LFF: A Preview

Somehow it’s October again and the BFI London Film Festival returns. This time out, with Tricia Tuttle taking over Artistic Director duties from Clare Stewart, there are some major movies to savour, opening with Steve McQueen’s heist thriller Widows. A taut remake of the 1980s Lynda LaPlante TV drama about women whose husbands have all died in a robbery, Viola Davis spearheads a fantastic cast.

It’s not the only female-driven film to dominate the festival. The incredible Jessie Buckley stars in Wild Rose, as a Glaswegian single mother out of prison who finds her true voice singing Country & Western music. Expect this to be an audience pleaser by the time it plays next week. For those with more extreme tastes, Assassination Nation updates the Salem Witch trials for the digital age, in a thriller starring Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse and Bella Thorne.

Girlfight director Karyn Kusama is also on hand to present one of the most exciting movies of the festival, Destroyer, which stars Nicole Kidman in a never-seen-her-like-this-before role. She plays an undercover Los Angeles cop trying to infiltrate a criminal gang in a movie that’s already drawn comparisons to such lofty works as Chinatown and To Live and Die In L.A.

British directors Ben Wheatley and Peter Strickland will also be pushing the envelope with their new movies. Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers) turns away from the out-there genre movies he’s known for to direct family drama Happy New Year, Colin Burstead, starring Neil Maskell and Sam Riley. Strickland’s In Fabric, meanwhile, is a further exploration of erotica/horror, following his earlier effort The Duke of Burgundy. This tale of a – literally – killer red dress is quite something.

South Korean master Park Chan-wook – last seen crushing it his marvellous erotic drama The Handmaiden – returns to English-language filmmaking with The Little Drummer Girl. A made-for-TV mini-series adaptation of John le Carré’s 1983 espionage novel – the first two episodes play here – it stars Lady Macbeth’s brilliant Florence Pugh as an actress who becomes embroiled in a complex web of murder and counter-terrorism.

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson will also be arriving to unveil They Shall Not Grow Old, the world premiere of his 64-minute look at the First World War, which uses state-of-the-art techniques to bring alive audio and archive footage of the era. Produced in association with the Imperial War Museum to commemorate the centenary anniversary of the end of the Great War, it is undoubtedly the crowning jewel at this year’s LFF.

The London Film Festival runs until 21st October. For more details, click here.

James Mottram

1. Still from Steve McQueen’s Widows.
2. Still from Ben Wheatley Happy New Year, Colin Burstead.
3. Still from Park Chan-wook’s The Little Drummer Girl.