Film

The Emperor's New Clothes

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Russell Brand makes no secret about whose side he’s on in his latest film, made in collaboration with director Michael Winterbottom. Taking up Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the same name, Brand invites an assembly of infants to judge on the fairness of a society riven with the most grotesque inequality. Scenes from this sequence are brilliantly juxtaposed with a host of great interviews with working mothers, New Era housing campaigners, UK Care and Your Choice Barnet care workers, a campaigner with cerebral palsy against cuts to disability benefits, and so on.

Bypass

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Bypass is a moody and gritty thriller set on a council estate. There is definitely as much grit here as there are thrills. The action is never allowed to overshadow the well-researched and brilliantly realised social realism.

George MacKay gives a stunning performance as Tim, a boy trying to make ends meet by whatever means he can. At the same time he is trying to hold his disintegrating family together. Donald Sumpter makes fleeting appearances as Tim’s granddad. He represents a long lost world of stable employment and working class solidity.

The Falling

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The Falling is a dreamlike story of a fainting epidemic among pupils at a girls’ school. It is director Carol Morley’s first feature film, following her haunting 2011 documentary Dreams of a Life.

Set in a damp England in 1969, the times are changing, but the stuffy school in which the action takes place couldn’t be less swinging. Most of the teachers are stuck in the 1950s — if not austerity Britain of the 1940s — particularly Greta Scacchi’s Miss Mantel, who initially recalls Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Suite Française

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Suite Française centres on the relationships between French people and their German occupiers during the Nazi occupation of France from June 1940. The film is based on a novel written by Jewish author Irène Némirovsky. It was one of a series of five she planned to write, but was unable to complete, as she was taken from her hiding place in Paris in 1942 and eventually murdered in Auschwitz. Her daughters had the novel published in 2004 to international acclaim.

Mommy

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On paper, this award winning film by the acclaimed young director Xavier Dolan is packed with “issues”. It is set in a fictional Canada after the 2015 election. Reformed public health laws have shifted the landscape for parents and teachers of children with special needs.

Inherent Vice

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This entertaining movie has been described as a “surfer noir” and Joaquin Phoenix’s private investigator, Doc, as not so much a “gumshoe” as a “gum sandal”. It is the first film to be based on a novel by Thomas Pynchon and is suffused with dope smoke, paranoia and trippy episodes. The novel, which was published in 2009, renders 1960s Los Angeles counter-culture with aching nostalgia.

Selma

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Early in 1965 civil rights activists and leaders agreed to focus their efforts on registering black voters in the Southern states of the US in the face of violent opposition. The campaign culminated in a 50-mile march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, the state capital. This film documents the three-month campaign, and especially Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s involvement in it. It is a powerful story told in a sensitive manner.

Love is Strange

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This is the second in a trilogy of films directed and co-written by Ira Sachs exploring the challenge of relationships. Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) decide to get married after 40 years together. However, shortly afterwards their relationship is tested when George is sacked from his job as choir master because the Catholic Archdiocese objects to their marriage.

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