The Very Best of the British Newcomers at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Ever since the UK Film Council – a public body set up to develop and promote the film industry in the UK – was closed in 2011, the British Film Institute became the standout flagbearer for the region’s film industry. Fortunately for us, the BFI is invariably an inspiring and well-organised charity, regularly commissioning Brit-made flicks and ensuring that British talent continues to thrive. It doesn’t solely aid glamorous affairs like The Imitation Game (2014), a star-encrusted Academy Award contender, or The Theory of Everything (2014), a well-funded biographical film about Stephen Hawking, which earned rave reviews at this year’s Toronto Film Festival: the BFI gives a foot up to the emerging newcomers of British cinema. Here are some of the best British features included in this year’s BFI London Film Festival line-up:

1. The Goob
Writer-director Guy Myhill’s paean to the East Anglian countryside is about a teenage boy called Goob, played by newcomer Liam Walpole, going through a coming-of-age journey. Inevitable comparisons have been made to Harmony Korine’s Gummo (1997) due to the bewildering and stark quotidian of the rural working class subject. It’s one of the most accomplished British films on show, with breathtaking cinematography from Simon Tindall and an evocative score by electronic composer Luke Abbott.

2. ‘71
Not many films have been able to engage with IRA-era Belfast like Yann Demange’s thumping debut feature, ‘71. As you can imagine, it is set in the troublesome period of 1971 Northern Ireland, following a British army squadron’s attempts to mediate peace. The film’s sinister and adrenaline-fuelled tension is punctuated by moments of night-black comedy, but the unavoidable draw is Jack O’Connell, the 24-year-old from Derby, who is probably Britain’s finest young acting talent right now.

3. Night Bus
Londoners familiar with the odysseys and oddities encountered in order to get back home late at night won’t be surprised to hear that London night buses are the subject of this feature film. Simon Baker, previously known for his work on music videos, focuses in this debut feature on a busy night bus traversing the capital. Made from a low-budget and grounded by an ensemble cast, it provides a snapshot of the variously bizarre, hilarious, and worrying atmospheres found on London’s double-deckers after hours.

4. The Honey Trap
A startling performance from young Jessica Sula, who plays the unerring Lula in Brixtoner Rebecca Johnson’s The Honey Trap, provides the backbone for this powerful story. The 15-year-old Lula moves to Brixton from Trinidad, and is forced to grow up extremely quickly, after being transplanted into a violent hyper-masculine world. Drawing inspiration from actual events, it unravels a tense tale of seduction, urban-life and violence.

5. Second Coming
Olivier-winning theatre writer and director Debbie Tucker Green has followed up her BAFTA-winning Channel Four drama Random (2011) with a bold and engrossing drama in Second Coming. Brilliant performances from Idris Elba and Nadine Marshall are the centrepiece of this portrait of a middle-class black family who are one day surprised by an inexplicable pregnancy. Heavy with dense mood and atmosphere, director of photography Urszula Pontikos layers the movie in moody blue and grey hues.

6. The Falling
Not at all like the similar-synopsis series St Trinians, Carol Morley’s The Falling is based in an English all-girls school in 1969. This is an altogether move heavyweight feature, charting the fragile dynamics and turbulent hormones of two vastly different teens, Abbie and Lydia, which results in mysterious tragedy. The former is wonderfully performed by the recently-discovered Florence Pugh, while the latter, by Maisie Williams, whose gravitas evidently remains beyond the realm of Game of Thrones.

BFI London Film Festival, until 19 October, British Film Institute, Belvedere Road, South Bank, London SE1 8XT.

Peter Yeung

Credits
1. Yann Demange, ’71.