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Another Round / Druk LFF Film Review

Another Round / Druk London Film Festival 2020 Movie Review

Druk (“Another Round”) is the latest feature from Danish director and Dogme 95 co-founder Thomas Vinterberg, reuniting him and actor Mads Mikkelsen some eight years after the Oscar-nominated Jagten (“The Hunt”). This dark comedy follows four disillusioned high school teachers who decide to rejuvenate their lives by embarking on an elaborate drinking game.

Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe) and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) are all in a mid-life limbo, with the lead, Martin, increasingly isolated from his wife and children, mocked by his students, and reconsidering his life choices. Following an enjoyably boozy birthday meal, all four agree to engage in an experiment based on the work of a Norwegian psychologist, who claims humans are born with a deficit of 0.05% blood alcohol.

Faced with the four characters’ pathetic plights, the audience easily begins to root for them as they unleash their new selves upon the world. The early scenes are brilliantly funny, with the four adjusting to their new inebriated states during their school lessons, and are uplifting for the characters as they take their new-found confidence to help engage better with their students and lives outside of class. The physical humour is uncannily inspired, with the actors perfectly embodying the swaying bodies, alcohol-fuelled swagger and the odd bumping into walls and collapsing that occurs. Mads Mikkelsen in particular, effortlessly captures the progression of Martin, from lifeless to boisterously playful, along with more subtle levels of anguish, despair and catharsis.

Despite the comedy, a sense of dread builds as their plans become perilously close to being uncovered. The film slowly cranks up the tension as they progress from Hemingway rules (no drinking after 8 pm or at weekends) to Tchaikovsky approach (adjusting alcohol levels for optimal social and mental ability) to last but definitely not least, the Total Oblivion – maximum blood alcohol level. While they attest to their drinking being a scientific experiment, they begin to fool themselves into the logic of it, with increasingly farcical reasoning to go further and further.

As the film has been hinting, this ship they’ve embarked upon can only come crashing down on the rocks, with the first incident after the Total Oblivion, leading to the study ending “due to immense, negative social effects and the danger of alcoholism”. The event that leads to this, results in Martin’s separating from his wife, Nikolaj crawling into bed with his wife and wetting himself, while it leads Tommy down an even more dangerous route. In the face of a horrifically bleak ending, the film comes full circle with the friends in the harsh daylight, celebrating the successes of their students and culminating with an cathartic, impromptu jazz ballet dance piece from Mads Mikkelsen.

While mostly adhering to a realistic style, with hand-held camerawork, natural lighting and a simple setting, warm colours and flare are subtly added to the drinking scenes to emphasise their enticing nature. On top of that, the rising pressure and descent of the quartet is incredibly well matched by the cinematography of each of the seasons. The documentary-style is further heightened by the silent movie style black dialogue cards that flash up, alerting the audience to the various characters’ blood alcohol levels, as well as the short clips of various politicians famous for their drinking, such as Yeltsin, Sarkozy and even Boris Johnson.

This bittersweet tragicomedy is a meditation on attitudes to alcohol, ageing and masculinity in a nation that “drinks like maniacs”. While we see the bright positives and the grim negatives of intoxication, Druk instead wants to focus on why people turn to such destructive behaviour – is it boredom, stress or the desire to re-engage with their lives? In one sense, the alcohol is merely the springboard from which to take a deep look into the male psyche through these four very different characters.

While the quartet’s humorous, yet brutal trials and tribulations with alcohol set the scene, Druk is a bold examination of the thirst for life, love and friendship.

One Night In Miami LFF Film Review

One Night In Miami London Film Festival Review

Adapted from a stage play, One Night in Miami is the debut feature from Regina King, covering a fictional imagining of the night of 25 February 1964 when boxer Cassius Clay, singer Sam Cook, NFL star Jim Phillips and activist Malcolm X all met to celebrate Clay’s surprise win to become heavyweight champion of the world aged just 22.

The film confidently sticks to its theatre roots, with the vast chunk of the 110 minutes solely confined to a small motel room. The compact space is full to bursting with the personalities of the four black icons, who verbally jab bob and weave at each other, sparring just like Clay, but instead of boxing, their conflict is over their approach to their identities, personal and private lives and their success all in their individual struggles against racism. The script particularly focuses on what it means to support the civil rights movement as successful black men, dissecting each of the different character’s approaches and assumptions about each others’.

