David Tennant RD Laing biopic to close GFF

Feature by The Skinny | 05 Jan 2017

Glasgow Film Festival will open with Irish coming-of-age film Handsome Devil and close with the world premier of Mad to be Normal, which stars David Tennant as the great Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing

It's been revealed that the thirteenth edition of the Glasgow Film Festival (15-26 Feb) will close with the world premiere of Mad to be Normal, which tells the story of Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing, known as the “high priest of anti-psychiatry.”

Specifically, the film focuses on Laing’s time at Kingsley Hall in East London, which he founded in 1965 as a medication-free community for those seriously affected by schizophrenia. His radical methods and theories flew in the face of the medical establishment but gained him fans across the globe and made him one of the most charasmatic and revolutionary intellectuals of the 1960s.

Heading up a star-filled cast is David Tennant, and we’re told the former Doctor Who really gets under the skin of this compelling and controversial figure. “Tennant’s nuanced, complex work conveys a sense of Laing’s immense personal charm and the combination of intelligence and arrogance that made him revered and reviled,” reads GFF’s press release. The film is also said to consider the “darker side of Laing, who rarely made it easy for those who dared to get close to him, especially his lover Angie," played in the film by Elisabeth Moss.

David Tennant in Mad to be Normal

As well as Tennant and Moss, Mad to be Normal also stars Michael Gambon and Gabriel Byrne. Tennant and the film’s director, Robert Mullan, as well as other cast members, are expected to attend the closing gala on 26 Feb.

GFF co-director Allison Gardner reckons it’s the perfect film to close the festival. “David Tennant gives an absolutely stunning performance,” she says, “and it seems only fitting that Glasgow should have the honour of hosting the premiere of a film about one of the city’s most complex, charismatic figures.” 

Handsome Devil to open GFF17

Fionn O’Shea in Handsome Devil

Eleven days earlier GFF will open with the European premiere of Irish coming-of-age film Handsome Devil. The cast is headed up by newcomer Fionn O’Shea, who stars as “gawky, sixteen year-old Ned, a bright, artistic lad who faces his own hell on earth when he is sent to an all-boys Irish boarding school where the manly pursuit of rugby is virtually a religion.”

Sherlock and Spectre star Andrew Scott plays Ned’s inspirational English teacher while Nicholas Galitzine plays Conor, the school’s star rugby player, who forms a close friendship with the film’s gangly teen hero. Gardner describes Handsome Devil, which is directed by Irish filmmaker John Butler (The Stag), as “a real crowdpleaser with a joyous spirit.”

GFF’s tribute to John Berger

GFF also pays tribute to the late, great John Berger with the Scottish premiere of The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger. The film takes the form of four essay films by Tilda Swinton, Colin MacCabe, Christopher Roth and Bartek Dziadosz in collaboration with the composer Simon Fisher Turner, each of which centres on a different aspect of Berger’s life in his home in the French alpine town of Quincy.

The full programme for Glasgow Film Festival 2017 will be announced on 18 January.

Glasgow Film Festival runs 15-26 Feb in various venues across Glasgow
Handsome Devil screens 15 Feb
Mad to be Normal screens 26 Feb
The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger screens 24 Feb, with an additional screening on 25 Feb

Tickets for the opening and closing galas go on sale 10am on Mon 9 Jan from glasgowfilm.org/glasgow-film-festival

More on GFF 2017:
GFF announce tantalising special events for 2017
GFF reunites members of Glasgow's 90s music scene