At its primeval heart, Nicolette Krebitz’s Wild is the story of a lonely girl, Ania (Lilith Stangenberg), and a wolf whom she happens upon while making her daily walk to a dead-end job. A cautious, frightened distance initially held between beauty and beast will be slowly eroded by a magnetic, inexorable fascination, obsession even, which sees established boundaries between human and animal broken – in some instances literally.
Ava DuVernay’s 13th bites down on the gristly notion of the USA as ‘The Land of the Free’, chews with bitter discomfort and consequently spits it out, unable to swallow. The thudding irony of this long-held mantra is made clear in the opening moments of the Selma director’s latest project with plainly shocking statistics, delivered in an unseen address by Barack Obama: with just 5% of the world’s population, the United States has 25% of its prisoners. Far from being a land of milk, honey and liberty, DuVernay’s scathing vision of America reveals that an astonishing one in four of all inmates globally languishes behind bars.
Playing in the Thrill section of the 2016 London Film Festival, Pyromaniac is a moody, elemental psychodrama set in an isolated Norwegian village sometime in the late 1960s-early 70s. An increasingly paranoid rural community falls prey to the titular firestarter but this stirring Erik Skjoldbjærg-directed feature, full of teenage angst, yearning and fury, is more whydunnit than whodunnit as the guilty party – at least for an audience – is immediately apparent.
Justin Kelly’s King Cobra bravely re-tells the true story of gay porn icon Brent Corrigan (real name Sean Lockhart) and is by no means one for the faint-hearted. The mere mention of the word ‘pornography’ incites, more often than not, a knee-jerk reaction of sneering judgement and condescension but to dismiss this brash, ballsy, brazen film at face value as tawdry smut would be a mistake. Beneath the veneer of fake tan, rippling muscles and feigned ecstasy lies a striking amount of heart, soul and sincerity of emotion.
Speaking the truth no matter how difficult, rather than simply telling a loved one what they want to hear, is one of numerous life lessons at the very heart of A Monster Calls, an utterly heart-breaking return from J. A. Bayona, director of The Orphanage and The Impossible. Foremost in its intentions, perhaps, is learning how to be truthful to oneself. Over the tumultuous, fantastical and crushingly realist course of this tale of good, bad, and all that is both and in between, Conor (Lewis MacDougall) has to come to terms with the fact that his mother (Felicity Jones) is terminally ill with cancer.
What are the things you need to know about Mary? She’s impatient, a bit gobby, angry, confused, passionate and loyal but has a history of rubbing people the wrong way. She’s a firecracker who always speaks her mind. Playing in the First Feature Competition at this year’s London Film Festival, it’s a stellar turn from Seána Kerslake in the leading role of A Date for Mad Mary that makes this Irish drama a worthy contender in its class.
What words will do justice to this wordless wonder? The Red Turtle is an animated dream, a transcendent work of beautiful, heart-rending art from Studio Ghibli and Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit that features no dialogue but speaks volumes of humanity, an indefatigable spirit and mankind’s interrelationship with nature. Ostensibly a story of survival, this fusion of sound, image and allegory is bursting with meaning, emotion and a wealth of lessons on the essence of existence.
Posters on buses, billboards and papers ponder “What did she see?”. The more pertinent question for much of The Girl on the Train is what its deeply troubled and potentially dangerous protagonist did or did not do. Given the unparalleled success of Paula Hawkins’ bestseller the stakes were high for US director Tate Taylor in bringing this psychological thriller to the cinema. Performances are strong, the director once again showing his affinity for directing strong female characters after The Help, but the results are mixed.
A coming-of-age tale and multi-layered quest for identity, Baden Baden is a strong feature debut from a very promising young female French filmmaker. This thought-provoking film will stay with you, intrigue you, even trouble you, long after its credits roll. With director Rachel Lang we travel from nowhere to nowhere not particularly fast, but the Strasbourg native has a firm hand on the wheel of this elusive, spontaneous journey.
Much has been made of the prominence of a ‘white saviour’ in biographical historical epic Free State of Jones. Is this a film about slavery? Yes. Is it led by a white character? Yes. But to limit the field of vision and intent of director Gary Ross’ latest feature negates other aspects of a film that proposes to treat humanity and inhumanity in a wider sense, and under many different guises.