According to BFI CEO Ben Roberts, this year’s edition of the London Film Festival ‘will be our most accessible yet’. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic creating a seemingly impossible challenge and as distributors nervously continue to push back their films into 2021, festival director Tricia Tuttle and her team have somehow delivered on that promise as over 50 films from around the world will be available to screen virtually at home, alongside a selection of exclusive previews screening in a number of cinemas across the UK. For the first time in many years, some of the most sought after films that typically only show on the festival circuit will be widely available for the public and with general tickets just being released this week, here are my top five picks for you to seek out during the festival!
The Reason I Jump, dir. Jerry Rothwell (Virtual)
Online Showing Time: Friday 9th October at 8:45pm
This is a personal choice so please do allow for some brief self-indulgence. As someone who has been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I’m always intrigued as to how the cinematic art-form represents my disability. So reading the synopsis for Jerry Rothwell’s documentary, The Reason I Jump was always going to peak my interest. Winner of the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and based on Naoki Higashida’s memoir from 2007, it follows five young people from around the world, describing the visual experience of someone with ASD whilst using excerpts from the book as a narrative thread. Previous attempts at tackling ASD have been painfully dissatisfying such as the irritating Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and the arguably overrated Rain Man; hopefully this documentary can do justice.
Supernova, dir. Harry Macqueen (Virtual and Cinema)
Online Showing Time: Sunday 11th October at 8:30pm. Cinema tickets are available to book online.
A possible crowd-pleaser on offer here. Directed by Harry Macqueen (Hinterland), it stars the acting pedigree duo of Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as couple Sam and Tusker, who are travelling across England in their campervan visiting friends, family and places from their past. Meanwhile in the background, the pair are still coming to terms with Tusker’s diagnosis of early onset dementia and are making the most of their time together. In both Firth and Tucci, you have two very likeable screen presences and with this being Macqueen’s second directorial feature, there is an interesting juxtaposition with two Hollywood stars and a very intimate story. It all looks very promising indeed.
Nomadland, dir. Chloé Zhao (Cinema Exclusive)
Cinema tickets are available to book online
It’s been an exciting few years for Chinese filmmaker Chloé Zhao. Between her 2017 critically acclaimed The Rider and her highly anticipated entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Eternals which has been delayed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, she has made her latest feature, Nomadland. Taking inspiration from Jessica Bruder’s novel, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, it stars two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand as Fern, former teacher now turned modern-day Nomad, someone who roams America in their own campervan whilst collecting seasonal work on their travels. Critical buzz is growing with the film already winning the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and also the People’s Choice Award at Toronto International Film Festival to date. Be sure not to miss out on what is a potential Oscar contender.
Possessor, dir. Brandon Cronenberg (Virtual)
Online Showing Time: Friday 16th October at 9:00pm.
Billed as a sci-fi thriller with a mix of body-horror (that was pioneered by director Brandon Cronenberg’s father David), Possessor is about Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough), a psychic assassin for hire who takes control of other people’s brains in order to carry out her murderous assignments. However, as she infiltrates the mind of Colin (Christopher Abbott) for her latest appointment, things start to horribly wrong. The trailer teases a metropolitan city inspired by Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner, as well as its aesthetic sharing similar traits to work by The Wachowskis. I’m hoping that all the stars align for it to be a gruesome, nail-biting experience, no less due to the pedigree on offer. Nonetheless, I cannot wait to squirm in my seat at this, and I hope you are too.
Ammonite, dir. Francis Lee (Cinema Exclusive)
Cinema tickets are available to book online.
Playing out this year’s festival as the closing night film, Ammonite – director Francis Lee’s follow up to God’s Own Country – is easily one of the most highly anticipated names on this year’s lineup. Inspired by the life of British palaeontologist Mary Anning, it revolves around a love affair between Anning and Charlotte Murchison. Undoubtedly, comparisons will be drawn between this and Celine Sciamma’s recent extraordinary romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire due to its historical setting and subject. However, with prestige talent like Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan as the leads, expectations are already high due to the chemistry on display. Fingers crossed that it lives up to its billing and provides a fitting conclusion to a hopefully exciting and innovative festival.
The BFI London Film Festival runs from the 7th to the 18th October. To find out more information, as well as where you can book tickets for this year’s films, click here! Watch the trailer below: