What to Watch

10 Must-See Films at BFI London Film Festival 2020

As the (partly) digital edition of London’s film festival comes to the capital, we rundown our picks for the most essential features...

Here at WeLoveCinema, we're counting down the days until this year's BFI London Film Festival – a celebration of the some of the best and brightest films and filmmakers from across the globe. The only difference this year is a number of screenings will be available to watch digitally from the comfort of your own home, while select films will be shown at socially distanced screenings at London's Southbank Centre and across the UK.

Whatever your plans for this year's festival, we've combed through and picked our must-see titles from 2020's fabulous line-up. It's not an exhaustive list, by any means, and there are plenty more films worth checking out than the ones we've highlighted here (for a full list of titles and showtimes, visit our dedicated festival page). Tickets are now available to BFI members; everyone else can get hold of theirs from September 21. The festival itself kicks off on October 7 and runs until October 18.

 

David Byrne's American Utopia

David Byrne! Spike Lee! A film that seems positioned as a spiritual sequel to what is (without question) the greatest concert film of all time, Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense! How can you possibly resist? American Utopia a filmed version of Byrne's Broadway show, directed by the Da 5 Bloods filmmaker – blends Byrne's acclaimed music and dynamic staging for what just might prove to be the most invigorating 105 minutes of your life. Early reviews have already positioned this one as something of an unmissable gem, so don't just take our word for it.

 

Ammonite

Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan play two 19th century woman – one a scientist, the other a disturbed wife – who embark on an unexpected romance in this elemental tale of forbidden desire, directed by God’s Own Country filmmaker Francis Lee. With echoes of Portrait of a Lady on Fire and what look to be two of the year’s best performances, could Ammonite be the film that earns both its leads their next Oscar nominations?

 

Another Round

The new film from Thomas Vinterberg clings to a bizarre but irresistible premise: what would happen if you tried to go about your normal life whilst also being a bit drunk everyday? Vinterberg is best known as the man who – alongside Lars Von Trier – attempted to rewrite the rules of cinema with the Dogme 95 movement. After years of more traditional ventures, Another Round looks like a return to the weirdly comic – an exploration of masculinity, social pressures, and addiction that also reunites him with his Hunt star Mads Mikkelsen. And when is Mads ever bad?

 

Kajillionaire

Miranda July has been putting out great, groundbreaking and highly idiosyncratic work in both novel and cinematic forms over the last few years. Word on the street is that her latest comedy-drama, Kajillionaire, is her best effort to date. It follows the misadventures of a family of petty thieves who run into an opportunity for a gigantic score. Better yet, it stars the always excellent Evan Rachel Wood, with supporting turns from Richard Jenkins and Gina Rodriguez (read our full review).

 

Nomadland

After its unveiling at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, where basically every critic who saw it declared it to be a masterpiece, Nomadland should be somewhere close to the top of everyone's “must-see” list. Directed by The Rider's Chloe Zhao and starring Frances McDormand, it tells the story of a middle-aged woman who loses her job and hits the road in a van, where she meets a variety of characters who've also slipped through society's gaps. Oh, and it's been cited as a “modern day Grapes of Wrath” on multiple occasions. High praise indeed.

 

One Night in Miami

A late addition to this year's LFF line-up, Regina King's adaptation of the acclaimed play of the same name imagines an alternate history in which four Black American icons – Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) – come together during one fateful night in 1964. One Night in Miami is a brilliantly acted and massively timely drama – not to mention one that marks out King as a director with a very bright future ahead of her (read our full review from TIFF 2020).

Shirley

Early buzz has already told us what we could have guessed about Shirley: that the always stunning Elizabeth Moss delivers yet another tour-de-force of a performance in the titular role. This time she plays real life horror writer Shirley Jackson, inspired to write her latest novel after she and her husband decide to take in a young couple. As helmed by the artistically-minded Madeline's Madeline filmmaker Josephine Decker, it promises to be one surreal and feverish ride.

 

Soul

The latest film from Pixar, Soul, is set to make an unexpected appearance at this year’s festival. As a gorgeously rendered meditation on the intersection of music and life, as well as the studio’s first film to feature a Black protagonist, it has all the makings of a Pixar classic: visually groundbreaking, emotionally devastating, and packed with their trademark wit and humour.

 

Undine

Christian Petzold’s particular brand of Hitchcockian thriller, packed with unexpected twists and surreal touches, has earned him a ton of critical acclaim over past two decades. Now he follows his brilliant sort-of period drama Transit with the supernatural thriller Undine, reuniting him with that film’s Franz Rogowski, plus his muse and frequent leading lady Pauline Beer. It’s his first film in ages to find a contemporary setting – a romantic ghost story that feels like something of a departure, though not without his trademark crisp visuals.

 

Wolfwalkers

Cartoon Saloon, the animation studio that gave us the brilliant, beautiful Song of the Sea, is back with Wolfwalkers, a medievally-minded tale set in Kilkenny. Drawing from both classic folklore and Irish history, it tells the story of young woman with the ability to transform into a wolf. The animation looks absolutely stunning, while Wolfwalker's themes of colonialism and man's battle with nature imbue it with an unmistakable, contemporary edge. Miyazaki, eat your heart out.

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Reviews

Pixie review – silly but joyous Irish spaghetti western

Olivia Cooke shines as the enigmatic title character in this bonkers genre subversion, co-starring Alec Baldwin as a drug-dealing priest

David Byrne’s American Utopia review – a comfort blanket for troubled times

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

Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You review – stirring and transcendent making-of

The Boss's first collaboration with the full E Street Band in over 35 years is brought to life in this brilliantly spirited documentary

Totally Under Control review – intermittently astonishing COVID doc

Alex Gibney's look at America's disastrous handling of the pandemic is studious and important, even as it peters out