Capitalising on a banner year already from the most prestigious festivals around the world including Berlin, Cannes, Venice and Toronto, LFF is bursting with new gems from esteemed auteurs as much as hidden talents from new voices to pay attention to.
The festival runs 2-13 October in and around Picturehouse Central at Odeon Leicester Square. Booking opens for BFI patrons on 3 September, for BFI Champions on 4 September, for BFI Members on 5 September, and, finally, public booking opens on 12 September. Read on for our highlights of what to look out for.
Opening Night Gala: The Personal History of David Copperfield (Armando Ianucci)
Armando Ianucci, the brilliant mind behind The Death of Stalin, is bringing his version of a Dickens classic to the big smoke in The Personal History of David Copperfield for the film's European premiere.
The film, a period comedy with an all-star cast, takes stock of Dickens' classic and gives it a fresh new look. Dev Patel (he of Skins and Slumdog Millionaire Fame) will be taking on the eponymous lead role, playing the young aspiring writer navigating a host of eclectic characters he meets in Victorian England. Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Laurie and Gwendoline Christie co-star.
Closing Night Gala: The Irishman (Martin Scorsese)
It's been three years since a new Martin Scorsese picture graced the big screen – and far longer since something with the recognisable grit and shady politics of The Irishman has come into the world. Silence saw the filmmaker explore spiritual roots and opened up his remit beyond the gangster capers that have become his trademark.
But The Irishman indicates a true return to form and an ambitious leap into the future at the same time. The film is based on Charles Brandt's novel I Heard You Paint Houses and retells the biographical tale of hitman and WWII veteran Frank Sheeran (played by Robert De Niro, whose digital de-ageing in the film has already started a few conversations) and his involvement in the shady disappearance of politician Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).
American Express Gala: Knives Out (Rian Johnson)
Fresh from the success of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, writer/director Rian Johnson is relishing the age-old genre of the murder myster and giving it a new spin with his upcoming whodunit Knives Out. The stars are tumbling all at once in the first glimpses of the film, retelling a family gathering gone wrong. It's a birthday party like any other. It's all fun and games until somebody dies.
This somebody is Christopher Plummer as wealthy crime novelist Harlan Thombrey, the newly-turned 85-year-old who sees a bitter end in the company of his extended and eccentric family. Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon and Katherine Langford are all fellow Thombreys.
BFI Patrons' Gala: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Marielle Heller)
Fred Rogers was a simple man with a simple mission: 'We are trying to give the world positive ways of dealing with their feelings'. These words are spoken by Tom Hanks, playing the beloved children's entertainer in Marielle Heller's upcoming biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
The film is based on the process of one journalist tasked with profiling Mr Rogers, namely Tom Junod who went on to write the Esquire article 'Can You Say...Hero?' about his encounter, which, Junod said, changed his life.
The Mayor of London's Gala: The Aeronauts (Tom Harper)
Drawing from history, The Aeronauts is based on the discoveries of aeronaut and meteorologist James Glaisher whose ascent via gas balloon in 1862 broke the world record for altitude. The film covers this monumental event as Glaisher (Redmayne) and his pilot Amelia Wren (Jones) face a battle for survival against the elements in the sky.
The film also marks a special occasion in the reunion of its stars, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, who last graced the screen together in The Theory of Everything, though The Aeronauts should (hopefully) not cause as many tears as the Stephen Hawking biopic.
Headline Gala: Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi)
Loosely based on Christine Leunens' book Caging Skies, Taika Watiiti's new film focuses on a 10-year-old boy obsessed with nationalism who must reckon with his loyalties when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their loft. And the only person he can talk to about this is his imaginary friend – Adolf Hitler.
'It would be too weird to play the actual Hitler', Waititi told Deadline, 'I don't think people would enjoy the character as much. Because he was such a f*cking c*nt, and everyone knows that as well'. There, of course, is a line, and the filmmaker is well aware of this. He claims his film is a drama peppered with lighter moments, teasing out the relief in what he is describing as an 'anti-hate satire'.
American Airlines Gala: The King (David Michôd)
The King is an ambitious adaptation of three of Shakespeare's plays: Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V. The Call Me By Your Name actor Timothée Chalamet stars as Hal, the disgraced prince who reluctantly ascends the throne to become King Henry V, and must grapple with the war he inherits. Michôd has co-written the film with Joel Edgerton, marking their first collaboration since The Rover.
