It’s Ilkley Film Festival’s second ever year, and they’re really not doing too badly considering how new to the game they are. They’ve managed to get pretty much everything currently in cinemas into the mere four days of the festival; the lengthy program includes films of high critical acclaim such as Paddington, Boyhood, Spirited Away, the not so critically acclaimed blockbuster Jupiter Ascending, the recent Yorkshire thriller Catch Me Daddy and they’ve even managed to get a Gala preview screening of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
I only managed to catch two films this year, one of them being Jennifer Anniston’s much talked about first-proper-serious-film, Cake. Matthew McConaughey’s McConaissance seems to have inspired some actors a few years ago we would never have expected to venture from their well-trodden rom-com roots, and Anniston seems like she might be starting to take a step in that direction.
Cake is the story of Anniston’s Claire, who suffers from chronic pain and from the first scene displays a seemingly unquenchable cynicism towards the system that’s trying to help her recover. It’s certainly not helped by her hallucinations about dead Nina (Anna Kendrick) from her support group, and she starts to talk to Nina’s widower Roy (Sam Worthington), who is trying to get through his wife’s death while raising their young son. Much like Oscar Isaac’s Llewyn Davis last year, she seems utterly incapable of forming or keeping a relationship and uses people left right and centre, finding joy in lying and putting on a brave and positive face for her doctor so she can get a few below the belt prescriptions.
Of course, she has her reasons for doing this, hinted at by the scars all over her body, but even at the beginning when she just seems like a cold-hearted bitch Anniston manages to make us feel and root for her. It may be her innate Rachel-esque likeability shining through, but it is an excellent performance, one on which the film rests upon and coheres together the rest of the impressive supporting cast – she’s considered one of the year’s largest Oscar snubs, although the film itself isn’t as good as her performance.
The second film I caught was Set Fire to the Stars, a black and white indie British film starring Elijah Wood that tells the story of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and his visit to America. Wood is John M. Brinnin, a poetry lecturer at an American University who looks after Thomas (Celyn Jones) whose reputation as a drunk and a general mess precedes him. By far the best part of the film is the look of it; it’s absolutely beautiful, with deliberate symmetrical positioning of the camera and long panning shots that must be inspired by Wes Anderson in some way. Unfortunately, the portrayal of Dylan Thomas seems a little confused and lets the look of the film down; in his first scene he is a roaring drunk throwing a woman around the room and in the next is fully clothed in a bath looking utterly dejected, showing his sensitive side. There is no emotional transition into the sadness, which results in a clunky feel to the development of his character which continues throughout the film.
The screening was followed by a delightfully intimate Q&A where Celyn Jones (also a scriptwriter) and producer Andy Evans came on stage to talk about the film. They revealed a lot of things about the film that truly surprised me; I didn’t realise how low budget it was, shot in Swansea (which doubles for New York, give the city an Oscar) over a period of 18 days. It was pretty much everyone’s first time making a film, and they really didn’t have much of an idea what they were doing – they just wanted to make it the best it could be, which somewhat softened my feelings towards it.
Ilkley is not far away at all, so make sure you catch it next year to watch all of the films you’d like to see at Vue but unfortunately the tickets are just too damn expensive, and if the Q&A’s are anything like this one, they’re worth coming along for alone.
Image: Munro Film Services