As the latest edition of the festival returns to the capital, Ella Kemp highlights some of this year's most essential features
It's that time again… the greatest fortnight in a UK-based cinephile’s calendar: the BFI London Film Festival 2022. And it’s an event that only seems to be getting better with each passing year, with more daring programming and regional considerations bringing the boldest, most singular cinema into focus for thousands of movie-goers in the capital. We might be heading towards a cold, dark winter in every other respect – but you know there’s always refuge to be found in the cinema. Here are the 10 titles we’ll be prioritising from a line-up of 164…
Another Pinocchio film this year? Really? Yes, really, though this one comes from the master himself, Guillermo del Toro, who could decide to adapt the story of the invention of the dishwasher and still find some magic in it somehow. A stop-motion approach – the film is co-directed by Mark Gustafson – brings this wooden boy to life in what looks to be a far more creative take on, well, the blueprint for creation, with voice work coming courtesy of huge stars like Ewan McGregor, Ron Perlman, Cate Blanchett, Christoph Waltz, and Tilda Swinton (no lie!).
I have tried to spell the name of this film four times and am still none the wiser. But you know whose names I can spell? Neil Maskell. Tom Burke. Amit Shah. Jenna Coleman. All royalty when it comes to British independent cinema, and so Maskell’s directorial debut (he who Ben Wheatley has relied on for sharp comedic performances for years) can spell its name however it wants. Plot details remain scant, but we know that it involves a government whistleblower who is exiled with his wife in Belgium (she’s described as “forthright”) in a thriller that never loses its sense of humour. Sign us up.
Asif Kapadia – director of innovative documentaries such as Senna and Amy – continues to push the limits of what even constitutes as narrative cinema, and his collaboration with the English National Ballet for Creature will take us into the filmmaker’s most magical realm yet. Based on an original concept and choreography by Akram Khan, which in turn was based on Georg Büchner’s play Woyzeck, it's a moving dance piece, and an ode to human connection, following an outsider who's desperate to belong. Expect the unexpected.
It’s been 10 long years since Sarah Polley released her last feature, and Women Talking looks to platform the best female talent working today in order to shine a light on the pain of everyday women in a sensitive, actually empowering manner. It’s a gruelling topic, following the women of a religious community reeling with the aftermath of horrific sexual assault, but without sensationalising or trivialising the matter. There’s a lot of talk about feminist cinema at the moment, and nobody better than Polley to lead the conversation.
It’s just nice to see Florence Pugh thriving, isn’t it? The less said about the hubbub surrounding Don’t Worry Darling the better, but luckily for us Pugh is booked and busy and returns with an arresting, moody-looking period drama directed by Sebastian Lelio (A Fantastic Woman), in which she plays a nurse in 1962 tasked with observing an eleven-year old girl who has refused to eat for several months. Considering that Pugh broke out with the gloomy period drama Lady Macbeth, this feels like something of a homecoming.
Every year, it is crucial that London Film Festival provides us with an introduction to a new British female filmmaker to be thankful for. Well, Georgia Oakley is the one we've been waiting for, the tremendous writer and director of Blue Jean, an ‘80s period piece about a PE teacher (the unreal Rosy McEwen) tiptoeing around Thatcher’s section 28 in order to live her life, and love, as she pleases. A throwback that feels genuinely searing – a simmering triumph (read our review of Blue Jean here).
Normal People wasn’t a fluke: Paul Mescal is the real deal, proven once more by his unforgettable performance in Charlotte Wells’ achingly beautiful directorial debut. Aftersun finds the young actor playing a young dad to even younger newcomer Frankie Corio, in a blistering portrait of an unassuming father-daughter holiday in Turkey coloured by deep sadness and a search for connection. A tiny story with enormous impact (read our review of Aftersun here).
Billy Eichner stars in and co-wrote Bros, the first major studio comedy to feature an entirely LGBTQ principal cast, a point the comedian keeps hammering home. But beyond the film’s potentially revolutionary impact (why can we not simply enjoy things for being good as well as being spectacularly unique) it seems fundamentally sweet and enjoyable and crucially funny, and we all know how desperately rare that is at the moment. Ain’t that enough?
Was “Bill Nighy leads a heartfelt Kurosawa/Tolstoy adaptation set in 1950s London in the new one from the South African director of Moffie” on your 2022 bingo card? Maybe not, but Living finds the British treasure at his most thoughtful in a beautifully drawn portrait of mortality in Oliver Hermanus’ latest. It retools Kurosawa’s 1952 classic Ikiru, courtesy of screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro, and also stars Sex Education’s Aimee Lou Wood (keep an eye on her rising star) and impressive supporting actors Tom Burke and Alex Sharp. A real period gem.
It would be easy to point to She Said as a spiritual successor to something like Spotlight, and journalists rarely make for the most riveting subjects (give me a tiny violin) but this feels like it could be – should be – once-in-a-generation stuff. Revisiting women’s trauma a matter of months later is an all-too-frequent occurrence, but the story of the New York Times journalists who broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal deserves to be told. Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan star.