Chalamet won’t be navigating the political turmoil of medieval England alone. The King boasts an impressive cast: Edgerton as Falstaff, Robert Pattinson as Louis, the Dauphin of Vennois, Ben Mendehlson as Henry IV and Lily Rose-Depp as Hal’s wife, Catherine of Valois.
The May Fair Hotel Gala: Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach)
Noah Baumbach made his name writing mumblecore pictures, prioritizing low-budget technique, naturalistic acting and quick-paced and often improvised dialogue. These films tend to sway further towards comedy than tragedy, as with the director's most acclaimed feature, The Squid and the Whale, which earned Baumbach an Oscar nomination for screenwriting.
Now, two years after Baumbach tackled the strain of familial ties with the bittersweet The Meyerowitz Stories, he's focusing on the unravelling of a relationship with Marriage Story. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver star as a couple (her an actress, he a stage director) working through divorce – one that hopes to be amicable but that ends up pushing the couple to gruelling limits that are both personal and creative.
Cult Gala: The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers)
The director of The Witch returns with a grisly and chaotic two-hander set on an isolated island, that sees Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe deliver the performances of a lifetime. The pair of lighthouse keepers descend into madness and take the whole audience in with them.
Culture Whisper saw the film in Cannes and dubbed it one of the best films of the year. In our five-star review, we said: 'The rest of this year’s titles will have to paddle furiously hard to try and compete with the brilliance of this scary, sweaty, silly sensation'.
BFI Flare Special Presentation: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma)
Another one of our top picks from Cannes, Céline Sciamma's gorgeous period love story is one of the most tender and heartbreaking films we've seen in years. Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant star as a muse and a painter navigating a burgeoning love.
In our review, we said: 'Seeing is a decisive act in Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a love story that understands the secrets of a stolen stare, the crucial tenderness of holding a person’s gaze that can break a heart without saying a word'.
Official Competition: Honey Boy (Alma Har'el)
Actor Shia LaBeouf plays his own father in Honey Boy, an autobiographical memoir directed by Alma Har'el. Alongside the introspective star, the actors with unenviable task of portraying the man himself at 12 and 22 years old are Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place) and Lady Bird standout Lucas Hedges. If that’s not enticing enough, FKA Twigs will also make an appearance in her film debut.
Official Competition: Monos (Alejandro Landes)
Brazilian filmmaker Alejandro Landes uses the backdrop of the Colombian civil war to tell a dizzying story of teenage angst and global chaos in Monos. The director draws comparisons himself with Lord of the Flies and Apocalypse Now, and the results are even more unbelievable.
In our five-star review from the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year, we said: 'The apocalypse is tempered by careful scripting, only pushing the idea of hallucination to the edges of reality, never losing credibility'.
Matthias et Maxime (Xavier Dolan)
Xavier Dolan is no stranger to London Film Festival, but it's always a pleasure to welcome him back. After It's Only The End of the World in 2016, the Canadian wunderkind returns with a sweet love story between two friends in Matthias et Maxime.
The humble film was one of our favourites from this year's Cannes Film Festival – in our review, we said: 'Matthias et Maxime cherishes the feelings he’s always mastered, but his tumultuous underbelly is softer, more mature. He finally seems happy. '
The Report (Scott Z. Burns)
If you liked the high-stakes investigative drama of The Post or Spotlight, your next most anticipated film of the year could be just around the corner. Adam Driver leads The Report, a searing docudrama retelling an all-in investigation that shaped the US.
The film follows a Senate investigation into extreme methods employed by the CIA to interrogate those considered responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Driver plays the lead staffer, opposite Annette Bening's senior Senator tasked with finding out just what had been brushed under the carpet.
Little Joe (Jessica Hausner)
One of the more puzzling films of the year, Little Joe fuses dystopia and emotion to bring a chilling portrait of innovation and destruction to the fore. Emily Beecham stars as a scientists trialling a plant that makes humans happy – with less than idyllic results.
When the film premiered in Cannes this year, we were quickly convinced. In our four-star review, we said: 'The film blooms, as a stimulating and cerebral study of the indiscernible root of genuine emotion'.
Tickets for this year's London Film Festival can be booked via the BFI's website. Stay tuned for our festival reviews come October.
|What||BFI London Film Festival 2019: recommendations, tickets to book|
02 Oct 19 – 13 Oct 19, TIMES VARY
|Price||£ determined by cinemas|
|Website||Click here for more information|