Darius Azadeh reviews three films from the 2019 London Film Festival.
Clemency – 5/5
If this isn’t going forward as a serious Oscar contender, it’s hard to judge what will be. Not only featuring intensely gripping performances from Alfre Woodard and Aldis Hodge, this sharply edited, gripping thriller centred around death row prison warden Bernadine Williams (Woodard) is a true tour de force from director Chinonye Chukwu. Never getting bogged down in overbearing or heavy handed morality questions nor sentimentality, what we’re given is an unforgiving look at the toll executions take on the executioners. Williams’ struggles with each prisoner are incredibly engaging, especially when it comes to the possibly wrongly convicted Anthony Woods (Hodge). Chuckwu’s script continuously adds layers of depth that really enrich these characters.
Deerskin – 4/5
Have you ever had a jacket that you loved so much that you’d go to any lengths to get it? Georges (Jean Dujardin) is in a similar dilemma. Breezing into the remote French countryside seemingly out of nowhere, he begins his journey by spending €7,500 on the 100% deerskin jacket of his dreams, fringes and all. However, after his personal demons catch up to him, his plan to impersonate a broke filmmaker eventually drags in local waitress Denise (BPM’s Adèle Haenel). His mind slowly becomes clouded by thoughts of extortion, and his beloved jacket actually starts talking to him. The film is as mad as it sounds, and utterly hilarious the whole way through.
Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project – 2/5
What begins as a mildly interesting walk through the topic of cultural preservation slowly tires into a messy portrait of a politically motivated figure with no real sense of focus. Charting the public’s response to major society-altering events throughout the 20th century, Matt Wolf’s documentary just cannot seem to find the main justification for bringing this story to the silver screen, as the narrative sways between a Marion Stokes biopic and a news article clip show, never seeming to strike a balance between the two. While some clips are structured into well researched sequences that provide an interesting spin on how news channels tried to deal with events such as 9/11, most of the runtime is spent trying to decide what story it’s actually telling.
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