All four actors perfectly embody the energy, direction and opinions of their given role, Eli Goree’s Clay charmingly bounces off the walls, Aldis Hodges’ Brown is thoughtful yet firm, Leslie Odom Jr.’s Cook is passionately antagonistic with an incredible voice, and Kingsley Ben-Adir’s Malcolm X captures a fiery anger hiding his vulnerability. All have some incredible dialogue to play with, with knockout lines getting served up so fast you can barely keep up.

As it centres around the aftermath of Clay’s fight, he leads us into the film, but as we progress it feels it becomes more focused on Malcolm X’s hidden dilemma over leaving the Nation of Islam, while he hopes to bring Clay to announce his conversion to the public. The tension builds up slowly, with the heated temperatures matching the verbal sparring, especially between Sam Cook and Malcolm X, who believes Cook isn’t doing enough through his songs to help further the cause.

The powerful transformative effect of the night is an incredible sight to see, though the epilogue proves bittersweet with Malcolm X’s famous words “It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. That’s the only thing that can save this country” shown on the screen, along the fact they were spoken a mere two days before his murder.

One Night in Miami is a fantastically absorbing slice of partly-imagined history, with four powerhouse performances capturing the iconic figures’ meditation on race, civil rights and their own personal and private lives on a hot February night in 1964.

Supernova LFF Film Review

Supernova London Film Festival 2020 Film Review

Supernova, the second feature from actor, writer and filmmaker Harry Macqueen, is a heartbreaking tale of an older couple grappling with early-onset dementia.

Colin Firth’s Sam and Stanley Tucci’s Tusker are 50-somethings who embark on a mini-road trip through the Lake District, retracing their steps from decades before, reuniting with friends and family, all on the way to a cottage where Sam is set to perform a piano recital. And, last but not least, they bring their adorable dog Ruby along for the ride.

But it’s not all dogs, friends and stunning scenery, as Supernova takes an honestly bold look at the way Tusker’s condition of early-onset dementia takes its toll on both of the characters. The film takes it slowly, introducing us to a charming couple, before taking a more serious turn. The tension builds as Sam discovers that Tusker isn’t coping as well as he’s pretending to, and how the secrets they’re keeping from each other build-up to a dramatic set of scenes and a big dilemma.

There’s a real sense of the love between the two characters – they playfully bicker over the directions in the van, Tusker is overly protective over Sam’s fame, while Sam doles out patient and loving care over Tusker. The chemistry and the dialogue between the two protagonists are what really elevates the already great, though simple travel-style narrative. The little nuances of behaviours, the quiet moments and the heated arguments, all come together to paint a stunningly intimate portrait of two people facing one of the most difficult periods of their relationship and life.

Tucci’s sublime performance is bolstered by a painfully honest set of powerful lines capturing his character’s emotional state. Firth is more reserved, but equally strong, especially when faced with tough decisions. He’s reticent, as he tries to hide his emotional troubles while remaining strong for his partner.

On their journey, Sam and Tusker, and the audience are faced with compelling, yet harsh truths about the condition, but told through the partnership of the two, which is a joyful relationship, filled with humour, grumpiness and love. That said, the film sets out and succeeds in exploring the heartbreaking conflict between the selfishness of love, wanting not to lose your partner, and the selflessness of being a burden, feeling like you’re no longer the same person you were and losing control – “becoming a passenger [when you’re not] not a passenger.”.

Along with the acting and script, the other highlight is the cinematography. Aside from the stunning autumnal tones and vistas of a dramatic Lake District, the couple’s camper van is a remarkable set in itself. Masterfully shot, lit and staged, the van feels like an intimate world for the couple, yet still managing to create distance between the two, as well as capturing several different settings – everyday domestic life, a confessional space and a place of loneliness.

Supernova is a charmingly honest and sweetly romantic, yet brutally heartbreaking take on early-onset dementia and the traumatic effects it has on the body, mind and relationships. One of the frontrunners for the best film of the London Film Festival.

