BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2022 – an Alternative Lens mega-review

After attending London Film Festival last year for the very first time on a professional basis, this year I wanted to expand my coverage slightly. This entailed seeing even more films, writing more full written reviews, and reaching out to write for outlets outside of Alternative Lens. Whilst I perhaps didn’t succeed in these goals to the level I might have hoped, various other circumstances prevented that. Still, I saw a lot of movies in a very short amount of time, and here I am to recap them all. There’s a few of these I may do full reviews of further down the line when they hit general release, but for now enjoy this lovely tasting platter of films; from the big awards season spectaculars to the smaller pictures in need of a little love:

Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical

Release Date: 25th November (UK), 9th December (US [limited]), 25th December (Netflix)

Danny DeVito’s 1996 adaptation of Matilda is still considered a childhood classic to many, so even as an adaptation of the stage musical rather than the book, this had some massive shoes to fill but does so effortlessly. Buoyed by stellar performances from Lashana Lynch, Emma Thompson and newcomer Alisha Weir, Matilda the Musical is a boisterous and hilarious romp from start to finish that recontextualises Dahl’s story for a modern age. The way it highlights Matilda’s abuse and how that relates to her powers is an especially welcome embellishment, making this also a way to introduce young audiences to such a vital topic. What a fun way to kick off a rollercoaster of a festival! 8/10

Read my full review on Next Best Picture here

The Eternal Daughter

Release Date: TBC (US, UK)

Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographic ghost story features a dual performance from Tilda Swinton as a mother and daughter spending a weekend at a country hotel for the former’s birthday. A suitably spooky and melancholy affair broken up with touches of dry humour, The Eternal Daughter has an interesting perspective on the often-frayed mother-daughter relationship, but it leaves a little too much to the imagination and its twist is given away by the blatant filmmaking choices. Shout-out to Carly-Sophia Davies as the stoic hotel receptionist, whose intensely laidback attitude never stops being funny. 6/10

Tilda Swinton as Julie in THE ETERNAL DAUGHTER (2022, d. Joanna Hogg)


Release Date: 23rd December (US), 30th December (UK)

Phantom Thread’s Vicky Krieps leads this period drama about the infamous Empress Elizabeth of Austria. This was what ended up winning Best Film at the fest, but to be honest I didn’t see what the fuss was about. Krieps herself delivers a compelling performance as the promiscuous and self-destructive royal, but there’s a severe lack of debauchery and decadence needed in a film with this subject matter; it’s all too reserved and safe. At least the costumes are to die for. 5/10

White Noise

Release Date: 25th November (US [limited]), 30th December (Netflix)

Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel is a complete departure from the director’s usual grounded dramedies, stepping into full-on absurdist satire in one of the most idiosyncratic films of the year. Adam Driver and Don Cheadle deliver some of their most memorable characters yet, the way Baumbach so abruptly yet effortlessly switches genre throughout and perfectly imitates so many other filmmakers is phenomenal, and Danny Elfman’s score may be one of the best of his lengthy career. It’s the closest I’ve ever seen a movie capture the unimitable magic of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, and from me that’s incredibly high praise. 9/10

Read my full review on Alternative Lens here

The Origin

Release Date: TBC (US, UK)

A low-budget horror set in prehistoric Scotland, The Origin certainly has lofty ambitions with its sweeping misty vistas and the whole film being performed in a fictional dialect, but it ends up just feeling like a cheap amalgamation of a bunch of other films. It tries to capture a similar rural atmosphere to The Revenant but its direction and cinematography is nowhere near as gorgeous or inventive, and once the mysterious antagonist starts picking off our heroes it just becomes Prey but without the stunning fight choreography or visual effects. In its final moments it attempts to pull a big reveal that recontextualises the morals of our heroes, but it’s far too little far too late. Despite being barely over eighty minutes long, this is an excruciatingly drawn-out experience. 2.5/10

Chuku Modu as Adem in THE ORIGIN (2022, d. Andrew Cumming)

Casa Susanna

Release Date: TBC (US, UK)

