London Film Festival review: Green Room | Victoria | Carol

Patrick Stewart plays a menacing club owner in Green Room
Patrick Stewart plays a menacing club owner in Green Room
Share this article
Have your say

Plenty of interesting fare to focus on at London Film Festival, says Alistair Harkness

This year’s London Film Festival has been a good one for interesting genre fare with none better than Green Room (* * * *). US indie director Jeremy Saulnier’s first film since breaking through with his self-funded anti-revenge movie Blue Ruin two years ago, it’s another spin on familiar material – in this case a siege movie – given a blistering makeover by well-thought-out plot, fully realised characters, a thorough understanding of the world in which it’s set and gnarly and uncompromising approach to the violence running through the film.

Revolving around a hardcore punk band who ill-advisedly accept a paying gig at a club that turns out to be a backwoods headquarters for a White Supremacist group, the film’s relentless tension kicks into gear when the band (led by Anton Yelchin) witness a crime and find themselves locked in the titular green room as the club’s ruthlessly pragmatic owner – a menacing Patrick Stewart – sets about covering his employees’ tracks. What follows gets really brutal really fast as both sides respond to the situation with the frantic sloppiness of desperate people in a horrifying situation that keeps spinning further out of their control.

That’s also a theme in one of the festival’s most innovative genre films. In Victoria (* * *), a young Spanish woman (Laia Costa) living in Berlin café finds her life irrevocably changed after meeting a group of guys at the end of a hedonistic night out clubbing. At first it’s all blessed-out fun, particularly as Victoria connects with Sonne (Frederick Lau). But when Sonne’s ex-con friend is called upon to repay a favour to a gangster acquaintance, she finds herself roped into an early morning heist as a getaway driver.

It sounds preposterous on paper, but it’s not on screen thanks to director Sebastian Schipper’s decision to let the action unfold in a plausibly naturalistic way in real time using a single continuous take. And we’re not talking the fake one-take of Birdman either: Shipper shot the film in one two-hour-plus go – so what you see on film is what was captured on the day. Even better, the technique doesn’t call attention to itself; it just amplifies the urgency of the situation by keeping the actors fully in the moment.

Beyond the use of an eponymous title, Carol (* * * * *) might not appear to have much in common with Victoria, but scratch beneath the surface of Todd Haynes’ ultra classy love story about a shop assistant (Rooney Mara) who falls for a married woman (Cate Blanchett) in 1950s New York and there’s crime movie element to his approach to the story.

That’s perhaps unsurprising given it’s based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith and period attitudes to homosexuality made those involved in same-sex relationships feel persecuted as a matter of course. But even beyond the sexual orientation aspect of the story, the film’s power derives from the way it conveys how falling deeply in love can feel like a criminal act, the irrational-seeming machinations oddly similar. That also helps the film transcend the stuffiness of its awards season compatriots. This is simply brilliant filmmaking with a quietly subversive edge.