London Film Festival – Round Up (part 1)

‘Conviction’ (USA, 2010)

‘Conviction’ is the latest film in a long line of American films that explore the idea of the ‘American Dream’. A horrific murder is pinned on the local bad boy (brilliantly played by Sam Rockwell), convicted by unconvincing testimony and circumstantial evidence (he had the same blood type as the perpetrator), Kenny is sentenced to life without parole, only his sister (convincingly played by Hilary Swank) believes in his innocence. Spurned by her belief, Beth is inspired to get her GED, go to college and complete law school, all while juggling two boys and her ex-husband. It’s all very channel 5 afternoon movie territory, and will no doubt be on the Oscar shortlist.

The performances are fine, but the directing and script were pedestrian – nothing happens that isn’t about moving us from A to B to C and pivotal moments (the DNA, finding the evidence etc…) are treated mundanely. There was a moment when one of Betty-Ann’s boys implied she had wasted her life, and I had to agree – Betty-Ann seemed very one-note and actually came across as more selfish than heroic, something which I’m sure isn’t true of real life.

A decently made film, but nothing worth waiting for.

‘Nothing’s All Bad’ (Denmark, 2010)

A touching, shocking, bizarre and farcical debut from Danish director Mikkel Munch-Fals. Ingeberg (Bodil Jørgensen ) has just retired and her lost her husband, her daughter Anna (Mille Lehfeldt ) is recovering from a mastectomy, Anders (Henrik Prip) has just lost his wife and son Jonas (Sebastian Jessen ), who will ultimately link them all together in one of the most awkward Christmas dinners seen on screen!

Searching for company, Ingeberg encounters Jonas selling himself at a local bar, she takes him home and pays for his services. Anders is unable to control the urge to expose himself in the park, Anna becomes one of his unwitting victims. In a search to feel something, Anna takes part in a dingy amateur porn film with Jonas her partner and in an desperate attempt to control his sexual urges Anders attempts to mutilate himself before finally encountering Ingeberg at the hospital.

It’s a joyous farce! The only weak note was an extended section where a homeless Jonas is taken in by a seemingly nice couple but they are not as they appear to be. Great performances from Kurt Ravn (one of my favourite Valjean’s) and Michelle Bjørn-Andersen.

‘The Book of Masters’ (Russia, 2009)

This is Disney’s first Russian production and it’s certainly an odd one! A fantastical mix of several traditional Russian folk tales held together with a central tale of the stone countess. Visually, it looks a lot like the Disney films from the early 1980s, with little moments of primitive CGI effects (the creation of the stone warriors and the talking ball of wool).

It’s charming and has a nostalgic feel about it but I don’t think it’ll be wowing audiences and it’ll also be interesting to see what’s next from Disney-Russia.

‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ (USA, 2010)

A charming if sometimes unconvincing comedy from the creators of ‘Half Nelson’. It’s very aware of its associations and of the clichés the film creeps around but rather than feeling self-indulgent, they feel like polite nods to the audience.

The characters for the most part are believable, they fall down with their attempts at off-the-wall but Bobby (Zach Galifianakis ) and Craig (Keir Gilchrist ) are the most believable. There’s genuinely touching moments and the laughs don’t feel forced. Recommended.

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