LFF 2021 film review: Wild Indian, Azor, Spencer, Ali & Ava
Ivan Radford | On 15, Oct 2021
Wild Indian is streaming at the 2021 London Film Festival. Find out more about how the festival works and what else is playing online here.
Two men kill someone, cover it up, then find themselves haunted by their secret. While that might sound like a familiar plot, the title of Wild Indian makes it clear that the film isn’t your typical psychological thriller. The men here are Makwa (Michael Greyeyes) and Ted-O (Chaske Spencer), two indigenous American friends who killed a classmate when they were younger. Fast forward to 2019 and Ted-O is coming out of a stint in prison and tracks down his old friend, who has renamed himself “Michael” and is pursuing a wealthy career in California – where his colleague (Jesse Eisenberg) acknowledges that he brings a diversity that’s good for the company’s optics. Into this bubble of assimilation strolls Ted-O, who represents not just a past secret but also the wider past of his Ojibwe heritage. The result is a thought-provoking, gripping thriller that tackles big themes of identity, class and guilt. There’s nuance aplenty to be found in its complex shades-of-grey web, grounded in two superb lead turns.
Rating: 8/10 (4 stars)
Wild Indian is streaming on BFI Player from 9pm on 14th October until 9pm on 15th October 2021. Book a ticket here. You have 24 hours to start watching and 4 hours to complete the film once you’ve started.
It will be released by Vertigo in cinemas and on digital platforms on 29th October 2021.
There are feature debuts and there are feature debuts. Andreas Fontana’s Azor is the latter, the kind of first-time film that astounds with its confidence and complexity. The film takes us into the wealthy elite of 1970s Argentina, where outsider Yvan (Fabrizio Rongione) arrives from Geneva. A private banker, he is there to replace a colleague who has mysteriously gone missing. Accompanied by his wife, he journeys into the heart of darkness where power, corruption and colonialism all linger in the shadows. Moving from one client to the next in the shadow of the brutal military dictatorship that recently took over the country, it’s a tour of atmospheric tensions, balancing doing the right thing and consciously looking away from the wrong thing. A compelling, slow-burn thriller, at its core is Fabrizio Rongione, whose inscrutable calm sets the tone for a sinister, glossy tale – one in which the violence lurks chillingly just out of sight.
Rating: 8/10 (4 stars)
Azor will be released in UK cinemas on 29th October and on MUBI on 3rd December
Kristen Stewart is unrecognisable as Diana in Pablo Larraín’s phenomenal portrait of the tragically passed princess. It’s a jaw-dropping piece of cinema, one that avoids biopic conventions to instead zoom in on one imagined weekend at Christmas, when Diana and Charles head to Sandringham for 48 hours of festive traditions. The mood is suffocating from the off, and Larraín creates a gloomy, suppressing atmosphere that leaves the young princess gasping for breath – Stewart plays each scene like she’s holding her breath, with every exhale carrying a heart-wrenching impact, her eyes darting about for a place of escape. The rest of the cast are excellent – including Timothy Spall as the watchful household stewart, Major Gregory, and Sean Harris as Darren McGrady, the head royal chef – but they studiously blend into a sea of ghostly faces, their traditions haunting the faded backdrop like spectres. Against that backdrop, Diana’s colourful, vivid presence is a gasp of life, and Jonny Greenwood’s evocative score beautifully brings to life that internal struggle. Larraín, meanwhile, crafts a descent into gothic horror, detaching from the reality of regime and protocol into Diana’s own isolated headspace – a labyrinth where his camera repeatedly pursues her through corridors, except for one brief, hopeful moment where she glides towards it.
Rating: 8/10 (4 stars)
Azor will be released in UK cinemas on 5th November 2021 and will stream exclusively with Amazon Prime at a later date.
Ali & Ava
Clio Barnard has long been one of this country’s most interesting filmmakers and here, she delivers once again a thoughtful, timely and moving portrait of modern Britain. Claire Rushbrook and Adeel Akhtar are Ali & Ava, a teaching assistant and a landlord who cross paths in Bradford and start to form a connection. Each of them come with baggage, from Ali’s attempts to keep his separate from his wife a secret from his family to Ava’s attempts to support her new grandchild without holding on to previous generation’s dark pasts. They’re portrayed brilliantly by the lead couple, with Claire Rushbrook bringing an everyday charm to her hard-working mother and Adeel Ahktar delivering a career-best performance as the exuberant, part-time DJ. Their friendship, and possible romance, raises tough questions of race and class, but they’re briefly brushed aside by the winning simplicity of their connection, which Barnard captures with heartfelt sincerity – a scene where they both listen to their own choice of music, but dance together, is boldly cinematic and deeply human. A triumph.
Rating: 10/10 (5 stars)
Ali & Ava will be released in the UK at an unconfirmed date by Altitude.