Leeds Film Festival 2016 Day 2

Lady Macbeth (UK) (review)

The often re-imagined story of Macbeth is played out once more, specifically deriving from the Russian novel 'Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District'; the location moves to a 19th Century farmhouse in the English countryside; a little past it's best but better than the middle class can manage at the time.  In it, Katherine bounces around the walls, feeling alternate emotions of fear from the new husband that was forced upon her, and boredom at the cloying restrictions he places on her ample free time.

Boredom leads to curiosity and exploration, and one of the young labourers manages to take her eye, a welcome grubby change to the starched and uncomfortable dresses she is forced to wear.  The fierceness of the passion leads to desperation as this new freedom is threatened by her icy new relatives, and this in turn progresses to the spillage of blood.
Moody and dark, although not without a mischievous humour, the film succeeds in keeping you interested as the stakes are raised and Katherine turns to increasingly desperate measures to hold onto that which she values.  New parents be warned - it wasn't easy to watch at all in the last segment, but it was well made, well acted and more than a little challenging.  7/10

A United Kingdom (UK) (wiki)
My last film and the festival was only just getting started, oh well.  Due to go on a wider release than many of it's festival counterparts around Christmas time, A United Kingdom is a biopic of the [then, and unfortunately still now, controversial] relationship between quiet jazz loving Ruth Williams and Seretse Khama, the prince and soon to be ruler of Bechuanaland - what would eventually become Botswana.

A chance meeting at a party brings the two together just after the Second World War, the prince studying in London by the hand of his father, who hoped a well-funded education in a first world nation would produce a wise ruler in waiting.  He hadn't banked on his son coming back with a marriage proposal - to a white woman, no less - a woman representing the oppression suffered by his people and those of the neighbouring countries in both the past and present.  It went without saying that similar sentiments were expressed on the other side, and their relationship had to endure much before even considering the implications of marrying a prince and moving to the other side of the world in the hope of making it work and being accepted.
It's fair to say that us English didn't help; the UK government at the time stood in their way at every turn, forbidding the marriage and nearly wrecking their chances of ever making it work, and the casting of Jack Davenport as the slimy, holier-than-thou face of Great British Ingrained Racism (aka the cultural government representative to Bechuanaland) was simultaneously over the top and perfect for the job of building up the bile with every sentence he utters and then, eventually (without giving away any spoilers) seeing him eat his stupid words.

There are some superficial comparisons to 12 Years a Slave, and though in terms of importance, I would rate that film higher than this one, the tone here is a little lighter and the bad times are a little easier to sit through; consequently the film is more enjoyable.  It's a good story (based on the actual events of the time), told well with some safe, predictable story elements.  You won't be surprised by the ending (they make the marriage work and eventually are accepted) but you will enjoy getting there.  8/10


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