All posts by Josh Slater-Williams

Josh Slater-Williams (@jslaterwilliams) is a freelance writer based in England. He has contributed to a wide variety of outlets and institutions, including the BFI, Sight & Sound, Variety, Little White Lies, The Face, IndieWire, SciFiNow, Hyperallergic, Huck, The Skinny, The List, Filmmaker, The Line of Best Fit, MUBI Notebook, Kinoscope, Locarno Festival, Glasgow Film Theatre, VODzilla.co, and others in both print and online.

Martyrs Lane (Ruth Platt, 2021)

The spectre of unprocessed grief looms large in writer-director Ruth Platt’s Martyrs Lane, an effective British ghost story with religious undertones. Told almost entirely from a child’s point-of-view, it sees a devout minister’s daughter invite a believed angelic presence into her family’s home, only for the guest’s intentions to gradually turn sinister…

Full review for Sight & Sound

Wildfire: Cathy Brady and Nora-Jane Noone on their Irish border drama

The title of Cathy Brady’s debut feature, Wildfire, references how rumours and malice spread, but also the intensity of potential damage once a dangerous spark is lit.

Inseparable sisters raised in a small town on the Irish border, Lauren and Kelly faced a devastating loss as children with the mysterious death of their mother, their father having also previously perished in a fatal bombing. Now adults, their bond is about to intensify further as the spectre of mental illness that surrounded their late mother remains thick in the air, thanks to town gossip that’s never really faded. 

After a year of being missing, presumed dead, Kelly (Nika McGuigan, who sadly died at 33 from cancer during post-production) returns to Northern Ireland amid Brexit border uncertainties on the news. Her own erratic and distressing behaviour chips away at the façade of normality that Lauren (Nora-Jane Noone) is barely maintaining.

Talking to us ahead of the film’s UK and Irish release, writer-director Brady and star Noone discuss the unique way in which their drama came together…

Full interview for the BFI

The Great Yokai War: Guardians (Takashi Miike, 2021)

Sixteen years and over 30 feature credits ago, Takashi Miike directed The Great Yokai War, one of the prolific Japanese filmmaker’s earliest forays into family-oriented fantasy. The film’s narrative incorporated various creatures from Japanese mythology, known as yōkai, whereby a modern boy is chosen to team up with them to destroy evil forces.

Now, Miike has directed a belated follow-up, The Great Yokai War: Guardians – although the standalone story by Yûsuke Watanabe (a veteran of Dragon Ball Z and Attack on Titan films) is really more a spiritual sequel, requiring no real understanding of its predecessor. This wildly entertaining fantasy adventure gets by on exuberant direction, game performances from a large ensemble, and lavish production design and makeup work. For a sense of the aesthetic, imagine a mix of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy films and Clive Barker’s Nightbreed

Full review for Little White Lies

“I Feel Completely Vindicated Now the Film’s Been Made”: Michael Caton-Jones on Our Ladies’s 20+-Year Journey to the Screen

Things were going well for Scottish filmmaker Michael Caton-Jones at the start of 2020. The director of Scandal (1989), This Boys Life (1993) and Rob Roy (1995), among many others, Caton-Jones was preparing for the theatrical release of Our Ladies, a passion project he’d been trying to get made for over 20 years. It had received its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019, where it “played out of this world”, in his words, to an audience of roughly 800 attendees in its first public screening. Flying relatively under the radar in a stacked program largely comprised of Cannes, TIFF and Venice titles, Our Ladies received strong early notices from big publications that did cover it from the festival, including a rave write-up from Sight & Sound and a five-star review from The Times. Following a Scottish premiere for the comedic drama at the Glasgow Film Festival in late February, the movie was scheduled for a saturation release at the end of April.

