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It is safe to say that day 7, Saturday 10th October, is the busiest day so far for me during the London Film Festival. Today, I watched three feature films with two of them being some of my most highly anticipated of the festival. I have a lot to say about all of them, so I will not drag out this introduction any longer.
Here are my thoughts on Wolfwalkers, One Night in Miami, and Wildfire.
IMDB Link: Wolfwalkers (2020)
Directors: Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart
Writers: Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart, Will Collins, Jerrica Cleland
Stars: Sean Bean, Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker
Synopsis: A young apprentice hunter and her father journey to Ireland to help wipe out the last wolf pack. But everything changes when she befriends a free-spirited girl from a mysterious tribe rumoured to transform into wolves by night.
I will admit that I have been behind on the Cartoon Saloon bandwagon, and this is the first film of theirs that I have watched. However, what a film to begin watching them with. The animation style is gorgeous, particularly reminding me of the Klei Entertainment game Don’t Starve. I am a major fan of the hand-drawn illustrations, something that I wish even Disney Animation Studios would go back to at some point.
The story is nothing new, in fact it reminded me quite a bit of Pixar’s Brave. However, this telling of the story is much better in basically every element. The script is tight, nailing the relationships between children and their parents, both with the mother and the father. It shows the roles that parents play, but also those that children want to have in protecting their parents and friends. It is a film that is enjoyable for children, whilst also great for adults to watch too.
The world-building is something that majorly surprised me with this film. I didn’t expect a film of this style to build a kingdom and a history, and yet it really adds a lot to the film. The magic, the Irish setting, going beyond the built kingdom. This was a major surprised and as of right now, my favourite film of the festival. It will take something special to end up overtaking this.
One Night in Miami
IMDB Link: One Night in Miami (2020)
Director: Regina King
Writer: Kemp Powers
Stars: Kingsley Ban-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr.
Synopsis: A fictional account of one incredible night where icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathered discussing their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the 60s.
This is one of those films that has been gaining popularity from every festival it has gone to so far, and for good reason. This is a wonderful idea for a story and a great script from Kemp Powers, bringing in these four icons and going beyond their career and titles. As someone who does not know much beyond their icon status, it was an interesting look into who they were as people and what they all did for the black community several decades ago.
The four main performances here are, as you would expect, top notch from these fantastic performers. Leslie Odom Jr. is slowly becoming one of my favourite actors, and he does just as well here playing Sam Cooke and showing the exploration of his character, with people criticising that he was not helping the black community but perhaps profiting from white people instead. However, the stand-out for me here was Eli Goree as Muhammad Ali, known as Cassius Clay at the time. He is someone that is new to me, but I hope he gets more film work after this role.
There is one thing about this film that many other people are pointing out, and that is the formatting of the film and script. Even though this is an original screenplay, this feels like it belongs on a stage rather than filmed in this format. The story is dialogue heavy, theatrical in the reactions and, for a large chunk of the film, in one room. It does take you out of the film, but regardless I still think this is a very strong debut from Regina King and I cannot wait to see what she does next.
IMDB Link: Wildfire (2020)
Director: Cathy Brady
Writer: Cathy Brady
Stars: Nora-Jane Noone, Nika McGuigan, Martin McCann
Synopsis: The story of two sisters who grew up on the fractious Irish border. When one of them, who has been missing, finally returns home, the intense bond with her sister is re-ignited. Together they unearth their mother’s past but uncovered secrets and resentments which have been buried deep, threaten to overwhelm them.
Before I start this mini review, I want to give a small tribute to Nika McGuigan (who plays Kelly). Sadly, she passed away from cancer in 2019 shortly after this film completed production. She did a wonderful job in this film, and it is sad that we will not get to see her in any more future roles.
This is a film that I did not wish I had to give a negative review on, because there is so much potential. The first scene is gripping and intense, with a set-up of Kelly being registered as a missing person and not knowing what she is going to do. However, it is when Kelly moves back in with her sister, Lauren (played by Nora-Jane Noone), when the quality falls unfortunately.
The writing of Lauren and everything that happens around her felt extremely drastic, in comparison to how grounded the setting and reality is. It seemed off to me that something traumatic would happen, and instead of seeking help or giving care and attention that this would instead lead to mockery. Whilst I admire Cathy Brady for being bold with this script, I would have maybe taken the subject matter to another tone rather than how it was presented.
Sadly, this ended up being a disappointment, but there are things in here that intrigue me and I would want to see some of the shorts that Brady has done. Some of the issues here were length and not fleshing out plots, so perhaps watching a short from her may show me what she is truly capable of.
Have you had a chance to check out any of these films yet? Which one are you most excited to see? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.