BFI London Film Festival

Matt Micucci continues his reports from the 56th BFI London Film Festival with a look at Starred Up, Ilo Ilo & Like Father, Like Son.

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Starred Up – David MacKenzie

David MacKenzie takes the essence of the domestic drama of a difficult father son relationship and confines it to the tense and claustrophobic setting of a prison. Starred Up is the story of a rebellious teenage inmate whose angry life deteriorates when he is transferred to the same prison as his father. The father’s attempts at helping his son, in fact, seem to do nothing but fuel Eric’s rage even more and risk putting him into more trouble with the guards. MacKenzie digs deep within the psychology of the characters and their somewhat distorted and selfish priorities. In the end, this testosterone filled drama is also a harrowing and hard-hitting intimate portrayal made even deeper and more compelling by the wonderful magnetic performances of Jack O’Connell and Ben Mendelsohn who invest body and soul in their honest and sometimes disturbing interpretations of father and son.

 

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Ilo Ilo – Anthony Chen

Set in Singapore, a working couple decide that they need a live in maid to do chores around the house and help them look after their young troublesome kid. However, as this intimate family portrait in which we get a glimpse of the everyday struggles of each of the main four characters progresses, we soon realise that the couple is seriously struggling on both emotional and financial grounds particularly stressed by the lack of job opportunities and another child on the way.  In spite of the seriousness of some of the domestic subject which it deals with, such as insecurities and disenchantments, Anthony Chen’s impressive feature film debut is both emotional and humorous. In fact, sometimes Ilo Ilo feels like a satirical take on the self imposed everyday struggles of modern families and their vulnerable natures which occasionally leads them down self-destructive paths and to having to deal with small or big crises.

 

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Like Father, Like Son – Hirokazu Kore-eda

The lives of two very different Japanese families are shaken when they discover six years later that a mix up in a hospital inadvertently swapped their two male babies. This bombshell inevitably leads to much psychological and emotional distress on both sides of the story, and especially in the father of one of the families who is led down a road of deep and meaningful re-evaluations of fatherhood as well as reflection own struggles with exposing his own emotions. After dealing with the separation of a pair of young siblings in his previous work I Wish, Kore-eda returns to the domestic drama territory in a profoundly moving film. However, apart from the story and thought provoking discourse, which also carefully contrasts family traditionalism with modernism, the filmmaker also employs a tasteful kind of style in bringing the story to the screen which is tastefully defined and doesn’t shift the attention away from the intimacy of the meditative nature of Like Father, Like Son and its difficult themes.

Matt Micucci

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