Best of British Cinema

If you’re anything like me, you might occasionally get a little bit fed-up of all-American blockbusters all being, well, American. I’ve arrived at a point where sometimes I honestly find it a little perturbing to hear British accents on film, because I’m just not that used to hearing them on screen. For fear we’re all going to forget how to understand each other’s’ accents and resort to communicating via sims-esque babbling and gestures, I have rounded up my favourite British, slightly under the radar, films. (Or at least the ones I can remember)

The Selfish Giant (2013*)

This film is quiet, powerful, and potentially one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen. It’s inspired by Oscar Wilde’s story of the same name, and reminds me of This Is England, because of the way it depicts relationships between older and younger characters becoming sour and exploitative. It is, however, much subtler and more heart wrenching than This is England. This story’s modern twist incorporates struggling masculinity, poverty, and ultimately creates a realistic and down-to-earth representation of what it is like to live in the ‘forgotten’ fringes of society. Plus, the child acting is incredible.

Submarine (2010*)

The Selfish Giant made me cry. Submarine is the perfect antidote. Richard Ayoade’s masterpiece, it comes with all the awkward wit you could only expect from him. It’s a fantastic coming of age story, with an impressive cast and a beautifully crafted soundtrack primarily from Alex Turner. I could describe it as cringe humour, but don’t expect to be letting yourself in for Inbetweeners level cringing. Submarine is more of an awkward, relatable, ‘remember when I was that young and foolish’, chuckle inducing style of cringe. The protagonist’s quest to be the best boyfriend he can be, while still trying to wedge in as much pretentious vocabulary as he can, and lose his virginity all in the space of a mere 97minutes, come together to create a perfect capsule of British humour.

Calvary (2014*)

So far, I’ve sent you to Bradford and Swansea, so now it’s only fair we cross the channel for something a bit (a lot) grittier. I don’t really know where to begin with how thoroughly tense and infuriating this choice is. It takes the simplicity of the ‘who dunnit’ storyline and loads it with painfully twisted characters, complex relationships, and even manages to tackle the sensitive issues surrounding paedophilia and the Catholic Church. It does this with dignity, black humour, and impeccable screenplay. The bleak setting combined with the sombre but enticing performance by lead, Brendan Gleeson, means that Calvary’s many awards are well deserved.

Pride (2014*)

Back to Wales, and back to something (ironically, given the themes it tackles) significantly more light-hearted. I don’t like the term ‘feel-good’ so instead I’ll just say if you want to feel good, watch this film. Set in 1984, the thoroughly charming characters (played by some very familiar faces, I might add) take us through the true story of how LGBT groups set aside their own agenda to join forces with the - initially somewhat begrudging - striking miners. It’s a real snapshot into history, with prevalent references to the AIDs crisis and the ability to make the viewer retrospectively laugh at just how ridiculous the forced masculinity was at the time. It might be a bit predictable, but you can allow that given that it’s actual real history.

Happy-Go-Lucky (2008*)

Ah, to be an optimist. I am willing to bet that you will waste a significant amount of energy when watching this film wondering when it will all go to shit. However, like in life, you can feel safe in the knowledge that a positive attitude will see you through to the end in one piece. And, surprise surprise, a positive attitude is just what our happy-go-lucky lead character, Poppy, has. Nothing catastrophic happens, nothing amazing happens; the film is happy, witty, and entertaining, because of Poppy’s childlike joy, and resilience to negativity. A trait which is personified in the film by Poppy’s driving instructor, who is in equal parts hilarious and terrifying. Happy-go-Lucky will you inspire you to try and adopt the kind of outlook that Sally Hawkins portrays so convincingly in this original, unironic and wonderfully British film.

* When I wrote this I said to myself, ‘Just do recent films, to keep it relatable’. Seemingly my concept of time leaves much to be desired. I see now that 2008 is not recent. Just watch the films anyway, k? Still struggling with the idea that I can’t class 2014 as recent anymore, either.