Edinburgh Film Festival has a wide showcase of fantastic indie and mainstream films on offer for film fans across the UK. The festival spans two weeks filled with cinematic joy and uncountable bacon sandwiches and here’s our selection of the best of the fest:
Svengali has something special. An immensely watchable, relatable and engaging protagonist is a rare thing and Jonny Owen’s Dixie has an inexhaustible enthusiasm which makes for a very likable lead. The film follows the typical tale of underdog country boy moves to the big city looking for his fortune, but breathes new life into it with it’s lovely cast that are a joy to watch. The main cast offer all they have, with the likes of Martin Freeman and Michael Smiley’s supporting cast rounding out the collection of eclectic characters.
Driven by the core relationship of Dixie and his sympathetic, supportive girlfriend Shell, the film is sweet, funny, lively and enjoyable. You can forgive slight stretches in the narrative when the end result is as well-meaning and fun to watch as this.
4) The Conjuring
The premise of idyllic family moving into haunted house is getting a bit stale in recent years with sequel after sequel of Paranormal Activity and films like Sinister. Don’t make the mistake of bundling The Conjuring in with those, however. This film takes its cue from its setting – the 1970’s and harks back to the horror classics of old while retaining the best of the new. Two parts Exorcist, one part Amityville horror, a sprinkling of Evil Dead and The Orphanage with even the slightest hint of The Birds, this film is a love letter to those that came before it, and it heartily succeeds where so many films that claim similar ancestor’s fail – it doesn’t feel derivative.
The proper story, starts after a clever diversion, with the claim that it is based on the true story of Ed and Lorrain Warren, two supernatural investigators, and their efforts to help the Perron family deal with the malicious spirits inhabiting the house they have moved into. The beginning is slow and does a wonderful job of establishing the cast, ensuring that they are substantial enough for us to care about their fate later in the film. This is helped significantly by the solid performances delivered by each of the main cast, allowing us to believe they are a real family in suffering.
3) Upstream Color
Another standout from the festival, Upstream Color is truly Lynchian in style with a complex, creepy and obscure narrative that draws you in from moment one.
There is very little in the way of explanation in this film, it is up to you as a viewer to keep up and work out what is happening. And it’s all the better for it. Forcing you to pay attention, it’s impossible not to become engaged in this startling mystery until the very end. My main emotion after watching the film was the compelling desire to watch the film all over again, and surely it will improve on a second viewing over what is already a very strong first impression.
Be warned, this is not a Hollywood blockbuster. There is not endless exposition, explanation or action. It’s muted, complex and confident in its execution. 100% worth a watch, but try to avoid any information before you go in to experience the full effect. I’d only read a brief synopsis going in and was caught unawares, surely the best situation to enjoy this film.
2) Everyone’s Going To Die
Relentlessly morbid title aside, this captivating black comedy has enough charm, emotion and laughs to earn its status as a cult classic. After an unsure start, things really kick into gear when the two main characters of this screwball comedy meet. Unachiever Melanie and mid-life crisis suffering Ray are two lost souls who spend a day together that will change their lives.
Don’t let the title put you off, this isn’t a gritty crime thriller about gangsters. Rather, this delightful gem is a heart warming tale of human relationships that reminds that independent British cinema has a lot to offer. It’s refreshing to see a film that is content to remain quietly funny rather than brash and rude. It is restrained when needed but unafraid to let its hair down. Always at the core is the confidence in the magnetism of the central relationship which is more than strong enough to support this lovely film.
1) What Maisie Knew
An updated version of Henry James’ classic novel, it takes the drama of a shattered Victorian family and brings it to the modern day and damn does it do a good job. The acting is spot on for all of the main five roles, Steve Coogan and Julianne Moore play the irresponsible and neglectful parents to perfection whilst Alexander Skarsgård and Joanna Vanderham are perfectly sympathetic as Maisie’s true family. Onata Aprile does a fantastic job as the child Maisie who acts as the bedrock for the film.
The films major strength outside of its great acting is how well it succeeds at showing an adult drama through the eyes of a child. We often only catch only one side of a conversation over a phone call or an argument overheard from another room and it’s this child perspective that amplifies the deeply emotional and sensitive story to a higher level.
There are the best five films from the festival in our humble opinion, but be sure to check out what we thought about a bunch of the others over here.
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