Shedding light on an infamous Catskills retreat for gender-questioning folk in the mid-twentieth century, Casa Susanna has an interesting story at its heart about self-actualisation and finding community in an unaccepting world. Unfortunately, it ends up mostly focusing on the superficial aspects of transness that cis filmmakers have always been obsessed with, and the constant throwing around of outdated and offensive terms without context makes this far less effective as an educational tool. There are only four sources interviewed for the whole film, and only half were actually part of the community; c’mon, you couldn’t have brought in some queer historians, or maybe some younger trans folks just to add a little extra perspective? It all ends up just feeling like a forgettable TV doc from twenty years go. 3.5/10

Medusa Deluxe

Release Date: TBC (US, UK)

Essentially Birdman for the world of fashion, this one-take dark comedy set around a murder at a hairstylist competition is a fun but not particularly remarkable little jaunt. There are some interesting characters, fun gags, and impressive cinematography at points, but this is just begging to be a little more over-the-top. 6/10

Kae Alexander as Inez and Kayla Meikle as Divine in MEDUSA DELUXE (2022, d. Thomas Hardiman)

Bones and All

Release Date: 23rd November (US, UK)

Luca Guadagnino and Timothée Chalamet reunite for this unconventional coming-of-age story about a pair of young cannibals trying to figure out their place in an omnivore world. Taylor Russell gives a captivating lead performance as the reticent Maren, Mark Rylance has never been creepier as a veteran cannibal named Sully (who always refers to himself in the third person), and there’s some haunting one-scene-and-done turns by Michael Stuhlbarg and Chloe Sevigny. Unfortunately, the whole film is a bit meandering with choppy pacing and an unfocused narrative. There are some wonderful and unforgettable moments in here, but as a whole it just doesn’t add up to a truly substantial movie. 6.5/10

Blue Jean

Release Date: TBC (US, UK)

Georgia Oakley makes her theatrical feature debut with this exploration of queer identity in Thatcher-era England. Rosy McEwen absolutely shines in what should be a star-making turn as a lesbian PE teacher struggling to keep her queerness secret as Section 28 starts to ramp up. A vital film in the current British climate as similar legislation is being threatened against the trans community, Blue Jean investigates what it truly means to be authentically queer in a world that could destroy you if outed, and how we can overcome those internal struggles in a time of crisis. A perfect companion piece to It’s a Sin. 8/10

My Father’s Dragon

Release Date: 4th November (UK [limited]), 11th November (Netflix)

Cartoon Saloon puts out some of the most original and beautiful animated movies today and, whilst My Father’s Dragon continues their excellent track record, it is easily the most conventional family film they’ve ever made. The voices of Jacob Tremblay and Gaten Matarazzo lead this charming story about a young boy and a novice dragon trying to save a sinking island, and though it touches on some deeper themes it mostly gets bogged down by the more expected tropes of the genre. With Disney veteran Meg LeFauve behind the screenplay, it’s easy to see why this one ended up being a bit more orthodox, but it remains an entertaining and aesthetically gorgeous movie for all ages. 8/10


Release Date: 21st October (US), 18th November (UK)

Normal People’s Paul Mescal and newcomer Frankie Corio star in this drama about a divorced Scottish dad and his daughter on holiday in Turkey in the early 2000s, and it’s a heart-breaking mix of nostalgia and sadness. Evoking the early works of Lynne Ramsay and Andrea Arnold, writer-director Charlotte Wells leaves much of the subtext up to your imagination and just allows the actors’ performances to tell the real story, creating much more of a mood piece than a narrative but an incredible evocative one at that. If you grew up in the 00s, this is going to be an incredibly wistful but shattering experience for you. 8/10

BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths

Release Date: 27th October (Mexico), 4th November (US [limited]), 16th December (Netflix)

Alejandro Iñárritu returns after a long hiatus with his most personal magnum opus yet, and despite being trimmed down from its divisive three-hour Venice premiere, it remains an overlong and irritatingly pretentious slog. The whole thing is supposed to run on a dream logic reminiscent of Jean Cocteau or Ingmar Bergman, but rather than immersive or contemplative it’s just confusing and weird. There are some interesting musings on US-Mexican relations, a few moments of surreal imagery that stick, and the movie looks absolutely gorgeous thanks to the cinematography of Darius Khondji, but as a whole this was a more painful than pleasurable experience. 4/10

