10 things to see at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015
Last Days in the Desert

Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) is back for another year, this time with newly appointed Artistic Director Mark Adams at the helm.

Fittingly, EIFF has a fresh new feel about it this time around and its programme has a balanced mixture of big names and new discoveries in store for those going along. With well over 100 films on the bill – as well as guest talks from the likes of Ewan McGregor (starring as Jesus in Last Days in the Desert) and Malcolm McDowell, special gigs and other live events – it becomes increasingly difficult to decide how to spend your precious time at EIFF.

We’ve chosen ten of the films from the newly released festival programme that we’re most excited about seeing, from dark documentaries to animated adventures.

The Legend of Barney Thomson

EIFF’s opening night gala features the fittingly monumental directorial debut by Scotland’s own Robert Carlyle. His black comedy The Legend of Barney Thomson focuses on meek Glasgow barber Barney Thomson (played by Carlyle) who accidentally becomes a serial killer and turns to his mother (Emma Thompson) for help. The totally transformed Thompson delivers a stellar performance as Barney’s bingo-loving Glaswegian mum, and Ray Winstone appears in a strong supporting role as a bemused London policeman working in Glasgow. Based on a novel by Scottish writer Douglas Lindsay and filmed in recognisable parts of Glasgow city centre, this movie is the perfect slice of Scotland to open this year’s Edinburgh Film Fest.

Wed 17 Jun, £15, Festival Theatre, 13-29 Nicolson Street, EH8 9FT – more info

Amy

Asif Kapadia’s emotional and revealing documentary about Amy Winehouse may have ruffled some feathers among the late singer’s loved ones, but it went down a storm at Cannes last week. Oscar-winning filmmaker Kapadia chronicles the soaring highs and crushing lows that made up Winehouse’s personal life and career with two emotional hours of home video, archive footage and insightful interviews. Amy may shock you, but it will also undoubtedly open your eyes to the charming, funny and extremely talented artist that was Amy Winehouse.

Thu 18 and Sat 20 Jun, £10, Filmhouse, 88 Lothian Road, EH3 9BZ – more info

Cop Car

Kevin Bacon (sporting a magnificent moustache) stars as a troubled sheriff with secrets to hide in this slow-burning thrill ride of a film. Two mischievous ten year olds steal Bacon’s abandoned police cruiser, go on a joy ride and discover some unpleasant truths about the sheriff along the way. Sure to put you on edge, Cop Car builds expertly to its dramatic conclusion and his helped along by brilliant performances from both Bacon and the two young actors (James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford) he is pursuing.

Fri 19 and Wed 24 Jun, £10, Cineworld, Fountain Park, 130/3 Dundee Street, EH11 1AF – more info

Big Gold Dream: Scottish Post-Punk and Infiltrating the Mainstream

Screening in both Edinburgh and Aberdeen, music documentary Big Gold Dream is the previously untold story of the Scottish post-punk and indie scene in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Filmmaker Grant McPhee interviews music legends of the era about their work and the record label Fast Product (run from a tenement flat in Edinburgh) that became a hub for Scottish musicians at that time. The Filmhouse showing of Big Gold Dream on Friday 19 June will be followed by an exclusive gig featuring some of the film’s key talent, so big fans should get their tickets early.

Fri 19, Tue 23 and Sat 27 Jun, from £10, Filmhouse, 88 Lothian Road, EH3 9BZ / Belmont Filmhouse, 49 Belmont Street, Aberdeen, AB10 1JS / Odeon, 118 Lothian Road, EH3 8BQ – more info

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon

You’ve probably seen plenty of their movies, from the classic Animal House and Christmas Vacation to the much more recent Van Wilder, but what else do you know about National Lampoon? If the answer is ‘Not much’ then Douglas Tirola’s enthralling documentary Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead will open your eyes to the evolution of the National Lampoon from a university publication into a world-renowned brand and comedy institution. With archive appearances and contributions from many a familiar face – including John Belushi, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, to name a few – we’re expecting a hilariously dark ride back to the National Lampoon’s heyday.

