The London Film Festival announced its full line-up this year and it’s as jam-packed as you’d expect. Plenty of earlier festival favourites will be making their British premiere this October, as awards favourites scramble to come out on top in what looks to be a very crowded season. Over in Venice, we’ve already seen some potential front-runners, including Alexander Payne’s sci-fi satire Downsizing and Guillermo del Toro’s Cold War romance of sleeping with the fishes, The Shape of Water. One film that could make a splash at London following its triumphant premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival is You Were Never Really Here.
Scottish director Lynne Ramsay hasn’t made a film since 2011’s We Need To Talk About Kevin. She was supposed to direct the Natalie Portman starring Western Jane Got a Gun, but didn’t turn up on the first day of shooting amidst arguments over creative control, and many thought this mess would prevent her from working in the industry in the future. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened, and her comeback movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix, stormed to success at Cannes, winning Best Screenplay and Best Actor (which greatly confused its leading man). This was no mean feat given the competition and the reality that Ramsay had submitted the film into competition before it was even finished. Apparently, she had only finished the edit on the film in the week leading up to its premiere.
Frequently compared to Taxi Driver - or an arthouse version of Taken - You Were Never Really Here is an adaptation of a Jonathan Ames novella, centred on an intensely damaged former Gulf War veteran turned retired FBI agent who works freelance to extract trafficked girls from brothels, and the case that goes horribly wrong. That set-up sounds like any number of bad action movies, but Ramsay has been credited with turning that premise into a sharp, splintered drama of the effects of trauma that many critics called a masterpiece. That’ll be good news for Amazon Studios, who plonked down $3.5m for the film, but the movie doesn’t yet have a US release date, nor does it have a presence at any of the North American festivals. Hopefully the film won’t fall by the wayside in a busy year or be dismissed as too out there for the Academy.
It’s also only 95 minutes long. Ah, remember when films were manageable lengths and not 200 minute monstrosities of butt-numbing agony?