The BFI London Film Festival showcased some of the most exciting up-and-coming releases in central London, with an eclectic mix of film, documentary, and shorts, in a plethora of genre, form and style in every location. The three films that particularly caught my attention were the whimsical, ‘A Monster Calls’, the British made drug-trip, ‘Spaceship’ and the suspenseful Irish short film, ‘Without Name’.
‘A Monster Calls’
‘A Monster Calls’ is a whimsical tale, about a boy (Lewis MacDougall) who finds refuge and companionship in the form of a yew tree (voiced by Liam Neeson), in an attempt to deal with the ruling hand of Grandma (Sigourney Weaver) and the illness of his mother (Felicity Jones). Screen writer Patrick Ness provides a beautiful adaption of his book of the same name and together with director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage), lovingly brings these chapters to the screen.
I found moments of Pan’s Labyrinth, mixed in with the heart of The Iron Giant. Nevertheless, it stands firmly apart from these comparisons, bringing with it a clear message for its audiences. There are some stunning animated story sequences and an uncomfortably honest portrayal of the life of a child, forced to confront adulthood before his time. A Monster Calls deals in story-telling, philosophy and issues we all find a lot closer to home than we would like.
‘A Monster Calls’ comes to U.K. screens publicly on the 6th January 2017, having already been released in the U.S. in September of this year.
In Alex Taylor’s debut film, we are taken into the realms of teen life…in Surrey, UK! It is an acid trip of an adventure, featuring a unicorn or two, BDSM, power metal discussions, black holes and of course, alien abduction. Following the death of Lucidia’s (Alexa Davies) mother, Finnish archaeologist father Gabriel (Antti Reini) and Lucidia find their own way to deal with this tragedy; Lucidia chosen an alien abduction, or does she. This serves as the central plot with character arcs weaving in and out of the plot to provide reactionary insights and deeper exploration of character. While not directly impacting the narrative, these scenes provide a wealth of childhood whimsy, comic relief and showcase the experimentation and exploration we went through or witnessed as teens.
The Director gave the cast a lot of flexibility to contribute and add their personality to scenes, which brings a very personable and likeable inflection to the movie. Indeed, the film itself was left to progress naturally, by following the flow and whims of the writing process. This led to some characteristically interesting moments but became whimsy for the sake of whimsy midway through the movie. The short ‘Spaceship’ is expected to be released early 2017.
Lorcan Finnegan’s highly anticipated short-film ‘Without Name’ graced BFI London Film Festival and provided a very thought provoking art work. ‘Without Name’ is an atmospheric, claustrophobic film of a foreboding eco-go thic nature that explores more intangible thought such as the language and power of trees, to hiding from deep-seeded (no pun intended) feelings.
Eric (Alan McKenna), a land surveyor, is employed by a nameless corporation to survey an area of densely forested land in an isolated part of Ireland. Seeing to have a somewhat troubled home life, Eric quickly takes on the job with the help of student Olivia (Niamh Algar) – with whom an equally complicated relationship exists. A sonic natural soundtrack and enchanting forest begin to toy with Eric as the story unfolds in this character piece; something seems to be lurking in the trees. Without Name has moments of pure regional humor as Eric interacts with locals in the area but this does not detract from the story but rather brings the viewer into the world; making the more abstract concepts believable. We as viewers are bewitched into indulging the notion that trees may indeed have a language, will communicate and could hold great power over us.
Without Name was released in October of this year.