London Film Festival 2018: I Used To Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story

“Did you?” asked the woman at the box office as I asked for my ticket for I Used to be Normal. I considered lying, but decided against it. “Not really”. I’ve been an obsessive fan of movies since I was 8 years old but, while some of the kinds of films I love best are (especially as a 37-year-old man) not exactly considered cool, I’ve never felt judged or that I should hide my enthusiasms. That seems to be one...

London Film Festival 2018: First Look Review – Angelo

It didn’t surprise anyone who saw his first film, Michael, to discover that director Markus Schleinzer used to work with Michael Haneke. Disquietingly still and at times striking, it was a debut that felt too in thrall to another filmmaker to be more than promising. Angelo, while sharing may of the same stylistic choices, is a more distinctive work. The Angelo of the title is the ‘court moor’ to several families in Viennese society in the 18th century, and the...

London Film Festival 2018: First Look Review – Dragged Across Concrete

With his first two films, writer/director S. Craig Zahler established a distinctive voice. Working in exploitation cinema but unbound by the genre’s usual brief running times, he has stretched out his narratives, using the extra running time to dive more deeply into his characters than is typical in exploitation and to play with the genre. In Bone Tomahawk he morphed The Searchers into Cannibal Holocaust, with Brawl in Cell Block 99 he spent a good deal of time building both...

London Film Festival 2018: First Look Review – What You Gonna Do When The World’s On Fire?

“You got a couple more years to fight” 14 year old Ronaldo tells his 9 year old half brother Titus, after spending some time teaching him to punch. He wants his younger sibling to know how to fight because, he says, nobody’s going to draw on a 9 year old. It’s just one of many sobering moments in Roberto Minervini’s beautiful and evocative portrait of a black community in Louisiana in the wake of the death of Alton Sterling and...

London Film Festival 2018: First Look Review – Rafiki

I have a longstanding policy at the London Film Festival of trying to discover films from new places, so whenever the chance comes to see something from a country whose cinema is entirely new to me, I try to take it. I believe this is my first Kenyan film, but it’s also something of a first for Kenya; a film about a lesbian relationship from a country where LGBTQ relationships are still punishable by law. Initially, it was banned for...

London Film Festival 2018: First Look Review – Alone In Space

A few days ago, there was a report telling us that we have about 12 years to fundamentally change how we treat our planet, or climate change will be both irreversible and catastrophic. Alone in Space never tells us outright why the Earth was dying, meaning the giant spaceship on which we find 12 year old Gladys (Ella Rae Rappaport) and her six year old brother Keaton (Dante Fleischanderl) was built, but you could certainly fit a message about climate...

London Film Festival 2018: First Look Review U – July 22

“You’ll never understand, just listen to me” says Kaja (Andrea Berntzen), looking into the camera, at the beginning of this real time telling of the story of the Utøya massacre perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik. Kaja isn’t talking to us but to her mother, but clearly the target of this dialogue is the audience. We arrive on the island as the teens at its political summer camp have just heard about the explosion at the Government buildings in Oslo that...

London Film Festival 2018: First look reviews – Tumbbad and Girl

Tumbbad India’s cinema industry is the biggest in the world, and it often bothers me that I know so little about it, whether that means the Bollywood mainstream or something like Tumbbad, which feels much more independent in spirit. Told across three chapters and thirty years, Tumbbad sets up its backstory early, with the tale of the forgotten god Hastar, who stole all the gold from his mother, who created the world and the other gods. Legend has it that...

London Film Festival 2018: First Look Review – Thunder Road

Expanding his short film, writer, director and actor Jim Cummings plays Jim, a cop who has a meltdown while trying to give a eulogy at his mother’s funeral. From there, he struggles to hold things together in his job and in his personal life, as he tries to bond with his daughter and fight his ex-wife’s request for sole custody. Right from the start, Thunder Road throws you with its tone. We first find a clearly distraught Jim stumbling through...

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