The Australian premiere of actor Andy Serkis’ directorial debut, Breathe will open the 2017 Cunard British Film Festival. Coming straight from opening the 61st BFI London Film Festival, the film stars Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) and Claire Foy (The Crown), in the inspiring true story of a couple who refuse to give up in the face of adversity.
Closing the festival this year is the world premiere of Finding Your Feet, a heart-warming romantic comedy starring Imelda Staunton, John Sessions and Celia Imrie. This feel-good film about a colourful group of defiant and energetic third-agers is filled with grand, old British charm and shows that retirement is, in fact, only the beginning.
In between are some 24 other contemporary and retrospective films from the British Isles. That’s a decent sample of current British cinema; as well as providing an intriguing look back at some classics.
Here are our picks for the festival’s highlights.
The festival’s feature image comes from On Chesil Beach. The adaptation of Ian McEwan’s acclaimed novella marks the directorial debut from former Royal Court Theatre head Dominic Cooke. Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle star as a young couple facing serious issues within their marriage.
In contrast to the serious themes of On Chesil Beach, Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin is a political spoof on the last days of the hated dictator. Iannucci will be familiar as writer of In The Loop and the creator of Veep and The Thick of It . The film features Steve Buscemi (Fargo), Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent), and Jason Isaacs (Fury).
Keeping in a historical vein, The Exception presents a fascinating scenario. This adaptation of Alan Judd’s novel explores German Kaiser Wilhelm II’s final days spent exiled in the Netherlands during the onset of World War. The film features screen legend Christopher Plummer and Academy Award nominee Janet McTeer.
At the other end of the scale, you can step into the storied world of Manolo Blahnik with the documentary, Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes For Lizards. Featuring interviews with Anna Wintour, Rihanna and Karlie Kloss among others, director Michael Roberts presents a never-before-seen peek into Blahnik’s world, offering an in-depth portrait of the legendary designer.
Jamie Bell has come a long way since Billy Elliot and he features in two films at the festival. First up is 6 Days, a taut thriller that explores what happened when gunmen invaded the Iranian embassy in London in 1980. Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes) and Abbie Cornish (Somersault) co-star. Then he pops up in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. Based on actor Peter Turner’s memoir, the film tells the story of the romance between Hollywood icon Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) and her much younger lover, played by Bell.
The festival’s key retrospective is Classic Clues – Solving a British Mystery. The six-film program captures the intrigue and suspense of classic British mysteries. The section includes four Agatha Christie classics including Murder on the Orient Express (1974); a new version of which is being released later this year). Death on the Nile (1978), Evil Under the Sun (1982) and The Mirror Crack’d (1980) complete the Christies. The retrospective also includes screenings of Victim (1961), the brilliant mystery thriller that smashed through 1960s homosexual taboos; and the 50th anniversary restoration of Antonioni’s masterpiece, Blow-Up (1966).
Other key highlights include: Tulip Fever, a tale of art, beauty, lust, greed, deception and retribution starring Academy Award winners Alicia Vikander and Christoph Waltz; the highly anticipated and delightful Goodbye Christopher Robin, a rare glimpse into the relationship between beloved children’s author A. A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin, who inspired ‘Winnie the Pooh’; music documentary A Life in Twelve Bars, taking a look at the life and work of guitarist Eric Clapton; and The Bookshop starring Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson and Bill Nighy, the story of a woman who decides against fierce opposition to open a bookshop: a decision that becomes a political minefield.
To purchase tickets and for more information visit www.britishfilmfestival.com.au. The cities and dates for the 2017 British Film Festival are:
Sydney: 24 October – 15 November
Melbourne: 26 October – 15 November
Brisbane: 25 October – 15 November
Canberra: 25 October – 15 November
Adelaide: 25 October – 15 November
Perth: 26 October – 15 November
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Czech and Slovak Film Festival 2018 – movie preview
- Brisbane International Film Festival 2017 – preview
- CLOSED: Win tickets to the Russian Resurrection Film Festival
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television