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The Favourite (dir. Lanthimos)

Image: Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman in The Favourite © [Source: IMDB]

★★★★★

In early 18th century England, a fragile Queen Anne sits on the throne with her close friend Lady Sarah ruling in her stead. Much of her political power hinges on her closeness to the Queen and the Queen’s fondness of her. Which is set out of balance when Lady Sarah’s cousin and new servant Abigail arrives and the Queen’s superficial enamour is shifted.

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos. Starring: Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, Mark Gatiss [15]

Yorgos Lanthimos, the director of outlandish hits such as The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Lobster. Known for his monotone, cerebral and flat stylings, brings an unusual mix of flavour to this period piece. But I would struggle to call it as such. It’s not because it is not period set but more so down to its clear and intentional direction to avoid period setting clichés that might have otherwise rendered this film lacking. Most prominently displaying this is the cinematography and the way it quite literally bends our expectations. When we think of period settings or even the 18th century, images of broad paintings and picturesque landscape shots might come to mind. A wide lens typically being used to capture the space and grandeur of these settings that leaves an image flat at the usual use but here the lens choice has been taken wider still for as far as I could tell. Every. Single. Shot.

The result? Bent and disproportioned edges and wrap around the central frame and more often than not the focus. Not only emphasising the tone of the film but also avoiding flat and lifeless displays. Coupled with the location of shots and the out of character camera movement – The Favourite is wonderfully contemporary, setting a juxtaposition against the time but falling in line with its modern gaze. A modern approach that reaches heights with its precise storytelling and extremely witty dialogue. Most remarkably it has you laughing along the entire show while sneaking in a subtle sense of tragedy and distrust. The relationship, chemistry and dynamics between Anne, Sarah and Abigail are gripping and you are never quite sure what to guess of someone’s character as they demonstrate all the real-life complexities that a real relationship of this sensitivity might show. Making for some tantalising drama, that Lanthimos true to his record draws expert performances out of his actors.

To which Weisz, Stone and Colman might give career highs here. Still, while there is no central character or performance it is Colman who delivers another breathtaking performance that one could guess the film’s power hinged on and it definitely makes the film. With touches of modern sensibility, Lanthimosses outlandish style and Barry Lyndon-esque themes this is an absolute treat from performances, to style and cinematography right down to its story and hilariously witty dialogue.

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