Directed by: Garth DavisStaring: Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and David Wenham
It tells the story of how, in 1986, Saroo, an illiterate, impoverished five-year-old in rural central India, got separated from his brother at a railway station in Burhanpur, and accidentally ended up alone on a train that took him almost a thousand miles to Kolkata (then called Calcutta). Unable to speak Bengali, and unaware of the name of his home town, he had no way to return. He lived as a street urchin and survived on his wits and scraps of food. He was later taken in by an orphanage, and was eventually adopted by an Australian couple, Sue and John Brierley, who took him to start a new life in Tasmania.
A quarter-century later came the implausible twist. Saroo – by now a robust, happy, windsurfing, fully fledged Aussie – used Google Earth, a handful of visual memories and immense dedication to identify his home town: Khandwa, in central India. In February 2012 he travelled there and – spoiler alert – found his biological mother, Fatima.
Directed by Garth Davis, it stars Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel as young and older Saroo respectively, and Nicole Kidman and David Wenham as his adoptive parents.
Directed by: Sebastian LelioStaring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes & Luis Gnecco
Marina is a waitress and aspiring singer. Orlando is 20 years older than her, and a business owner. They are in love and planning for the future. One evening, Orlando falls ill. Marina rushes him to hospital, but he passes away soon after arriving. Instead of being able to mourn her lover, Marina is treated with suspicion. A detective investigates Marina’s possible involvement in his death. Orlando’s ex-wife forbids her from attending the funeral, and his son threatens to throw her out of the flat she shared with Orlando. Marina is a trans woman and for most of Orlando’s family, her sexual identity is abnormal. So Marina struggles for the right to be herself, battling the same forces that she has spent a lifetime fighting just to become the woman she is now – a complex, strong, forthright and fantastic woman.
Directed by: Greta GerwigStaring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts
Set in Sacramento, California in 2002, Ladybird centres on Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a high-schooler who behaves with the unselfconscious conviction of a young kid. Gerwig’s pink-haired protagonist is seemingly unencumbered by the awkwardness and fear that dogs most teenagers on the cusp of change. Though the film gives us milestones from Lady Bird’s coming of age, its key preoccupation is the jagged relationship between Lady Bird and her mother Marion, who works tirelessly to keep her family afloat after Lady Bird’s father loses his job. Her blunt pragmatism butts heads with her daughter’s dreams of moving to New York, “where culture is”. The scenes between mother and daughter are electric; their inability to communicate ring with excruciating veracity.
Directed by: Shubhashish BhutianiStaring: Adil Hussain, Lalit Behl, Geetanjali Kulkarni
This delightful Indian art house film combines humour, insight,wit, empathy and humanity. The two main protagonists are superb. Former schoolteacher, Daya, is convinced he is dying and books into a hotel by the Ganges for 15 days which is set up specifically for the dying, and run by the eccentric Mishraji. He is accompanied begrudgingly on this trip by his overworked and sceptical middle aged son Rajiv. Celebrating life on the edge of death (The Times) it explores the conflicts of parenting and living in a witty and unsentimental way. Bhutiani also gently paints a picture of a modern India unveiling the strain between technology and tradition, as well as generational differences. Vibrant and vivid, the locations within the film are also a visual treat.
Directed by: Michael Dudok de WitStaring: Michael Dudok de Wit, Emmanuel Garijo, Jean-Christophe Lie and Tom Hudson
This animated fantasy drama film has no dialogue and has been described as a ‘luminous visual symphony’ which captures and conveys emotion without uttering a single word. It tells the story of a nameless man who is shipwrecked on a tropical island. The only sounds are of the water, wind and birds. His attempts to leave are thwarted by a giant red turtle who attacks and destroys the rafts he builds. Without explanation the turtle turns into a beautiful woman and the man falls in love with her. Recounting the milestones and challenges in the life of a human being, this sensitive and thoughtful film has been likened to having the ‘proportion of a fable but the scope of a mythical lifetime’.
