Last week I attended the 61st BFI London Film Festival, keen to discover some exciting films that usually don’t see distribution outside of the festival circuit, alongside some of the most anticipated titles to be released in the next year. Here I’ll highlight what really stood out for me. Something here may interest you for your cinema.
The latest film from I Am Love and A Bigger Splash director Luca Guadagnino is Call Me By Your Name, an adaptation of André Aciman’s novel of the same title, written by veteran writer/director James Ivory. It tells the story of 17 year old American-Italian Elio (Timothée Chalamet), and how he and 24 year old student Oliver (Armie Hammer) fall in love over the summer of 1983 staying at Elio’s parent’s palazzo in northern Italy. Oliver is there to assist Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an American professor of Greco-Roman culture, and though he at first seems not to be interested in Elio, their connection becomes obviously passionate.
Like I Am Love, the film is an utterly beautiful evocation of lingering love, of listless summers under blue skies and the pleasures of food, music, culture and nature. With his multi-lingual performance, Chalamet is precocious but endearing, confident and vulnerable at once, as he comes to terms with his first love affair. The charisma of both leads, and the tenderness of Ivory’s screenplay make the film an incredibly intoxicating and moving experience, one that stays with you. I find myself wanting to see it again and possibly, again.
Jeune Femme screened in LFF’s first feature competition and is the debut of Writer-Director Léonor Serraille – the story of seemingly hopeless Paula (the impressive Laetitia Dosch) as she struggles to find autonomy after breaking up with her long-term partner. Once a photographer’s muse, now homeless and carrying a cat around Paris, Paula appears to dismantle before our eyes, in the most simultaneously frustrating and sympathetic way. She is comically inept, but also defiant, and it’s these contradictions that make Jeune Femme such a pleasure to watch, much like the complicated central roles in Happy Go Lucky and Daphne. Ultimately, Paula reveals her deep humanity, her unashamed desire to make connections in this world, which is inspiring and hugely uplifting.
With little familiarity with its source novel, I nevertheless went into On Chesil Beach expecting a ‘weepy’ and not much more. Instead, it’s a quietly absorbing drama about repressed emotions, societal expectations and the optimism of young love. Adapted by Ian McEwan from his own novel of the same name, and directed by theatre director Dominic Cooke, On Chesil Beach begins with the wedding night of Florence (Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn) and Edward (Billy Howle, Dunkirk) and looks back at their early romance in an attempt to understand why their impending physical intimacy is making them so nervous. Cinematic in its imagery and scope, the film elevates its tender love story from the concerns of two young would-be-lovers to say something profound about the healing power of time, and of fate and dreams.
Almost at the other end of the spectrum thematically, but no less cinematic, is Sally Potter’s black and white triumph The Party. With a fantastic cast – Kristen Scott-Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson (who gets all the best lines), Cillian Murphy, Bruno Ganz, Emily Mortimer and Cherry Jones (most recognisable from the excellent Transparent) – it’s about a party both political, and literal, as the group gather to celebrate Janet (Scott-Thomas) being promoted to Minister for Health.
A celebration that turns tragic, farcical in nature and meaningful for our current times in so many ways, The Party explores the secrets and anxieties of its unravelling characters with wit and wisdom.
Both Call Me By Your Name and The Party are on general release this month, On Chesil Beach comes out in January and Jeune Femme will be out next May.
Harriet Warman is Partnerships Coordinator at Regional Screen Scotland