The Fan Carpet's Top 10 Anticipated Highlights at the 59th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

The Fan Carpet’s Top 10 Anticipated Highlights at the 59th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express

17 September 2015

As we are nearing the 59th BFI London Film Festival (7-18 October, tickets on sale 17 Sept), this year’s festival is jam packed with Hollywood A-listers, great filmmakers and brilliant storytelling. High profile films such as Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet) Carol (Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara) and Black Mass (Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch) are making their UK debuts and it’s a chance for audiences to catch them before they hit the cinemas.

Away from the glare of the spotlight there are hundreds of other great films waiting to be seen including the 12 films in Official Competition! There is something for everyone across the programme, you name it – thrillers, romance, biopics, documentaries and comedies – they are all represented!

Festival Information & Ticket Booking

BFI Members’ priority booking opens 10am, 10 September

Public booking opens 10am, 17 September

Telephone Bookings: 020 7928 3232 between 10:00 – 20:30

Online | In person: BFI Southbank Office: 11:00 – 20:30

Here are our anticipated highlights for the 59th BFI London Film Festival, stay tuned to The Fan Carpet for more from the festival as it happens...




Dir Sarah Gavron
UK 2015. 106min.
Suffragette is an urgent and compelling film – made by British women, about British women who changed the course of history – and it is, quite simply, a film that everyone must see. Director Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane, Village at the End of the World) returns to the Festival with an intense drama that traces the story of the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement as they fought for the right to vote. Maud (Carey Mulligan) has worked hard and exploitative hours in the same factory job since she was a girl; her only respite is the affection of her husband (Ben Whishaw) and their sweet young son. When her deepening friendship with fellow worker and activist Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) fuels her sense of injustice, she commits to the suffrage cause. Maud joins at the same time that the movement becomes more radical and violent, spurred on by the rousing leadership of Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep) and in reaction to the increasingly hostile interventions of the state. In joining the fight for equality, she unites with women who risk their jobs, their homes, their children and their lives. Gavron and award-winning writer Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady, Shame) make strong and decisive dramatic choices by giving presence to the women that history remembers – Pankhurst, Edith New (Helena Bonham Carter) and Emily Davison (Natalie Press) – while pivoting the story on an everywoman whose experience stands in for the many activists whose names have been lost, but whose actions have prevailed. Mulligan is transfixing in the central role, bringing vulnerability and strength to a character whose story is both heartbreaking and inspirational. Universal in its themes, yet London-specific in setting, this is the first British film for which the Houses of Parliament opened its doors as a location. With the centennial of women garnering the vote in the UK approaching, the time to remember suffrage is definitely now.




Dir Todd Haynes.
USA-UK 2015. 118min.
Cinema at its most intoxicating and immaculate, Todd Haynes’ Carol is a deeply romantic, emotionally honest love story about two women who courageously defy the suffocating conformities of mid-century America. Therese (Rooney Mara) is an aspiring photographer, working in a Manhattan department store where she first encounters Carol (Cate Blanchett), an alluring older woman whose marriage is breaking down. Ambushed by their sudden attraction, the two women gravitate toward each other despite the threat their connection poses to both Therese’s relationship with her steady beau and Carol’s custody of her beloved young daughter. Blanchett is magnificent as Carol, whose elegant poise thinly veils her crumbling interior world, whilst Mara is mesmerising as the ingénue whose capacity for love awakens a newfound fearlessness. Phyllis Nagy’s (Mrs. Harris) adaptation deftly retains the rich interiors and exquisite tension of Patricia Highsmith’s groundbreaking novel The Price of Salt, written and published in 1952 at a time when its subject was considered scandalous. Haynes has created a shimmering companion work to both his lush Technicolor melodrama Far From Heaven and the shadowy domestic noir Mildred Pierce, adopting a starkly different, more naturalistic prism through which to examine the contradictory optimism and paranoia of post-war America and its oppressive social mores. Whilst never abandoning its characters and their story, the film also consistently reveals the power of the image itself – Therese’s interest in photography, a glimpse of Sunset Boulevard, and Haynes’ brilliant use of the gaze in the film’s final moments. It also knowingly plays with the image of perfect femininity – the dolls at the counter where Therese works, the Christmas department store trappings reminiscent of Sirk’s Imitation of Life. Haynes’ filmmaking eloquence is sublimely enhanced by the cinematography of frequent collaborator Ed Lachman (who filmed with Super 16mm to produce the muted hues of glamour magazines of the era), the precision of Judy Becker’s production design and the expressive palette of Sandy Powell’s gorgeous costumes.



