The BFI’s London Film Festival (LFF) is just around the corner, with the Southbank Centre playing host to the great and the good of the movie business from 5-16 October. This year it will showcase 164 feature films — 22 of which are world premieres — across nine London venues.
There is something for everyone in the richly varied London Film Festival programme. 41 per cent of the films are the work of female or non-binary directors/creators, and 34 per cent are by ethnically diverse directors/creators, up slightly from last year’s 39 per cent and down from 40 per cent, respectively. It also features representation from 63 countries. Here are the films highest on our agenda.
1. THE WHALE
Brendan Fraser takes centre stage in exceptional prosthetics in Darren Aronofsky’s directorial adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s play as Charlie, a 600lb obese man who seeks redemption by attempting to restore his relationship with his estranged daughter Ellie (Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink). The Whale — a hotly-tipped Oscar contender — looks set to be a mesmerising comeback for Brendan Fraser after a lengthy, complicated absence, as well as a profoundly moving cinematic experience.
2. DECISION TO LEAVE
South Korea’s Oscar submission is the latest from the masterful Park Chan-wook (The Handmaiden, Oldboy), who received the Cannes Best Director award for this romantic film noir. Set amidst the investigation of a suspicious death in the mountains, Decision to Leave balances equal parts love story and slow-burn thriller, with the lead investigator grappling with the feelings he develops for the dead man’s wife. A must-see for lovers of police procedurals and complex mysteries and not one to miss.
Danielle Deadwyler (The Harder They Fall) stars as the titular Mamie Till-Mobley in this biographical rendering of her unwavering pursuit of justice following the lynching of her 14-year-old son, Emmett (Jalyn Hall), in 1955. From previous LFF contributor Chinonye Chokwu — director of 2019’s Clemency — comes an emotionally charged second feature of universal relevance that is undoubtedly worthy of your time.
4. SHE SAID
Adapted from the compelling nonfiction bestseller written by Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, respectively portrayed by Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan, comes the true story behind two journalists’ investigation into decades-long sexual assault in the film industry, which brought about Harvey Weinstein’s downfall and the initiation of the #MeToo movement. A big Oscar contender and essential viewing.
5. EMPIRE OF LIGHT
Following the groundbreaking one-shot wonder 1917, Empire of Light marks the return of seasoned director Sam Mendes to the LFF. Centred around a cinema in an English coastal town in the early 80s, it’s a love letter to the collective filmgoing experience. Boasting an impressive cast including Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward and Colin Firth, it’s also the fifth collaboration between Mendes and legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins. They never miss, so don’t you miss either.
6. THE INSPECTION
Elegance Bratton’s semi-autobiographical feature debut follows Ellis French (Jeremy Pope), a young, gay black man who struggles to conceal his sexual identity when enlisted in the Marine Corps. Exploring deeply entrenched homophobia and toxic masculinity within the military, The Inspection is a captivating story worth the trip to the cinema.
7. GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY
Daniel Craig’s wisecracking Benoit Blanc returns to gift us all with his goofy Southern drawl, this time in Greece investigating a new cast of mysterious suspects (Edward Norton, Kathryn Hahn and Jessica Henwick, to name a few). Written and directed once again by the maestro Rian Johnson, Glass Onion is sure to be an unmissable cinematic treat.