07th Dec2018

‘The Favourite’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Faye Daveney, Emma Delves, Jennifer White, LillyRose Stevens, James Smith, Mark Gatiss | Written by Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara | Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos


Early 18th century. England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots. As the politics of war become quite time consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen’s companion. Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfill her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics or rabbit stand in her way.

In Yorgos Lanthimos latest feature The Favourite the critically acclaimed director fully submerges himself in the territory of the pompous theatricality vacated by the master director Stanley Kubrick and the result is Lanthimos making it his spectacular own. With his latest cinematic entry a thematic crossing of elegance in Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon and the cruel undertones of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, Lanthimos may have touched upon his magnum opus.

The Favourite is a venomous and bravado tale of undeniable complex lust with doses of torturous greed. A love triangle takes centre stage in an underbelly of a noxious political power play. The former is delightfully insidious squabble of peevish acceptability, yet elegantly shot and pronounced throughout. The latter is a theatrical display of deceptive loyalty and menacing sabotage. An engaging and often incredibly bleak arc that shrouds itself in benevolent clouded passion for country, yet a serpent-like temptress that shocks and submerges its audience into a nightmarish circumstance of selfish benefit.

Lanthimos film incorporates a form of nuanced comedy that verges on the impact of whimsical/farcical territory, yet adds to the deeply affecting pompous withering of the plot. The depth of sabotage and narcissistic tendencies of solidifying one’s future does almost become laughable tendencies of characters self-believe. The length and sheer audacity of evil that surrounds the film is a constant and thoroughly eventful theme that creates such glib sequences that are quite frankly astonishing to see come to fruition.

The film is shot in a superb manner from cinematographer Robbie Ryan. The choice of lenses creates a haunting and highly turbulent claustrophobia on the screen that implements a sharp and eerily conscious physical presence with the often dark and uncomfortably tight place of setting. Working terrifically with the editing from Yorgos Mavropsaridis, who allows the film to breathe and stretch its enigmatic and intoxicating story threads with a comprehensive examination of emotional themes and cinematography that slowly but surely becomes evocative. The soundtrack from composer Komeil S. Hosseini is spine-tinglingly eerie. Filling the auditorium with such strident sound and resulting dread it becomes bone chilling to withstand. A corruptive element that grooms its audience in a lavish manner and persuades its subjects to dance to a tune.

The Favourite previews a the BFI on December 8th, with a nationwide rollout on January 1st 2019.


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