This year’s Official Competition at London Film Festival has 10 unique project from all over the globe, and Shadow highlights the welcome diverse nature of films on offer this year. Set during China’s Three Kingdom’s era (AD 220-280), The King of Pei’s (Ryan Zheng) trusted Commander (Chao Deng) brings danger to the kingdom by challenging a rival ruler to a duel. However, under constant threat of assassination many nobles secretly employed surrogate men, known as shadows. Commander is one of these shadows, unbeknown to all but a select few.
Indonesian rising filmmaker Timo Tjahjanto’s supernatural horror is full of the main thing you want from this genre: genuine scares. Whilst there’s nothing new or original about May The Devil Take You, we’re treated (if you can call it that) to a host of nerve-shredding, arm-chair squeezing, eye squinting moments and hardly get time to breath. Move over studio horrors, here’s how you really scare an audience whilst retreading old tropes.
Belarus’ first submission to the Academy Awards in 22 years follows a young DJ named Velya (Alina Nasibullina) who forges her US visa application but makes a typo with her fake employee’s phone number. Knowing the embassy will ring it and ruin her plans to escape her home, she tracks down the family whose number she put down and proceeds to spend a week there waiting for the phone call, disrupting the family’s wedding plans. What starts off rather promising soon turns into something rather limp and messy which is a shame as Alina Nasibullina’s performance deserves better.
Paul Dano’s directorial debut Wildlife is a contender in this years London Film Festival’s First Feature Competitionand follows the downfall of a marriage between Joe (Jake Gyllenhaal; Nightcrawler, End of Watch) and Jeanette (Carey Mulligan; Never Let Me Go) during the 1950’s. We see this mainly through they eyes of their teenage son, Joe (Ed Oxenbould; The Visit, Better Watch Out), who is caught in the middle and watch how he handles everything. The film is visually beautiful and slowly begins to unravel into something you are helpless to stop. Gyllenhaal knocks it out of the park once again but it’s Mulligan and Oxenbould who shine bright in a film that smartly never becomes as bleak as it’s subject matter.
Writer-Director Johnny Herbin tackles a subject better suited to a full length feature but manages to make it click into a tight 7 minute run time. While there’s a slight feeling of being left wanting more, beautiful cinematography and a story that takes us on a journey at a natural pace help this short film become a success.
From the opening upside down cinematography, you sense American Animals is going to be something wildly unique. Following the contradicting accounts of the four real life members of one the strangest heists to ever occur, this crime drama weaves in and out of being a semi documentary and deliver one of the best edge of your seat rides to grace cinema screens all year.
Starting in Jamaica 1973 and taking us all the way to Hackney 10 years later, Idris Elba’s directorial debut follows D (played by the insanely impressive Aml Ameen) who grows up in the midst of a gang war in Kingston. After suffering first hand through this war, he soon becomes involved with King Fox (Sheldon Shepard), a music producer and don of Kingston. D is sent to London to finalise a drug deal, but things begin spiralling out of control and with the reappearance of his childhood love, D must choose which path he wants to walk down.
Winner of Best Director at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Pawel Pawlikowski’s latest is a glorious love story that follows Zula (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor (Thomasz Kot), who begin a passionate relationship during the 1950’s Cold War in Poland. Due to politics, mistakes and unforseen circumstances, they are separated and reunited many times. It’s an impossible love story set during an impossible time that takes us all over Europe with a score and cinematography to die for.
Any other MCU fans out there still not over …Infinity War? Me neither, but thankfully we’ve got the latest in the ever expanding universe to hold us over. Ant-Man was something of a surprise hit back in 2015, but I was never as sold on it as everyone else. I thought it was a fun but pretty forgettable film and definitely not up to the standard of the rest of the MCU. The sequel sees Hope (Evangeline Lilly) suit up as the titular Wasp (also becoming the first female superhero to be in the title of an MCU film – finally) this time around and, with the help of her Dad (Michael Douglas) and Scott (Paul Rudd), attempt to save her Mother (Michelle Pheiffer) from the Quantum Relm (something set up in the original film). Without a change of director half way through and the need to set up future instalments, AM&TW (as no one is calling it) is an improvment over it’s predeccessor. However, it still feels a lot less audacious than other MCU films.
Set on a family farm in France during 1915, Xavier Beauvois’ films sees the men of the family leave to go and fight whilst the women are left behind to care for the farm. When the workload gets too tough, Hortense Sandrail (Nathalie Baye) decides to hire a farmhand named Francine Riant (Iris Bry) to help during the harvest season. Once Hortense’s son returns from the war, he begins to fall in love with Francine. The Guardians is proof that there’s still life in the overused “love story during the war” trope and also tackles the impact returning from the fight has as well as articulating the strength and resolve of the women left to tend the farm perfectly.