7 September

Film Stars Don

Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool

UK  2017   105 mins   15

A romantic drama based on the real-life love affair between Gloria Grahame, the Hollywood legend, Oscar winner and veteran of such classic films as It’s a Wonderful Life and Oklahoma!, and Peter Turner, a struggling young Liverpool actor. Multiple Oscar-nominee Annette Bening (American Beauty, Being Julia) plays Grahame, and Turner is played by BAFTA Award winner Jamie Bell. There is a great spark between Bell and Bening, and Kenneth Cranham and Julie Walters are reliably excellent as Peter’s parents. This is a film of tremendous warmth and tenderness telling the story of star-crossed lovers in an especially unusual May-December relationship. Don’t miss it!

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21 September

Even When I Fall still

Even When I Fall

UK  2017  93 mins  12A

Every year more than 10,000 women and children are enslaved and trafficked from Nepal to India, many of the youngest ending up in circuses where they’re often badly ill-treated. In this searching but tender documentary about their lives, two of them, Saraswoti and Sheetal, now in their twenties, become our guides. And here’s the twist – their sorrow as they reflect on their stolen childhoods may be palpable, but their capacity for psychological recovery is inspiring. They take huge pride in their hard-won circus skills, and their lives are also redeemed by their performances with the charitable Circus Kathmandu as it raises international awareness of child trafficking. (S)

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5 October

Funny Cow still

Funny Cow

UK  2018  102 mins  15

‘The school of hard knocks’ doesn’t begin to do justice to the challenges life throws at Rotherham’s Funny Cow (a searing performance by an otherwise unnamed Maxine Peake). As she rises above her abusive ’50s childhood and violent marriage, she develops the sort of grit she needs to take on the casual sexism and mindless abuse that is her lot as a female stand-up on the 1970s northern comedy circuit. But once she’s sharpened her routine, she finds her brazen and cocky schtick does indeed equip her to cope with both audience hostility and the tricky and often hopeless men with which she has surrounded herself.

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19 October

Western

Ger/Bul/Aust  2018  121 mins  12

What we have here, as the title hints, is a film that plays with familiar movie tropes, as a group of German construction workers takes on a hydro-electric project in a remote Bulgarian region. Well-off western Europe confronts an impoverished east; outsiders ‘invade’ settled territory; toxic masculine group-think courts disaster; feminine vulnerability is abused; sexual tension festers. But, in what The Guardian hails as one of its five-star films of 2018, none of these set-pieces plays out as you expect. Valeska Grisebach’s third feature is so adept at wrong-footing us that outright nastiness or even displays of decency cannot be trusted to deliver the ‘correct’ punch-line. (S)

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2 November

Lady Bird still

Lady Bird

USA  2017  94 mins  15

Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, this beautifully observed coming-of-age comedy-drama stars Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, Brooklyn) as the eponymous precocious teenager, and the award-winning Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne, Desperate Housewives) as Marion, her long-suffering overworked mother. These two positively spark off each other, and their inability to communicate makes for some riveting scenes, set vividly in the edgy 2002 atmosphere of post-9/11 suburban America, and fleshed out with wonderful minor characters such as the dropout wannabe Kyle played by rising star Timothée Chamalet. Well paced, well written and well regarded, this is a film to catch.

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16 November

Faces Places still

Faces Places (Visages Villages)

Fra  2017  94 mins  PG

Agnès Varda, the veteran documentary filmmaker, and an elusive young photographer/artist, known simply as JR, journey through France in a van that looks like a giant camera and doubles as a large format printer; they take pictures and paste gigantic portraits on the sides of houses, city walls and other unlikely places. Varda says, “Chance has always been my best assistant.” Throughout the process, Varda asks questions and listens to the stories of ex-miners, waitresses, factory workers and wives of dockworkers, as they reflect upon their past and present lives. Full of charm, the film is by turns funny, sad and wonderfully humane. (S)

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30 November

Sweet Country still

Sweet Country

Australia  2017  113 mins  15

An original and arresting take on the age-old theme of lynch-mob anger, this time set in the Australian outback of the 1920s. An Aboriginal stockman kills a violent white landowner in self-defence, an act that provokes self-righteous outrage within the racist local community and a ‘string him up’ manhunt. So far, so predictable. But director Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah) doesn’t allow us our usual easy assumptions as this familiar plot-line plays out. First-rate ensemble performances, fabulous visuals, intriguing flash-forwards, taut plotting and satisfying prods at the film’s moral ambiguities, lift this superior Western well clear of routine story-telling.

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14 December

Let The Sunshine In still

Let The Sunshine In

Fra  2017  94 mins  15

A very French take on modern sexual politics, in which middle-aged Parisian artist Isabelle (a luminous Juliette Binoche) searches for love among a pretty unsatisfactory clutch of men, a search that leaves her wondering if it has all passed her by. She wants something better than what seems to be on offer from this string of self-absorbed and insecure males. Yet her feminist instincts rarely leap to her rescue, or protect her from the dubious remarks of friends and lovers alike. The pleasures of this film lie in its wit and lightness of touch – quite a departure for director/writer Claire Denis – and in the star turns from Binoche and Gérard Depardieu’s fortune-teller. (S)

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Autumn-Winter 2018

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