Kajillionaire LFF Film Review

Kajillionaire London Film Festival 2020 Review

The third feature from Miranda July, Kajillionaire is a surreal look at the life of Old Dolio Dyne (Evan Rachel Wood), named for a homeless lottery winner who the parents hoped would leave her money in his will. Sadly, we’re told, he spent it on experimental cancer treatments.

The quirky tale explores the strange lives of the Dyne family, conning their way through Los Angeles, stealing mail, forging signatures and living in a basement office which regularly floods with bubbles trickling down from a factory above. The actors play up the weirdness brilliantly, particularly Richard Jenkins, but the star has to be Evan Rachel Wood, who’s stubbornly suspended in an emotional prison of arrested development.

Gina Rodriguez plays the whirlwind of Melanie who flies into their life and mixes up the family’s very precise routines and chemistry, which Wood’s Old Dolio is so reliant upon. It’s hard not to see Melanie as the outsider, or the viewer – a normal person thrown into the kooky, surreal and bizarre world of Miranda July. Rodriquez brings charm, humour and strength to a role that works brilliantly in grounding a film in need of an anchor of realism.

Kajillionaire seems to set up the question – is the family in just a long-con – are familial bonds true or just a means to control, dominate and trick others? Either way, Wood’s Old Dolio is in much need of an outside perspective, and that’s where her intriguing journey with Rodriguez’s Melanie shines most. Definitely the most accessible of Miranda July’s catalogue, this is a strange, surreal and charming fairy tale of a lost woman trapped by her family, her upbringing and herself, and in much need of rescuing.

Stray – LFF Film Review

Stray – London Film Festival 2020 Review

Stray is the debut feature documentary of Hong Kong director Elizabeth Lo, who has featured in the New Directors Showcase at Cannes Lion and was named one of the ’25 New Faces of Independent Film’ by Filmmaker Magazine.

This feature is a beautifully charming, but sombre look at the lives of several stray dogs in Istanbul, along with the various residents they encounter as they wander the streets of the major city. A big part of the intimacy the film captures is down to the non-intrusive, natural and low-angle camera work, which tracks the canine stars through the course of 90 minutes. While the cinematography captures the fly-on-the-wall style, and most importantly, the dog’s perspective, there’s a countless beautifully composed shots of the stars and the city they inhabit.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Zeytin, a young female tanned dog, best described by one set of residents as a ‘fighter’. We follow her chasing cats, playing and fighting with other dogs, waiting to cross busy roads, searching for food and hanging out with several Syrian refugee teenagers, who are introduced while sleeping rough in a construction site. The teens, whose plight of homelessness and searching for food seem to mirror Zeytin and co., are one of many residents we encounter in the backdrop of the dog’s journeys. You get little snippets of dialogue from women complaining about their marriages, to young people discussing Instagram etiquette, and the backdrop of major demonstrations.

The Syrian teens’ story is the main backbone of the narrative in Stray, and sees them trying to find places to sleep, and then taking a young stray puppy, Kartal from his adopted owners, before eventually getting arrested for sleeping on the streets. We also follow Nazar, who is often with Zeytin. Elizabeth Lo and her team deserve a lot of credit for the amount of careful work that has gone into producing such an intimate, endearing and cohesive piece of documentary film-making that really captures a tiny bit of the lives of these transient dogs and the people they encounter along the way. Before the credits roll, the film announces the work is the product of two years of filming, and it was definitely worth it.

Mogul Mowgli LFF Review

Mogul_Mowgli Film Poster

Mogul Mowgli London Film Festival 2020 Review

The second feature and fictional debut from documentary filmmaker Bassam Tariq, which he co-wrote with its star Riz Ahmed, is a chaotic, but incisive release that more than begs repeat viewing. The film follows Z, or Zaheer, a second-generation British-Pakistani rapper on the cusp of success who returns home to his parents and faces not only a clash of culture, heritage and religion, but a debilitating disease which threatens his life and career.