Sat 20 and Sun 21 Jun, £10, Cineworld, Fountain Park, 130/3 Dundee Street, EH11 1AF – more info

Maggie

Everybody’s favourite Austrian muscleman Arnie is back on the big screen in Henry Hobson’s curveball zombie drama, Maggie. Rumoured to be Schwarzenneger’s best acting performance yet, he plays a Midwest farmer who selflessly decides to care for his daughter Maggie (played by Abigail Breslin) after she is infected by zombies. This gives Arnie the excuse to fight off both law enforcement and other zombies as he does everything he can to protect Maggie. Despite sounding like the perfect recipe for the kind of action-packed gore-fest that we’ve come to expect of Schwarzenneger, the arty cinematography and quirky plot make this zombie film stand out from the rest.

Sat 20 and Tue 23 Jun, £10, Filmhouse, 88 Lothian Road, EH3 9BZ – more info

Love & Mercy

An unusual and interesting take on the standard music biopic, Love & Mercy focuses on two specific periods in the life of former Beach Boy Brian Wilson. Akin to Todd Haynes’s unusual Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There from a few year ago, Love & Mercy director Bill Pohlad has chosen two different actors to portray Wilson at the different stages of his life. Paul Dano is the young Beach Boy who defined the band’s sound in the 1960s, while John Cusack takes on the role of the middle-aged and somewhat disillusioned version of Wilson. With an unconventional yet fascinating structure and strong support from Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti, this film looks set to be endlessly entertaining.

Sat 20 and Thu 25 Jun, £10, Filmhouse, 88 Lothian Road, EH3 9BZ / Cineworld, Fountain Park, 130/3 Dundee Street, EH11 1AF – more info

Inside Out

Pixar fans will be excited to hear that the famous animation studio’s latest film Inside Out is getting its UK premiere at EIFF. The concept is a little out of the ordinary, and the film’s main characters are actually the internal emotions of teenager Riley: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust. An impressive collection of prominent comedy actors provide voices for the film, including Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling and Bill Hader. The basic plot follows Joy and Sadness as they attempt to restore emotional order in Riley’s head after she moves to San Francisco, but it’s probably better just to watch and enjoy the movie. As Pixar’s track record has proven, it will probably be far more complex, intelligent and heart-warming than any synopsis could ever put across.

Sun 21 Jun, £7, Festival Theatre, 13-29 Nicolson Street, EH8 9FT – more info

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

This is one of two films at this year’s EIFF starring the endlessly talented and hilarious Kristen Wiig, but it’s 23 year old Bel Powley who steals the show as the teenaged Minnie in Marielle Heller’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Set in 1970s San Francisco, the film follows Minnie as she embarks on a passionate affair with a much older man, encouraged in part by her mother’s (Wiig’s) thrill-seeking lifestyle. More lighthearted and enjoyable than a brief synopsis makes it sound, Powley and Wiig’s acting is a joy to watch in this one.

Mon 22 and Tue 23 Jun, £10, Filmhouse, 88 Lothian Road, EH3 9BZ / Cineworld, Fountain Park, 130/3 Dundee Street, EH11 1AF – more info

You’re Ugly Too

Irish writer and director Mark Noonan’s debut feature film You’re Ugly Too is the story of the complicated and dysfunctional relationship between newly orphaned 11 year old Stacey and her uncle Will, who has very recently been released from prison. This charming yet bittersweet film will no doubt prompt the odd chuckle and probably move you to tears in the same breath. Even in his first feature length work Noonan expertly fields the stark pain of loss and the sheer complexity of human interaction without breaking a sweat.

Sat 27 and Sun 28 Jun, £10, Cineworld, Fountain Park, 130/3 Dundee Street, EH11 1AF / Odeon, 118 Lothian Road, EH3 8BQ – more info

Main image: Gilles Bruno Mingasson/Mockingbird Pictures