What to see at the 66th BFI London Film Festival - our pick of the newly announced programme

·9-min read
 (Courtesy of Prime Video)
(Courtesy of Prime Video)

Today the full programme for the 6th BFI London Film Festival is announced. There will be many more gems to discover when the festival opens, but we’ve trawled the list to come up with a starting 15 for you to snag tickets for the moment booking opens (find the details below). The only ‘biggies’ not coming to London in October are Andrew Dominik’s Blonde, about Marilyn Monroe, Todd Field’s Tar and Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All. Otherwise the capital’s film fans are sorted. Hot tickets, watched with carefree crowds. Who could ask for anything more?

Matilda

 (DAN SMITH/NETFLIX)
(DAN SMITH/NETFLIX)

Receiving its world premiere at the LFF, Matthew Warchus’ live-action adaptation of his own award-winning, Royal Shakespeare Company musical looks yummier than a triple chocolate cake. Alisha Weir plays Roald Dahl’s pint-sized schoolgirl and to judge by the trailer, the Dublin newcomer is more than fit to stand up to Emma Thompson, (whose Miss Trunchbull makes Full Metal Jacket’s Sergeant Hartman look like a dazed kitten) while Lashana Lynch looks an excellent Miss Honey. Warning: close-ups of the unfortunate Bruce Bogtrotter (Charlie Hodson-Prior) may seriously damage your fondness for chocolate cakes.

White Noise

 (WILSON WEBB / NETFLIX ©2022)
(WILSON WEBB / NETFLIX ©2022)

Expectations, concerning Noah Baumbach’s take on Don DeLillo’s ‘unfilmable’ novel, were already high. Now that it’s screened at the Venice and New York Film Festival, the buzz is through the roof. Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig are Jack and Babette Gladny, intelligent, vaguely death-obsessed neurotics sent doolally by an “airborne toxic event” that ushers in a scary new normal. Though the book was written in 1985, the plot seems ripped from recent headlines. We’re laughing/sobbing already.

She Said

 (film handout)
(film handout)

Without the New York Times journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, Harvey Weinstein might still be a free man. This is the story of how the dynamic duo got their guy and word has it that Carey Mulligan (as Twohey) and Zoe Kazan (as Kantor) nail their parts. By the way, the wonderful Sam Morton, a real-world victim of Weinstein’s misogyny, has been cast as Weinstein’s London-based assistant Zelda Perkins and, in the trailer. Expect the film to hammer home the message that the system which allowed Weinstein to thrive is still in horribly good shape.

The Whale

 (film handout)
(film handout)

Those who’ve seen Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of the Samuel D Hunter play say it’s deliberately claustrophobic, morbidly funny and all but guaranteed to earn Brendan Fraser a best actor nomination at next year’s Oscars. 600-pound Charlie (Fraser, plus prosthetics and a smidge of CGI) is a gay, binge-eating recluse, seeking forgiveness from his estranged daughter, Ellie (Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink). One-time heart-throb Fraser is having a “Brenaissance”. Until recently, he was viewed by Hollywood’s elite as a mess. From hero to zero to...winner? Stranger Things have happened.

Till

 (Lynsey Weatherspoon / Orion Pict)
(Lynsey Weatherspoon / Orion Pict)

In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was lynched while visiting relatives in Mississippi. Director Chinonye Chukwu, was told she could approach Till’s story from any direction and she decided to focus on Emmett’s mother Mamie (Danielle Deadwyler). Deadwyler was mesmerising as androgynous, semi-feral gunslinger, Cuffee, in The Harder They Fall. Like Alfre Woodard, (who gave such a ferociously subtle performance in Chukwu’s 2019 death row drama, Clemency), Deadwyler has no time for comfort zones. An Oscar for her (along with a Best Supporting Actress nod for Whoopi Goldberg, as Till’s grandmother, Alma) could well be on the cards.

The Son

 (film handout)
(film handout)

Florian Zeller is the kind of jammy sod who’s good at everything. The French playwright/theatre director/screenwriter/film director’s movie debut The Father, won Anthony Hopkins an Oscar and was one of the cultural highlights of 2020. Which makes it all the more exciting that Zeller is now transferring The Son, the second play from his family-centric trilogy, to the screen. New father, Peter (Hugh Jackman), is dismayed when his ex-wife, Kate (Laura Dern), shows up with their wretchedly angry teenage son Nicholas (Zen McGrath). Can the adults in Nicholas’s life find a way to work as a team? On stage, the part of Peter’s girlfriend felt underwritten. Fingers crossed that the brilliant Vanessa Kirby has enough to do. Hopkins, by the way, has a juicy cameo. Might he be The Grandpa?

My Policeman

 (Parisa Taghizadeh/Prime Video)
(Parisa Taghizadeh/Prime Video)

Harry Styles’ film career is on fire. As well as playing the lead in much-discussed American thriller Don’t Worry Darling, he’s the titular cop in a British, 1950s-set romantic drama that’s being compared to Call Me By Your Name. Styles’ character, Tom, marries a woman even though he’s in love with a man (Tom is gay, or at the very least bi-sexual). Styles’ comments on “gay sex” have thrown the tabloids into a flutter and caused some commentators to accuse Styles of queer baiting. Needless to say, Styles’ co-stars, Emma Corrin and David Dawson, are getting a fraction of the attention, but in the trailer Dawson (imagine a cross between James Mason and a feckless vampire) is properly intense.

