As this year’s BFI London Film Festival comes to a close, we look at the stand-out films and performances from this year’s line-up.
Boasting over 160 feature-length films, short subject animations, documentaries and much more from Europe, North and South America and Asia, the mix of talent and cultures at the London Film Festival 2022 is impressive. A large number of productions from the UK and Ireland were showcased, drawing in large crowds and endless standing ovations. From gala screenings, world premieres and special presentations at Southbank’s Royal Festival Hall, here are my top 10 picks of films from our shores.
1. Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (UK)
Cast by Lucy Bevan and Emily Brockman
The beloved tale of the genius young girl and her superpowers is loved by audiences all over the world thanks to Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel. We’ve seen successful adaptations of the book, from Danny DeVito’s 1996 family favourite to the West End and Broadway award-winning musical. Director Matthew Warchus brings this musical masterpiece to the big screen in an all-new adaptation of the beloved stage show, which Warchus also directed in 2010. Packed full of British and Irish talent from the likes of Emma Thompson, Lashana Lynch and Stephen Graham to newcomer Aisha Weir, Matilda the Musical is a spectacle to be enjoyed by the whole family.
2. Empire of Light (UK)
Cast by Nina Gold
Sam Mendes directs and writes this dramatic love letter to cinema, starring Olivia Colman, Michael Ward, Toby Jones, and Colin Firth. Set in the early 1980s, Hilary (Colman) works as duty manager at the Empire Cinema on the seafront in Margate, when Stephen (Ward) is recruited and an unlikely romance blossoms between the pair. Whilst trying to navigate their newfound relationship, Hilary and Stephen must overcome racial differences, mental health complications and workplace misdemeanours.
With cinematography from Academy Award winner Roger Deakins and a breathtaking score from composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Empire of Light is full of heart and drama.
3. Living (UK)
Cast by Kahleen Crawford
Living is an English adaptation of the Japanese cult classic Ikiru (1952) and stars national treasure, Bill Nighy. Set in London, Living tells the story of Williams (Nighy) who is given only a short time left to live due to a devastating diagnosis. Directed by Oliver Hermanus, whose unique filmmaking style lends a delicate tone to the film, Living boasts a heartwarming and uplifting story which makes the lead character question what is important in his life.
Nighy is supported by Spotlight members Aimee Lou Wood and Tom Burke in this period drama which had its gala screening at this year’s London Film Festival and will be released in UK cinemas in November.
4. The Banshees of Inisherin (Ireland)
Cast by Louise Kiely
Martin McDonagh brings this Irish folk tale to the London Film Festival after receiving critical acclaim at Venice Film Festival earlier this year. After the success of his previous features Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) and In Bruges (2008), McDonagh remains a firm favourite of the festival circuit. Re-uniting Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin, tells the tale of two best friends who, unbeknownst to one, have had a brutal fallout. As is traditional in small towns, all the locals make it their business to get involved in the dispute and this builds tension between the pair.
In true McDonagh style, The Banshees of Inisherin is full of dark comedy and is a sure-fire hit.
5. The Wonder (Ireland/UK)
Cast by Louise Kiely
Starring rising star and Academy Award nominee Florence Pugh, The Wonder is a period drama that tells the story of two strangers who enter each other’s lives in an unconventional way and challenge each other’s faith.
Filmed in Ireland for Netflix and based on the novel of the same name, The Wonder has received critical acclaim from its appearance at both Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival and is scheduled to be released on Netflix in November 2022.
6. Allelujah (UK)
Cast by Nina Gold
Set in a geriatric ward in a small hospital in Yorkshire threatened with closure, Allelujah, tells the story of the staff and patients who decide to fight back with a musical concert to raise funds and awareness for the hospital. They invite a news crew to document their journey and face twists and turns along the way.
Allelujah has a jam-packed cast of British performers including David Bradley, Dame Judi Dench and Jennifer Saunders and featured in the Special Presentations category of this year’s festival.
7. Lady Chatterley’s Lover (UK/USA)
Cast by Kharmel Cochrane
Spotlight member Emma Corrin leads the cast in this dramatic retelling of the classic D.H. Lawrence novel. When Lady Constance Chatterley finds herself falling out of love with her husband she develops a desire for Oliver Mellors (Jack O’Connell), a local man who works on the Chatterley estate, leading to a steamy love affair like no other.
Directed by French filmmaker and actress Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, Lady Chatterley’s Lover has received positive reactions from the London Film Festival and is set to have a short theatrical release before becoming available to stream on Netflix from 2 December 2022.
8. She Is Love (UK)
Taking place in just 24 hours, She is Love tells the story of estranged divorcees played by Sam Riley and Haley Bennett who stumble into each other’s company unexpectedly. Directed by British filmmaker Jamie Adams, the film is told through an improvisational technique where the performers were given loose explanations of the scenes and then left to create the dialogue between themselves.
A wholesome and experimental look at the emotions left in an abandoned marriage, She is Love had its world premiere at this year’s BFI London Film Festival.
9. The Swimmers (UK/US)
Cast by Shaheen Baig
The Swimmers tells the story of Yusra Mardini and her sister Sara who escape war-torn Syria to travel across the Aegean Sea in an attempt to make it to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Directed by Sally El Hosaini, whose first film My Brother the Devil premiered at LFF in 2012, brings The Swimmers back to London following its premiere at Toronto International Film Festival.
10. My Father’s Dragon (Ireland)
Cast by Amy Lippens
Academy Award-nominated Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon attended the London Film Festival again this year with their latest animated feature My Father’s Dragon, which features the voice acting talents of Jacob Tremblay, Gaten Matarazzo and Whoopi Goldberg. Telling the fantastical fable of Elmer who, after moving to the big city with his mother, goes on an adventure to find a dragon who can solve all his problems.
Told through the art of beautiful 2D animation, My Fathers Dragon is an exciting adventure family-friendly drama and will be available on Netflix in November.
The 2022 London Film Festival has been jam-packed with stories from all over the globe and has delivered an abundance of cinematic gems for you to watch out for.
Charlie works at Spotlight in the Membership Support team. Alongside work, she is a film critic for a number of outlets including The Film Magazine, CinemaSavvy and Filmhounds, all of which are featured on her blog. In addition to these ventures, she has just finished her Masters in Film and On Screen Media at Birkbeck University.
Photo credit: Krists Luhaers / Unsplash