Things got off to a terrific start for British film as the Cannes Film Festival went underway this week. The first to screen of the six UK features showing in and around the competition this year was the much anticipated new biopic of J.M.W. Turner. Starring Timothy Spall as the great British landscape artist, Mike Leigh’s latest premiered to a chorus of raves, with many proclaiming it the director’s finest film to date.
“What a glorious film this is,” wrote Peter Bradshaw for The Guardian, “richly and immediately enjoyable, hitting its satisfying stride straight away. It’s funny and visually immaculate; it combines domestic intimacy with an epic sweep and has a lyrical, mysterious quality that perfumes every scene, whether tragic or comic.”
In the Telegraph, Robbie Collin noted a career-best turn from Spall: “He coughs and shambles about the place like a moulting, phlegmy Gruffalo, eyes bright and hungry, bottom lip jutting proudly forward like the spout of a custard jug.”
The second British film out of the gates was music video director Daniel Wolfe’s debut feature Catch Me Daddy, shot by celebrated cinematographer Robbie Ryan (Fish Tank, Philomena) on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. Co-written by the director and his brother Matthew, it’s the story of a teenage girl who runs away from her family to hide out in a caravan park with her boyfriend.
“What first feels like a Yorkshire spin on Bruno Dumont’s drab, unadorned portraits of northern France,” writes Dave Calhoun for Time Out London, “later takes on the tones and movement of a thriller as night falls and all our characters are on the move, some hunting, others hunted.”
The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin said: “Working with Andrea Arnold’s regular director of photography Robbie Ryan, who continues to be one of the best things to happen to British cinema in years, Wolfe shoots the Yorkshire landscape like the setting of a long-decayed fairy-tale. The towns are crumbling and dark, while the moors stretch out between them like a fusty, moth-chewed blanket.”
In trade paper Variety, Charles Gant wrote: “The film is never better than when it captures the magic of real people in real locations – Adam Rayner, as a giddily genial milkshake-bar mixer, surely cannot be acting – while the barren moor landscape, crisscrossed by the roads that might yet provide an escape route, contributes an eerie desolation.”
Mr. Turner and Catch Me Daddy are both backed by the BFI Film Fund. Four further British films screen at Cannes next week: Queen and Country, Snow in Paradise, Jimmy’s Hall, and Pride.