Us Londoners have spent the last month gazing longingly at Venice and Toronto as films left and right have been premiering, with a relentless flow of reviews clogging up our social and news feeds filling us with jealousy. But now, finally, it’s our turn: The BFI London Film Festival is here, and with it come some of the best films of the year, from indie darlings to sure-fire awards contenders. It’s been a long road from that Barbenheimer day, but we’ve finally made it.
While part of us wants to book the entire two weeks off work and spend it on Southbank from dawn until midnight, catching every film available, practically this doesn’t seem either temporally or financially possible. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of eight films that you should definitely make time for, from Emma Stone’s career performance to the new romance film starring Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott. Be alert, as tickets will sell out fast – especially with me in the queue in front of you. The festival runs from October 4th until the 15th.
Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone have teamed up again with Poor Things, their follow-up to the critically acclaimed The Favourite. Stone stars as the recently brought back to life Bella Baxter, whose mind soon becomes increasingly alive to the opportunities the world offers as she embarks on a global adventure and, setting her sights on satiating all her carnal desires.
After winning the Golden Lion at Venice, the film looks set to be a major player in next year’s awards season, with both Lanthimos and Stone already tipped as potential Oscar frontrunners. Expect more of the director’s typically irreverent and idiosyncratic humour, with Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe also starring.
All Of Us Strangers
Few directors depict intimacy as deftly as Andrew Haigh , who follows up 45 Years and Weekend with what should be his biggest commercial success yet, All Us Strangers. Casting Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal , who have given two of the most memorable television performances in recent years in Fleabag and Normal People respectively, undeniably helps.
This part romance, part ghost story is based on the Japanese novel Strangers by Taichi Yamada, and follows Scott’s Adam as he becomes intertwined in the life of his mysterious neighbour Harry, played by Mescal. Featuring stand-out performances, All Of Us Strangers couples romance with a sense of foreboding and is set to be one of the year’s most heartbreaking films.
Hot on the heels of Austin Butler ’s take on Elvis, Sofia Coppola is shifting the focus to his wife, Priscilla, in what looks to be a spiritual sequel to cult-classic Marie Antoinette. Based on Elvis and Me, Priscilla’s memoir, the film follows the pair’s tumultuous and often troubling relationship from their meeting until their divorce.
Cailee Spaney won best actress in Venice for what is already heralded as one of the performances of the year, while rising star Jacob Elordi will be offering a different take on the larger than life icon.
Male privilege and desire are in Emerald Fennel’s crosshairs this time in her much-anticipated follow up to Promising Young Woman. This modern-day take on The Talented Mr. Ripley sees Barry Keoghan star as an Oxford student spending the summer at his classmate’s sprawling estate, becoming increasingly enamoured with both him and his opulent lifestyle.
Bradley Cooper stars in and directs this Biopic of Leonard Bernstein, one of the most celebrated composers of the 21st Century. Spanning his 30-year marriage with Felicia Montealegre, played by Carey Mulligan , it dives into the personal life of Bernstein, with his marriage beset by affairs with men and women, as he rises in the world of classical music.
Not satisfied with just Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal continues his quest to play the love interest of every other Irish actor by co-starring with Saoirse Ronan in this dystopian science fiction thriller set in the near future. Mescal and Ronan play a couple whose rural life is shattered when the husband is forced to go to space, while another man takes his place back on earth.
It’s based on the book of the same name by Iain Read, who also wrote I’m Thinking Of Ending Things which was made into the 2020 film. If you’ve seen that, expect the same ambiguous but threatening sense of dread, and all the aesthetic trappings of a thriller with an underlying focus on human relationships.
Michael Fassbender and David Fincher seem like such a match made in heaven that it’s hard to believe The Killer is their first time working together. Based on the French graphic novel series of the same name written by Alexis “Matz” Nolent, Fassbender stars as a cold-blooded assassin who, after botching a hit-job, is forced to go on the run from his employers.
Expect a globetrotting thriller with the usual methodical and meticulous film-making Fincher is renowned for. Tilda Swinton also stars, and he once again connects with long-time composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
The Zone Of Interest
It’s been a full 10 years since Jonathan Glazer ’s last film, the modern classic Under The Skin, but early reports suggest his latest The Zone Of Interest has been worth the wait. Based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Martin Amis, the film follows Rudolf Höss, Commandant of Auschwitz, and his family life just outside the concentration camp.
This harrowing film takes a look at the lives of those implicitly and complicity responsible for one of the worst horrors of the 20th Century.