London Film Festival 2017 Reviews: Loving Vincent, Thoroughbreds, Last Flag Flying, Call Me By Your Name
Ivan Radford | On 09, Oct 2017
With Netflix, Amazon, MUBI and more all taking to London’s Leicester Square to showcase a diverse range of films, we head to the London Film Festival to review the latest films – and TV shows – either looking for distribution or heading to a streaming service near you.
How do you pay tribute to Vincent Van Gogh in film form? Grab a paintbrush. Loving Vincent does just that, daubing oil on canvas to bring to life the story of the artist’s infamous death. It gorgeously captures the small French town of Auvers, from glowing stars to rolling wheat fields. Then it scrapes off the paint and does it again – 65,000 times. The result is something stunningly unique: the world’s first painted film.
The voice cast, including Douglas Booth, Saoirse Ronan and Jerome Flynn, give the floating, impressionistic pictures a tangible weight, while the script portrays the mystery behind van Gogh’s demise as a lightweight true crime investigation, complete with eyewitness interviews and red herrings. It hinges on a letter Vincent wrote to Theo Van Gogh, a man whom our protagonist tries to track down. While that plot is sometimes not as substantial as It could be, and the pacing can be a tad too sedate, that ultimately just means more time to marvel at the fact that this movie even exists. A spectacle of swirling and smudging frames, shifting into clearer view for monochrome flashbacks, directors Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman turn every single frame into a mini-masterpiece.
Loving Vincent premieres in cinemas nationwide on Monday 9th October at 7pm, before being released on Friday 13th October.
If you thought Anya Taylor-Joy was disturbing in The Witch, wait until you see this. Thoroughbreds sees her play Lily, the former childhood friend of Amanda (Olivia Cooke). Lily is well-off, admitted to a good college and popular. Amanda is weird, has a violent reputation and doesn’t really do emotions. So when Lily is hired to help tutor Amanda, their reunion is far from friendly. But, in a weird, warped way, that only brings the two closer, as they relish the chance to be cruelly honest with each other – and the result is a relationship that tumbles into darkness like a Slinky in an Escher painting. Playwright Cory Finley makes his directorial debut with this nimble, low-key thriller, and his command of tone is astonishingly tight, veering from funny to sad to unnerving in the blink of a eye. Dread mounts, dares escalate and things become hilariously unpredictable, creating a comedy that lashes out at the world around these unhappy teens, but never spares these disaffected, privileged youths from its satirical gaze. Deliciously twisted – and destined to become a cult favourite for a generation.
Last Flag Flying
Richard Linklater is one of the most distinctive filmmakers around, able to blend humour and heart with a near-realistic feel to every on-screen exchange. It’s slightly disappointing, then, Last Flag Flying, an Amazon Studios production, should feel so conventional.
Part-road movie, part-war meditation, it follows Larry Shepherd (Steve Carell), a bereaved father going to bury his son, who has just been shipped back from Iraq. And so he finds his old soldier comrades, the cynical Sal (Bryan Cranston) and the converted preacher Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), to help him make the journey. The result is an ambling, offbeat buddy movie – co-written with Darryl Ponicsan, based on his own novel – and while the cast are excellent, with Fishburne and Carell really standing out, the laughs are few and far between, and the serious moments of reflection never quite fit in with the rest of it. Perhaps it’s partly because it’s set in 2003, which feels like a foreign country now, but Last Flag Flying only ever makes it to half-mast.
Call Me By Your Name
1983. Summer. “Somewhere in the north of Italy.” Where? It doesn’t matter, because Call Me By Your Name is too busy soaking up the feel of the place – a feeling of curiosity, excitement and arousal. That’s the mood bubbling inside Elio (Timothée Chalamet), the 17-year-old son of a professor (Michael Stuhlbarg), who’s just invited an American, Oliver (Armie Hammer), to stay. Hammer’s academic hits Elio hard with his combination of languorous physicality and intellectual confidence, not to mention his charming smile and apparent interest in him. Director Luca Guadagnino finds that thrilling limbo of possibility and luxuriates in it with abandon, crafting a swooning, pulsating, bulging piece of art that is waiting to burst with the joy of emotional and sexual discovery.
Chalamet’s tender, vulnerable intensity is mesmerising, echoed by Guadagnino’s camera, which absorbs every detail of this ripening summer – Oliver, meanwhile, grabs every fruit going, whether waiting to be plucked or squeezed into a glass, gulping its juice until their are no drops left. Adapted by James Ivory, the result is a swooning, rapturous ode to first love, which understands the importance of both awakening and breaking your heart – and treasuring every fragment you’re left with. That, in itself, marks this out as a sublime piece of filmmaking, but it’s Stuhlbarg’s generous supporting turn that elevates this to something timeless, as he smiles encouragingly in the background, a smile that speaks of sympathy, support and maybe even sharing that same blissful perspective. Impossibly ravishing stuff.