It’s part two of the Lowdown on London Film Festival. Lisa Balderson went along to the 60th edition of the festival to highlight some choice picks for the CALM crew.
The London Film Festival has come and gone, and this year, celebrated record attendance levels. Audiences were treated to appearances by more than 800 filmmakers and cast members, who were there to introduce their work. The festival hosted its first virtual premiere, by screening Werner Herzog’s Lo & Behold: Reveries of a Connected World online, enjoyed a lively debate at the BFI Black Star film symposium and got to enjoy Clint Eastwood’s highly anticipated new film, Sully, as this year’s surprise film offering, before ending its run with Brit Director, Ben Wheatley’s, Free Fire.
Here are my top picks:
Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea, is the much awaited third feature, from Writer/Director, Kenneth Lonergan.
A former playwright, Lonnergan has garnered a reputation for being one of the most distinctive writers in American Independent Cinema, and the intensity and emotion brought by the characters of Manchester by the Sea attests to this.
The slightly lesser known, but conceivably more talented Affleck brother, Casey, plays Lee, a volatile handyman, who unblocks drains by day and picks fights in bars at night. His life is solitary and mundane, though he seems to hold the weight of the world on his shoulders.
After the sudden death of his brother, Lee is summoned back to his hometown, where he learns that he is to be the legal guardian of his teenage nephew, Patrick. At this point, the film uses flashbacks to show a younger Lee, married, popular and carefree, and soon starts to reveal the source of Lee’s pain.
This film is an incredibly powerful character study of family dynamics and of a man trying to come to terms with the personal tragedy from his past and the responsibilities of his future.
Based on the incredible true story of Saroo Brierley, Lion is the heart-warming adaptation of his memoir, A Long Way, the story of his 25 year search for his family… with a little help from technology!
Five year old Saroo (played by the wonderfully engaging newcomer, Sunny Pawar) lives in poverty with his mother and siblings in a rural Indian village. His admiration of his older brother’s ability to help provide for the family, leads Saroo to be to be taken on an ill-fated train trip to look for work. The boys are soon separated and Saroo finds himself locked inside a decommissioned train that eventually deposits him more than 1000 miles from home. Smart and resourceful, he manages to survive on the streets of Kolkata, until he is eventually taken into a local orphanage.
He is soon adopted by Australian couple, John and Sue Brierley (played by David Wenham and Nicole Kidman) and transported to a new life in Tasmania. He quickly adjusts to his new life, despite the turbulent arrival of a second adoptee from India who does not.
The film fast forwards 20 years to a now grown Saroo, who is in Melbourne studying Hotel Management. Saroo is haunted by memories of his early childhood in India. The family that he was separated from flash through his mind, triggered by the simplest things. He confesses to his friends, his true beginning, and they encourage him to use Google Earth to try and track down his hometown. Using sketchy flashbacks, Saroo starts to piece together his past, who he was, where he might be from, but even with the aid of new technology, the search is hard and Saroo becomes removed from his adoptive family, girlfriend and friends.
But, without ruining the end result (and for those of you who don’t wish to Google), Saroo’s journey continues emphatically, never giving up hope that he might find the family he is searching for and who he hopes have been searching for him. A truly emotional story about belonging.
Germany-Austria | 162min | Dir: Maren Ade | Cast: Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek
The film Toni Erdmann is something of a unique treat. A ridiculously long, German comedy, about a father daughter relationship, that encompasses everything from loneliness, rejection, workplace sexism, whoopee cushion pranks and family dynamics.
Semi-retired Winfried is a piano teacher. On the day that his last student quits, he is also called to an impromptu birthday party for his only daughter, Ines. He arrives at his ex-wife’s house, makes pleasant conversation with her new partner and tries desperately to engage with his estranged workaholic daughter, visiting from Romania.
When things don’t quite go as he would like, Winfried plans an impromptu visit to Ines, which throws his daughter into a spin. A fan of pranks, false teeth and alternative personas, Winfried is reluctantly dragged along to various business engagements with his daughter, where it seems he can do nothing right. After a disastrous weekend together, Winfried leaves…or does he!
What happens next, I don’t want to spoil for those who want to watch this truly endearing comedy. It has amazing touches of brilliance; from an awkward karaoke moment, an even more awkward birthday party, to a truly awkward sex scene. Toni Erdmann, whoever he may be, is true comic genius, but you’ll have to watch to find out.
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