The British Film Festival 2015 has been and gone. I wanted to see every film shown as part of the programme (with the exception of the family comedy one), but time constraints and other commitments meant that I couldn't. Some, such as Suffragette and The Program) are coming to the screens on general release, so I will catch them then. Here are the films that I did get to see:
5 Films I Saw at the British Film Festival:
- Dare to Be Wild - A young Irish woman (Mary Reynolds played by Emma Greenwell) decides she want s to win the Chelsea Flower Show, so she does. Her garden is meant to celebrate wild places and Celtic mysticism, so there’s lots of soft lighting and swirly music. The story is supposedly true, although it’s full of one-dimensional characters and paint by numbers plotting, but what a glorious canvas: it looks beautiful but it’s a bit twee.
- Queen of the Desert - When I was a child Gertrude Bell was my heroine, as I loved her independent spirit and her refusal to be bowed by convention. After watching this film directed by Werner Herzog with Nicole Kidman playing Gertrude, she still is. The story is completely simplified, Robert Pattinson is somewhat laughable as T.E. Lawrence, and the lack of protective eye-wear in the midst of sandstorms is shameful, but it’s still rather lovely. The sweeping scenery shots are rapturous, and Damian Lewis gets to play a bit-part.
- Bill - Written by those responsible for Horrible Histories, this is a version of William Shakespeare’s lost years that appeals to all levels. The cast of six play all the roles with a dash of pantomime wit, and there are gags aplenty with a smattering of Shakespearean quotes thrown in for good measure. It’s no Shakespeare in Love but it’s funny enough without being original.
- Elstree 1976 - If you were an extra in the original Star Wars film, would it change your life? Would you travel to all the conventions getting embroiled in the debate over whether you deserved to be there signing autographs or is that just for the ‘stars’? Would you rather be a recognisable face or wear a sweaty Storm Trooper helmet? How would you feel if your voice was dubbed throughout, or your scenes cut from the final edit? These questions and more are posed and answered in this unusual but intriguing documentary which interviews several actors connected with the cultural icon, and offers a nostalgic look at how sci-fi films used to be made.
- Absolutely Anything - A light-hearted, reasonably entertaining comedy about a ‘random earthling’ (Simon Pegg) who is granted absolute power by the Intergalactic Council (animated figures voiced by the remaining Pythons). Of course he initially uses it for personal (and sexual) gratification, trying to get his beautiful neighbour (Kate Beckinsale) to fall in love with him. There’s nothing here you’ve not seen before (it’s similar to A Fish Called Wanda), but it features solid performances, clear direction, some clever scriptwriting, and Robin Williams as the voice of Dennis the dog in his final film, which is particularly affecting.