Cert: TBC Runtime: 115 mins Director: Martin McDonagh Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage and Abbie Cornish
Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is LFF’s closing gala film. With a stellar debut with In Bruges and a decent follow up with Seven Psychopaths. McDonagh seems to be evolving to a new kind of genre. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri seems a lot grittier than any of his other works. What is it all about you ask? It’s been seven months since her daughter was murdered and foul-mouthed, tough-as-nails Mildred Hayes (McDormand) is fed up. Fuelled by grief and outraged that the investigation has gone quiet, she provokes the local police department with a series of messages plastered on three disused billboards outside her home town of Ebbing, Missouri. So begins a rapidly escalating and very public feud between Mildred and venerated community leader and family man, Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). The situation is exacerbated when blundering side-kick, Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) gets involved. Just as unhinged as Mildred, but with a significantly lower IQ, Dixon’s penchant for violence is stoked by his leaden, borderline psychotic mother to whom he is unhealthily attached.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is probably the most un-predictable film I have watched in a long time. Martin McDonagh has made one of the finest dark comedies of our time. It may be his finest work too! McDonagh knows how to balance comedy with drama. One second you are crying with laughter the next you feel hollow and dead inside. McDonagh uses the 10 stages of grief so elegantly, the town’s anger grows towards Midred but as time goes by the characters evolve and find peace within themselves. McDonagh balances it so well in his screenplay and within the film itself. As for the actual visual look to Three Billboards, it has a very natural look to go with the aesthetic of the setting. But the heavy tint in the reds really show the issues that are within Ebbing.
McDonagh’s screenplay comes alive with a great ensemble cast. When you have multiple actors of such high calibre you wouldn’t expect any less. Frances McDormand gives one of her finest performances in many years. Mildred is as good as Marge Gundarson in Fargo. She is an utter bad ass and her search for justice is admirable. You can feel her pain, and her un-predictability make her a memorable character. Sam Rockwell provides another great performance for McDonagh. One of our finest character actors goes another level here. His journey is one of the stand out parts of Three Billboards. We would hope a supporting actor campaign will happen for Mr.Rockwell. Woody Harrelson, Caleb Landry Jones, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish all provide stellar performances. As mentioned McDonagh’s screenplay would be nothing without his actors. Three Billboards, Outside Ebbing Missouri is a worthy closing gala film at LFF this year. It’s what the cinematic experience is all about laughter, soul searching and heart. A very special piece of cinema indeed.
Cert: TBC Runtime: 95 mins Director: Lynne Ramsay Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alessandro Nivola, Alex Manette, John Doman and Judith Roberts
Lynne Ramsay brings her Cannes fan favourite You Were Never Really Here to LFF. We Need to Talk About Kevin was her last film, and if that is anything to go by we are in for a treat. Joaquin Phoenix knows how to pick a film and this seems like a Joaquin classic choice. It has been dubbed the Taxi Driver of the 21st century, with a tag line like this you have to watch it. What is You Were Never Really Here about then? Joe (Phoenix) is a Gulf War veteran and former FBI agent turned killer-for-hire, specialising in saving victims from child sex rings and living at home with his ailing mother. When Nina, a US Senator’s daughter is kidnapped, he is contracted to dispense with the perpetrators and save the girl (Ekaterina Samsonov). Having located Nina in a seedy New York brothel, Joe’s escape plan suddenly derails, unleashing a maelstrom of violence that ultimately takes him deeper into the hallucinatory darkness and closer to the truth.
Lynne Ramsay take a bow, You Were Never Really Here is a tour de force at LFF this year. I’ve had to watch Ramsay’s adrenaline filled masterpiece twice. This was to ensure that I will have my fill until it’s actual release day. From the opening scene we are inside Joe’s mind and body. He has had a harrowing journey in life but he has good intentions for the innocent of the world. What elevates You Were Never Really Here is Jonny Greenwood’s electrifying score. The beat takes you on a pulsating journey through the dark underbelly of this horrible world. Ramsay’s direction and narrative has elevated You Were Never Really here from a simple action/thriller into a dark and thought provoking noir. You won’t see slow motion shots, fast paced gun-slinging or scantly clad ladies. This is a tale of man fighting his own personal demons while saving an innocent child, The CCTV sequence in particular is a sequence I adore. It’s such a simple effective method and Ramsay captures it effortlessly. She has woven the tale to perfection, you have no real moments of obviousness in the narrative. You have to pay attention to the finer details throughout to understand Joe’s past. Simplicity elevates You Were Never Really here into a masterpiece and Lynne Ramsay’s finest work to date.
Joaquin Phoenix gives one of his finest performances since The Master here. His mental and physical preparation can be felt through out. You tend to forget this is Joaquin most of the time, it’s just Joe. There is a Travis Bickle feel to Phoenix but Joe is his own character. The scene in the sauna in particular is nothing but stupendous. His transition is pure cinema and closer view into his mind. Ekatarina Samsonov gives a top performance too. Limited screen time was her only issue, but she truly is Joe’s driving force in this journey. Her awareness of the role is astounding, especially the dinner table scene. You Were Never Really Here is a masterpiece. The depiction of PTSD and trauma is un-paralleled. It’s simple, effective and leaves the audience thinking. It isn’t for the faint at heart, but it will boil your blood and give you heart palpitations.
Cert: TBC Runtime: 116 mins Director: Joachim Trier Cast: Eili Harboe, Kaya Wilkins, Ellen Dorrit Petersen and Henrik Rafaelsen
Joachim Trier is at the forefront of Norwegian filmmakers at the moment. With Louder Than Bombs and Oslo, August 31st under his belt Thelma is his latest. It has received wide praise across the festival circuit and it has now arrived at LFF. Foreign language horror is a genre within itself and I will always watch them. What is Thelma about you ask? Thelma (Eili Harboe) is a young biology student living away from her strict family for the first time. While she attempts to enjoy her new-found independence, her parents’ influence remains palpable, thanks to regular phone calls in which they check up on their daughter’s every move. But Thelma’s life is turned upside down when she meets beautiful classmate Anja, whose presence appears to awaken long-dormant, supernatural powers within her.
Thelma is a mysterious drama-supernatural-thriller, once it’s out for distribution I hope it will not be miss sold as a horror! Thelma is beautifully shot Joachim Trier is so intricate with the camera. Thought has gone into each scene, and each camera angle. Trier takes his time to evolve a scene and this what enhances Thelma’s watch-ability. The are some scenes with CGI here, and they are very well done. You almost won’t notice they are CG, except from the fact that you know you are watching something impossible. That’s good. Thelma is not heavy on big effect stuff, but the effects that are, are excellent. It’s a slow burn film, it kept my interest through out. It won’t be for everyone but I would implore a cinema lover to give it a try. As for Eili Harbore gives a 21st century face lift to Carrie for me. She has such a haunting stare, but her journey as a new university student to her sexual awakening is just breathtaking. Kaya Wilkins as the love interest gels well with Eili. She really is the teacher that leads her down the path of sin. Thelma is an LFF highlight for me, and one of the best films of the year.