London Film Festival 2016


An Alarming Shade has been on hiatus for around two years now but as I still have this space, I am publishing these quick-fire reviews of films I caught at this year’s London Film Festival. As usual, everything is spoiler-free and I have included the UK general release dates for movies that have already set them.

Click through on film titles to peek at their IMDB pages.

General Release: 14th October
Already out in cinemas, American Honey has been well publicised and is well deserving of all praise so far received. It’s a contemporary ‘road trip’ film that is hugely entertaining and haunting. Underlying tensions help make it a wild ride but the heart of American Honey, very much like that of its protagonist, is tender.
Worth the price of a cinema ticket to see on a big screen. Expect beautifully drawn out scenes and a genuinely fun soundtrack.

General Release: 4th November
Tom Ford’s latest film, after his directorial debut with A Single Man. The less you know about Nocturnal Animals the better. This drama/thriller is visually arresting, brimming with plenty of mystery and personality. There are some surprisingly silly and witty laughs to be found.
Worth the price of a cinema ticket. Some notable violence – infrequent but genuinely unsettling. I personally found it to be an emotionally devastating story, and I adored the score by Abel Korzeniowski.

General Release: 10th November

Ah, yes. The thinking woman’s sci fi movie we have all been waiting for since Ripley went to town on the Nostromo. Arrival is based on a short story by Ted Chiang and it revolves around  aliens coming to earth. That’s all you really need to know. It is full of the intrigue and wonder we all feel towards other intelligent life in the universe.
Extremely cinematic and grand. Another one to see on a big screen! Suffers a bit from the Christopher Nolan school of exposition/cheese but on the overall, a touching and welcome approach to the genre. Will probably watch this again.

General Release: 24th March 2017 (US, no UK date yet)

A sort of rom com set during World War II. The movie revolves around a woman screenwriter in an era when women were having to occupy jobs vacated by men fighting/dying in the war. A polished, charming story that manages to convey an appropriate tone while reminding us of the cost of war.
If you like Lone Sherfig’s other movies (An Education, One day) or period dramas then you may want to catch this in the cinema rather than through television/streaming. I enjoyed Their Finest for its sense of melancholic whimsy, to do with how life is never as eloquent as stories and how our imaginations can be a source of strength in trying times.

General Release: N/A
A Spanish post-apocalyptic animation based on a graphic novel of the same title; this isn’t one for children. It is has some cute moments and wields a dark sense of humour that is frighteningly relevant to our world today.
Can’t find a release date but if you can find a screening somewhere, it would make for a good group outing. Certainly offers plenty to discuss later. Beautiful to watch and ultimately sad, it exhibits the way in which children and adults deal with the tragedy of their circumstances. There is some hope in it, though. There is always hope!

General Release: 3rd March 2017
The premise for Personal Shopper is great – a ghost story set in Paris’ fashion underworld. There are brilliant moments that live up to that potential but the movie is made much weaker by its pacing.
I can’t say this would be particularly worth a cinema ticket, and I would have personally preferred to watch it on telly. There is a good sense of mystery to keep your interest whetted, yet it isn’t thrilling or suspenseful enough a pay-off. Kristen Stewart delivers an earnest, magnetic performance.

General Release: N/A
A Finnish movie based on a well-known true story about a group of teenagers who were murdered at Lake Bodom in the 1960s. Typical slasher horror fare with a couple of clever twists and turns thrown in, and some fun protagonists.
Again, no release date I could find. Worth a ticket if you’re a big fan of slasher films. I’d advise seeing it privately with a group of mates as there are plenty of jump scares and enough slow scenes/exposition to talk over.

General Release: N/A
Odd entry in the festival, this Chinese crime drama is from 2015. A series of murders take places in a small town in the 1990s, just as our young protagonist is approaching adolescence. An unusual coming-of-age story, What’s in the Darkness is charismatic and frank even whilst exploring the culpability of an entire society where sexism is concerned.
If you’re lucky enough to find this in a cinema, give it a go! Worth watching for its charm and characters. Fair warning – the story does feel a bit like an unfinished thought. I wouldn’t go in expecting all questions to be answered.

I hope that you’ve found this a helpful read. There are some great films coming out in the next few months!


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