Review by Dash Wilson.
Yorgos Lanthimos is a deeply polarizing director. From The Lobster, to The Killing of a Sacred Deer Lanthimos filmography is as short as it is unforgettable.
His latest, the period piece The Favourite is set in 1708. Britain is at war with France and Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman), in frail health, sits on the throne. The Queen shows little interest in governing, instead preferring increasingly bizarre activities such as playing with her seventeen rabbits, eating cake and racing ducks.
Due to Anne’s increasingly erratic and self-destructive behaviour, her adviser and secret lover Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) essentially rules the country through her influence over the Queen. When Abigail Hill, Churchill’s impoverished cousin (Emma Stone) arrives, the dynamic between the Queen and her lover is challenged with irreverent and hilarious results.
Deeply original and unashamedly brash, The Favourite is a wicked delight. Lanthimos has created another world that is difficult to describe but also one you don’t want to leave. Brilliantly written by Australian Tony McNamara (Love My Way, The Rage in Placid Lake) and Deborah Davis, The Favourite is the first film that the director hasn’t co-written himself and it’s all the better for it.
Paired with cinematographer Robbie Ryan BSC ISC (Philomena, American Honey), the film was shot entirely using natural light. Using a 10mm lens down to a fish-eye 6mm lens, the filmmakers have bought a garishness to the period film that is in sync to the craziness unfolding on screen.
The Favourite is a daring piece of film. The performances are uniformly excellent. Weisz and Coleman in particular are far better served because their characters are easier to dislike. The ending however disappointing and the dramatic shifts in tone won’t sit well with some. This is by far one of the most original films of the year, it’s just not particularly the best.
Reviewing all five films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 2019, Dash Wilson is a film-lover based in Brisbane and is the resident Film Critic for Australian Cinematographer Magazine.