London film festival 2021: Peter Bradshaw’s top 10 picks

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<span>Photograph: Kirsty Griffin/AP</span>
Photograph: Kirsty Griffin/AP

Petite Maman

Céline Sciamma’s beautiful fairytale reverie is mysterious and moving. After her grandmother’s death, an eight-year-old girl comes with her troubled mum to clear out the old woman’s house and in surrounding woodland she meets another eight-year-old, just like her – a ghost or vision of her mum in her childhood. The two girls are played by twins.

The Souvenir Part II

Joanna Hogg’s luminous self-portrait of the artist as a young woman now reaches its second part: austere and composed, but with sunbursts of emotional energy. Honor Swinton Byrne is back as Julie the film student getting over her amour fou with the destructive Anthony (Tom Burke) and now she must exorcise his presence through movies.

Our Men

French director Rachel Lang gives us a superbly made film with elegance and control, about the French Foreign Legion on a tour of duty in Mali, West Africa. Louis Garrel plays a tough career soldier whose lawyer wife is played by Camille Cottin – like all the other wives and partners, she has to deal with anxiety as best she can.

The Power of the Dog

Benedict Cumberbatch and Jane Campion come together for this tough and rangy western – Campion’s first feature since Bright Star in 2009. Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons play the Burbank brothers, cattle ranchers whose close relationship is destroyed when one of them gets married to a widow, played by Kirsten Dunst.

Spencer

Princess Diana’s legacy continues to haunt us, and now here is a movie from Chilean director Pablo Larraín. Kristen Stewart gives a much-acclaimed performance as the queen of hearts herself, covering one almost dreamlike weekend of dismay in 1991, as she makes the fateful decision to split from Charles.

Memoria

Here is an epic of visionary weirdness to haunt your dreams and waking thoughts. The Thai artist and film-maker Apichatpong Weerasethakul has created another jewel of slow cinema – super-slow super-cinema – which has a sublime mysticism. Tilda Swinton plays an expat Brit in Colombia who experiences strange things and who may be in the midst of a metempsychotic breakdown.

Belfast

A heartfelt labour of love from Kenneth Branagh: a black-and-white movie about the Belfast of his boyhood, with newcomer Jude Hill as the kid himself, Jamie Dornan and Caitríona Balfe as his parents and Ciarán Hinds and Judi Dench as his grandparents, all living in the same house.

Last Night in Soho

A psychological horror with a time-travel twist from Edgar Wright, set in the present and in the glamorous yet seedy world of swinging 60s London. It’s co-written with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (who also co-scripted 1917 with Sam Mendes). Anya Taylor-Joy stars, and there’s some connoisseur-60s casting with the appearances of Terence Stamp and Rita Tushingham and the iconic, but now sadly departed Diana Rigg and Margaret Nolan.

Bull

London to Brighton was the crime movie with which British director Paul Andrew Williams made his explosive debut back in 2006; now he returns with a film in a comparable vein, with Neil Maskell as Bull, the former gang enforcer who has come back to his home town to search for his missing son and get some payback on those who once crossed him.

Earwig

Here’s something very woozy and weird – the first English-language film from Lucile Hadzihalilovic, set in a foggy place which appears to be a Belgian city some time in the 20th century. A little girl is made to live in a gaunt apartment with false teeth made of ice, and a weird contraption which catches the melting drool as it oozes out of her mouth during the day: surreal, strange, nightmarish.

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