Women Talking

Release Date: 2nd December 2022 (US), 10th February 2023 (UK)

Sarah Polley’s first feature in a decade may well be the film that defines her directorial career. Based on the acclaimed 2018 novel of the same name, Women Talking is basically 12 Angry Men for the #MeToo era, tackling sexual abuse and the patriarchy from the perspective of devout Mennonites that pits faith against freedom in a gut-wrenching way. Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy and Ben Whishaw all give some of the best acting of their careers, but the real star here is Polley and how she is able to effectively dramatize what is little more than an extended conversation into compelling cinema, as well as getting stunning performances from both its big-name stars and its less-known talent. One of the most harrowing films I’ve ever seen, and yet I can’t wait to see it again! 9.5/10

Pretty Red Dress

Release Date: TBC (US, UK)

Dionne Edwards’ directorial debut tackles the weighty subjects of gender nonconformity and toxic masculinity within the Black British community, but what is otherwise a fairly formulaic and frothy comedy doesn’t have the teeth to bite too deep into these subjects. I applaud the film from avoiding using protagonist Travis’ affinity for feminine clothing for comedic purposes, but it does sexualise it in a way that’s never really explored, and Alexandra Burke’s subplot about auditioning for a Tina Turner musical is a mostly irrelevant excursion that only seems to exist to give Burke an excuse to sing throughout. This might have been a classic if released in the late 90s or early 2000s, but in 2022 it feels sadly well behind the times. 4.5/10

Natey Jones as Travis in PRETTY RED DRESS (2022, d. Dionne Edwards)

The Good Nurse

Release Date: 26th October (Netflix)

Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne lead this true story about a string of mysterious patient deaths in a hospital that suggest foul play. The screenplay by Krysty Wilson-Cairns has some compelling twists and turns but it’s all presented a bit blandly, and though limited by the true events it never escalates to something shocking; you can pretty much figure out what’s going on within the opening shot. Chastain does a decent enough job, and for most the runtime Redmayne surprisingly restrains himself but unfortunately ends up reverting to his old tricks by the end. One of the few Netflix films at the fest this year that I’m actually not bothered isn’t getting a full theatrical run. 6.5/10

Decision to Leave

Release Date: 14th October (US), 21st October (UK)

Park Chan-Wook returns with two murder mysteries for the price of one in this romantic thriller that plays out like Double Indemnity mixed with Insomnia by way of Twin Peaks. It gets off to a slow and somewhat muddled start, but once the pieces start falling into place it becomes captivating, and the final scene? *chef’s kiss* Cinema! Definitely not as shocking or innovative as Park’s seminal classic Oldboy, but any fan of Korean cinema or just a good whodunnit should have a blast with this one. Also, some of the weirdest and most creative editing I’ve seen in a long while. 8.5/10

New Normal

Release Date: TBC (US, UK)

What a shock to system to follow a great film out of South Korea with a spectacularly disappointing one. I’m always up for a good horror anthology, and the stories of New Normal have promising handful of set-ups: a murderer using a dating app to stalk victims, a hopeless romantic following a treasure hunt of love letters, and a convenience store clerk just fed up with all the assholes she has to deal with (relatable vibes, hon), just to name a few. Unfortunately, as interesting as those premises may seem, the pay-off is always abrupt and painfully unimaginative; seriously, the first story and the third story pull the exact same twist! I certainly admire the way the stories are weaved together at points with characters and events affecting each other like its own miniature cinematic universe, but when the actual tales are this limp, it quickly becomes hard to care. 3/10

Still from NEW NORMAL (2022, d. Beom-sik Jeong)

The Whale

Release Date: 9th December (US), TBC (UK)

