The London Film Critics’ Circle tends to spread the wealth between multiple films in any given year, but their affections were even more split than usual Sunday. Through the evening, you might have felt the wind blowing in the direction of “Moonlight,” “Manchester by the Sea” or “Love & Friendship,” all of which took a brace of awards at tonight’s ceremony at the May Fair Hotel in London — or even last year’s Oscar winner “Son of Saul,” a 2016 release in the U.K. that pulled off a surprise director of the year win for first-timer László Nemes.
But in an eleventh-hour coup that echoed its triumph in the NYFCC voting last month, it was hot Oscar favorite “La La Land” that danced off with the film of the year prize, despite winning no other trophies. In what I’m told was one of the tightest vote counts in the Circle’s history, the outcome further proves the bittersweet musical’s strength as a consensus favorite.
The British critics echoed the collective verdict of their U.S. counterparts in several other categories, with season-long sweeper Casey Affleck named best actor for “Manchester by the Sea,” which also took writing honors for Kenneth Lonergan. Isabelle Huppert prevailed in the best actress category, though in a twist, the Frenchwoman didn’t win for Paul Verhoeven’s rape-revenge provocation “Elle” — ineligible here and at the BAFTAs due to its late U.K. release date. Instead, her mellower but equally expert turn in Mia Hansen-Love’s character study “Things to Come,” tagged to “Elle” by a number of U.S. critics’ groups, proved popular enough to take the award on its own. It was a very good night indeed for Huppert, who was further graced with the group’s honorary Dilys Powell Award for career achievement — gilding the lily, some might say, but who can argue with that resume?
“Moonlight” and “Love & Friendship,” which jointly led the Circle’s nominations, had to be content with a pair of acting awards apiece, including one shared between them: In a satisfying outcome for two chalk-and-cheese performances, Mahershala Ali and Tom Bennett tied for best supporting actor. Bennett’s co-star Kate Beckinsale was named British actress of the year, beating Naomie Harris — who took supporting actress honors instead.
Palme d’Or winner and surprise BAFTA package “I, Daniel Blake” took British/Irish film of the year, while “Toni Erdmann” was named best foreign language film. In a good night for subtitled cinema, Italian immigration study “Fire at Sea” was named best documentary, while German one-take marvel “Victoria” took the multi-disciplinary technical achievement award for its bravura cinematography. Even one of the group’s home-team awards had a foreign bent, as Babak Anvari, the Iranian-born writer-director of Tehran-set horror