The 62nd BFI London Film Festival ended just under a week ago, but many films from the festival’s expansive lineup are still lingering on our minds. We loved the buzz-worthy titles including The Favourite, Beautiful Boy and Rafiki, but we also caught a few gems hidden in the mix. Iana and Megan make their picks from the lesser known films from the festival.
Films about addiction are tough. They cut deep and are severe to the point of exploitation, and they’re never as raw or honest as Felix Van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy. This is an addiction story, but above that, it’s a story about family and the unconditional love borne from such a special, formidable bond.
Based on David and Nic Sheff’s respective memoirs, Beautiful Boy and Tweak, the film depicts their family’s struggle with methamphetamine addiction. Nic (Timothée Chalamet) is the addict, and David (Steve Carell) is the father trying to save him. This two-hander lends an added openness to confronting America’s crisis: addiction affects not only the user, but everyone around them. It doesn’t attempt to solve the crisis either, because it knows all too well that the road to recovery is long and treacherous.
Most movies about space are mammoth beasts. They’re epic, vast, an attempt to capture as much of the endless void as the lens can handle. It’s surprising then that for a film of this scale, it wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate to call First Man a small movie. We’ve always looked at the moon landing as a momentous achievement for humanity, but fail to look at the humans who made it possible. Damien Chazelle, in his follow-up to almost best picture winner La La Land, corrects this and then some – First Man is an immersive, exhausting ride, on a physical and emotional level.
Unicorn Store is stuck in limbo. One year ago today, Brie Larson’s directorial debut premiered at Toronto to the excitement of many, only to receive an indifferent shrug in response. As a result, it has yet to be picked up for distribution, and likely never will. The film stars Larson as Kit, an art school dropout in stasis. Unable, or unwilling, to grow up, she still lives with her parents and shares the same obsessions as most six-year-old girls – the colour pink, sparkles, and glitter – she’s arts and crafts gone wild. Before she resigns herself to the monotony of adulthood, Samuel L. Jackson appears like a fairy godfather with the fashion sense of Jeff Goldblum and the promise of what she wants most: A unicorn. I caught Unicorn Store at Edinburgh Film Festival (its second and probably last festival stop), and to my surprise, I fell in love fast. I laughed a lot, but I also cried – the film’s sweet sentimentality wraps around you like a blanket. It’s also a smarter film than it lets on. While it understands the comedic possibilities of a 20-something who believes in unicorns, it never treats Kit like a joke – the script maintains a subversively sharp wit.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the epitome of unattainable teenage fantasies, treading knee-deep in the most recognisable of rom-com cliches that it threatens to give you a cavity or two. But of course director Susan Johnson knows that. When we meet our romantically hopeless hero Lara Jean (Lana Condor), she’s running in a luscious field in a flowing regal gown to meet the boy of her affections, Josh (Israel Broussard). One problem: Josh is dating her sister, Margot (Janel Parrish), and is ceremoniously dumped when she heads to Scotland for university. (I, a Scottish person, have qualms but that’s for another time.) The opening is like something straight out of a sappy romance novel – because it is. Lara Jean is a classic hopeless romantic, with a tendency to daydream about falling in love instead of experiencing it herself, drawing on love stories and John Hughes movies for inspiration. The film similarly wears its influences on its sleeve, likely making a new generation of teens succumb to the never-ceasing power of the rom-com.
Let’s just get this out of the way: The Meg is a bad movie. I’m as disappointed as you are! It’s Jason Statham going head-to-fin against a giant fucking shark – evenly matched foes in a face-off so momentous, so legendary, it’s worthy of scripture. Have I put too much faith in this? Definitely. But shark movies are supposed to be fun. They carve out a space for you to leave reality at the door and revel in its (lovable) stupidity. Director Jon Turtletaub must’ve forgotten about this, for The Meg is too serious for its own good.
Have you ever planned out a conversation in your head, just for it to go completely off the rails when it happens? No matter how terrible things have gone for you, Reed (Christopher Abbott) probably has it worse. Instead of a conversation, he has a murder mapped out. With all intricately designed plans, one wrong step can be the catalyst for catastrophe, and in Piercing, that catalyst is prostitute-turned-victim Jackie (Mia Wasikowska) who instigates a blood-splattered catastrophe with equal amounts of stabbing and sexual tension. A psychosexual romp gone wrong (or right depending on how kinky you are), Nicolas Pesce’s follow-up to The Eyes of My Mother is a bold leap from his haunting debut that doesn’t quite stick the landing.