10 September

Nomadland image

Nomadland

USA  2020  101 mins  15

Frances McDormand (Fargo, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) is at the centre of this beautifully crafted fictionalised documentary (and Oscar winner), directed by Chloé Zhao with exceptional intelligence and style. McDormand plays Fern, a victim of the 2008 recession and recently widowed who reacts to her new circumstances by embracing the possibility of freedom and life on the open road. She joins a community of like-minded nomads, roaming the country in camper vans, looking for seasonal work and friendship. McDormand’s subtle and understated performance is supported by a cast of mostly real nomads whom she meets along the way.

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24 September

Rocks still

Rocks

UK  2020  93 mins  12A

A multi-award-winning film featuring an outstanding cast of young actors, this is a marvellous coming-of-age drama set in London. Shola, nicknamed Rocks, is a teenage girl who is left to look after her younger brother when they’re abandoned by their feckless mother. So she turns to her circle of school friends, a varied and lively group of girls. In hands other than the talented director Sarah Gavron’s this could have been a mawkish and miserable story, but instead it’s a tale of resilience and resourcefulness that feels fresh and very real. Bukky Bakray is outstanding as Rocks, and her relationships with her brother and friends are charmingly played out. Not to be missed.

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8 October

First Cow still

First Cow

USA  2019  122 mins  12A

Foraging for food and at odds with fellow fur-trappers in early 19th-century Oregon, ‘Cookie’ (John Magaro) discovers a Chinese fugitive, King-Lu (Orion Lee), lurking in the forest. Once they’ve set early mistrust aside they set up a modest business that, hilariously, depends on stealing milk from the one and only cow introduced to the region by a pompous English agent (Toby Jones). Along with her regular co-writer, Jon Raymond, and cinematographer Chris Blauvelt, director Kelly Reichardt infuses this engrossing tale with the same earthy and deeply-felt values that defined America’s pioneering years, and which she so effectively also delivered in Meek’s Cutoff.

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22 October

The Last Bus still

The Last Bus

UK  2021  86 mins  12A

NOTE: Date changed from printed programme

Bereaved pensioner Tom (Timothy Spall) decides to carry his wife’s ashes from John O’Groats to Land’s End where they first met, using only his bus pass. Director Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) and noted TV screenwriter Joe Ainsworth (Holby City) ensure that cantankerous Tom experiences bemusement and sympathy along the way. His determination to overcome Britain’s creaking public transport reflects his abiding love for his late spouse, played in flashback by Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey – both TV and film) but inevitably the success of the enterprise, in every sense, is a tribute to Spall who gives perhaps his best, most nuanced turn since Mr Turner or The Party.

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5 November

limbo still

Limbo

UK  2020  114 mins  PG

NOTE: Date changed from printed programme

A group of refugees are forced to live on a bleak and sparsely inhabited Scottish island in the Outer Hebrides while they await their asylum claims. The only amenities appear to be a school, a telephone kiosk and a bus stop. The drama centres on Omar, a Syrian, played by Amir El-Masry, who carries with him everywhere a music case containing his oud, a kind of lute – an instrument he loves and his only link to the home he left behind. This wry and poignant tale has its inevitable sadnesses but there’s also a good deal of humour. El-Masry gives a brilliant performance, supported by Borgen’s Sidse Babett Knudsen and the outstanding direction of Ben Sharrock.

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19 November

After Love still

After Love

UK  2020  89 mins  12A

Having transitioned from mild-mannered Anglican to devout Muslim housewife, Fatima (Joanna Scanlan) finds her husband Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia) lying dead in their Dover lounge. What follows is both heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting as she soon discovers that Ahmed had a second wife and family just across the water in France. Scanlan, best known as the slyly comic actor in TV’s The Thick Of It and Getting On, gives an extraordinarily powerful, grief-infused performance aided by a multilingual cast little known here, including French soap star Nathalie Richard as Ahmed’s other wife who is now also confronting the shocking news. (S)

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3 December

Sound of Metal still

Sound of Metal

USA  2019  120 mins  15

Newbie director Darius Marder and co-writer Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond the Pines) tell the tale of heavy-metal drummer Reuben Stone (Riz Ahmed) who suddenly loses his hearing while touring America with his singer/partner Lou (Olivia Cooke) in their mobile home. Any resemblance to Nomadland ends right there, for although Lou is clearly sympathetic she realises her career could now be over, too. We then follow Reuben’s efforts to come to terms with deafness, much aided by the charismatic Joe (veteran stage actor Paul Raci) at a retreat for the similarly afflicted. It’s arguably Ahmed’s best – and Oscar-nominated – performance since Nightcrawler.

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17 December

Deerskin still

Deerskin

Fra  2019  86 mins  15

With the darkest of humour, Oscar-winning Jean Dujardin (The Artist) who as George is inexplicably obsessed with the titular animal hide and spends his last €7000 on a fringed suede jacket whose vendor throws in a home movie camera for free. Bizarrely, he then decides to rid the world of lesser jackets, filming them in the process along with a bored, bemused bartender (Adèle Haenel) who gifts him further deerskin attire as his obsession gets ever more twisted. Writer-director Quentin Dupieux has form with offbeat films such as Rubber and Reality, and his own editing and cinematography are deployed here to hugely enjoyable effect. (S)

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Autumn-Winter 2021

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