Brendan Fraser has been owed a comeback for a long time and, after initially returning to us through TV on Doom Patrol, this is his triumphant homecoming to cinema in this play adaptation from Black Swan’s Darren Aronofsky. The story’s premise of a morbidly obese man essentially eating himself to death out of depression and guilt has proved controversial for valid reasons, but the film in practice handles the situation as delicately as it can and never exploits it for comedy (except in some truly dark moments). Fraser is clearly channelling his own real-life experiences with mental health here and it really is the performance of the year, but he is ably supported by a superb supporting cast including Hong Chau and Sadie Sink. It’s a heart-breaking and harrowing film, and one you should be cautious to watch if you’ve struggled with eating disorders, but it has such a noble heart despite its vile undertones that it somehow ends up being one of Aronofsky’s most uplifting films (though I think that says more about the man than the movie). Still, worth watching for Fraser alone. He’s that good. 8/10

Brendan Fraser as Charlie in THE WHALE (2022, d. Darren Aronofsky)


Release Date: 30th September (US), 28th October (UK)

Billy Eichner finally gets to be the leading man in this queer-themed rom com, functioning as both a satire of and love letter to the genre, and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. This is one of those rare laugh-a-minute comedies that has way more hits than misses, with the gags ranging from bizarre euphemisms to ridiculous fake movie trailers to just straight-up raunchy sex scenes, all with Eichner’s unique brand of gay humour. In amongst the chaotic comedy though is a touching love story between a mismatched couple that touches on male inadequacy, internalised homophobia, and what it really means to be queer in the modern age. It’s a significant film for representation, yes, but more importantly it’s just, plain and simple, so f*cking funny! Grab all your shes, gays and theys, get a little tipsy, and just have a blast. 9/10

My Policeman

Release Date: 21st October (US [limited]), 4th November (Amazon Prime)

Yet another bizarre switch-up to go from watching Bros, which takes the piss out of this kind of sad gay period drama, to watching the textbook example of one; it’s like trying to watch Walk the Line right after watching Walk Hard. Harry Styles comes off better here than he did in Don’t Worry Darling, but only because he’s not surrounded by such mammoth actors, though he’s still clearly underprepared to be a leading man. Emma Corrin sadly doesn’t come off too well here either, though the tepid and cliché-ridden script doesn’t do them any favours, whilst Rupert Everett makes a bizarre go of playing a stroke victim. Far more laughable than moving, My Policeman probably would have fared better if played as a parody. 3.5/10

Empire of Light

Release Date: 9th December 2022 (US), 13th January 2023 (UK)

Empire of Light is a British period piece starring Olivia Colman and Colin Firth, directed by Sam Mendes, shot by Roger Deakins, and deals with mental illness, racism, and the magic of cinema. Observed like that, it seems like a cynical checklist of everything you need to win an Oscar, but the movie luckily works at least on an emotional level. The story is a little unfocused as it juggles all these various plot points, rarely crossing over into each other and functioning more as a slice of life than a cohesive narrative. Colman is as good as you’d expect her to be and, just one year after doing the same The Eternal Daughter, gets another go at shouting down some asshole in a cinema; truly, iconic queen behaviour. Props also to Michael Ward as new cinema hire Stephen, who ably holds his own against a pro like Colman. It’s going for a very similar nostalgia appeal to last year’s Belfast, though far less effectively. Still, a perfectly good trip down memory lane for older cinema fans. 7.5/10

She Is Love

Release Date: 3rd February 2023 (UK), TBC (US)

Jamie Adams’ latest low-budget, semi-improvised drama inexplicably stars Haley Bennett and Sam Riley as a pair of exes who are reunited ten years later at a Cornish country hotel, and the results are pretty disastrous. The plot is meandering and clichéd, the dialogue repetitive and unfunny, and the pacing makes its 82-minute runtime seem like an eternity. Only the surprisingly natural chemistry between our leads makes this anything close to watchable, but that’s being super generous. Give this one a miss. 1.5/10

Read my full review on Next Best Picture here

Triangle of Sadness

Release Date: 7th October (US), 28th October (UK)

Ruben Östlund, director of Force Majeure and The Square, delivers an absolute bombshell experience with this pitch-perfect satire of the wealthy and beautiful. With hilarious performances from Harrison Dickinson and Woody Harrelson, and a star-making turn by Dolly de Leon, Triangle of Sadness is one of those movies that keeps getting funnier as it sinks lower and lower. Featuring a sequence of excessive debauchery and filth that puts the Mr. Creosote sketch from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life to shame, there is no limit to how far this film is willing to go to depict its privileged players in the worst light possible. See it with the biggest crowd you can, and maybe bring a sick bag too. 9.5/10

