London Film Festival: Six movies to have on your must-watch list – Sky News



London Film Festival 2020 may have been robbed of the red-carpet glamour of previous years due to the coronavirus restrictions, but there was still much to enjoy from the slimmed-down programme.

Here are some of the highlights that are worth checking out.

Kajillionaire


Image: Gina Rodriguez (left) and Evan Rachel Wood star in director Miranda July’s Kajillionaire. Pic: Matt Kennedy/Focus Features

At first glance, the latest from multi-hyphenate talent Miranda July exists in the same eccentric, kooky-cute space as her previous films, novels and performance art. However, this quirky comedy about a family of grifters, scratching an existence through a series of increasingly absurd and desperate scams, blossoms unexpectedly into a heartfelt study of loneliness and connection, building to a deliriously romantic denouement.

Evan Rachel Wood gives a superbly physical performance as the bizarrely named Old Dolio, an awkward 20-something starved of affection by her manipulative con-artist parents (Richard Jenkins and an unrecognisable Debra Winger).

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While carrying out their latest scam, an outsider – the ineffably upbeat Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) – is attracted into their orbit and slowly peels away the layers of anxiety Old Dolio has wrapped around herself. In so doing, Melanie resets the dynamic of the family’s small-time crooked antics with unexpected results.

On general release in cinemas now.

Nomadland


Image: Could Frances McDormand be up for another Oscar for her performance in Nomadland? Pic: 20th Century Studios

Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, which won the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival (the event’s biggest prize), tells the story of Fran (Frances McDormand), a middle-aged woman forced through economic instability to join the dispossessed itinerant mass of forgotten Americans – or Nomads – traversing the country in mobile homes, searching for work.

Merging fiction and documentary, Zhao’s film contrasts the vast poetic expanse of the American landscape with the derelict towns, RV parks and Amazon warehouses that Fran drifts through, as she struggles to eke out a living and keep loneliness at bay.

Playing out in short, soulful vignettes, Fran’s journey through the American wilderness leads her to recognise the beauty of nature and the importance of community. McDormand’s quiet, watchful performance is full of grace and will undoubtedly be in the mix come awards season.

Due for release in January 2021.

Mogul Mowgli


Image: Alyy Khan (left) and Riz Ahmed in Mogul Mowgli

Riz Ahmed excels in this intriguing story of British-Pakistani rapper Zed who, while on the verge of international success, succumbs to an unexpected health crisis. Forced to return home to the care of his family, Zed experiences a series of visions, blurring the line between his own aspirations of fame and the inherited trauma of his parents’ generation, who fled India for Pakistan during Partition.

Director Bassam Tariq displays bold technique as the film confidently shifts between realism, hallucination and performance (in which Ahmed – who also co-wrote the script – showcases his impressive MC skills). Zed’s autoimmune disease is a neat metaphor for his crisis of self-identification and the film has much to say on ideas of heritage, success and what it means to be a second generation British-Pakistani.

In Cinemas from 30 October.

Undine


Image: Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski star in Undine

Christian Petzold confirms his reputation as one of Europe’s most distinctive filmmakers with this unique love story, which explores the liminal space between realism, dream and myth.

In modern-day Berlin, Undine (Paula Beer) is a beautiful young woman who, after being dumped by her feckless boyfriend, begins a passionate affair with Christoph (Franz Rogowski), an industrial diver who shares her strong affinity to water. Yet there is something unknowable about Undine, who seems to be in possession of a mysterious power that threatens those around her.

Beer and Rogowski reprise the chemistry they displayed to such great effect in Petzold’s previous film Transit, and while this new movie is perhaps not as satisfying as that modern masterpiece, Undine nevertheless delivers some unforgettable moments – particularly an extended and wordless underwater scene – that defy categorisation.

UK release TBC.

One Night In Miami


Image: One Night In Miami is directed by Regina King

Oscar-winning actress Regina King’s directorial debut imagines four African-American icons – in the shape of Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke – holed up in a Miami hotel the night Clay beat Sonny Liston to become world champion.

With Malcolm X urging Clay to shed that “slave name” in favour of Muhammad Ali and announce to the world his imminent transition to the Nation of Islam, the quartet argue and challenge each other on what it means to be young, gifted and black in 1960s America – the struggle it entails, the rewards it reaps and the responsibilities it brings.

King’s direction is solid and she coaxes excellent performances from her leads that transcend mere impersonation. Yet despite a strong script and handsome period detail, the film struggles to escape its stage-bound origins and really take flight.

Due for release later this year.

Time


Image: Time is a documentary film of a woman’s fight to free her husband from prison

Garrett Bradley’s much lauded documentary is at once an inspiring account of one woman’s decades-long struggle against the cruelties of the US prison system, and a heartbreaking meditation on the ways in which time overtakes, shapes and changes our lives – and that once lost, can never be regained.

The film’s power builds as we flash back and forth in time via a complex patchwork of home movies and modern-day footage, documenting Fox Rich, the indefatigable African-American mother of six sons, and her fight to secure the release of her husband, Robert, who is serving a 60-year sentence for armed robbery at a prison in Louisiana.

We experience the countless milestones missed – first days at school, birthdays, changing seasons – and are jolted by the shock of a cut between footage of their sons as children to fully grown young men; confident and resilient despite never having known a father in their family home.

Through these fragments of life lived, the passage of time is powerfully evoked and a complex observation on love, intimacy and connection emerges. The final moments, which rewind through key moments to Fox and Robert as a young couple in love, has an undeniable emotional punch.

Available to stream from Amazon Prime now.