Dir-Prod Yorgos Lanthimos
UK-Ireland-Greece 2015. 118min
In a near-future dystopia, singledom is outlawed. Anyone not successfully paired up must report to The Hotel, where they have forty-five days to find a mate; otherwise they’re transformed into an animal of their choosing. In desperation, paunchy divorcee David (Colin Farrell) – who selects the eponymous crustacean for its lengthy lifespan and fertility – flees, prepared to take his chances with The Loners, forest dwelling fugitives with their own strict individualistic creed. His international breakthroughs Dogtooth and Alps displayed Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos’s brilliantly inventive dissections of conditioned identity and social oppression, delivered with a distinctive, absurdist comic sensibility. This all-star follow-up (with superb, atypical turns by Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux and John C Reilly) widens the scope while keeping Lanthimos’s ruthless clarity and daring tonal blend of deadpan, surreal humour and quiet horror. Amid dead-on production design and verdant Irish locations, The Lobster is both a bleakly hilarious skewering of fundamentalist diktats and rituals, and a tender plea for genuine intimacy amid society’s self-imposed absurdities. In short, beneath its tough carapace lies the pulsing, tender heart of a fiercely modern love story. Albeit with claws.



Dir Scott Cooper
USA 2015. 124min
With its gritty and absorbing depiction of vice and corruption in Boston, Scott Cooper’s (Crazy Heart) chilling crime drama joins the esteemed ranks of The Departed and legendary TV series The Wire. Adapted from Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill’s acclaimed book, it charts the rise of one of America’s most notorious mobsters. FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) persuades his superiors to let him approach Irish gangster Jimmy ‘Whitey’ Bulger (Johnny Depp) to become an informant for the FBI. Connolly reaches Jimmy via his brother, Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch), a political rising star on the fast track to becoming State Senator. The goal is to eliminate their common enemy – the Italian mob. However Connolly, who draws on a misguided sense of South Boston loyalty, holds none of the power. Initially oblivious to the fact that the alliance he builds is protecting Whitey and allowing him to consolidate his powerbase, Connolly soon realises that if he exposes him, he will cast suspicion on his own actions. Cooper, who has already proved himself a superb director of actors, extracts gripping performances from the stellar ensemble cast, with Depp almost unrecognisable as the brutal, ruthless gangster and Edgerton unnerving as the FBI agent who gets in too deep.




Dir Ben Wheatley
UK 2015
A savage and utterly brilliant satire of both 1960s social idealism and the Thatcherite values that undermined it, High-Rise opens with a dishevelled man (the ever-sublime Tom Hiddleston) eating barbecued dog on the balcony of his trashed apartment, some 25 floors up. Director Ben Wheatley (Sightseers, Kill List) and regular collaborator and screenwriter Amy Jump tear into JG Ballard’s classic source novel with brutal gusto, reeling back from this end-game of filthy detritus to a period just months before, when the building was state-of-the-art, a pioneering beacon of modernism. Hiddleston’s character, Dr Robert Laing, has just taken ownership of his luxurious apartment whose lofty location places him amongst the upper echelons. He is immediately drawn into and seduced by the louche culture of nightly cocktail parties, where conversation always comes back to Royal (Jeremy Irons in a pitch perfect performance that screams ‘empire in decline’), the enigmatic architect who designed the building. However, as power outages become more frequent and building flaws emerge, particularly on the lower floors, the regimented social strata begins to crumble. Nihilism, drugs and alcohol feed into wanton sex and destruction, all underscored by Clint Mansell’s wicked music and Mark Tildesley’s designs – revelling in decadent 1970s chic. A long-time passion project for producer Jeremy Thomas, his faith in Wheatley has resulted in a glorious cacophony of excess.




Dir Jay Roach
USA 2015. 124min.
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Argo) gives a cracking performance as Dalton Trumbo, the Hollywood screenwriter who was blacklisted after refusing to testify in the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947. The ‘Hollywood Ten’ remains one of the most sensational stories of the McCarthy era and Trumbo is one of its most enduring names, a bitter irony given that he was not initially credited for his Academy Award winning screenplays – Roman Holiday and The Brave One – both of which were penned whilst the blacklist was in effect. This absurdity is not lost on director Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents) or writer John McNamara, whose engrossing script takes plenty of dramatic (and comedic) licence with the potent historical subject matter. Together they have created a thoroughly entertaining biopic that ripples with a palpable love of Hollywood in its heyday, whilst revealing the hypocrisies and moral turpitude of the time. Diane Lane is superb as Trumbo’s loyal wife Cleo, with Elle Fanning equally captivating as the feisty elder daughter who inherits her father’s political conviction. Amongst the film’s many pleasures are truly memorable performances from Helen Mirren as the infamous gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, John Goodman as an unscrupulous B-movie producer and Louis C.K. as the film’s most poignant and affecting character, a friend and fellow writer who refuses to compromise his principles.