The Banshees of Inisherin

Release Date: 21st October (US, UK)

Martin McDonough reunites with his In Bruges co-stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, as well as returning to his home shores of Ireland, for a bizarre dark comedy set on a rural island during the Irish Civil War. Farrell and Gleeson play the roles of friends-turned-enemies that keep escalating their inexplicable feud to brilliant effect, both comedically and dramatically, along with solid supporting turns by Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon. The film gets a bit stretched thin and monotonous as it keeps on, but the conclusion is satisfying and McDonough’s witty writing keeps it entertaining enough. 7.5/10

She Said

Release Date: 18th November (US), 25th November (UK)

It was inevitable that the New York Times investigation into Harvey Weinstein would get the Spotlight treatment, and She Said mostly just plays out like a faded photocopy of it. Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan make for compelling leads but lack the character depth that made the reporters from its Oscar-winning inspiration so captivating, and the events play out too much like bullet points of events rather than a compelling unravelling of conspiracy. Overall, it’s an effective enough journalistic drama, but if you’ve read the articles already there’s nothing new this film is going to offer you. It’s something that feels like it was made more out of obligation that a genuine need to dramatize this admittedly important story. 6/10

Unicorn Wars

Release Date: TBC (US, UK)

A Spanish-language animation that depicts cute teddy bears engaging in a brutal blood-soaked war with unicorns sounds like cathartic fun, and it is at first. Unfortunately, the joke of clashing cuddly characters with graphic violence quickly loses its charm and it ends up being a bit too monotonous. It’s little more than a feature-length episode of Happy Tree Friends but with a more melancholic philosophy. Maybe that appeals to you, but for me it was a bitterly disappointing watch. 5.5/10

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Release Date: TBC November (US [limited]), 9th December (Netflix)

After so many passion projects that ended up shelved, Guillermo del Toro finally gets a win with this beautiful reimagining of the classic story of a puppet who wishes to be a real boy. A real throwback to the age of 80s kids’ movies like The Dark Crystal and Return to Oz, this Pinocchio uses its backdrop of 1930s Italy to reframe the tale into an exploration of free will, parenthood, and what it means to be truly human. The animation is gorgeous, the voice cast is top-notch across the board, and its opening ten minutes are the saddest since Up. You definitely won’t want to miss this one. 9/10

Read my full review on Next Best Picture here


Release Date: 14th October 2022 (US), 13th January 2023 (UK)

The tragic story of Emmett Till and his mother’s fight for justice finally gets the cinematic treatment, featuring an incredibly powerful first act and a heart-breaking closing ten minutes. Sadly, the film in the middle of those moments of excellence is only so-so, falling back into a lot of biopic tropes and lacks the visceral impact of its bookends. Still, the film is carried by an absolutely devastating leading performance from Danielle Deadwyler, one that will surely skyrocket her name to every casting director’s wish list, and those predicting the Best Actress race. Also, props to Haley Bennett’s truly diabolical turn as Carolyn Bryant, AKA The Original “Karen”.  7/10

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Release Date: 23rd November (US [limited], UK [limited]), 23rd December (Netflix)

Benoit Blanc returns for another murder mystery caper in the rare sequel that matches the near-perfect quality of its predecessor in every way. Its twisty intrigue-stuffed plot is yet another satire-rich polemic on the wealthy, but with a wider target and a more righteous edge. Daniel Craig is as Southernly-charming as ever as Blanc, but the entire troupe of new characters are absolutely perfectly cast and working at the top of their game, with Edward Norton as a love-to-hate-him tech bro and a career-defining performance from Janelle Monáe as the highlights. If you loved Knives Out, you are almost certainly going to love Glass Onion just as much. A perfect capper to such a phenomenal festival! 10/10!

Read my full review on Alternative Lens here

Author: Jennifer Heaton

Aspiring screenwriter, film critic, pop culture fanatic and perpetual dreamer.

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