February is here, which means that spring has sprung – and it shows. We’re starting to see a bit of a stretch in the evenings; flower heads tantalisingly threaten to burst forth from their stems; and birdsong is escalating to almost cacophonous levels as they prepare to build, and fill, their nests. But, you know, it is still pretty cold, so you may yet be seeking solace in the cineplex. As we reach the climax of awards season, there’s plenty out to draw you in…especially if you’re around the capital this month for a certain international film festival.
Phantom Thread (February 2nd)
Writer/director/all-round modern master Paul Thomas Anderson reunites with some of his most successful creative collaborators for his latest lush drama. Set in post-war London, Daniel Day Lewis stars as a well-regarded dressmaker whose life is upturned when he meets a young waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps). The film explores their relationship as she becomes his muse, lover, and ultimately, the force threatening to unravel him. Featuring a startling supporting performance from Lesley Manville and a powerful score by Johnny Greenwood, PTA weaves each delectable element together to create a seamless finish.
Black Panther (February 13th)
Black Panther is the first full-length cinematic outing for its titular lead, AKA the African price T’Challa, who was introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America: Civil War. Black Panther sees T’Challa return to his native Wakanda to face a challenger to his throne. The emergence of this new, powerful enemy threatens not only the peace of our hero’s homeland, but the entire continent/world/universe/raccoon-guarded-galaxy. The magnetic Chadwick Boseman leads a stacked cast featuring Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, and Daniel Kaluuya, along with Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis – or as they’ve been affectionately nicknamed in this context, the two Tolkien white guys. Directed by Ryan Coogler, whose previous films Fruitvale Station and Creed marked him as a sensual and dynamic director-to-watch, Black Panther is a further leap forward for the MCU in terms of creating distinct cinematic identities for its key characters.
I, Tonya (February 23rd)
The former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding is, to put it mildly, a divisive and troubling figure. The extent of her involvement in an attack on her biggest rival ahead of the 1994 Winter Olympics still prompts many questions. How much did she know about it? Was it her idea? Are her laces untied? What’s the frown on her face for? And just what are the skates for? A new biopic dramedy centred around this very strange time in her life may or may not provide answers. Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan star as Harding and her shady husband, Jeff Gillooly, while Alison Janney is hotly-tipped for Oscar glory for her performance as Harding’s mother, LaVona Fay Golden. If the success of I, Tonya results in more films about ambitious blonde women and their complicity in morally dubious affairs being made 25 years after the fact, then I eagerly await the release of I,Vanka in 2043.
Lady Bird (February 23rd)
One of the most highly-anticipated films of the year so far, Lady Bird is finally set for release here at the end of the month. Set in the early 2000s in California, Saoirse Ronan gives a winning performance as Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson, a teenage girl attempting to navigate the social and emotional trials of adolescence. This evocative coming-of-age story is the first film written and directed by Greta Gerwig, herself a veteran star of this kind of low-key humanist chronicle. It has already won unanimous praise, particularly for the poignant depiction of the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother (Laurie Metcalf). Here’s hoping its success means there’s now a global knowledge and consensus about how to pronounce Saoirse Ronan’s name, and we never have to hear a bad joke about it again.
The Dublin International Film Festival kicks off for the 15th year this February and there’s plenty to keep even the most discerning cinephile occupied. Highlights include a gala screening of the highly-anticipated You Were Never Really Here, with director Lynne Ramsay in attendance; a preview of the latest Oscar-nominated animated feature from Cartoon Saloon, The Breadwinner; and the premiere of Damo and Ivor: The Movie, featuring Andrew Quirke’s Republic of Telly characters. The festival also features a Hong Kong strand, including The White Girl, the directorial debut from acclaimed cinematographer Christopher Doyle; while 2018 Volta awardee Paul Schrader has curated, and will introduce, a series of films including Nic Roeg’s Performance and Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket. As well as a range of drama, comedy, and horror films, the festival features a comprehensive range of documentaries from home and abroad, including The Science of Ghosts, The Image You Missed, While You Live, Shine, and So Help Me God. Festival guests will include Vanessa Redgrave, Bill Pullman, Barry Keoghan and Cillian Murphy, while Annie Atkins and Laurence Coriat are among those giving workshops and masterclasses. Audi Dublin International Film Festival (February 22nd – March 4th)
Elsewere this February, QFT Belfast is hosting a number of cinematic and interactive events in association with the Northern Ireland Science Festival. Featured films include Counting from Infinity, about an unexpected mathematical breakthrough, and Emer Reynolds’ film The Farthest, about the Twin Voyager space probes. Unrest, Jennifer Brea’s documentary about invisible illness, will also feature at the festival, along with a complementary VR experience to further explore the themes raised in her film. Workshops about food evolution and the science of the Harry Potter films will also run as part of the festival.
NI Science Festival @ QFT Belfast (February 15th-25th)