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BFI London Film Festival 2019 – Film Reviews

21st October 2019 by CH

Read time: 8 mins

Red carpets were rolled out at the BFI London Film Festival 2019 and some of our very own in-house team at CH were lucky enough to go along to the first screenings of some of the most anticipated films of 2019. Here are some of their reviews.

The Last Black Man In San Francisco

Trailer: https://youtu.be/ryCymV96TkM

Release Date: 25th October 2019

Reviewed By: Rachel Toye, Assistant Producer

A visually beautiful and moving film about family, friendship and gentrification in the Golden Gate City.

Headstrong Jimmie Fails (played by Jimmie Fails) finds himself completely obsessed with renovating a Victorian home that his late grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Jimmie and his best pal, Mont (played by Johnathan Majors) clutch on to The San Francisco they have both grown up with and love even though it is changing before their very eyes.

Based on a true story and played by a cast of local San Franciscans, including Producer/Director Joe Talbot, you can tell this is a story told from the heart.

Beautiful cinematography that really depicts the culture and landscape of San Fran and gives you a real flavour of what life must be like for a young, black man living there in the current age.

Pictured Left to right: Jimmie Fails, Joe Talbot and Rob Richert giving a Q&A at the Curzon, Mayfair

My favourite scene of the whole film followed Jimmie riding through the streets of San Francisco on his battered skateboard, which was not only visually stunning but impressive from a filming point of view – I’m still baffled by how they shot it without causing injury to the cameraman!

Although visually it was a dream, there were slight audio issues throughout the film that I am sure director Joe would be the first to admit, particularly noticeable with the dialogue that was shot outside which was a shame.

Still, this didn’t distract from the fact it was a beautiful film and a great way to start my BFI London Film Festival 2019 experience, made even better by a Q&A with the Director and Cast afterwards.

CHeer Rating: 7/10

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Rocks

Film Clip: https://youtu.be/O-VcXwZ62G0

Release Date: 24th April 2020

Reviewed By: Rachel Toye, Assistant Producer

Funny, honest and extremely moving. A film about true friendship, heartache and a real love letter to London

“Rocks” (a nickname given to her by her friends) is a British teenager living in London with her single mother and younger brother, Emmanuel (D’angelou Osei Kissiedu).

One day Rocks comes home to a note from her mother who has up and left, leaving her and Emmanuel to fend for themselves. The film follows Rocks’ journey as she tries to navigate through life, trying to maintain her grades and friends whilst looking after her brother and keeping her abandonment secret from the authorities.

Cast and crew giving a Q&A after the first screening of Rocks at the Embankment Garden Cinema

This film had me laughing and crying throughout. Laughing mainly because of younger brother Emmanuel’s one liners, who for me, completely stole the show. My tears were due to the true rawness and heartache that Rocks has to endure, being abandoned by a seemingly loving parent, something that no child should ever have to go through.

The casting was absolutely on point, with most of the young actor’s experiencing their debut with this film. During the Q&A with Director Sarah Gavron, she revealed that a lot of the dialogue between the characters was improvised, which was why it felt so real and authentic. It was also revealed that 75% of the cast and crew were made up of females which is unusual and definitely something to be proud of.

A true ‘London’ film that unleashes a lot of emotion and nostalgia. Definitely worth a watch.

CHeer Rating: 8/10

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La Belle Époque

Trailer: https://youtu.be/5i31Ry-PsG4

Release Date: 22nd November 2019

Reviewed By: Rachel Toye, Assistant Producer

A fast-paced French romantic comedy with a twist. The Truman Show meets Woody Allen’s A Midnight in Paris (a combination that surprisingly works!)

Victor (Daniel Auteuil) is a 60 something retired French cartoonist struggling to keep the fire alive in his relationship. His tech-loving and somewhat bolshie wife (Fanny Ardant) eventually insists on a divorce and Victor’s life is turned upside down.

He is thrown a lifeline by his sons’ entrepreneur best friend who offers him the chance to go back to any time throughout history. Victor chooses the day he first met his wife.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with La Belle Epoque. Not being gifted with languages I had some reservations about reading subtitles on such a fast-paced film. I wanted to be able to take everything in whilst still enjoying the impressive cinematography. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the story was to follow despite it being quick, punchy and a complex plot.

The multiple character relationships and dynamics were all fascinating and Victor’s storyline in particular keeps you hooked throughout, hoping his love story will have a happy ending.

A truly funny, sweet and beautiful film that was definitely my favourite of those that I saw at the BFI London Film Festival 2019. Go see.