Returning home to the parents is a well-trodden storyline, but this film masterfully manages to combine the obvious cultural differences, with rather disturbing flashbacks to both Z’s youth, as well as the past of his father’s escape to Pakistan during the 1947 Partition with India. This intergenerational trauma echoes through the film, with the juddering train literally shaking several scenes and scattering its dust over Z, and sits alongside the genetic trauma which has caused the disease in both father and son. The disease itself is autoimmune, and sits as a metaphor for Z’s anxiety about himself and his heritage, with the doctor describing it as being down to the fact ‘the body doesn’t recognise itself anymore’. Tariq’s documentary-style cinematography superbly captures some of these tense snippets of the past, and the extreme close-ups on materials, light and characters adds to the realistic style, which itself is balanced by moments leaning into magic realism.

Despite these rather haunting, horror-type moments, the film skips between serious drama and humour, with some of the best lines delivered by Nabhaan Rizwan as RPG, an up-and-coming fellow rapper, who gets to deliver the line “No Nando’s without apartheid”, which in combination with his music video for ‘Pussy Ass Chicken’, definitely had a slight Chris Morris influence, who Ahmed worked with on Four Lions. Ahmed is stellar, spitting out his lines, with several songs taken from Ahmed’s 2020 album The Long Goodbye, most memorably in a fantastic transition shot where he begins rapping backstage before leaping to the front of the house to begin his live show. There’s also a lot of boyish, rebellious charm, as he is thrown back into his parent’s household, channelling his younger self, but combined with some fantastic emotional scenes, particularly with Z’s father, played by Alyy Khan.

Mogul Mowgli is a fantastic piece of documentary-style fictional filmmaking, with the director/writer and actor/writer working together perfectly to produce an intense, but insightful leap into intergenerational relationships, attitudes and trauma.

Siberia LFF Film Review

Siberia is a spiritual journey filled with metaphors and symbolism that even the most observant viewer may have trouble keeping pace with. The sixth collaboration between director Abel Ferrara and a for Willem Defoe, this dive into the abyss of the soul is a cold, harsh and biting ride.

There’s some fantastic landscape cinematography, with Defoe’s Clint sledding through bleak snow filled valleys, lit in a surreal green light that adds to the mystery. This, coupled with a minimal piano based score help craft an atmosphere you’ll not be able to shake.

In terms of narrative, the protagonist is seemingly thrown across several scenes in a non-linear fashion, with both him and the audience attempting to piece together the meaning of the strange, weird and often disturbing things he’s confronted with.

Definitely one for fans of the surreal, this is a journey not for the light hearted.

How to Watch 2020 London Film Festival Movies At Home

As we get into autumn, it’s movie festival time in London! However, things have changed up a bit at the 2020 London Film Festival (LFF) this time around. From October 7 – 18, you can enjoy a selection of the 2020 LFF programme all direct from the comfort of your own home.

How to Watch 2020 London Film Festival Movies Online Via BFI Player

The general public can now buy tickets to stream via BFI Play. Virtual premieres are £12 per movie or £10 for BFI Members. To stream, you must have internet access and a BFI Player compatible device. Remember that BFI Player screenings are available to view in the UK only and the movies are not available with Smart TVs and BFI Player’s Amazon Prime and Apple TV channels and you cannot download films.

Most films will require you to start watching within 30 minutes of the advertised start time. So you will need to hit play within this time frame or miss out on seeing the film – and throwing away your money. Once you click play, you have 3 or 72 hours to watch the movie – all depending on the film, so if you can’t watch immediately, click play and then pause til you’re ready to enjoy.

Given the restrictions, we definitely recommend you to schedule your viewing. You can find a full overview of the movies available here.

Now, that’s all out of the way, here’s the important part – the movies we’re most looking forward to!

The Best Movies to Stream From the London Film Festival

Another Round
Four friends, all high school teachers, test a theory that they will improve their lives by maintaining a constant level of alcohol in their blood.

Supernova
Sam and Tusker partners of 20 years, who are traveling across England in their old RV visiting friends, family and places from their past. Since Tusker was diagnosed with early-onset dementia two years ago, their time together is the most important thing they have.

Stray
The world of Zeytin, a stray dog living life on the streets of Istanbul.

Wolfwalkers
Follows a woman in her sixties who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.

Mogul Mowgli
A British Pakistani rapper is on the cusp of his first world tour, but is struck down by an illness that threatens to derail his big break.

N.B. Festival favourites including Mangrove, Nomadland and Ammonite are not available to watch online