the past few days, we’ve laughed and cried, and enjoyed some of the finest films the festival had to offer, and we‘ve got the low down on what films to look out for over the next few months.

The second half of our festival experience kicked off with Labor Day, the new film from Juno and Up in the Air director Jason Reitman. Starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, Labor Day tells the tale of a mother and son who take in a strange man who appears in front of them bruised and bleeding. As the film unfolds, the family realises there’s more to the stranger’s story than meets the eye. Labor Day is another solid film from the director. Winslet is as reliable as ever as single mum Adele, and Brolin possesses the charm and culinary skills to convince anybody of anything. But, while enjoyable, it didn’t quite light our fire in the same way Reitman’s previous films have.

Next up we saw Philomena, starring Judi Dench as the titular character who, after 50 years, enlists the help of journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) to help her track down her long lost son. A poignant true story about a mother’s quest to reunite with her child and a convent’s attempt at masking its involvement, Philomena is already garnering Oscar buzz, particularly for its leading lady.

Another film tipped to take the rest of the glory at next year’s ceremony is Steve McQueen’s latest oeuvre, 12 Years a Slave. Now that we’ve had a few days to dry our eyes, we can agree that early predictions may well turn out to be spot on. Based on the autobiographical novel of the same name, 12 Years a Slave stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, a free black man who is kidnapped and forced to work as a slave. With an all-star cast, including outstanding newcomer Lupita Nyong’o as slave Patsey, 12 Years a Slave was the best film we saw at the festival. This time last year it was all about the great Django. A completely different tone, but equally as powerful, this time around it’s all about Solomon and those 12 years.

From tears to laughter we moved on to Saving Mr. Banks, the feel-good movie of the year starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P. L. Travers, the woman behind Mary Poppins. Chronicling the two weeks Travers spent in Los Angeles trying to be persuaded by Disney to give him the rights to her novel, Saving Mr. Banks, while not necessary completely accurate, is – in true Disney fashion – a charming, funny and very uplifting film, and is guaranteed to melt the hearts of kiddies and adults alike when it’s released around the joyous Christmas period.

The last two films we went for to complete our final evening were Gone Too Far and Locke. Centring around the streets of South London, Gone Too Far is a funny look at what happens when British, Nigerian, Caribbean and Asian cultures collide when the Nigerian brother of a black British boy comes to stay. Adapted from Bola Agbaje’s play, the film has yet to find a distributor, but as Agbaje and the director pointed out during the Q&A, if enough people tweet about it, we could see it break out of the festival circuit and get a general release date. No pressure then, folks!

Finally, we caught Tom Hardy’s new film Locke. Starring only Tom Hardy and a few voices at the end of a phone, Locke is a one-man-and-his-car-type tale in which we see a man’s life slowly fall apart as he drives from, I imagine from his accent, Wales to London. Thank goodness Hardy is a charismatic character otherwise this could have been a disaster. However, Ivan Locke’s story does grip you as we’re simply shown shots of lights, his BMV and the midnight sky. Locke isn’t as glamorous as some of Hardy’s previous roles, but Hardy is no less committed. The director doesn’t do the best job at wrapping up and resolving every narrative strand, but it’s still a highly watchable ninety minutes with Hardy at the wheel.

That’s it from the festival for another year. We didn’t get to see all the films on our list, namely Only Lovers Left Alive, but there wasn’t one disappointment among our selection. We’ve loved what’s been on offer over these past two years since Clare Stewart took the reins, and we look forward to seeing what she has in store for us next year – her third year. Charming!

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