The 2017 Raindance Film Festival takes place in London from Wednesday 20th September to Sunday 1st October, showcasing web series, VR shorts and indie films from around the world. We take a look at some of the movies screening, from those in search of distribution to those heading soon to VOD.
Bees Make Honey
A cowboy, a mermaid and a bee walk into a lavish mansion. If you’re already sitting up and paying attention, Bees Make Honey is for you. A 1930s murder mystery, it’s a movie that leans into the dated feel of an old joke with such enthusiasm and energy that it’s impossible not to enjoy it and get swept along by its wit.
Alice Eve is on cracking form as Honey, a widow who hires an investigator (Inspector Shoerope – Wilf Scolding) to help her solve the death of her husband. From the off, she seizes the leading lady role with relish, a femme fatale playing the part of a femme fatale with a knowing dash of sass, smarts and shade. Her case? Get Shoerope to join her Halloween costume party, where everyone there is effectively reenacting the same shindig from last year, where her beloved kicked the bucket.
Costumes give way to extreme secrets, hidden plans and unspoken identities, while the production design captures the period vibe with panache, reinforcing the hint of artifice among the authenticity. Director Jack Eve zips across the stylish surface with dazzling visual flourishes, swapping about aspect ratios, slinging out split-screens and zooming into freeze-frames as he goes.
Part of the fun is seeing the announcement of a new filmmaking talent with such confidence – somewhere between Sofia Coppola and Baz Luhrmann, Eve feels like a unique voice racing to express every idea he can. (Adam Gough, whose CV ranges from In Bruges to X-Men: First Class, is an excellent editor, while Richard Stoddard’s cinematography and Ryan Beveridge’s score ooze a knowing class.) But the rest of the fun lies in watching the cast have so much fun with their roles, from The Halcyon’s Hermione Corfield as Honey’s amusing, glamorous friend to a scene-stealing Joshua McGuire, who, after a superb turn on stage in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, is on wise-cracking, slapstick form.
The plot doesn’t amount to as much as you might wish, but the script (also by Eve) never fails to entertain, blending the absurd with the familiar genre tropes, while chucking in swear words to keep things feeling unpredictably modern. By the time Trevor Eve turns up dressed as Captain Hook, you’ll be grinning from ear to ear. Produced by Alice and Jack, this is a family affair – and, when it comes to old-school murder mysteries, Agatha Christie fans wouldn’t have it any other way. Somebody snap this up for UK distribution.
Screenings: Saturday 23rd September, 8.15pm / Wednesday 27th September, 1pm
I’m Not Here
When JK Simmons won the Academy Award in 2015 for his role of bullying teacher Fletcher in Whiplash, it was hard to know whether to cheer or to boo. For a film to make you feel deeply sorry for him only a couple of years later, then, is one heck of an achievement. Simmons, who was so brilliantly intimidating in Damien Chazelle’s musical drama, is transformed for this quietly moving drama, which sees him play an ageing man trying to make sense of both his past and present. From the opening shot of him in tears in an empty, dirty home, it’s a heartbreakingly intimate performance, one of complete contrast – from brash insults to mournful tears, from loud barking to unspoken looks.
Director Michelle Shumacher, who co-wrote the film with Tony Cummings, captures several moments of silent emotion throughout the slight 90-minute runtime. So it’s a shame that when it comes to dialogue, I’m Not Here is less successful: Simmons is fantastic at conveying a life of pain and existential confusion, to the point where starting to pick apart that mystery, and stitch his memories together across different times, risks ruining the impact.
A welcome role for Sebastian Stan as the middle-aged Steve helps to strengthen the flashbacks – watch out for Harold Perrineau too, doing a lot with a little role – while the sight of him as a boy, having to choose between his parents by counting pros and cons with jelly beans, is superbly observed. His scenes with his heavy-drinking dad, though, step into cheesy melodrama, while a riff on Schrödinger’s cat and the importance of choice and decisions muddies the water, after such a clear opening. Ambitious in its scope and philosophy, I’m Not Here doesn’t pull off all its ideas, but the chance to see Simmons in full form is reason enough to seek out.
Screenings: Thursday 21st September, 9pm / Tuesday 26th September, 4pm
For more on Raindance, click here, or visit the official festival website.