The Banshees of Inisherin

 (20th Century Studios)
(20th Century Studios)

The In Bruges gang is back together. Martin McDonagh’s first since Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri takes place on an island off the west coast of Ireland and tracks the unravelling of a bromance between pony-loving Padraic (Colin Farrell) and musician Colm (Brendan Gleeson). Colm growls that Padraic is too dull to be his pal. “But he’s always been dull,” points out Colm’s fair-minded sister, Siobhan (Kerry Condon). There are also roles for mercurial Barry Keoghan and Pat Shortt (the latter, in case you haven’t seen 2007 gem, Garage, is a comic genius with the darkest of depths). On Twitter, it’s been suggested McDonagh is pandering to the American market ie fans of tall tales in which Celts Say The Darndest Things. It seems more likely that the trailer is soft-pedalling the film’s harsh truths. Let the keening begin.

Empire of Light

 (film handout)
(film handout)

Sam Mendes directs Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Colin Firth and Toby Jones. We know very little about the project, except that it takes place in a seaside town in Kent, in the early 80s; that it’s some kind of love letter to cinema (certain shots call to mind Cinema Paradiso and The Purple Rose of Cairo) and that Colman and Ward’s characters look very cute when holding hands. Love is in the salty air and, as lit by Roger Deakins, dusty old England looks glorious.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

 (PA)
(PA)

Our prayers have been answered: Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig aren’t done with detective Benoit Blanc. Apparently, in the Knives Out sequel, we’ll get up close and personal with the Southern sleuth (Craig), and, who knows, maybe a few questions re his outrageous accent will even get answered. This time Blanc is invited by tech billionaire Miles Bron (Ed Norton) to a Greek isle where a bunch of Bron’s staff and frenemies are gathering (the to-die-for cast includes Kathryn Hahn, Ethan Hawke, Janelle Monae and Leslie Odom Jr). The new film has a lot to live up to and critics will stick the knife in if the result feels formulaic. No pressure, Rian!

Allelujah

 (Rob Youngson)
(Rob Youngson)

Richard Eyre’s take on the 2018 Alan Bennett play reunites the Iris and Notes on a Scandal director with Judi Dench. The actual star of the show, though, is Jennifer Saunders as Sister Gilpin, the ruthlessly efficient lynchpin of a geriatric ward in a Yorkshire hospital (a word of advice, this is not a happy-clappy film). In order to save the ward, the hospital chiefs decide to bring in the media. But they haven’t reckoned on implacable government “consultant”, Colin (Russell Tovey) who can’t see the bigger picture (or even what’s under his nose). Meanwhile, Valentine (Bally Gill), an Indian doctor, studying to become a UK citizen bonds with patient Mary (Dench) who’s got eagle eyes. The current fuel crisis seems likely to make scenes from this movie beyond poignant. Bennett thought things were bad in 2018. Look at them now.

Bardo (or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths)

 (film handout)
(film handout)

So it’s a 3 hours long, Spanish-language comedy from awards-guzzling Mexican director Alejandro G. Inarittu. It doesn’t have big names, but it’s bound to have big ideas. 61 year-old Daniel Gimenez Cacho, the beaky, wild-eyed star of Lucrecia Martel’s Zama, plays LA-based Mexican film-maker, Silverio, who’s living the dream till he’s forced to go “home”. Inarittu himself hasn’t shot a film in Mexico City since 2000; Bardo’s pretty close to his heart. This is also the first time he’s worked with cinematographer Darius Khondji, who may not be Emmanuel Lubezki, but did light Delicatessen, Se7en, Amour, Okja and Uncut Gems. So, you know, he’ll do.

The Eternal Daughter

 (Sandro Kopp)
(Sandro Kopp)

Joanna Hogg’s latest (a ghost story) is under 90 minues, but trust her to pack it to the gills with tenderness and trauma. A middle-aged artist (Tilda Swinton) accompanies her mother (Zinnia Davies-Cooke) to their former home, a once-imposing pile that’s now a bleak hotel, where things go bump in the night (and possibly in the daytime, too). American company A24 are distributing. They handled The Witch, Hereditary, Lady Bird and Everything Everywhere All at Once, (all indie classics that feature red-raw mother-daughter relationships). Hogg’s baby is in good hands.

If The Streets Were On Fire

If The Streets Were On Fire (Handout)
If The Streets Were On Fire (Handout)

This hard-hitting and well-paced documentary about young Londoners looks set to change the narrative re knife crime. Director Alice Russell knows she’s onto a winner with pithy community elder Mac, who started the movement known as BikeStormz (“Knives Down, Bikes Up”). He puts it thus: “In life you have to put kids on a track. If you don’t put them on a track, they’re walking on the gravel. And you can’t complain when gravel gets kicked up in your face.” Of the kids, Miles is a standout.

Name Me Lawand

 (film handout)
(film handout)

This Derby-based documentary is Edward Lovelace’s follow up to The Possibilities Are Endless, his impressionistic and deeply moving look at how Edwyn Collins’ life was changed by a stroke. Once again, Lovelace finds a novel perspective on a challenging situation, using the experiences of a deaf Kurdish boy, Lawand Hamadamin, to confound and amaze.

Booking for the 66th BFI London Film Festival opens on September 7 to members and to the public on September 13. The festival runs October 5-16; bfi.org.uk