FILM: LOCO – SET THE THAMES ON FIRE

Rating:

LOCO, London’s premium comedy film festival is back for its 5th year and looks set to be the biggest yet, packed with premieres, director Q&As and unique events.

For the first time, the festival is programmed over twelve days, and will take place across London with screenings at the BFI Southbank, BFI IMAX, Picturehouse Central, Hackney Picturehouse, Screen on the Green, Ciné lumière at Institut français, the Prince Charles Cinema and The Barbican.

LOCO 2016 opens with the UK premiere of British director Ben Charles Edwards’ first feature film Set the Thames on Fire, starring Max Bennett, Michael Winder, Noel Fielding, Sadie Frost, Sally Phillips, Lily Loveless and Morgana Robinson.

Set The Thames On Fire is one of this year’s three LOCO Discovery Award nominees for a first time British feature film director, alongside Chanya Button’s Burn Burn Burn, and Steve Oram’s Aaaaaaaah!

I caught Set the Thames on Fire ahead of its UK premiere this Thursday at the BFI Southbank, and whilst it’s not an out and out comedy, it does seem to be a very good fit for the opening of the festival in London – with a dark humour that takes the audience into the underbelly of a dark London.

The film is set up as a three-act tragedy that follows its two leads, Art and Sal, as they fall through the cracks of London’s underbelly dreaming of their escape to Egypt. The film is split into three segments that play out episodically within the nightmare world the filmmakers have created.

The opening section largely takes place in an elite club called the Concentration Camp, in which the city’s gentry stuff their faces with an abundance of food and are coerced into singing a child’s song by the town’s mayor figure.

This is not the London that we currently know, it is a hyper reality, an exaggeration of the filth and nastiness that London’s underbelly can possess.

Visually, the film is stunning. Big hats off to the set designers, costume designers, art directors and art department in general. The surreal world is brought to life through the painting-like sets and great attention to detail and visual effects.

The story is not as engaging as the visuals, with the final act providing the most interest – making you wish it had come around a little sooner.

Some great performances all round, from the two largely unknown leads, Michael Winder and Max Bennett, whose bromance is lovely to behold as it unfolds within this debauched society. There are also some incredible performances from some comedy acting legends in some of the smaller roles: from Sally Phillips to Noel Fielding and a rare performance from Sadie Frost – it is these roles that stand out and provide most of the laughs (very dark laughs though).

Set The Thames on Fire is visually arresting and though its script could use a bit of tightening up, I enjoyed the journey into this world.

To book tickets for the festival visit: locofilmfestival.com

Niki Alexandrou
@nikialexandrou

Matt Williams

Matt Williams

Matt Williams

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