As a cinema fan, the London Film Festival is more exciting than Christmas and is always one of the highlights of my year. Here are the highs and the lows from three of the festival’s biggest films.
I was lucky enough to snag some last minute tickets for this year’s surprise film Ferrari, which was directed by Micheal Mann and stars Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz. I will try to keep this review ‘spoiler free’ as Ferrari doesn’t race into cinemas until later this month. However, what I will say is that it follows Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari for a relatively important three months of his life as he juggles between his wife, mistress and his true love: sports cars. The film portrays him as a rather selfish and unlikable figure, inserting humorous elements amongst the drama to try make the story a little more interesting. Later on they seem to double down on this strategy, attempting to rebuild compassion between him and the audience by showing that he can be a caring father, despite casually brushing off a major incident and constantly pushing blame onto others. One thing I struggled with is the fact that there is a complete lack of narrative arc, tension, and build up: the first hour of the film is relatively dry, although watchable. The real action and shock of the film does not occur until the final quarter of the film, and then it is merely brushed off, despite shocking and jaw-dropping visuals. The only character who seemed to have any real depth is Laura Ferrari, portrayed by Penelope Cruz, who is a grieving mother struggling to come to terms with the death of her son. Shockingly, Laura Ferrari is one of the only characters to have a good Italian accent, and Cruz’s performance is by far the stand out. Considering it’s the second time in Adam Driver’s career that he plays a rich and insufferable Italian man, he ought to have nailed the accent by now, but as someone with an Italian father, I can tell you it was far from it. Despite an impressive A-lister cast, I wouldn’t be surprised if audiences decided to swerve away from this car-wreck.
Sofia Coppola always impresses, but I think this may be my new favourite of her films. The cinematography is simply gorgeous, filled with beautiful pastel pinks and blues, stunning symmetry and meticulously crafted movements, which highlight both the beauty and vulnerability of Priscilla’s predicament. Cailee Spaeny is nothing short of brilliant, picking up Venice Film Festival’s Best Actress award, which was very well deserved. Her performance of this young, impressionable girl will captivate your heart, and she really is the star of this biopic, never once being overshadowed by Elvis. The casting of this film was absolutely spot on. Spaeny plays Priscilla so graciously; she’s vulnerable, but classy and charming. Jacob Elordi, who is almost famous at this point for exclusively playing rather cruel boyfriends, makes a charming Elvis, highlighting their problematic and controversial relationship. The Elvis shown in the film is the ‘private life’ Elvis, not his on stage persona, which was brilliantly portrayed by Austin Butler in Baz Luhrmann’s biopic. This makes it hard to compare whose performance is superior, due to the fact they are such different interpretations of the same ‘character’. However, Jacob Elordi’s version of Elvis is made specifically to capture Priscilla’s story. The towering and dominating height difference, coupled with the child-like innocence that Caliee Spaeny captures so well, really brings depth to both characters and Priscilla’s incredible story. Shocking at points, constantly engaging, and fueled by manipulation, lust, and love, Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla has shone a new, engaging, and critical spotlight onto ‘America’s Sweethearts’, definitely making it into my top 10 films of 2023.
Poor Things: 5/5
Poor Things by Yorgos Lanthimos is brilliantly bonkers, in the best way possible. With a wonderfully unique aesthetic and beautiful visuals, it takes on a peculiarly colourful, yet gothic approach. I was utterly mesmerised from the second I sat down, and the bold characters and creative choices somehow got crazier as the film progressed. This film is a steampunk, retrofuturist, comedy-horror, which is an absurdly intelligent weave of the genres that blend together perfectly. It is squeamish and uncomfortable, but oh-so lovable and utterly hilarious. If you are a fan of Lanthimos’ other work, such as The Lobster and A Killing of a Sacred Deer, like I am, then you will love Poor Things just as much as I did, with this being Lanthimos’ magnum opus so far. One thing to note is that this is certainly not a film to watch with your family, as it explores sexuality in a very graphic way. However, it never creates Emma Stones’ character Bella Baxter into some kind of overly sexual femme fatale. Instead, she captures you into her bizarre journey of finding herself in a messed up world of her own through her shocking adventures and promiscuous exploration. Emma Stone’s performance is exceptional, and Bella’s character progression is phenomenal. She seeks vengeance on all men who have wronged her, whilst exploring the world with an innocent and truthful heart. Mark Ruffalo’s performance is also nothing short of brilliant as he portrays the wacky, eccentric, cruel but hilarious Duncan Wedderburn. This film should be on everyone’s bucket list, and is certainly one to watch once it makes its way into cinemas in January 2024!