Maria Duarte tells us What’s Worth Seeing from the 2021 London Film Festival

It was largely back to business as usual for this year’s BFI London Film Festival despite the ongoing pandemic. Our reviewer Maria Duarte has spent the past twelve days in darkened rooms, hoovering up not just films – but TV shows too. She worries that audiences could feel cheated, just being given the first couple of episodes, especially given that it’s a film festival at its heart – the clue is in the title. So here are Maria’s top five picks of What’s Worth Seeing from this year’s London Film Festival:

BOILING POINT

Shot in a single take, this riveting and wonderfully acted pot boiler follows a troubled head chef (Stephen Graham) as he struggles to keep it together on the busiest night at his top London restaurant. Graham delivers a knockout performance in this gripping drama (based on actor-turned-director Philip Barantini’s 2019 short film which also stars Graham), which captures the relentless pressure of a restaurant kitchen.

Boiling Point is released in UK cinemas on 3rd December 2021

THE HAND OF GOD

Paolo Sorrentino’s semi-autobiographical family drama is set in the 1980s during Naples’ obsession with the Argentine footballer Diego Maradona. It is his most personal work to date. More than thirty years in the making, it follows the story of the socially awkward teenager Fabietto (Filippo Scotti) as he comes to terms with the death of his parents in a freak accident, in a film which explores family, love, loss, sport and cinema. It is bitingly funny, surprisingly touching and totally outrageous, with one shocking scene which will forever be seared into my brain.

You can see The Hand of God in the UK from 15th December 2021

BELFAST

This gorgeous, yet heartbreaking drama, set in 1969, is writer-director Sir Kenneth Branagh’s most personal film to date, as he revisits his childhood through the story of Buddy (a captivating and major revelation Jude Hill), a young boy whose joyful life is upended with the outbreak of sectarian violence. Shot in glorious black-and-white and underscored by a rousing Van Morrison soundtrack, the film balances moments of trauma and poignancy with those of marvel and elation without plunging into nostalgic sentimentality. It is driven home by a superlative cast which includes Caitriona Balfe (Outlander) and Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey) as Buddy’s parents and Dame Judi Dench and and Ciaran Hinds as his grandparents.

You can see Belfast in UK cinemas from 12th November 2021

THE FIRST WAVE

With exclusive access to inside one of New York City’s hardest hit hospitals during the first four months of the pandemic in March 2020, Matthew Heineman’s powerful documentary chronicles the stress and the harrowing ordeal faced by front-line staff as they risked their lives to save those of Covid-19 patients. The film pulls no punches in portraying the devastation wreaked by the coronavirus in the first wave. It is a stark reminder to those who are still playing down the seriousness of Covid, likening it to flu.

The First Wave is released in UK cinemas on 26th November 2021

LAST NIGHT IN SOHO

A young, aspiring fashion designer, who is obsessed with the swinging sixties, is transported back to 1966 London in this wonderfully stylish and inventive time travelling horror crime drama from Edgar Wright. It features cracking performances from its leads Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit) and Matt Smith (The Crown, Dr Who) plus Diana Rigg in her last ever film role.

You can see Last Night in Soho in UK cinemas from 29th October 2021