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 First Feature at this year’s Independent Spirit Awards, Ingrid Goes West was a film I really wanted to see last year. But, as is always the case with independent films, it wasn’t on at any of my local cinemas. Almost a year later, I finally managed to catch Matt Spicer’s directorial debut. I was very, very impressed.