Billing itself as “the world's longest continually-running film festival,” the Edinburgh International Film Festival opens its 71st edition today with Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country, one of five films Alistair Harkness recommends from the lineup in the Scotsman: “Already described as ‘the British Brokeback Mountain,’ this year’s opening night film will hopefully transcend such reductive labeling with its tale of a repressed Yorkshire sheep farmer (Josh O’Connor) whose isolated life is transformed when he falls for a Romanian migrant worker (Alec Secareanu).”
The Edinburgh Reporter’s Matthew Farnham notes that this year’s edition will close on July 2 with Mark Gill’s England is Mine, “bookending 151 features from 46 countries ranging from big budget movies to independent films.” Among those attending will be Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon, Oliver Stone, and Stanley Tucci. “Richard E. Grant also appears as part of The Future is History retrospective delivering a range of exclusive events and screenings as the EIFF takes a look back to the 1970s/1980s to explore questions of identity in a world where seismic changes are taking place in both social and political landscapes.”
England Is Mine is one of ten films William Carroll recommends at Little White Lies: “An unauthorized biography of Steven Patrick Morrissey, one of music’s most incendiary figures, is always going to turn heads. England Is Mine seeks to do just that, offering up an intimate portrayal of the Smiths frontman that explores his ambitions, disappointments, and creative coming-of-age as a teenager in Manchester.”
Writing for the BFI, Stephen Dalton has twenty recommendations, including That Good Night: “A terminally ill writer aims to make peace with friends and family before the final curtain falls in this poignant Edinburgh world premiere from director Eric Styles. That Good Night was a striking choice of swansong project for the late John Hurt, who filmed this final star performance while undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.”
As reviews of note appear throughout the festival’s run, we’ll be flagging them here.
Update, 6/23: Wendy Ide for Screen on That Good Night: “In his final role, the late Sir John Hurt plays a terminally ill writer struggling to come to terms with his own mortality, to rebuild the wreckage of his family and to die with some semblance of dignity. The poignancy of the casting, and Hurt’s typically fine work in the role, is the main selling point of this domestic drama, based on a stage play by N. J. Crisp. So effortlessly good is Hurt, however, that he rather outclasses the rest of this somewhat workmanlike picture.”
Updates, 6/24: Introducing her interview with Francis Lee for the Playlist, Jessica Kiang calls God’s Own Country “a tribute to the landscape; a mulchy, earthy homage to farmwork; an immigrant song; and of course, it’s a story of gay love. The Brokeback Mountain comparisons are unavoidable, and apt, but also, God’s Own Country represents a shift in terms of queer cinema: it is unapologetic about its characters’ sexuality (and there are some fairly graphic, tactile, visceral sex scenes) but it is also not actually about their sexuality at all.”
“Danny Huston returns to directing after a twenty year hiatus with The Last Photograph, a film which takes the tragic loss of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland as a device to explore one man’s grief and the process of letting go,” writes Screen’s Wendy Ide. “The fragmented structure and sometimes impressionistic approach owes something to the tone poem filmmaking of Terrence Malick. However, although the story deals with emotionally wrenching themes, there is a coolness here which keeps us at arm’s length.”
Updates, 6/25: God’s Own Country “has a cumulative power that sneaks up on you even as you think you’re keeping track of it, and a twilit afterglow that hasn’t faded yet,” writes the Telegraph’s Robbie Collin.
“Director Phyllida Lloyd delivers a riposte to the idea that cinema derived from theater is somehow a static, inflexible affair with her vital all-female production of Julius Caesar,” writes Screen’s Fionnuala Halligan. “Set in a women’s prison, and derived from her touring Donmar Warehouse trilogy (which also included The Tempest and Henry IV), this live-shot show (over two nights) is a hybrid of theater, event cinema and something more shockingly intimate and connective.”
And Wendy Ide on My Pure Land: “Set and filmed in Pakistan, the film takes as its theme the land disputes which are relatively common in the country and are frequently biased against female ownership of property. This solid debut from Sarmad Masud, whose short film Two Dosas was long-listed for both a BAFTA and an Oscar, is produced by Bill Kenwright.”
Update, 6/27: “I made Born in Flames in 1983 for about $70,000,” Lizzie Borden tells Katherine McLaughlin at Little White Lies. “It came out of that New York new wave scene which included women like Bette Gordon, but was more political. It was controversial for a number of reasons . . . there was some controversy about whether I had the right to make a film about black women and because along the way I was given a couple of grants. Because it was during the Reagan administration people were angry that I had gotten any grants at all for this kind of movie. It’s now having a renaissance because of Donald Trump. Who knew things could be worse for women now than back then in terms of policies?”
Update, 6/29: Christopher O’Keeffe talks with Francis Lee for ScreenAnarchy.
Update, 6/30: God’s Own Country has won the top prize, the Michael Powell Award, reports Screen’s Tom Grater. More awards:
- Best Performance in a British Feature Film: Emily Beecham for her performance in Daphne and Anne Reid for her roles in Kaleidoscope and Romans.
- Best International Feature Film: Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov’s Glory.
- Best Documentary Feature Film: Chico Pereira’s Donkeyote. Special mention: Thomas Riedelsheimer’s Leaning into the Wind.
- Best Short Film: Daisy Jacobs’s The Full Story. Special mentions: Kevin Pickering’s Close to the Bone and Gordon Napier’s 1745.
- McLaren Award for Best British Animation: Paloma Baeza’s Poles Apart.
- EIFF Works in Progress: Michal Sulima’s Piano to Zanskar.
The Best of the Fest program begins today and runs through Sunday.
Update, 7/1: “A boisterous first feature, directed by self-taught filmmaker Benjamin Barfoot and written by the film’s star, [Danny] Morgan, Double Date attempts to combine the blokish humor of The Inbetweeners with a country house horror premise not dissimilar to that of Kim Chapiron’s Sheitan or Jordan Peele’s Get Out,” writes Screen’s Wendy Ide. And “ultimately, there’s little here which sets this low budget genre picture apart from the movies it borrows from.”
Update, 7/3: “A mid-tempo mope through the pre-Smiths years of indie icon Morrissey, Oscar-nominated Mark Gill's feature-debut England Is Mine struggles to evoke the atmosphere of its setting—Manchester, 1976-1982—and to bring its tantalizingly enigmatic subject into satisfying focus,” writes Neil Young for the Hollywood Reporter. “The shadow of Control—a radically more successful immersion in the working-class music-scene of north-west England in the late 1970s—hangs especially heavily over England Is Mine.”
Update, 7/8: “It was on Edinburgh’s Princes Street that most people got their first look at actor Ewen Bremner,” writes Christopher O'Keeffe, introducing his interview at ScreenAnarchy. “In the role of loveable addict Spud, he was sighted running down the famous shopping street with best pal Renton in tow, stolen gear falling by the wayside and security guards hot on their heels as Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ soundtracked the chase.” Bremner talks about T2 Trainspotting, Wonder Woman, and more.
For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.