Directed by: Aki KaurismakiStaring: Sakari Kuosmanen as Wikstrom, Sherwan Haji as Khalid
In his semi-delightful, semi-sad, semi-comedy, The Other Side of Hope, director Aki Kaurismaki presents two protagonists, and they are total opposites. One is Wikstrom, a reasonably well-off middle-aged salesman (and virtuoso poker player) who leaves his alcoholic wife. The other is a Syrian refugee, Khaled whom Finnish immigration officials have decided must be forcibly returned to Aleppo in Syria. Kaurismaki presents the ensuing clash and blend of cultures, alluding to how Finland deals with the wider refugee crisis. The film is tragic, funny, depressing, and inspiring. It’s as if the masks of comedy and tragedy don’t — as usual — face away from each other, but stare each other in the face, as if they were saying, “You and me, we’re in this together.”
Kaurismaki won best director for The Other Side of Hope at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Directed by: Hope Dickson LeachStaring: Ellie Kendrick, David Troughton and Jack Holden
There have been a number of British films recently set on farms. We have selected this film for its quality and connection to the local Somerset countryside. The first feature film by renowned director of short films Dickson Leach, the Levelling is set in the aftermath of the disastrous floods of 2014. It explores the relationship of trainee vet Clover Cato ( Bridge of Thrones star Ellie Kendrick) and her father Aubrey (David Troughton). Cato has returned to the farm after the violent death of her brother, Harry. Her father has been forced to abandon the farmhouse and live in a caravan after the floods but is determined to keep farming. He enlists Cato’s help despite her inexperience and the clearly strained relations between them. In the background are constant reminders of Harry and his death both physical and through the presence of his best friend James (Jack Holden). Excellent script, direction, cinematography (Nanu Segal) and music (Hutch Demouilpied) capture the simplicity and beauty, but also the sometimes bleak and harsh realities, of rural life.
Directed by: Andrei Zvyagintsev (Russia)Staring: Maryana Spivak as Zhenya, Aleksey Rozin as Boris and Matvey Novikov as Alyosha, son of Zhenya and Boris
A couple fail to reconcile after their son, Alyosha, overhears a horrible argument in their cramped flat, and goes missing. Has he been kidnapped? Is the shy, unhappy 12 year old boy the basic cause or symptom of the collapse of his parents’ relationship? As the search fails to deliver results, a portrait of an entire society in crisis emerges. Loveless is a stark, mysterious and terrifying story of spiritual catastrophe: a drama with the ostensible form of a procedural crime thriller, its hypnotic intensity and unbearable ambiguity are compellingly maintained until the very end. This is a story of contemporary Russia, whose people are at the mercy of implacable forces in a loveless world, without the full means to support human life.
Loveless, which is like Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage” dipped in battery acid, is a master class in melancholy.
Directed by: Hal AshbyStaring: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort and Vivian Pickles
This black comedy has been recommended by two of our members. After an initial lack of success it has become a cult classic. Harold is a wealthy but bored twenty year old obsessed with death. His unloving mother is only interested in finding him a wife and a career. In a series of darkly comic scenes Harold manages to put off the potential brides selected by his mother by various bizarre acts of simulated suicide. He meets eccentric 79 year old Maude (Ruth Gordon) at a funeral. She helps him avoid his mother’s plans for a military career and they embark together on a series of escapades in the lead up to her eightieth birthday. Gradually Harold learns from Maude about how about life and love and why her family history make her so determined to have fun whilst she can. Filmed in San Francisco with music by Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) the film captures the essence of the era just after the 1960’s flower power period but has remained popular for its lessons for all times.
Directed by: JR, Agnès VardaStaring: JR, Agnès Varda, people they meet in rural France
Agnès Varda and JR have things in common: a passion for and the exploration of images in general, and more precisely, for places and for ways of showing, sharing, and exhibiting them. Agnès chose cinema. JR chose to create open air photography galleries. When Agnès and JR met in 2015, they immediately wanted to work together, to shoot a film in France, far from cities, during a trip in JR’s photographic (and magical) truck. Through chance encounters and prepared projects, they reached out to others, listening to them, photographing them, and sometimes putting them on posters. This film also tells the story of Agnès and JR’s friendship, which grew stronger throughout the film shoot, between surprises and teasing, and while laughing about their differences.