THIS year’s Glasgow Film Festival opened in style with Wes Anderson’s delightful canine-themed, stop-motion animation Isle of Dogs. Here are the other films that most impressed me this year at what continues to be one of the country’s best film festivals.


PADDY Considine’s directorial follow-up to feature debut Tyrannosaur tells the powerful story of fictional middleweight boxing champion Matty Burton, who suffers a brain injury after a title-retaining fight. What starts as a seemingly familiar boxing tale quickly takes a shrewd swerve into something altogether more personal and intimate as we see how Matty, brilliantly played by Considine himself, has to cope with this life-altering condition and how that affects his relationship with devoted wife Emma – affectingly played by Jodie Whittaker – and his young child. With an assured directorial hand, Considine earns every tear and every cheer that comes along in this well-told and heartfelt drama which truly shows that Tyrannosaur was no beginner’s luck.

You Were Never Really Here

GLASWEGIAN director Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Ratcatcher) shows yet again why she’s considered one of the most treasured cinematic voices we have. Her latest film is ostensibly a hitman movie, following Joaquin Phoenix’s steely-eyed killer as he carries out hits on people running sex trafficking rings. But in many ways it’s the antithesis of what you’d expect from such a film, showing us everything that a normal hitman movie doesn’t. Along a clean-cut and impressively economical 85-minute runtime, Ramsay exhibits her singularly masterful direction: the impeccable sound design and control of mood that’s at once thunderously oppressive and endlessly entrancing, creating a hellish nocturnal landscape, all violently swirling around what may be Phoenix’s finest hour.

Another News Story

THIS pointed documentary from director Orban Wallace takes an uncompromising, two-sides-of-the-same-coin approach to exploring the migrant crisis in Europe, offering contrasting viewpoints between the people literally risking their lives to find a better existence and the news media that scrambles to cover their struggle. While it doesn’t outright condemn the media for its need to get “a short and superficial impact”, it gets up-close-and-personal behind the scenes to show the brutal reality of what refugees are going through, and the unfortunate truth that for both those covering the crisis and TV audiences, it’s treated, as the title suggests, as just another news story destined to fade when something more shocking comes along.

Faces Places

LEGENDARY Belgian-born director Agnès Varda, at 89-years-old, holds the title of the oldest female Oscar nominee for her co-direction and loveable on-screen antics in this joyous documentary. It chronicles the travels of Varda and photographer/muralist JR throughout France, from rural villages to the docks, where they meet a series of everyday folk, photographing them and creating large murals to plaster over the surroundings. It’s something of a one-of-a-kind film: part intimate documentary, part travelogue, part celebration of opposites-attract friendship and a whole lot more, all told with warmth, endearing playfulness and an infectious love of life, people and art that radiates from its every scene.


THIS peculiar, brittle, stoically deadpan Greek film explores the complexity of human emotion, and in particular, arguably the most difficult to handle of all – sadness. It follows a middle-aged lawyer who is only able to feel truly happy when he’s feeling overwhelmingly sad. Co-written by Efthymis Filippou, regular writing collaborator of famed director Yorgos Lanthimos, it’s a truly odd film but in a fascinating kind of way, with the driest sense of humour layered over an underbelly of profound despondency. It’s certainly not for everyone but its po-faced mixture of stylised stillness, idiosyncratic family dysfunction and intriguing thematic ambition adds up to a curious, rewarding jolt of happy-sad.

Lean On Pete

THE latest stunning film from 45 Years and Weekend director Andrew Haigh tells the story of 15-year-old Charley (wonderfully played by rising star Charlie Plummer), who takes on a summer job at a racetrack where he befriends the titular horse. It’s not a film of great eventfulness, instead taking its time to allow you to soak in the engulfing atmosphere that seeps under your skin and is built to haunt long after the credits. Haigh takes his talent for intimate drama and applies it to the great outdoors of the singularly American landscape and underclass often gone unheard, capturing little moment after little moment that define and shape the film into something subtly affecting and quietly profound.

The Breadwinner

IT’S not hard to see why this stunning animation from the makers of The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea has been nominated for an Oscar. It follows a headstrong young girl named Parvana (voiced by Saara Chaudry) in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in 2001 who, in order to overcome the limitations she faces as a girl in her society, disguises herself as a boy so she can better provide for her family. With a gorgeous animation style that’s at once unfussy and endlessly expressive, it tells a quietly courageous story in a way that’s both easily accessible and thematically challenging, lovingly wrapped in a cloak of important messages about female empowerment that deserves to be heard more than ever.

Michael Inside

THIS Irish prison drama from director Frank Berry takes a bold look at the harsh realities of what it means to get caught up in the prison system – especially at a young age. It follows 18-year-old Michael McCrea (Dafhyd Flynn, hugely impressive in only his second ever performance) who, while living with his grandfather on a Dublin council estate, gets sent to prison when he’s caught holding drugs for his friend’s gangster older brother. Prison dramas are not exactly uncommon but this one is told with a refreshing sense of authenticity and grit under its fingernails, making for a powerful and memorable exploration of how those from disadvantaged communities can easily get caught up in a ceaselessly damaging cycle.


IF Heathers and American Psycho had a baby then it very much might look something like this provocative, darkly funny crime thriller. When two estranged, upper-class teenage girls – the emotionally-disconnected Amanda (Olivia Cooke) and uptight Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) - rekindle their friendship over a parentally forced study session at one of their ultra-expensive Connecticut estate homes, the two of them hatch a plan to solve a problem that would have life-changing consequences. Debut director Cory Finley showcases an uncommonly assured skill for managing an unsettling tone, somehow making inherently ice-cold characters fiercely compelling, telling their unnerving story with a sardonic glint in its eye as he leads you up an unpredictable garden path to an unexpected and haunting pay off.

In the Fade

THIS pertinent and absorbing terrorism-themed German drama follows mother Katja Sekerci (Diane Kruger) who, following the death of her husband and young son in a terrorist bomb attack, seeks justice in the country’s court system against those accused. It’s a difficult and challenging film wrapped inside the body of a seemingly familiar crime thriller, divided into three distinct chapters that each represent their own distinguishing stages of how this unexpected and tragic event blows this woman’s world to pieces. She’s left being caught between hoping that the justice system will do its job and the inherent need to see something done by her own hands. It offers no easy answers and asks that most difficult of questions – what would you do?

Look out for our review of the festival’s closing night film, Nae Pasaran, in Monday’s paper.