10 films to catch at london film festival

A strong, young, female-packed program leads our picks of the festival.

by Colin Crummy
05 October 2016, 4:34pm

London Film Festival begins this week with opportunities to catch festival breakouts from around the world, like Sundance rave The Birth of a Nation; see Oscar contenders for the first time in UK cinemas, like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in the hotly tipped L.A. set musical La La Land; and get ahead of the curve on emerging British and international talent in front of and behind the camera. Below, we've chosen 10 must see features from the festival.

It's Only the End of the World
Xavier Dolan's Grand Prix winner at Cannes stars Gaspard Ulliel as a young writer estranged from his family who returns home to announce his terminal illness. Lea Seydoux, Marion Cotillard, and Vincent Cassel play the relations who have not forgotten why he left in the first place, as Dolan lets family secrets unfold and implode. As always, the young auteur proves his filmmaking mettle.

Dakota Fanning turns frontierswoman in this Western seen through the eyes of its heroines. She plays mute midwife Liz, whose peaceful family life in the American West is shattered by the arrival of a fire-and-brimstone style preacher, who is also a ghost from her past. A retribution tale told in four chapters, it's Fanning's big moment and she does not flinch from it.

Barry Jenkins directs this coming of age story, which follows a young, gay black man in 1980s Miami, and debuted at Toronto film festival to huge acclaim. Rightly so. Moonlight is powerfully restrained yet deeply moving; it subverts stereotypes while telling its truth. In the three young leads who play the central character, Chiron, at stages of his growing up, Jenkins draws out nuanced, intelligent performances. A must see.

Going veggy will never be the same again after Julia Ducournau's feminist horror where enrolling in veterinary school turns animal loving vegetarian Justine into a teen cannibal. Fresher's week isn't quite as you'd imagine in Raw, where a world of parties, drugs, sex and a hazing ritual of eating uncooked meat awakens dormant appetites in our teenage heroine. Unhinged and ravishing, Raw is as sickeningly funny as it is just plain sickening.

Being 17
Girlhood director Celine Scimma turns from capturing the adolescent trials of teenage girls in Paris to rival teenage boys in a Pyrenean farming community. In Being 17, veteran French director Andrew Techine handles a script from Scimma, which sees Parisian male model turned actor Corentin Fila face off against a fellow outsider, played by Kacey Mottet Klein.

Free Fire
The first time for homegrown audiences to catch Ben Wheatley's follow up to High RiseFree Fire is a film that illustrates the British director's own cinematic ascent. Martin Scorsese is on executive producer duties as Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, and Cillian Murphy star in this 70s-set gangster comedy turned shootout. Expect flares and cinematic flare in equal measure.

Romeo and Juliet get some time in the clink in Fiore, a Rome-set romance between two young offenders divided by their male and female prison wings. Daphne mugs Rome's subway passengers for cell phones and ends up in juvenile detention. She meets Josh — still pining for his ex — and also doing time. Despite the soapy premise, Fiore is shot through with ultra realism. Daphne Scoccia, who plays her namesake, proves the breakout star.

From his opening scene — a frenetic snapshot of Parisian teen life — director Houda Benyamia lets rip with Divines, a hugely energetic crime thriller with a feminist twist. Inspired by the Paris riots in 2005, Benyamia goes deep into the life of Dounia, a teenager with an interest in drug dealing and a local male dancer. Comparisons to Celine Sciamma's Girlhood are inevitable, but Divines has youthful energy all of its own.

Athens' abandoned Olympic Park is the setting for a band of unsettled teenagers to hang out, party, and plan ways to amuse themselves with naïve tourists who've wandered off the beaten track in Sofia Exarchou's debut feature, which takes the aesthetic of Rihanna's "We Found Love" to feature length glory.

The Stopover
Co-directors and siblings Delphine and Muriel Coulin steer a narrative about a 'stopover' for a French military unit in a Cyprus holiday resort. The soldiers are there to decompress, attend group therapy, and ultimately be de-programmed. But coupling the decompression with sun, sex, and party times proves too much to handle for two female childhood friends fresh out of a tour of duty. Ariane Labed and Soko are impressive in the leads; the Coulin sisters prove themselves masterful storytellers in gender and global politics.

London Film Festival runs from October 5-16 


Text Colin Crummy

Xavier Dolan
London Film Festival
Dakota Fanning
Julia Ducournau
celine scimma
it’s only the end of the world