And what a London Film Festival that was! In the years I’ve been attending, I can’t remember a line-up like this one – packed with films of the highest order and as much variety as you can shake several sticks at.
So did I have any favourites? Oh yes! But it’s nigh-on impossible to narrow the films I saw down to a single one – or, indeed, to restrict myself to a specific number. So I’ve put them in alphabetical order. And please bear in mind that I didn’t manage to see everything!
All Is Lost Quite possibly a career defining performance from Robert Redford in J C Chandor’s excellent man v elements story. And he hardly had any dialogue for company. Released in UK on 26 December.
Captain Phillips Now I understand what’s so good about Tom Hanks. In the final scenes of the film, he’s off the scale, and he’s pretty good in the rest of the film as well. Paul Greengrass has produced a nailbiter that could easily turn out to be this year’s Argo. Currently on general release.
Inside Llewyn Davis The Coen Brothers are back, this time in picaresque mode, following the misadventures of a 1960s folk singer of the same time. That they have great affection for the period is unquestionable – and so is the fact that it’s made a star of Oscar Isaac. Released in the UK on 24 January 2014.
Nebraska Alexander Payne’s on the road again, but on his home territory, the American mid-West. This compassionate and often humorous portrait of decline features a star turn from Bruce Dern as a dementia sufferer convinced that he’s won £1million. Released in the UK on 6 December.
Philomena Don’t be deceived. This story of a mother trying to track down the son adopted against her will is nowhere near as sombre as it sounds. A finely-tuned script from Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, plus a warm and transparent performance from Judi Dench make it simultaneously moving and funny. Released in the UK on 1 November.
The Invisible Woman Ralph Fiennes’ second time the director’s chair delves into the secret affair of Charles Dickens and a young actress. A fine eye for detail and atmospheric cinematography give it a strong sense of period. And there’s none of the sentiment that you would associated with Dickens’ novels. Released in the UK on 7 February 2014.
The Selfish Giant Unflinching and angry, yet inspiring and uplifting. Clio Barnard’s portrait of two lads from a sink estate involved in the dodgy side of the scrap metal business owes much to Ken Loach, but she has her own distinctive style. And the performances that she got out of the two young leads are jaw-dropping. Released in the UK on 25 October.
Did anything get the thumbs down? Sadly, yes. You can’t win ‘em all! My Festival Flop was Labour Day. What starts out as appearing to be a hostage movie suddenly becomes a romance. And, unfortunately for everybody concerned, it really doesn’t hold water. Released in the UK on 7 February 2014.
There’s a couple of big films that are conspicuous by their absence – and that’s simply because I didn’t get to see them. But see them I will. And you’ll be hearing about them on The Coops Review over the next few months.