Directed by: James MarshStaring: Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones
With a great feel for its period English setting, Cambridge in the 60s at the outset, it tells the story of physicist Stephen Hawking. Redmayne’s is an astonishing, genuinely visceral, Oscar winning, performance. He inhabits rather than imitates Hawking through his physical decline from motor neurone disease, and in his marriage to Jane, played by Felicity Jones, also a brilliant actor. A realistic relationship, with a bedrock of respect and affection is captured in a film to leave you reeling but cheered, too. It’s about battling love, as well as illness.
A universal story, extracted from a unique one.
Directed by: Ritesh BatraStaring: Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur
Ila is trying to add some spice to her marriage, this time through her cooking. She desperately hopes that this new recipe will finally arouse some kind of reaction from her neglectful husband. She prepares a special lunchbox to be delivered to him at work, but it is mistakenly delivered to Saajan, a lonely man on the verge of retirement. Curious about the lack of reaction from her husband, Ila puts a little note in the following day’s lunchbox. This begins a series of lunchbox notes between Saajan and Ila, which creates an unexpected friendship. They each discover a new sense of self and find an anchor to hold on to in the big city of Mumbai that so often crushes hopes and dreams.
Directed by: Ava DuVernayStaring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo and Tim Roth
SELMA is the story of a movement. The film chronicles the tumultuous three month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Director Ava DuVernay’s SELMA tells the real story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history.
Directed by: Jeanne HerryStaring: Sandrine Kiberlain, Laurent Lafitte, Pascal Demolon and Olivia Côte
When middle aged pop sensation Vincent Lacroix (Laurent Lafitte) accidentally kills his girlfriend, he enlists devoted super-fan Muriel (Sandrine Kiberlain) to help dispose of the body. A divorced beautician and mother of two, Muriel has never let the truth get in the way of a good story and sees Vincent’s mission as an adventure, with a hint of forbidden romance.
As the police close in on the killer, Muriel’s lonely life becomes more fantastical than her famously tall stories.
Directed by: James KentStaring: Alicia Vikander, Taron Egerton, Kit Harington and Colin Morgan
A powerful coming-of-age story based on the WW1 memoir by Vera Brittain. It is heralded as the voice of a generation, a woman’s perspective, and has become the classic testimony of that war. Vera’s story covers many themes: youth, hope, dreams, love, war, loss, remembrance, futility, and how to make sense of the darkest times. It’s a key witness account of WW1, and is above all a personal story of how one person can survive in those challenging times.
James Kent’s film similarly takes a no–nonsense approach, wisely acknowledging that the simple facts actually require little in the way of melodramatic embellishment.
Directed by: Paolo VirziStaring: Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Matilde Gioli, Valeria Tedeschi and Guglielmo Pinelli
A low paid worker cycles home after cleaning up after an expensive banquet. An SUV knocks him down and drives off. This is actually the end of the narrative but forms the prologue to Virzi’s stylish film. After the prologue the film divides into three chapters telling the story up to the accident from the point of view of three of the characters involved, these being from the rich Bernaschi family and that of the middle class Ossolas. It is both a whodunit about how the cyclist was injured, also a commentary on how people behave, and particularly how the rich may think it acceptable to behave badly in a world of increasingly uneven wealth. The film was nominated as the Italian entry for the Best Foreign Film at the Oscars and winner of many awards.
Directed by: Matthew WarchusStaring: Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton and Dominic West
It is the summer of 1984, Margaret Thatcher is in power, and the miners are on strike in response to the Government’s programme of pit closures. The gay movement is also under threat, and believes that gays and miners should show solidarity. In response, a London based group of gay and lesbian activists decide to raise money to support the strikers’ families. They set off in a mini-bus to make their donation in person, and arrive in the Welsh village of Onllwyn and try to persuade the community that they are on the same side. This drama has plenty of humour but covers many topics that arouse a wide range of emotions.
Directed by: Pawel PawlikowskiStaring: Agata Trzebuchowska and Agata Kulesza
This eerily beautiful black and white film pulls off the remarkable trick of looking as if it was made when it was set – the early 60s. It feels more like a restored and rediscovered classic than a new film. 17 year old Anna (Trzebuchowska) is about to take her final vows in a convent, when her aunt Wanda (Kulesza) proposes they go on a road trip. A journey into the heart of Poland’s church and state follows, with questions about Ida’s Jewish parents, about collaborators, and those who helped Jews in the war. Ida is a compelling film. The performances are superb and the sense of location and period miraculous.
Directed by: Morgan MatthewsStaring: Asa Butterfield, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan and Rafe Spall
A young maths genius has his logic thwarted by the one thing he can’t make sense of – love. Teenage maths prodigy Nathan (Butterfield) struggles to deal with people, not least his mother, Julie (Hawkins) and has been traumatised by the death of his father. However he finds comfort in numbers. Nathan’s talents win him a place representing GB at the International Mathematics Olympiad. When the team go to train in Taiwan, headed up by dictatorial squad leader Richard (Marsan), Nathan is faced with unexpected challenges – not least his new and unfamiliar feelings for his Chinese counterpart, the beautiful Zhang Mei.
This is a heart-warming and life affirming film which neatly sidesteps the clichés of other films on autism.
Directed by: Zaza UrushadzeStaring: Lembit Ulfsak, Elmo Nuganen and Giorgi Nakashidze
In 1992, as the Soviet Union collapses, the conflict between Georgia and Abkhazian separatists nears a community of ethnic Estonians living in Georgia, many of whom flee in terror. Remaining behind, however, is a carpenter named Ivo, who decides to help his neighbour Margus harvest his tangerine crop before leaving. After fighting reaches their village, wounded men from both sides are left behind, and Ivo is forced to take them in. This is a touching anti-war story about Estonians who find themselves in the middle if someone else’s war, and how they handle it.