What to Watch

Best of the Fest: 12 Essential Films From BFI LFF 2020

We've gathered up our most glowing reviews from this year's festival, from groundbreaking animation to dizzying debuts

That's it! This year's brilliant, inspiring and very digital incarnation of the London Film Festival is officially over – and what an incredible achievement from the dedicated BFI team, who managed to put the whole thing together at the height of a global pandemic. And what great, memorable films this year, too, from animated gems to disturbing visions of the future – not to mention some truly incredible and dizzying debuts. Below we've rounded up the most positive reviews from our extensive festival coverage, highlighting this year's essential viewing…



What is it? Frances McDormand gives a spectacular lead performance in director Chloé Zhao beautiful ode to life on the American road

When's it out? January 1, 2021

What we said: “Where Nomadland especially thrives is in the moments that celebrate community, friendship and generosity. There are hardships to endure, but these are superseded by the film’s infectious joy and natural warmth. Zhao has made a film that feels like a shot of pure empathy (read Iana Murray's five star review).”



What is it? Hilarious yet melancholy, Ben Sharrock's beautiful, ambitious debut shines a light on the absurdity of Britain's immigration system

When's it out? TBA

What we said: “There isn’t a single element of filmmaking here that lacks love and attention. In what has already been a banner year for debut movies, from Babyteeth to Residue to Saint Maud, Limbo is another shining light that promises exceptional things from a thrilling new director (read Jack Blackwell's five star review).”


Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

What is it? This fascinating vérité film about a Las Vegas watering hole and its patrons blurs the lines between fact and fiction to ingenious effect

When it's out? TBA

What we said: Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is potent, invigorating, intoxicating: the film equivalent of chugging a boilermaker (read Ben Flanagan's five star review).”



What is it? Indie auteur Josephine Decker turns her talents to the biopic for this thrillingly psychosexual portrait of horror writer Shirley Jackson, starring Elisabeth Moss

When's it out? October 30, 2020

What we said: “This is psychosexual cinema that also serves as an education, a biopic written in blood. Shirley is a bewildering film about creativity and independence and desire that feeds your imagination – but always leaves you hungry for more (read Ella Kemp's five star review).”


American Utopia

What is it? The inimitable Talking Heads frontman teams with Spike Lee for this joyous celebration of where we are and where we're going

When it's out? TBA

What we said: “Watching American Utopia is like being lifted out of your own life, wrapped in a comfort blanket and transported to another dimension where rationality, respect, and creativity are revered above all else (read Tom Barnard's four star review).”


Another Round

What is it? A fantastic Mads Mikkelsen reunites with filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg for this refreshingly even-handed ode to alcohol

When's it out? November 20, 2020

What we said: “Another Round is a sort of-love letter to alcohol that, unlike so many films about the subject of inebriation, acknowledges our modern obsession with a refreshingly even hand (read Tom Barnard's four star review).”



What is it? The weight of isolation is balanced against the power of human connection in this poignant film from director Tsai Ming-liang

When's it out? TBA

What we said: “Kang and Non’s poignant story proves relevant in a world where we’re increasingly left to ourselves. The magic of their special bond is beautiful to witness – a timely reminder of the value of human contact (read Rahul Patel's four star review).”

If It Were Love

What is it? Patric Chiha’s intoxicating documentary goes behind-the-scenes of dance troop Crowd, a touring piece by choreographer Gisèle Vienne

When's it out? TBA

What we said: “It is an emphatic celebration of the senses: the caress of fingertips against V-lines, the musk of gyms and sweatboxes, the taste of lipgloss and bloodied, red-raw tongues. It perforates the flimsy barrier between the performed and the real, here pooled together and stirred, like a tin of vivid paint (read Jack King's four star review).”


Shadow Country

What is it? Bohdan Sláma's film about a village on the Czech-Austrian border in the years before, during and after WW2 is bleak but gripping

When's it out? TBA

What we said: “The weight of history bears down on the inhabitants of a small village on the Czech-Austrian border in stark and gripping drama Shadow Country, set in the years before, during, and after World War Two (read Tom Barnard's four star review).”



What is it? Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci are perfectly matched in Harry Macqueen's grounded romance about early-onset dementia

When's it out? November 27, 2020

What we said: “Firth and Tucci complement each other perfectly. Every gentle touch exhibits a casual intimacy you'd expect from a couple who have been together for decades (read Iana Murray's four star review).”



What is it? Christian Pelzold changes lanes for this crisply shot and elusive romantic thriller about a mysterious woman with ties to the water

When's it out? TBA

What we said: “As is usually the case with this detail-obsessed filmmaker, there's real pleasure to be found in Undine's crisp visuals and composition, furthered by a tight script and assured performances. Petzold has that rare gift of always feeling like he's in control of the material, even when it falls on the elusive side (read Tom Barnard's four star review).”



What is it? Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon's latest is a visual and lyrical triumph, blending cultural history and folklore to luminous results

When's it out? October 30, 2020

What we said: “Despite its historical context, Wolfwalkers resonates in a time where teenagers are acutely aware of the injustices of the world, and are taking action against them. This is a wholly urgent work that understands that the kids really are alright (read Iana Murray's four star review).”

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