CHeer Rating: 9/10

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Muscle

Release Date: 11th October 2019

Reviewed By: Rachel Toye, Assistant Producer

A psychological thriller that sheds light (and a heap of sweat) on underground gym culture and toxic masculinity.

The story of Simon (Cavan Clerkin) an overweight, unambitious, unhappily married Londoner that has moved to Newcastle to work in sales.

Hoping to feel better about himself, he joins a gym and meets Terry (Craig Fairbrass). Taking it upon himself, Terry becomes Simon’s personal trainer and life coach. Little by little, he takes over his life. Gradually revealing a dangerous and tormented character, Simon suddenly gets more than he bargained for.

Cast and crew giving a Q&A after a screening of Muscle at the Vue, Leicester Square

Shot in crisp black and white, this style helps set the tone and mood of this compelling thriller. A dark tale of toxic masculinity, a topic that still somehow seeps its way into modern day society. Cavan does a fantastic job of portraying a lost and vulnerable middle-aged guy looking for answers.

The visual metaphors were particularly apparent, and a favourite scene of mine was Simon and Terry reminiscing on gym life whilst sucking on mini milk ice creams. Genius.

The film wasn’t without its frustrations though. The ending in particular left me baffled and unsatisfied, which was a shame as I had invested quite a bit in the characters by the end.

Still, it is always good to shed light on these issues even though I didn’t think this particular film had a necessarily strong conclusion.

CHeer Rating: 5/10

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The Irishman

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHXxVmeGQUc

Release Date: 1st November 2019

Reviewed By: Sherice Griffiths, Producer

From the master behind ‘Goodfellas’ ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Heat’, comes one of the most influential and epic gangster films of Scorsese’s career.  The Irishman delivers on so many levels.

This is the story of Frank ’The Irishman’ Sheeran, a World War II Veteran and hitman to the Bufalino crime family. Now an old man, Frank recounts the events that made his career as a hitman including his involvement with the disappearance of his life-long friend, Jimmy Hoffa.

The cast is incredible, Al Pacino (Jimmy Hoffa), Robert DeNiro (Frank Sheeran) and Joe Pesci (Russel Bufalino), are on top form and deliver blinding performances throughout.

The Irishman is definitely, Scorsese at his best, with casual violence, quick witted remarks, deep and complex characters there is so much fit into the mere 3 hours and 29-minutes runtime.

There are also some wonderful scenes that reference other films in Scorsese’s filmmaking career (look out for the Taxi scene!).

This film could arguably be Scorsese’s last gangster movie (although I hope not) and if it is, it goes out in style and with clout.

This film deserves to be seen on the big screen if you can. Don’t wait for Netflix!

CHeer Rating: 10/10

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQw658a-8UQ

Release Date: 6th December 2019

Reviewed By: Gary Wales, Senior Producer & Creative Lead

A heart-warming movie based upon the true story of American ‘TV hero’ Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod.

Here in the UK this would probably have been a film about the time children’s TV inspiration Tony Hart met a grizzled freelance journalist from Readers Digest and gently made the journo reflect upon his fractured life (though I’m pretty sure this didn’t happen). In the US, Mister Rogers was the sunnily dispositioned presenter of an impossibly cute daytime show on positivity for kids during the 70s and 80s.

The #MeToo movement has nothing on the Presbyterian minister who touched the hearts of millions of Americans so a biopic movie focussing only on his life would have been a saccharine tale with little drama. Director Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Really Forgive Me) turned to the true story relationship of Mr Rogers and journalist Tom Junod who was given the commission to profile the TV host by Esquire magazine.

Director Marielle Heller takes questions

The bittersweet drama is really drawn from how the gently spoken Fred Rogers manages to get Tom to consider the deeply troubled relationship with his father, his priorities and his outlook on life. The result is far more engaging than it sounds.

So, who do you choose to play the part of national treasure Mr Rogers? Why Tom Hanks of course. Hanks comes ‘prêt-à-porter’ with the trust and love required to depict the gentle ray of light. Director Heller thankfully weaves a standard drama biopic approach with fantasy scenes and elements that move the film into another creative dimension. Equally, Welsh actor Matthew Rhys turns in a terrific grizzled-turned-enlightened performance that expertly takes the viewer on this journey of familial redemption.

It’s often said that movies have to power to move you and whilst this film could have been a terribly sweet serving which us Brits necessarily feel uncomfortable with, it’s ultimately a very finely balanced and enjoyable story. There’s a single minute within the film that stopped me in my tracks, forced me to think deeply and left me with an overwhelming sense of love. You could feel a palpable wave across the audience in the room – a completely unique cinematic experience.

CHeer Rating: 8/10

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