And then most of the world’s theaters closed indefinitely…

Full interview for Filmmaker

Five of the best films from the 74th Locarno Film Festival

Under the lead of new festival director Giona A Nazzaro, this year’s Locarno Film Festival seems to have had a generally mixed reception from those on the ground in Switzerland. Some long-time attendees have been particularly critical of the 74th edition’s heavier incorporation of genre filmmaking in the programme, in the context of a festival generally lauded for premiering some of the hardest-to-classify films around. That said, Locarno has hardly turned into Fantastic Fest, and many of those genre films were far from formulaic filler. Here are five feature highlights from this year’s edition…

Full feature for Little White Lies

Tallulah Greive: ‘Working-class women aren’t homogeneous’

Having been delayed for almost two years by the pandemic, Michael Caton-Jones’ Our Ladies, adapted from Alan Warner’s 1998 novel ‘The Sopranos’, finally arrives in UK cinemas this month. Set in 1996, the film follows six 17-year-old Catholic schoolgirls from the Highlands who head to Edinburgh for a choir competition, only to get caught up in debauchery.

At the story’s centre are five working-class friends, alongside derided posh girl Kay (Eve Austin): there’s closeted group leader Fionnula (Abigail Lawrie), her childhood bestie Manda (Sally Messham), punk singer Kylah (Marli Siu), islander Chell (Rona Morison), and Orla, who is in recovery from leukemia and hoping the Lord’s Prayer will now help her lose her virginity. Orla, also the film’s narrator, is played by Australian-born, Edinburgh-raised actor Tallulah Greive in her first feature film credit…

Full interview for Little White Lies

Our Ladies (Michael Caton-Jones, 2019)

Let’s call Our Ladies one of the new great British teen movies. Its journey to the screen is even older than its riotous protagonists: director and co-writer Michael Caton-Jones first optioned the rights to Alan Warner’s 1998 novel The Sopranos over 20 years ago…

Full review for Little White Lies

10 to see at the Edinburgh Film Festival 2021

Moving, for the time being, from June to late August, this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival is also a shorter edition than in pre-pandemic times – a week-long affair running from 18 to 25 August.

As with last autumn’s BFI London Film Festival, EIFF will also be a locally physical and nationally digital hybrid. Unlike that first coronavirus-era edition of LFF, though, every feature programmed is scheduled for at least one theatrical screening at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse or Festival Theatre, with some getting two to three. For those outside of the Scottish capital, most – though not all – of the line-up will also be available to rent digitally through Filmhouse at Home…

Full feature for the BFI

Absolute Denial: Ryan Braund on his indie animation

Some filmmakers have been very productive during the COVID era. Ben Wheatley (In the Earth) and Doug Liman (Locked Down), to name just two, have directed and already released films that first came to screenplay fruition relatively early on during the pandemic. But few can claim to have knocked out an entire feature-length animation, the majority of which was made after the UK went into its first lockdown period. And probably even fewer can say they not only directed and wrote such a film, but that they were also the sole animator. And that it was their debut feature.

Sheffield-based filmmaker Ryan Braund can, though. Absolute Denial, which receives its UK premiere at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, is a vaguely cyberpunk, black-and-white independent animation he was loosely working on in late 2019 in terms of scripting and general feelers, before properly throwing himself into its making in January 2020…

Full interview for The Skinny

The Devil’s Deal (Lee Won-tae, 2021)

In 2019, Korean director Lee Won-tae broke through globally with The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil, a thriller that had already entered discussions for an English-language remake prior to receiving an international premiere out of competition at Cannes. On the basis of the high concept premise alone, you can see why there’s been eagerness to retell it with different cultural specifics: a crime boss finds himself teaming up with a local detective trying to bring him down, after the former barely survives a vicious attack by a suspected serial killer.

Lee’s follow-up, The Devil’s Deal, is another gangster thriller, albeit with less action genre crossover, making it less likely to inspire an overseas remake. This is not a comment on its quality; if anything, this is a more accomplished and richer crime saga than its entertainingly blunt and slick predecessor. It’s more that the plot of The Devil’s Deal is so rooted in the particulars of South Korea’s electoral politics that there’s a less immediately obvious way to translate the material. That said, the notion of there being minimal differences between politicians and underworld enforcers is all-too universal…

Full review for Little White Lies