A trio of terrific new movies from the 62nd London Film Festival

Get ready to put release dates in your calendar for A TRIO OF TERRIFIC NEW MOVIES premiered at the 62nd LFF.

In the film festival season, it’s always great when the one in the calendar is your very own hometown one – London. Yes, the 62nd London Film Festival run by the British Film Institute over 12 days from 10-21 October has come and gone but A TRIO OF TERRIFIC NEW MOVIES which I saw from this year’s programme will certainly stay long in the memory.

Let me get right down to telling you about them, as I think they will be films you’ll want to jot in your diary to see on their release. So, in screening order…

First up was WILDLIFE (UK release date: 9 November).

Carey Mulligan as Jeanette and Jake Gyllenhaal as Jerry in Wildlife

Carey Mulligan as Jeanette and Jake Gyllenhaal as Jerry in Wildlife

The wonderfully original actor Paul Dano has gone behind the camera for the first time as a director with this 1960s-set drama. He’s also turned screenwriter, collaborating with his partner the no-less talented actor and writer Zoe Kazan, to bring this 1990 novel by Richard Ford to the screen. Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal are Jeanette and Jerry Brinson, the parents of a teenage boy Joe, played by newcomer Ed Oxenbould. And it’s through his eyes that we watch his initially idyllic view of his parents’ relationship shatter, as their marriage crumbles.

Watching WILDLIFE, I was reminded of Sam Mendes’ fantastic 1998 film version of Richard Yates’ haunting novel of marital breakdown Revolutionary Road. Also in common with that movie, the performances are emotionally arresting. Carey Mulligan shows Jeanette’s willfulness as well as her vibrancy. And Jake Gyllenhaal gives us a portrait of a troubled man looking for answers – one that I thought had resonance with the unsettled character he played in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals. There’s also top-notch support from the brilliant Bill Camp. WILDLIFE is a film that seemed to get richer in my memory in the days after the screening. I think it will be one that stays with you too and as it’s on release very shortly, do seek it out.

Next, I saw THE FRONT RUNNER (UK release date: 25 January 2019).

Hugh Jackman as Gary Hart in The Front Runner

Hugh Jackman as Gary Hart in The Front Runner

Tremendous writer/director Jason Reitman has brought us some great fictional work over his career to date – Juno, Up in the Air, and Young Adult to name but three. But with his new film, he’s ventured into recreating a real-life event and the result is really something. The fabulous Hugh Jackman plays charismatic politician Gary Hart who, in 1987, was the man to beat in the upcoming presidential race. He was ‘THE FRONT RUNNER’ and heading for The White House. But over the course of three weeks, he’d watch his professional and personal life implode. What’s more, the role of the media in his downfall would change the political landscape forever.

This is an absolutely fascinating and extremely timely story that after its first act set-up of characters – from Hart and his family and his campaign team to the journalists who reported on the race – then really exerts a hold on you all the way to the final frame. Jackman is smoothly persuasive and enigmatic as Hart, a man who came across so principled but was, in reality, stuck in another time not wanting to believe that the people were now interested in both the public and private faces of their political leaders. And this was 1987. It’s such a relevant movie for where we find ourselves in 2018. In addition to Jackman, there’s a wealth of riches to be found in the other performances. You have previous Reitman stars J.K. Simmons as Hart’s savvy campaign manager Bill Dixon and Vera Farmiga as Hart’s beleaguered wife Lee. And then there’s Alfred Molina as iconic Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and a face to watch in Molly Ephraim, who is hugely winning as campaign aide Irene Kelly. I was hooked on seeing this movie from its great trailer that I posted about back in early September and it didn’t disappoint. Make sure you catch this.

And finally, a late but very welcome addition to this year’s LFF programme was THE SISTERS BROTHERS (UK release date: 5 April 2019).

Joaquin Phoenix as Charlie and John C. Reilly as Eli in The Sisters Brothers

Joaquin Phoenix as Charlie and John C. Reilly as Eli in The Sisters Brothers

When you see a film is directed by Jacques Audiard, that’s enough for me, I’m there. This masterful French writer/director has created an astounding array of innovative movies, from Read My Lips and The Beat That My Heart Skipped to A Prophet, Rust and Bone and Dheepan. But when you also take a look at the cast of his latest feature – John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Riz Ahmed – it becomes a doubly unmissable treat. And this most certainly was, arriving in London from its recent Venice Film Festival ‘Silver Lion’ / ‘Best Director’ win for Audiard.

I’ve posted about the first trailer and the final trailer for the film, both of which are stunning and give different flavours of this revisionist western set in 1850s America. The story follows Eli and Charlie Sisters (Reilly and Phoenix), a pair of assassins whose latest job is to track down the quirkily named Herman Kermit Warm (Ahmed). He’s a prospector travelling west in the midst of gold rush fever, with a formula in his pocket that he believes will make him a fortune. But it’s not just the brothers he has to contend with. There’s also his newfound friend John Morris (Gyllenhaal) who seems both helpful and mysterious. Can Warm trust him? And what will happen when the brothers show up?

Audiard and his co-screenwriter Thomas Bidegain have taken Patrick deWitt’s Booker-shortlisted 2011 novel and turned it into a movie which really keeps you guessing how it’s all going to turn out – it certainly surprised me. There are richly-drawn, complex characters (something of a trademark for Audiard) to root for or fear. And it’s all set in the most exquisitely realised old west, courtesy of production designer Michel Barthelemy and four-time Oscar-winning costume designer Milena Canonero. This is a movie you have to see next spring when it opens in the UK.

So, I hope you’ll agree when you get to see them, they are indeed A TRIO OF TERRIFIC NEW MOVIES.