The stand-out film for me on day one of screenings was Mudbound. Already well buzzed and with a 5-star Guardian review out of Sundance, Dee Rees' second dramatic feature is caked dry with earthy authenticity. I went in with manicured hands and left with dirt under my fingernails. Normally voiceover or internal dialogue niggles me, as it's usually used lazily. But Rees put it to work masterfully here to build atmosphere and to give a poetic voice to an ensemble of characters, who in post-War Mississippi wouldn't have had much to say, not out loud anyhow. It's the story of a determined farmer, who moves his educated wife (Carey Mulligan) to a farm in the Southern state, and the impact of that move on his family and the black family that rents land from him. It weaves a rich tapestry that also comments on the impact of service in WW2 on two young men from each family, black and white, and simmering racial tensions of the region in that period. We hope to bring you exclusive screenings of this title in November, so watch this space.
Although I saw it in London, a special mention and congratulations to all involved for Borg vs McEnroe, which is being release by Curzon in the UK on 22 September (book now) and enjoyed its world premiere as opening film of the festival tonight, with Shia LaBeouf on the red carpet.
The Swedish-made sports drama of events leading up to the 1980 Wimbledon final is an entertaining blast with a lot of heart and its characterisation of both men is superbly and insightfully handled. A masterstroke of casting, ‘The Beef’ is basically awesome, encapsulating McEnroe in spirit as well as doppelgänger Sverrir Gudnason mirrors Borg so well physically. The film’s greatest achievement is to playfully turn the tables on both men’s historical reputations: Borg as the ‘iceman’ in perfect control of his emotions and McEnroe as a fiery torrent of passion. The truth (the film’s thesis) is that the precision in Borg’s approach was a failing safety mechanism masking a background of youthful rage and self-doubt, while McEnroe’s obsession with beating the champion gave him intense focus.
By the way, my five hour delayed flight meant I missed my ritualistic pre-festival tidy up at my favourite Toronto barber. I needed it too, dragging myself off the plane looking like Leo DiCaprio crawling through the snow in The Revenant. So I used a gap between films today today to try out a new place with disastrous results. I gave my hipster barber a five-point plan for my beard trim - he ignored four of them, and today my beard has drawn comparisons to General Zod, John Goodman in The Big Lebowski and Jeremy Beadle.
Don't worry, I showed him what's what like a true Brit; meaning I said "good job!", tipped him 15% and then phoned both my wife and my mum to complain.