The 62nd edition of the BFI London Film Festival is set to descend upon the capital in October, bringing with it some of the best movies from all over the world. This year, LFF has 225 features on its catalogue, including some of the films that will definitely be competing for Oscars in the early part of next year. This is one of the best LFF line-ups in years, helped by a selection of movies that have been doing the rounds at other festivals, some great British works and a selection of world premieres.
I’ll take a look at some of the more obscure festival picks in a few days, but here are 15 absolute must-see movies from the roster of galas and the official competition line-up.
Honourable Mention: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
With one of the most tortured and tangled paths to the big screen of any movie in decades, Terry Gilliam‘s Cannes premiere The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is making its way to LFF as the ‘Laugh Gala’, supported by Empire Magazine. It sees Adam Driver as a filmmaker and Jonathan Pryce as his former star, who has since fallen into a crisis of identity and the deluded belief that he is a literary hero. Divisive when it first played at Cannes after 30 years in various stages of development hell, the movie is making its UK bow as part of LFF, and it will certainly be one to watch.
15. Wild Rose
After wowing with her complex lead performance in Beast earlier this year, Jessie Buckley has lined up another spotlight role in Wild Rose, from War and Peace director Tom Harper. Buckley plays a Glaswegian single mother who, fresh out of prison, decides to travel to Nashville in order to pursue a career in country music. It sounds like a fun tale that, if the music works, could be another terrific outing for Buckley, who is quickly becoming a massive talent.
14. The Front Runner
Jason Reitman‘s recent career has been spotty and varied, from the heights of this summer’s impressive Tully through to the unrelenting tedium of Men, Women and Children, which played at LFF four years ago. The Front Runner sees Reitman turning to political drama, with Hugh Jackman starring as Gary Hart – a candidate for the 1988 Democratic presidential race, whose ambition would ultimately be scuppered by scandal. Here’s hoping it will sit at the more positive end of the Reitman oeuvre.
13. The Old Man and the Gun
Playing in competition at LFF this year is The Old Man and the Gun, which Robert Redford has declared will be his final movie as an actor, more than five decades after he first arrived on the big screen. Redford reteams with Pete’s Dragon director David Lowery to play notorious robber Forrest Tucker, who was known for his numerous prison breaks and the fact he was still committing crimes into his seventies. As a swansong for a cinematic icon, it sounds like a delight.
A few years after the bleak success of Son of Saul, which would go on to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, director László Nemes is back with his second feature. Sunset is a non-linear tale of a hat maker who returns to Budapest immediately before the First World War and is drawn in to a mystery surrounding her past. If Sunset has any of the calculated grimness of Son of Saul, it should be another slam dunk for Nemes.
11. Assassination Nation
Positioned as a rallying cry for the #MeToo age, Assassination Nation is one of the strangest movies getting a gala screening at the London Film Festival. With an ensemble cast that includes Suki Waterhouse and Bella Thorne, the film follows a town that loses its fragile grip on reality when a social media data leak exposes the dark personalities of the residents. Social collapse and anarchy soon prevails in a film that has been compared to dark teen satires like Heathers, suggesting something unpredictable that’s full of shocking violence and blasts of black comedy.
10. Outlaw King
David Mackenzie found himself in the thick of Oscar season when his last movie Hell or High Water received critical acclaim and he is now back on prestige form with Outlaw King. The film casts Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce as he manoeuvres for the Scottish throne, while fighting off the English. It’s a rare Scottish story from the Scottish director, rather different to his usual hard-edged material, but it’s one that should channel the best of historical epics.
9. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Originally conceived as an anthology TV series, the new western from the Coen Brothers is now set for the big screen, with Netflix on board as distributors. Over the course of just over two hours, the Coens weave half a dozen different tales from the American West, with an all-star cast. It’s always exciting to see a new project from the Coens and an anthology provides plenty of room for compelling stories. A Netflix release seldom guarantees a big cinema run, so it’s definitely worth nabbing the chance to see this one projected in the best possible way.
