What to watch in Glasgow

A Banquet, Tigers, Rebel Dread, Benedetta, True Things and You Are Not My Mother

by Jennie Kermode

It’s that time of year again, and as the Glasgow Film Festival prepares to launch its 18th edition, we look at some of the highlights of this year’s slate. Using a hybrid format this year, the festival offers the chance to see some of this work in all its glory on the big screen, but viewers elsewhere in the UK will have the option of streaming films, and either way, there’s a lot to look forward to.

A Banquet
A Banquet

A Banquet

When her daughter Betsey (Jessica Alexander) suddenly starts refusing to eat, Holly (Sienna Guillory) is seriously worried. When Betsey doesn’t seem to lose any weight, the situation begins to seem much stranger. As director Ruth Paxton has explained, she used religious imagery to create the impression that Betsey is undergoing a spiritual experience – but is there something supernatural to it, or is this a case of shared psychosis? This exquisitely shot existential drama, which also touches on the more mundane dynamics of family life, is shot through with dread yet maintains a perfect balance all the way through to its devastating ending.

Tigers
Tigers

Tigers

Based on the real life experiences of Swedish football prodigy Martin Bengtsson, whom director Ronnie Sandahl met on a book tour, this was Sweden’s entry for this year’s Oscars and it features a superb central performance by Erik Enge, who put on ten kilos of muscle for the role. Far from the conventional sporting success story, it deals with the cruelties of the way talent is managed, and was made with the cooperation of Inter Milan, who have acknowledged their failings and tried to move forwards. It’s a powerful indictment of the pressures faced by young athletes and how easily those managing them can lose sight of their humanity.

Rebel Dread
Rebel Dread

Rebel Dread

One of this year’s stand-out documentaries, this film chronicles the many-faceted life of Don Letts: DJ, filmmaker, founder member of Big Audio Dynamite and all round punk icon. In many ways it’s a history of the punk movement, as Don knew practically everybody, and the fact that he never aligned himself with any of its warring factions makes his account both more reliable and more revealing than most. William E Badgley's film is packed full of great stories, and whilst it makes use of taking head interviews – many of them with people who are legendary in their own right – it’s also packed full of footage from Letts’ own archive, with intimate shots of early punk gigs, parties and the shops around which much of that vital, creative scene revolved.

Benedetta
Benedetta

Benedetta

In recent years, Paul Verhoeven’s impressive outsider work has finally begun to garner mainstream acclaim, and this vividly crafted historical drama has already enjoyed considerable success on the festival circuit. Whilst much of the curiosity around it centres on it being a lesbian nun film, there’s a lot more to it than that, as it dramatises the story of a woman who may have been a con artist and may have been a saint – or both – but certainly understood power, and proved to be better at wielding it than almost anyone around her, defending a city from the plague and even taking on the might of the Inquisition. Verhoeven blurs reality with the fantasy world of his heroine’s imagination and the vivid erotic imagery of Medieval conventual writing.

True Things
True Things

True Things

The Glasgow Film Festival has always been a great place to discover new things, and this second take on the overwhelming nature of love by director Harry Wootliff, the woman behind 2018’s Only You, is a bold, immersive and disconcerting piece of cinema. Shot in square format, it makes use of a variety of visual techniques to plunge us into the interior world of miserable DWP worker Kate (Ruth Wilson), whose empty life is overwhelmed when she meets and begins a passionate affair with Blond (Tom Burke). He’s freewheeling and charismatic and soon her life goes off the rails, whilst she struggles to notice the massive flaws which are obvious to everyone else.

You Are Not My Mother
You Are Not My Mother

You Are Not My Mother

An outstanding contribution to this year’s Frightfest strand, Kate Dolan’s haunting Irish fable uses the tropes of horror to explore complex family dynamics and the experience of living in a society where, even after all these centuries, Pagan beliefs continue to thrive on the margins. Dolan is particularly skilled in directing teenagers and perfectly captures the awkward dynamics between them as young Char (Hazel Doupe) struggles to cope with her mother’s mental illness and the need to assume adult responsibilities. As she gradually begins to suspect that something more sinister may be happening, the film packs in some seriously creepy moments, but always feels real.

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