Contenders for Best Film and Outstanding British Film at the Baftas

The Baftas will be held on Sunday.
The Baftas will be held on Sunday.

Here is a review round-up of films vying for Bafta glory on Sunday in the best film and outstanding British film categories.

:: BEST FILM

ARRIVAL

Anchored by Amy Adams's mesmerising performance, Arrival is contemplative science-fiction drama which imagines mankind's shambolic reaction to first contact with an otherworldly race. Like Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, director Denis Villeneuve's picture philosophises and digests before it considers locking and loading a weapon. At the very moment we discover we are not alone, we have never been further apart. FOUR STARS

I, DANIEL BLAKE

Warwickshire-born director Ken Loach scales the cold, hard face of Britain's over-burdened welfare system in a grimly compelling portrait of the bureaucratic red tape that separates hard-working and desperate folk from the benefits they need to survive. Dave Johns and Hayley Squires deliver riveting performances in this quiet yet impassioned call to arms including a harrowing scene at a food bank, which lands with the force of a sledgehammer to the sternum. FOUR STARS

LA LA LAND

La La Land is a visually sumptuous, unabashedly swooning valentine to the golden age of Hollywood musicals, artfully constructed on a foundation of distinctly modern sensibilities. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are individually luminous as lovers torn between lifelong dreams and their beating hearts. Damien Chazelle's film is bitter and sweet in equal doses, laced with dry wit and an appreciation for the tug of war between love and career advancement that necessitates painful self-sacrifice. FIVE STARS

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Anguished silences between members of a fractured Massachusetts family speak volumes about the loss of a treasured son in writer-director Kenneth Lonergan's elegiac drama. Set in and around the titular coastal community, Manchester By The Sea eloquently explores universal themes of grief, guilt and sexual awakening through the eyes of a 40-year-old handyman (Casey Affleck) whose outlook on life is as threadbare and tattered as the winter jacket he wears atop his overalls. FIVE STARS

MOONLIGHT

Based on the stage play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, director Barry Jenkins's tender coming-of-age drama glimpses abuse, regret and desire from the perspective of an African-American boy struggling to come to terms with his sexuality against a backdrop of crime and punishment in Miami. Naomie Harris scorches every frame as the drug-addicted mother, whose lip-curling cruelty propels her son into the surrogate care of her own dealer (Mahershala Ali). FIVE STARS

:: OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM

AMERICAN HONEY

Kids just wanna have fun but the pursuit of reckless abandon comes at a price in Andrea Arnold's mesmerising, naturalistic portrait of disenfranchised youth. Semi-improvised like her previous films Red Road and Fish Tank, American Honey is a bravura study of loneliness, abandonment and sexual awakening. Lead actress Sasha Lane burns brightly in every scene, bristling with defiance and vulnerability as her free-spirited character barrels towards the cusp of womanhood at frightening speed. FOUR STARS

DENIAL

A high-profile libel lawsuit between Holocaust denier David Irving and Penguin Books, representing American author Deborah Lipstadt, provides a dramatic framework for Mick Jackson's timely courtroom battle. David Hare's script offers an accessible route into complex legal arguments, anchored by strong performances from Rachel Weisz and Timothy Spall on opposite sides of the heated debate. Jackson's heartfelt film is true to its heroine's words: "The voice of suffering will be heard." THREE STARS

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Set several decades before Harry Potter's cataclysmic battle with Lord Voldemort, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is a surprisingly bleak affair about tolerance, prejudice and integration that strikes an ominous chord following the racially divisive rhetoric of the US presidential election. Eddie Redmayne is charmingly ill-at-ease as British magizoologist Newt Scamander, who arrives in 1926 New York carrying an enchanted suitcase with hidden pocket-dimensions full of endangered critters. FOUR STARS

I, DANIEL BLAKE

Warwickshire-born director Ken Loach scales the cold, hard face of Britain's over-burdened welfare system in a grimly compelling portrait of the bureaucratic red tape that separates hard-working and desperate folk from the benefits they need to survive. Dave Johns and Hayley Squires deliver riveting performances in this quiet yet impassioned call to arms including a harrowing scene at a food bank, which lands with the force of a sledgehammer to the sternum. FOUR STARS

NOTES ON BLINDNESS

In 1983, writer and academic John Hull completely lost his sight after decades of steady deterioration. He documented this dramatic change in his day-to-day existence by keeping a diary on audio cassette. Film-makers Pete Middleton and James Spinney draw inspiration from these intimate and eloquent audio recordings for their multifaceted portrait of Hull and those closest to him, which builds into a heart-rending yet life-affirming testament to loss, rebirth and renewal. FIVE STARS

UNDER THE SHADOW

Writer-director Babak Anvari sends beads of cold sweat down the spine with his deeply unsettling and stylish contemporary horror thriller, seen through the eyes of doctor-in-training Shideh (Narges Rashidi), who tries without success to resume her studies in 1980s Tehran during the Iran-Iraq War. During one bombardment, a missile hits Shideh's building and the mother senses a mysterious evil seeping into the apartment she shares with her young daughter, Dorsa (Avin Manshadi). FOUR STARS