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London Film Festival 2020: Days 2 and 3

To see previous coverage of the London Film Festival, click here.

Over the past two days of coverage for the London Film Festival, I saw four feature length films. In this post, I will cover three of them. If you are interested in my thoughts on Abel Ferrara’s Siberia, it will soon be posted on InSession Film. Aside from that though, here are my thoughts on the films showcased.

Herself

IMDB Link: Herself (2020)
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Writers: Malcolm Campbell, Clare Dunne
Stars: Harriet Walter, Ian Lloyd Anderson, Clare Dunne

Synopsis: The story of young mother Sandra (Dunne) who escapes her abusive husband and fights back against a broken housing system. She sets out to build her own home and in the process rebuilds her life and re-discovers herself.

This is by far and away the biggest surprise of the festival so far, even in the early days. What a powerful story, and one that felt grounded in reality. A lot of issues that films of this subject matter have is not knowing the boundaries or how characters should react when abuse is involved. I fully believed every character and their situation, and that is down to the wonderful writing from Campbell and Dunne.

Not only is Dunne fantastic in the writing of this film, but she gives a heartbreaking performance as the mother, Sandra. Hopefully more people cast her in the future, because she showcased a range of performances in this single role, from a protective mother to a victim of abuse. It is not only her performance that is strong, but the performance of Ian Lloyd Anderson who plays her abusive partner, Gary. They both do a fantastic job of showing the struggles of a relationship like this, especially when children are involved.

There are some edit choices that I was not huge on, particularly the amount of pop-music sequences that felt out of place. However, the technical elements that I had issues with did not distract from the story and the impact that this film had on me, especially with the twists and turns that the film goes through and that I did not expect. There are films in the festival that I know I will connect with, but I did not expect this to be one of them.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Relic

IMDB Link: Relic (2020)
Director: Natalie Erika James
Writers: Natalie Erika James, Christian White
Stars: Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, Bella Heathcote

Synopsis: A daughter (Heathcote), mother (Mortimer) and grandmother (Nevin) are haunted by a manifestation of dementia that consumes their family’s home.

This is the first horror film of the festival, and one that I was anticipating. I have been craving some good horror scares, and for the most part I got that with Relic. This film is more than just horror scares, it takes the time to build up the atmosphere. The characters are also given time to develop, creating even more effective scares in the long run.

What I appreciate about Relic is the subject matter and how it handles it sensitively. This is a film that involves a grandmother suffering from dementia. As a horror, it could have used that completely just for scares and not have meaning behind it. This film made sure to handle the subject well, talking about the family issues that come with it. The scares that they used with the theme of dementia were haunting and effective.

There are aspects of the story that did not connect with me as much as I would have liked to. There are characters that come and go, and the story falls when it does not focus on the three main characters. The main storyline is so compelling to begin, that I also wish that the direction that they took the story was more grounded in reality. Regardless of that though, this is a solid horror film and one that knows exactly what it wants to do and achieves the tone it goes for.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
I Am Samuel

I Am Samuel

IMDB Link: I Am Samuel (2020)
Director: Peter Murimi
Writers: Ricardo Acosta, Peter Murimi

Synopsis: Filmed verite style over five years, I Am Samuel is an intimate portrait of a Kenyan man torn between balancing duty to his family with his dreams for his future.

It is sometimes easy to forget that not every country has now accepted gay rights, but this documentary is an honest and open reminder of that sad fact. This film is unafraid to tell the truth and show the importance of acceptance. Samuel and Alex deserve to not only tell their story, but to be accepted and allowed to love with no discrimination.

It is not only the romance in the story that this film exposes, but the living style of those in Kenya. Many of us don’t realise the luxuries we have in terms of running water in our home, just to name the basic. It is not until a documentary like this shows people in much tougher positions than me when I realise how lucky I am.

Did I think that this had the best editing or cinematography? No, it didn’t. Did I find that there were some moments and storylines that were unnecessary and struggled to care for? Yes, I did. However, this film is raw and packs emotion and the main focus is really strong. This is a message that needs to be spread, because the fight for equality is not over yet.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Have you had a chance to see these films yet? Which one are you most excited to check out? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.

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