09/10/2019 A Daring Double Bill – LFF Day 7
Last night’s double bill of films at the BFI London Film Festival couldn’t have been more different. Nathalie Biancheri’s feature debut, Nocturnal, is a lowkey melodrama about an older man’s preoccupation with a teenage girl, where things are not what they seem. Eternal Beauty, on the other hand, is an idiosyncratic and often whimsical dramedy centring on one woman’s (the always reliable Sally Hawkins) experiences living with paranoid schizophrenia – it’s surprisingly funny, and deliberately so according to director Craig Roberts.
Further cementing himself as a welcome new face in British independent cinema, Cosmo Jarvis commands the screen in Nocturnal, as a dispirited and enigmatic handyman. Whether he’s painting a wall or trying to punch through it, he makes every little gesture count and you can’t take your eyes off him. Between this film and his staggering turn in Calm with Horses, Jarvis is one of the most notable talents from this year’s LFF’s programme. The film around Jarvis’ moody work is relatively no-frills, allowing for the lived-in performances to speak for themselves and propel the developing drama, as shocking revelations come to the fore.
Eternal Beauty was introduced by LFF Programme Advisor Leigh Singer at last night’s screening as being unlike anything their team had seen before, which he affirmed as a very good thing. After watching the film for myself, I’m inclined to agree. Charting the everyday highs and lows of Jane, a paranoid schizophrenic played with dazzling authenticity by Sally Hawkins, Eternal Beauty explores the shades of mental health beyond only the tribulations; writer/director Craig Roberts detailed how the story was a deeply personal one, inspired by a real-life figure he knows who has the condition. Strengthened by pitch-perfect casting across the board, the roster of scene-stealing supporting players includes Penelope Wilton as Jane’s formidable mum and Billie Piper as her deadpan sister.
Capping off my LFF experience are three queer cinema offerings, screening tonight and tomorrow evening. No coincidence there, I actively seek out LGBT films at LFF each year since the festival has a stellar record of showcasing queer stories and marginalised voices. Been very much looking forward to these ones.