It’s finally September and you know what that means: awards season is finally upon us!
Yes, with the Toronto, Telluride and Venice Film Festivals all back-to-back-to-back, we shall soon see which films will be campaigning hard over the next few months. In the meantime though, September can be – what I like to call – a bit of an “in between” month, bridging the gap between summer blockbusters and Oscar-bait.
If you’re looking for some horror to tide you over until Halloween, I’d recommend It: Chapter Two, the sequel to the 2017 smash hit, featuring a superb casting choice in Bill Hader as an adult Finn Wolfhard. If you’re a fan of modern history, I’d suggest Hotel Mumbai – about the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, and the ensuing chaos.
But if you really can’t wait for that awards fodder, then the movie adaptation of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, The Goldfinch, is finally released, which follows a young man (Ansel Elgort) who delves into the shadier parts of the art world, following his mother’s death many years earlier, during an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Of course, if none of those take your fancy, then there’s plenty more to look out for this month.
NT Live: Fleabag – 12th September
I don’t usually include broadcasts of theatre productions in this Look Out For series, but for Phoebe Waller-Bridge I can make an exception.
While many may be familiar with the critically acclaimed BBC series written by, and starring, Waller-Bridge, you may not know that this truly fantastic show began as a one-woman play at the Edinburgh Festival – and now, Waller-Bridge returns to Fleabag’s original format.
In my opinion, it’s best to go into this with no expectations regarding plot points. Let’s just say, if you like your female characters to be hilariously, and heart-wrenchingly, vulnerable, then you will not want to miss this.
Ad Astra – 18th September
Following his co-starring role in last month’s Quentin Tarantino movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Brad Pitt returns in another, very different, film in which he takes to the skies – and beyond.
Since his father (Tommy Lee Jones), a fellow astronaut, disappeared during a ground-breaking mission to the outer solar system, Roy McBride (Pitt) has spent every day of the past 30 years wondering what happened to him. Now, though, something mysterious relating to that fateful expedition threatens the solar system – and it looks like McBride will have to follow in his father’s footsteps in order to uncover a generation of secrets.
Over the past few years, there have been several sci-fi space-exploring movies with fantastic special effects that vary in the quality of their stories, from the good (2015’s The Martian or 2014’s Interstellar) to the less good (2013’s Gravity). But from the trailer, this does look rather intriguing, especially as it appears as though the plot leans more towards the relationship between McBride and his father, rather than the “save the universe” trope.
Additionally, it will be refreshing to see Pitt return to a more introspective role, rather than the flashier fare he’s been portraying recently.
The Farewell – 20th September
Perhaps my most anticipated movie of the month is director Lulu Wang’s second feature, The Farewell.
Billi (Awkwafina), an aspiring Chinese-American writer, has always maintained a close relationship with her Nai Nai – her paternal grandmother (Zhao Shuzhen), who lives in Changchun, China. However, after finding out that Nai Nai has terminal lung cancer and only has months to live – and that the rest of the family haven’t told Nai Nai this news, in order to spare her the emotional stress – Billi decides to fly to Changchun in order to spend time with her. Upon arrival though, she finds it increasingly difficult to keep the secret, struggling with the differing Chinese and American cultures and ways of handling such a situation.
Although the plot itself may sound quite sad, the reason I’m so excited for this film is because it deals with a subject matter not often discussed in movies; that is, having an identity made up of more than one culture.
Wang herself has discussed how she did not want The Farewell to be just strictly American or Chinese because they are not mutually exclusive. Like Billi, the movie exists in a grey area where it is both of those things, but it’s “too much” of one culture to exist in the other, and “not enough” of either to belong in one culture alone. It speaks to a diaspora, to those who grow up in a country much different to their parents’, and feel both at home and alienated there. It’s a complex subject and one that, as evidenced by the many stellar reviews for the movie itself and Awkwafina’s performance, The Farewell handles brilliantly.