Freak Show: BFI Flare Film Festival Review

Alex Lawther first came to my attention playing the young Alan Turing in 2014’s The Imitation Game and his subsequent work in Black Mirror, The End of the F***ing, Goodbye Christopher Robin and Ghost Stories proved his ability to play odd, tortured, offbeat characters – but he goes above and beyond all that with Freak Show.

In the high school drama, he plays Billy Bloom, a boy who was raised by his flamboyant mother Muv (Bette Midler) after his parents divorce. He has developed a love for make-up, outlandish fashion and all things feminine, which was accepted when he lived with her, but one day she sends him to live with his dad (Larry Pine) and he is enrolled in an ultra-conservative school where his look and queerness are not accepted. He becomes the subject of ridicule, but rather than let the bullies make him change who he is, Billy leans into his identity.

Like I said before, Lawther has this quirkiness about him that makes him perfect to play Billy. We have seen him playing a variety of weird/troubled people along similar lines, but this is a bold, stand-out, fabulous performance that really cements his talent. He does some pretty out there stuff in End of the F***ing World but this is another level – we see him in some incredible high-fashion looks, putting on a more feminine voice (in American, no less) and wearing full-on stage make-up. It is brave, bold and brilliant. He makes the movie as good as it is and steals every scene (with my highlight being him dancing like Pulp Fiction while dressed as Uma Thurman’s Mia).

He also has some great support. Needless to say, Midler is amazing as Muv, who seems like a darling in Billy’s flashbacks but is actually an alcoholic mess, AnnaSophia Robb (who I ADORE) is sweet and cute as Billy’s first ally in the school, and Ian Nelson as Flip, the handsome footballer who makes friends with Billy (but he’d like something more). The only odd bit of casting was Abigail Breslin as Billy’s rival, the super religious Lynette, who I just didn’t believe. She’s good at comedy and I usually like her but her casting didn’t seem quite right.

Freak Show, Trudie Styler‘s directorial debut, is everything I wanted it to be and more. It is a lot of fun, it’s hilarious one minute and heartbreaking the next, and it just made me happy. It also makes a good statement – don’t change yourself for anybody. Just be you. I really hope it gets distribution here because it deserves to be seen.

Seen as part of the BFI Flare Film Festival. No UK distribution information yet. 

Trackbacks

  1. […] can read my review of the movie here, but in a nutshell, it is about Billy Bloom (Lawther), a flamboyant gay kid who likes to wear […]

  2. […] can read my review of Freak Show here. It should be coming to VOD in the UK later this […]

  3. […] saw Freak Show at the BFI Flare Festival and it was excellent (review here). The always-brilliant Alex Lawther stars as Billy Bloom, a young boy who wears fabulous, feminine […]

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