The first word that springs to mind when I think about this year’s film festivals is ‘surprise’. This year’s winners, losers, breakout hits and flops were all varied, and in most cases, very surprising. For brevity, this article will focus on the four main international film festivals (London, Toronto, Venice and Cannes) and give you all the main highlights from some fantastic line-ups.
The very British film, Suffragette, was well-received at the London Film Festival. Although not an entirely perfect film, coming from the same writer (Abi Morgan) who brought us The Iron Lady, the script and story are top notch, and the subject matter brought a lot of publicity to London. Another female-centric film that shone at London is Carol, starring the effortlessly talented duo, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Both dazzled in the tale about unrequited love, with Mara establishing herself every year as an acting force to be reckoned with, the film has been unexpectedly successful despite a controversial subject matter. Films that fell short of success were High-Rise, starring a stellar British cast of Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans and more; it was reviewed ambivalently and dubbed very difficult to relate to.
“Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara dazzled in Carol, a tale of unrequited love”
Cannes was baffling. Firstly, the Best Actress Award was shared between Rooney Mara in Carol and Emmanuelle Beirot in Mon Roit with many commentators arguing that this was unfair as Beirot’s performance was not as deserving as Mara’s or even Blanchett’s in the same film. Woody Allen was the bookies’ favourite to take home an award as he often does at Cannes, but his Irrational Man was said to be sadly lacking and a tad pretentious by the judges. The Palme D’or went to Dheepan by Jacques Audiard, but this was arguably not his most deserving work to date (A Prophet is exceptional, and won the Jury Prize in 2009). This season’s quirkiest film, The Lobster, took home the Jury Prize, which was also surprising due to is extremely weird premise – but with the Coen Brothers as the Presidents of the Jury, maybe this was to be expected.
The films that shone at Venice this year were extremely varied. A lesser known Venezuelan film, From Afar, was picked for the Golden Lion, and this practically-unknown film’s intriguing story and insight into a unique and gratifying relationship between two men makes it deserving of this top award. Films that were unexpectedly overlooked for the top prize (but still rewarded) were Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s intricately crafted stop-motion triumph Anomalisa, and the lesser known French drama L’Hermine. Nevertheless, Tom Hooper’s transgender drama, The Danish Girl, was left relatively ignored by Venice, which is surprising given that it is already being pipped for Oscar success, especially for another dedicated performance from Eddie Redmayne.
“The Danish Girl was left relatively ignored by Venice, which is surprising given that it is already being pipped for Oscar success”
Toronto saw many a mainstream film miss out on the big awards; Black Mass, Brooklyn, The Martian, and the winner at Cannes, Dheepan, all fell short at Toronto. However, some films did stand out in viewer’s minds, including the lesser-known Our Brand Is Crisis, starring Sandra Bullock, which has been tipped as a continuation of her success after her Oscar nomination for Gravity and previous win for The Blind Side. The People’s Choice award went to the intriguing and chilling Room, a tragic tale of a mother and son experiencing the outside world for the first time. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, and based on the novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue, this film has been described as a visceral experience and is also tipped for Oscar success - watch this space!