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Article – British Cinema in 2016


Posted January 1, 2016 by

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British Cinema in 2016

The Theory of Everything, Kingsman – The Secret Service, 45 Years, Suffragette, Spectre and The Lady in the Van maintained the impression that British cinema is a force to be reckoned with in 2015, as opposed to The Bad Education Movie, which didn’t. Will 2016 offer any cinematic pleasures from the land of Jerusalem and Julian Clary? I decided to carry out a quick survey.

Dressed for the occasion

2015 was the year of the transgender. The zeitgeist-hitting period drama The Danish Girl which reteams director Tom Hooper with Les Miserables co-star Eddie Redmayne, tells the story of artist Einar Wegener, who underwent one of the world’s first sex change operations. Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts and Ben Whishaw co-star in a film that has both Oscar buzz and hacksaw responses from film critics who saw it at Venice last autumn. (UK release date: January 1st)

Not yet given a release date is Tulip Fever, the long-in-gestation adaptation (by Tom Stoppard) of Deborah Moggach’s novel. Alicia Vikander (again) stars alongside Christoph Waltz, Cara Delevingne, Judi Dench, Dane DeHaan and Jack O’Connell. It’s about an artist who falls for a young married woman in 17th Century Amsterdam. Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) directs.

Another spy thriller

Our Kind of Traitor, adapted from John Le Carré’s novel by Hossein Amini (Drive) and directed by Susanna White stars Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris as an English couple who make the acquaintance of a Russian oligarch (Stellan Skarsgård) who wants to defect. The British Secret Service takes an interest. The success of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has re-ignited cinema audience’s interest in Le Carré though this might be another A Most Wanted Man. I liked it, but was in the minority. McGregor’s last mystery thriller was Roman Polanski’s The Ghost, a rather underwhelming apparition. (UK release date: May 6th)

You’re having a laugh

Britain gave the world Monty Python and Mr Bean. This year, British cinema comedies include Dad’s Army (February 5th) which stars Toby Jones as Home Guard Captain Mainwaring. He is surrounded by a plethora of English comedian talent (Bill Nighy, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Bill Paterson) and, making her first British film for years, Catherine Zeta Jones. (Cue remarks along the lines of ‘once you get used to one silver fox, you may as well court a battalion.’) The cast have a big act to follow – the 1970s TV series is frequently repeated and mostly stands the test of time. I predict a panic.

Further down the turnpike is a pair of TV spin-offs: Absolutely Fabulous – The Movie (July 1st) and David Brent: Life on the Road (August 19th). These at least feature the original stars (Ricky Gervais in the latter) but have the whiff of desperation about them. The Inbetweeners Movie has a lot to answer for.

I have slightly more enthusiasm for Bridget Jones’ Baby (September 16th) which features Texan Oscar winner Renee Zellweger in the iconic role of former singleton Bridget Jones, who is – as the title suggests – pregnant. Hugh Grant found something better to do (see below). Filling in for him is Patrick Dempsey, star of Grey’s Anatomy.

Sporting failure

Released in advance of Euro 2016, when expectations for England’s football team are typically low, is the bio-pic Eddie The Eagle (April 1st) with Kingsman star Taron Egerton in the title role as Winter Olympics skiing embarrassment Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards. Hugh Jackman plays his trainer. I’m not entirely sure whether it’s a comedy but it is certainly a tale of British pluck in the face of absurdity. Dexter Fletcher (Sunshine on Leith) directs.

Auteur alert

Expect new films from Stephen Frears (Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant – his Bridget Jones sick note), Terence Davies (A Quiet Passion) and Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake). First up is High Rise (March 18th) director Ben Wheatley’s adaptation (with co-screenwriter Amy Jump) of J G Ballard’s futuristic satire. Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons star.

Rowling thunder

No British film is likely to earn more coin than Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (November 18th) written by J K Rowling herself and directed by David Yates. Of course, after Josh Trank’s Fantastic 4, no one really wants to have a film title that begins with that word. But if anyone can break the curse, it is Ms Rowling.

Women directors

Amma Asante follows her US-UK hit, Belle, with A United Kingdom, an inter-racial love story between Botswana’s first President, Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) and London office worker Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), whose union in 1947 was opposed not only by their families but also by the British and South African governments. The Riot Club director Lone Scherfig also has a new film in production, Their Finest Hour and a Half starring Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin about a film crew making a patriotic movie in the 1940s. Comedy hi-jinks apparently ensue. Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha has completed shooting Viceroy’s House starring Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Hugh Bonneville and Om Puri, an ‘upstairs downstairs’ tale of life in Viceroy Lord Mountbatten’s house as India is about to be given its independence. Chadha has a crowd-pleasing touch and this film fills a gap left vacant by the final series of Downton Abbey. A shout out also to Sightseers co-writer turned director Alice Lowe whose Prevenge is about a pregnant woman on a murderous rampage. Release dates for all of these to be confirmed.

The Rest

The British Council website lists some 391 films in various states of production. Titles that leapt out at me included: The Sense of an Ending (director: Ritesh Batra) adapted from Julian Barnes novel and starring Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Emily Mortimer; Brotherhood, Noel Clarke’s follow up to Kidulthood and Adulthood; Fanny Lye Deliver’d directed by Thomas Clay, who made the powerful and impressive (not to mention hard to watch) The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael; Kill Her Witch, writer-director Faye Gilbert’s dystopian chase movie backed by the London Microwave scheme which produced Shifty and Lilting; and the odd-sounding Eye Digress directed by Stephen Cookson, in which Timothy Spall reportedly plays 15 characters. I’m not sure Couple in a Hole (April 8th) directed by Belgian Tom Reems and filmed in a French forest counts as a British movie but it features an English couple working through grief in an extreme way. Low budget science-fantasy comedy filmmaker Martin Gooch also has a new film in post-production, The Gate House. If it doesn’t get a cinema release, expect to see it at Sci-Fi London in the early summer.

Finally, Lady MacBeth (director: William Oldroyd) is a 19th Century period drama starring Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Christopher Fairbank, Naomi Ackie, Paul Hilton. Written by Alice Birch, its plot – wife of rich industrialist who falls for a worker – actually sounds more like D H Lawrence than Shakespeare but with, possibly, a murderous edge.


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Larry Oliver
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