8. Beautiful Boy
Seemingly destined to be a massive Oscar contender, Beautiful Boy is arriving on UK shores for the first time at LFF. Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet play a father and son struggling to deal with the son’s drug addiction, with the father regretting missing the early warning signs. The story has been adapted from two memoirs, written by the real-life father and son, and looks set to be an intimate character portrait that could serve as an awards magnet.
7. If Beale Street Could Talk
In one of the most controversial moments in Academy Awards history, Moonlight was finally handed the prize for Best Picture, beating out La La Land. Barry Jenkins is now back in the director’s chair for If Beale Street Could Talk, which is playing as the gala screening for the ‘Love’ strand at LFF. Jenkins has adapted James Baldwin’s tale of a black couple in 1970s Harlem, focusing on the pressures and problems of being black in America at that time. With the calibre of Jenkins as a filmmaker and a firm grasp on racial politics, this should be exactly what Trump era America needs.
6. Stan & Ollie (Closing Gala)
This highly anticipated comedy biopic is set to screen at LFF for its world premiere, featuring Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and John C Reilly as his performing partner Oliver Hardy. The two actors have impressive careers behind them and they will now have awards in their sights for their roles as a pair of comedy icons. The story, set in the 1950s, follows Laurel and Hardy on tour as their celebrity is on the wane following their final film roles. Stan & Ollie is the closing night movie of LFF and should bring the festival to an end on a high.
5. Happy New Year, Colin Burstead
Shot earlier this year in the space of just two weeks, Ben Wheatley‘s latest movie is a return to his roots after the big spectacle of his bullet ballet Free Fire. The film follows Neil Maskell‘s character, who rents a stately home for his family’s New Year celebrations, only for everything to spiral out of control. Wheatley has a flair for character and guiding improvisation, so it will be exciting to see that come to the forefront once again in Happy New Year, Colin Burstead, even if it would have been better under working title Colin, You Anus.
Alfonso Cuarón‘s first directorial effort since Oscar juggernaut Gravity just premiered in Venice to a selection of great reviews. It’s the director’s love letter to 1970s Mexico City, focusing on a year in the life of a family and depicting their world through gorgeous black and white cinematography. It’s always a thrill seeing a master back behind the camera, so Cuarón’s return is a very welcome one indeed.
Just like several of the other directors on this list, Steve McQueen made a big splash with his previous film. In this case, he hasn’t made a movie since 12 Years a Slave won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2014. His latest movie, Widows, is opening LFF and focuses on the titular group of women fighting back against the underworld to which their husbands owed a lot of money. Co-written with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, it looks set to be a stylish and engrossing thriller.
2. The Favourite
After two successive triumphs with The Lobster and the darkly off-kilter Killing of a Sacred Deer, there’s no stopping the oddball weirdness of Yorgos Lanthimos. His next target is the British royal family, albeit back in the court of Queen Anne in the early 18th century. It’s another female-centric project at an LFF that’s championing gender equality across the board, with Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz forming a terrific central trio. Trailers for the movie have sold Lanthimos at his most Lanthimos, amplified by his tremendous roster of performers. This could be the festival’s biggest treat.
The hype is real. Luca Guadagnino‘s remake of the Dario Argento horror classic from the 1970s is set to be a lurid, wild journey into the darkness of a Berlin dance academy. With Dakota Johnson in the leading role and Tilda Swinton and Chloe Grace Moretz also taking on meaty roles, it’s far more than just a retread of its predecessor’s key beats and moments and instead serves as its own unique beast. It’s more than two and a half hours long, so runs the risk of being indulgent, but Guadagnino is a master stylist capable of crafting a hell of a story. The prospect of him delving into horror is a mouth-watering one and Suspiria seems like the obvious pick to be the highlight of LFF.
Which films are you excited to see at LFF 2018? Are you going to be attending the festival? Let me know in the comments section.