Suzanne Clément, Melvil Poupaud, Monia Chokri
The third film by 23-year-old gay Canadian director Xavier Dolan is a revelation, taking all the better elements of his earlier work – exquisitely long slow-motion shots, thrilling pop-video aesthetics, making mountains out of the molehills of romance – and ramping it up in this wildly ambitious tale of a straight woman who sticks with her boyfriend when he comes out as transsexual. Winner of the Queer Palm at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Laurence Anyways sees Laurence Alia (Melvil Poupaud) ditch his bad teaching attire for heels and lippy while his girlfriend Fred Belair, played by the excellent Suzanne Clément, battles with the drama. There’s a ton of great set pieces here set to 80s synth anthems such as Fade to Grey with characters dressed in billowing, overblown capes against backdrops of glaciers, snowfalls and a rush of autumn leaves. The story struggles at close to three hours, but the director’s audacity (he also wrote the screenplay and oversaw the choice of soundtrack and costumes) makes you stay until the final, wonderfully sound-tracked frame.
Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken
Writer-director Martin McDonagh gave Colin Farrell his best role in years as a dopy hitman in In Bruges, so it’s no surprise they’ve reteamed for another sweary, violent crime comedy, this one set in LA and revolving around dog-nappers (Walken, Rockwell) and the mob boss (Woody Harrelson) they rile by nicking his beloved shih-tzu. As a flailing screenwriter, Farrell is still charming eye candy, although he loses the scene-stealer battle to Rockwell as his amoral best friend.
Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Eileen Davies
Brit-com troupers Lowe and Oram co-wrote and star in this deadpan black comedy as a pair of pernickety oddballs who take a caravanning trip around Britain, visiting provincial delights and inflicting horrible death on anyone who vexes them along the way. It can feel like a TV comedy sketch stretched to breaking point but Kill List director Ben Wheatley helps navigate the speed-bumps to yield a dippy, deranged delight that mines comic gold from class warfare and Little England parochialism.
Silver Linings Playbook
Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence
If the phrase ‘mental illness comedy’ fills you with dread, Silver Linings Playbook might leave you flinching, not least the sight of Robert De Niro as a ‘hilarious’ OCD sports fanatic. But Playbook hits plenty of grace notes, too, thanks to writer-director David O Russell’s crafty script and its two stars, dashing Philadelphian Cooper as a dashing Philadelphian with bipolar rage issues and Lawrence as the kooky young widow he falls for.