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61st BFI London Film Festival: Thoroughbreds Review

13th October 2017 | Films

61st BFI London Film Festival: Thoroughbreds Review

Perhaps one of the less expected treats to come out of the BFI London Film Festival is Thoroughbreds - what happens when two rich girls with something ‘not quite right’ team up to get through adolescence.

Set in Connecticut, USA the film centres on Amanda (played by Olivia Cooke) and Lily (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), two teenage girls who, at first, seem to be worlds apart.

Amanda (who has recently committed a shocking act and is essentially in isolation) is emotionally empty and distant – so her Mum sets her up with old friend Lily… an awkward encounter. However, what at first is a forced coming together of old friends (one who has seemingly grown into a psychopath, and the other has become a perfect student) becomes a reigniting of old friendship, and perhaps unexpected similarities.

And death, that’s included too. Well, murder – well plotted murder.

Perhaps the best feature of this is the shift in characters; how director Cory Finley makes two worldly different characters seem so similar as the film progresses. Even in their one-dimensional, emotionless state both characters are so multi-dimensional and intriguing; you can’t help but wonder what they’re up to even after the film ends.

With an official release in March 2018, Thoroughbreds may be the film of the year that is able to make the indie-to-mainstream cross-over in a similar way to ‘Boyhood’ a few years ago.

It’s evil, it’s smart and it’s layered beyond belief – Thoroughbreds should not be missed.

5 STARS (out of 5)

61st BFI London Film Festival: The Final Year Review

13th October 2017 | Films

61st BFI London Film Festival: The Final Year Review

Living in the Trump Presidency seems scary. It feels like this era has lasted for years, yet it’s not even been a year since Donald Trump assumed office. At the BFI London Film Festival, Greg Barker follows President Obama’s foreign policy year for The Final Year.

Boasting a highly influential cast: Ben Rhodes (Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications aka Obama’s Speechwriter), Samantha Power (US Ambassador to the UN), John Kerry (Secretary of State) and Susan Rice (National Security Advisor) alongside President Obama himself, Barker successfully counts down the final year of Obama’s Presidency – showing what was actually happening behind the scenes whilst the team were attempting to make their final big breakthroughs before the Presidency ended.

The documentary is inspiring and – whilst being very biased – does give an accurate look into what life must be like with that level of power. There are very few instances where the Presidency is seen as being “flawed”. Whilst these staffers are undeniably heroes to many worldwide, the film only lends a few moments to incidents such as Ben Rhodes’ controversy, when he said that all journalists of the White House Press Core “know nothing”.

Another bum note of the film is how it seems to systematically ignore the looming doom of Trump’s Presidency. Whilst there are a couple of scenes on the night of the election, and the thoughts thereafter, before then it fails to properly address the White House’s thoughts and feelings about what may be about to come.

Whilst looking back isn’t always helpful, The Final Year shows what better days, with a properly functioning White House, looks like – perhaps a set-up replicated by the next President?

Despite the obvious bias and missing key news events…

61st BFI London Film Festival: Battle of the Sexes Review

13th October 2017 | Films

61st BFI London Film Festival: Battle of the Sexes Review

The American Express Gala at the BFI London Film Festival this year was Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carrell.

Based on the truly inspirational story of Billie Jean King (tennis star-turned-activist who demanded equal pay for women against all odds), the film is a stark reminder of just how slow some of the necessary progress has been over the past five decades.

Set in the early 1970s, Steve Carrell plays Bobby Riggs – a washed out tennis champion looking for his opportunity once again. Emma Stone plays Billie Jean King, who is at the top of her game in tennis whilst combatting the everyday sexism which the industry has gotten too used to.

During the first half, film makers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris focus on the creation of the ‘Virginia Slims Circuit’ (now known as the Women’s Tennis Association) – created after the National Tennis League refused to pay men and women equal prize funds. To prove them wrong, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and her manager/friend Gladys Heldman (played perfectly by Sarah Silverman) set-up the new, women-only tournament.

The theme running through-out the film, but perhaps perfectly nuanced during the first half of the film, is the strength of the women tennis players who, with the fear of being abandoned and isolated from the tennis community, took matters into their own hand.

During the tour, Billie Jean King also develops a romantic relationship with Marilyn Barnett (her hairdresser, played by Andrea Riseborough) as the film also explores issues of sexual tension and same-sex relationships; also at a time when this isn’t accepted.

The second half of the film focuses on one of the most famous matches in history – King versus Riggs; the “male…