London Film Festival 2020 Quick Picks – Short reviews of movies showing at this year’s LFF.
The Intruder (2020)
The opening thirty minutes of The Intruder surrounds us with paranoia and tension reminiscent of Hitchcock. However, what begins as a beautiful taut thriller/mystery soon becomes a convoluted and obscure ocean of competing themes. That does not mean The Intruder is not fascinating, complex and beguiling; despite its flaws, it remains compelling viewing as we bounce from thriller to supernatural horror. But unfortunately, the resulting film quickly fades in the viewer’s memory, despite the outstanding performances of Erica Rivas and Nahuel Pérez Biscayart. For those willing to stick with its bewildering style and vision, The Intruder provides a rich cinematic experience; however, it may be a confusing and frustrating journey for others.
READ MORE: SHIRLEY
Never Gonna Snow Again (2020)
Sitting somewhere between comic book fantasy and social satire, Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert’s film is beautiful and frustrating. But let’s start with the beauty; Never Gonna Snow Again is a stunning dissection of middle-class life, seen through the eyes of a rather gifted Ukrainian Masseur. Here his home visits from one house to the next joyously unpick the secrets and lies that hide behind the hedges of suburbia. But, while full of wonder, originality, satire and stunning performances, some elements of the screenplay suffer from a lack of space to breathe and leave the viewer hanging in a frustrating finale.
Cathy Brady’s debut feature, Wildfire, is nothing short of ferocious in its power and complexity. Here, past trauma, mental health and a need for belonging mix with the turbulent social history of Northern Ireland as we are allowed entry into the lives of two sisters separated by unspoken pain. Their wild and passionate reunion pushes the boundaries of memory, place, sisterhood and belonging as repressed emotions ignite a blaze of drama. Brady’s eye for detail is outstanding as two souls merge on the road to either recovery or destruction. However, be warned, her movie never attempts nor wishes to offer easy answers to the complex social themes raised.
There is an ethereal quality to Miranda July’s deadpan tale of dysfunctional family life, the narrative embedded in an effervescent surrealist charm. July’s film is one part crime caper and one part psychosocial comedy. But at its core, themes of love, belonging, and identity slowly wrap the audience in a quirky and tender journey of acceptance and belonging.
READ MORE: MINYAN
Bad Tales (2020)
If you were wondering whether Italian cinema has lost its bite in recent years, think again because Fabio and Damiano D’Innocenzo’s Bad Tales is a pitch-black comedy with a sharp edge. Bad Tales sits somewhere between a modern fairytale and soap opera, joyously dissecting the family and community relationships we all take for granted. Here Fabio and Damiano focus on the connection between children and their parents as they skillfully skirt the boundary between Italian neo-realism and dark fantasy. The result is a movie that burns with ferocity through a series of uncomfortable home truths. Here Bad Tales is nothing short of a daring and dark journey into parental failure and childhood rebellion.
READ MORE: THE YOUNG AND THE DAMNED
Visually stunning but fatally dull, Abel Ferrara’s journey into existential angst never quite finds its footing, despite Defoe sitting in the saddle. The result feels more like a grand artistic experiment than an audience-accessible journey as we descend into a dreamlike void between reality and fiction. Some may find Siberia a work of art, but for me, it was a desolate, cold, and somewhat lonely place to spend 92 minutes.
READ MORE: THE LIGHTHOUSE