Dir Nicholas Hytner
UK 2015. 104min.
Director Nicholas Hytner and writer Alan Bennett, whose award-winning collaborations have included both the theatrical staging and the screen adaptations of The Madness of King George and The History Boys, return for this witty and insightful adaptation of Bennett’s play. It’s the late 1960s and Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) has just moved to leafy Gloucester Crescent in Camden. No sooner has he arrived than he encounters Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith), a destitute and irascible lady of an indeterminate age who resides in her van up the street. When she outstays her welcome with the neighbours, Bennett takes pity on her and allows her to park the van in his driveway, not realising that she will remain there until her death 15 years later. Bennett uses this rich, real-life story to expand on the themes of community spirit and loneliness, as well as the ways in which dependency builds between writer and subject. The brilliant Maggie Smith reprises the role of Miss Shepherd, having first performed it in Hytner and Bennett’s original 1999 stage production and subsequently for radio in 2009. Her depth of experience with the role is tangible, portraying Miss Shepherd with a frailty, madness and steely reserve that is both amusing and quietly devastating.



Dir Stephen Frears
UK-France 2015. 104min
Director Stephen Frears makes a hugely welcome return to LFF after Philomena in 2013. Joining forces with screenwriter John Hodge (Trainspotting), Frears delivers a kinetic tale of cyclist Lance Armstrong’s inexorable rise to near canonisation and his subsequent vertiginous fall from grace. Starting in the 90s with Armstrong – played here with a zealot-like intensity by a mesmerising Ben Foster – a little-known young cyclist on his first Tour de France being interviewed by sports journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd), and showing ego and ambition to burn. As we scroll through the years with dazzling, pacy style, the furiously driven Armstrong soon comes up against the ultimate foe: his own body, both in his lack of killer physical potential on a gruelling mountain race, but also his own mortality when diagnosed with Stage Three testicular cancer. Through sheer force of will he recovers from cancer and goes on to found one of road racings most successful ever teams, US Postal. Too good to be true? You bet it was. Frears and his team deliver tour-de-force cinema with The Program. In particular, Danny Cohen’s (The King’s Speech, Room) race cinematography takes your breah away. Jesse Plemons is excellent as deeply conflicted fellow cyclist Floyd Landis and O’Dowd perfectly captures the conflict of a man risked his own career to prove Armstrong was a doping cheat. Raw ambition fuels the film, and it’s a seriously thrilling ride.




Dir Lenny Abrahamson
Canada-Ireland 2015. 118min
Bed, Lamp, Skylight, Rug… These are the things that five year- old Jack’s physical world is comprised of. He may have been trapped in an 11-square-foot room since his birth, but he doesn’t see it that way, as the world outside the room doesn’t exist for him. Ma, for whom their captivity is a very real concept, is absolutely determined to raise him properly, employing all the care and imagination she can muster to keep Jack educated, healthy and happy. But when a window of escape suddenly presents itself, Jack is thrust into an entirely new understanding of the world. Adapted by Emma Donoghue from her own 2010 bestseller, Room remains tethered to Jack’s perspective, while Brie Larson makes good on her Short Term 12 (LFF2013) promise with a stunning performance that steers the mother-son relationship clear of cloying sentimentality. Director Lenny Abrahamson (Frank, What Richard Did, Garage, Adam and Paul) continues his eclectic run of projects, transforming the challenge of filming within a tiny, confined space into an opportunity for visual invention. Boasting a fascinating central female character, Room is a wholly cinematic and moving experience that muses on life in captivity, the resilience of young minds and the bonds of parenthood.




Dir-Scr Cary Fukunaga.
USA 2015. 136min.
Cary Fukunaga’s (True Detective, Jayne Eyre, Sin Nombre) unflinching adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala’s 2005 novel of the same name (itself borrowed from Fela Kuti’s 1989 album) is at once enthralling cinema and a gut-wrenching indictment of child exploitation. In an unnamed African country, civil conflict rips through the village where Agu, a sparky young boy, lives with his family. Witnessing unspeakable atrocities, including the brutal execution of his father and older brother, Agu is forced to run for his life. He is discovered, dazed and traumatised, by a group of rebel soldiers and is swiftly incorporated into their ranks by a fierce mercenary. The Commandant (Idris Elba), who receives his own orders from afar and for an unknown purpose keeps his militia fuelled with a heady mix of intoxicating bravado and hard drugs, maintains control through psychological and physical abuse. Rapidly adapting in order to survive, Agu is pushed to unthinkable limits. Idris Elba is charismatic and terrifying as the unhinged Commandant and newcomer Abraham Attah is a revelation as Agu, delivering a performance that (like his character) carries a weight beyond his years. Whilst deeply true to its African subject, the film resonates darkly beyond its situation, serving as a harsh reminder of childhoods destroyed in war zones and deprived urban areas everywhere.


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