With Netflix, Amazon and MUBI debuting their latest exclusives and originals at the London Film Festival, we head to Leicester Square to catch up with some of the films on offer.
Shia LaBeouf has long been one of the most underrated actors of his generation, but in recent years, he’s also proved himself a talented, interesting and deeply personal storyteller, whether he’s painting himself as an actual cannibal or rewatching his own filmography on camera. Here, he takes that self-scrutiny to heart-wrenching heights with Honey Boy, a semi-autobiographical drama about an actor with an alcohol problem and a self-destructive streak. Lucas Hedges is remarkable as the young Otis, who begins to examine his past while in rehab. What unravels is a meta-story of abuse, recovery and long-covered bruises, which director Alma Har’el stitches together with breathtaking, self-aware style and a gapingly open heart.
Honey Boy is an Amazon Studios production. It will be released in the UK through Sony Pictures on 6th December 2019.
Ben Whishaw and Emily Beecham are sensational in this deliciously creepy and enjoyably unsettling horror. They play Chris and Alice, two scientists who create a plan designed to induce happiness, but soon discover that their actions have unforeseen consequences. If that fable of human science reaching too far seems familiar, there’s a fresh injection of unnerving insight through Jessica Hausner and Géraldine Bajard’s script, which delicately touches on notes of parenthood, ethics and the modern happiness industry. Motivations are at once sympathetic and alienating, laughs are both unexpected and uneasy, and the performances are both sweet and sinister. Hausner, who is making her English-language directorial debut, is a master of tone, with the opening titles introducing a wonderfully jarring sense of discomfort, from the disorienting camera movements to haunting music from Teiji Ito. That feeling doesn’t leave you for 105 minutes, as this curious cautionary tale reels you in by your nerve-endings but knowingly keeps you at arm’s length. An eccentric, clinically weird treat.
Little Joe will be released in UK cinemas by BFI on 21st February 2020.
First-time director Eva Riley makes an assured debut with this understated portrait of a teenager trying to find her way through growing up, growing close to others and growing confident in her own talents. Frankie Box plays Leigh, a 14-year-old gymnast who lives near Brighton and spends her days training for an upcoming contest. But that preparation is thrown off balance when a half-brother she didn’t know she had arrives at her house one evening. He brings with him the allure and income of criminal activities, but more than that, he brings the promise of sibling affection and a sense of belonging that Leigh has long been lacking. Newcomer Box delivers a convincing, rounded performance, and Riley follows her lead with a flowing, graceful agility, all shallow depth of field and intimate sound design. A moving coming-of-age story that quivers with potential and promise.
Perfect 10 is in search of a UK distributor.
The Personal History of David Copperfield
Armando Iannucci might seem like an odd fit for an adaptation of Charles Dickens, but the Thick of It and Veep director feels fantastically at home in this rip-roaring romp through period London. Iannucci’s witty humour shines through every scene, proving a perfect match for Dickens’ colourful, satirical yet affectionate portrayals of eccentrics and outsiders in an unequal society. The cast sink their teeth into the fast-paced result, dispatching one-liners, two-liners and three-liners with barely a care in the world. Ben Whishaw as the malcontent Uriah Heep and Hugh Laurie as the bewildered Mr Dick are a delight, but the man in the spotlight is undoubtedly Dev Patel, who brings real movie star to the lead role of Copperfield, juggling an engaging sincerity with razor-sharp comic timing. The only person more exuberant is Iannucci himself, who throws genre conventions out the window to piece together his inventive take on familiar material with fresh imagination and unbridled creativity. What a delight.
The Personal History of David Copperfield will be released in UK cinemas by Lionsgate on 10th January 2020.