The London Film Festival prides itself on a blend of major releases and smaller independent and foreign films, and this year was no exception. Here’s another small selection of some of the considerable talent and various flavours and tales on offer.

Heli (Irish release date: To be confirmed)

heli-imageAmat Escalante won the Best Director prize at Cannes this year for his work on Heli, and the Spanish firebrand doesn’t disappoint. Heli’s tale of an innocent family getting caught up in Mexico’s drug wars is a brutal and full-on flick. With shootings, (simulated) animal cruelty and genital torture, there’s no space for audience complacency here. The plot runs out of steam as time goes on, but Heli leaves an indelible impression.

 Scannain rating: 3.5/5

 

The Past (Irish release date: To be confirmed)

Film still from The Past by Asghar FarhadiExpectations were always going to be high for Asghar Farhadi’s follow-up to A Separation and About Elly, and for the most part The Past delivers. Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) flies to Paris to conclude his divorce from Marie (Bérénice Bejo). However, when Ahmad probes his suspicions about Marie’s fiancée Samir (Tahar Rahim), harsh truths come spilling forth. The plotting sometimes veers into soap operatics, but Farhadi’s eye is as patiently observant as ever, and the cast are uniformly superb.

Scannain rating: 3.5/5

 

Inside Llewyn Davis (Irish release date: 24th January 2014)

inside-llewyn-davis-imageNo-one does frustrated male angst like the Coen Brothers, and 1960s Greenwich folk singer Llewyn Davis (a likeably spiteful Oscar Isaac) is the latest in their patented brand of men in need of a hug and some luck. Isaac’s turn is star-making but, as ever with the Coens, the supporting cast is a corker (Carey Mulligan, John Goodman and Garrett Hedlund are all excellent). It’s also got a great ‘60s look and the catchiest soundtrack of the year. Toe-tappingly good.

Scannain rating: 4.5/5

 

Night Moves (Irish release date: March 2014, to be confirmed)

night-moves-imageKelly Reichardt has made some atmospherically beautiful films in the past, but she turns the pressure up to brilliant effect in her new thriller Night Moves. Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard play three environmental activists who plot to blow up a dam, and are scarcely prepared for the fallout of their actions. The three leads do well, but this is Reichardt’s show. The meticulousness of the first act, the expectation of the second act and the paranoia of the third feed into each other beautifully. Reichhardt’s command of the material and her delivery are steeped in top craftsmanship. A riveting treat.

Scannain rating: 4/5

 

Tracks (Irish release date: 25th April 2014)

tracks-imageIn 1977, Robyn Davidson travelled 1,700 miles from Alice Springs to the coast of Western Australia with just four camels and a dog for company. Like so many epic journeys, it smacks of foolhardiness but her success can only be admired. Tracks tells the tale in a matter-of-fact manner, but it is elevated by director John Curran’s (The Painted Veil) eye for a gorgeous Australian vista and a charismatic and tender performance from Mia Wasikowska. Her smile could light up a city, such is her star wattage.

Scannain rating: 3.5/5

 

The Invisible Woman (Irish release date: 7th February 2014)

2014 - The Invisible Woman - Movie SetBetween 1857 and 1870, Charles Dickens had an on-off affair with a woman named Ellen Tynan. This liaison is the basis for Ralph Fiennes’ follow-up to his directorial debut Coriolanus. It is a typically handsome period piece, but what sets it apart are the energy of Fiennes’ direction and the performances. Felicity Jones is an impressionable yet distinct Tynan, and Fiennes makes for a charming Dickens. A livelier and more engaging prospect than the period setting might suggest.

Scannain rating: 4/5

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