2015 is already shaping up to be a year overstuffed with huge events at the cinema and if the number of outstanding films released this year is even half as great as the number released in 2014 then 2015 will be brimming with treats for rabid cinephiles of all ages. In an attempt to compartmentalise some of the titles already grabbing my attention and to stump for the enticing and exciting releases coming out of my native land’s industry here is a list of my most anticipated British films for 2015.
The Shaun the Sheep Movie – 6th Feb. UK / TBA, USA During my teaching in China I have learned that Aardman Animation’s Shaun the Sheep TV series is not only an underprepared kindergarten teacher’s best friend but also the wittiest, most inventive and down-right enjoyable kids cartoon in recent memory. Helmed by first time directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzack with the supervision of Aardman stalwart Richard Goleszowski, Shaun the Sheep’s big screen outing looks to have lost none of the kinetic charm of the TV show. In the absence of new releases from Studios Ghibli or Laika, The Shaun the Sheep Movie looks like the ideal choice for parents (and teachers) keen to mollify their kids with something handmade for a change. (Watch the trailer here).
The Duke of Burgundy – 20th Feb. UK / 23rd Jan. USA Consider this the first and last time that The Shaun the Sheep Movie appears on the same list as Peter Strickland’s seventies erotica-themed psycho-sexual romance The Duke of Burgundy, which has already been released to great acclaim in the USA. Telling the story of a long-term love affair between two women living in a world without men, this tale of BDSM and lepidoptery has an enticing premise, even without Strickland’s name on the credits or Borgen’s Sidse Babett Knudsen in a leading role. Given the exquisite composure and atmospheric charms of Strickland’s previous films, Katalin Varga (2009) and Berberian Sound Studio (2012) I’m betting on this being an early contender for my Best Of 2015 list. (Watch the trailer here).
The Lobster – TBA, UK / March, USA Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English-language feature is a British-Greek-Irish co-production; ostensibly a comedy about The City, where single men and women are rounded up, confined to a place called The Hotel and told to find a partner within 45 days or be transformed into an animal and turned out into The Woods. Left-field humour and an unflinching examination of human relationships characterised Lanthimos’ breakout film Dogtooth (2009) and his deeply affecting follow-up Alps (2011) and certainly seem like key ingredients here. Add a cast sheet listing Olivia Coleman, Colin Farrell, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux, Rachel Weisz and Ben Whishaw and The Lobster is beginning to look like a matryoshka doll of delight, nesting within intrigue, nesting within delight, nesting within intrigue.
Far From the Madding Crowd – 1st May, UK and USA Carey Mulligan stars as Bathsheba Everdene, the heroine of Thomas Hardy’s late Victorian romance about one woman torn between three socially divided suitors. Vying for Mulligan’s affections here are Mattheas Schoenarts, Michael Sheen and Tom Sturridge. Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt (2012)) directs from a screenplay by David Nicholls and the long wait to see this adaption arrive from Fox Searchlight and BBC Films should not dampen any enthusiasm to see Mulligan lending her formidable caliber to a romantic costume drama set amongst the rolling hills of Dorset, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. (Watch the trailer here).
Absolutely Anything – July, UK / TBA, USA Terry Jones reunites the surviving Pythons to voice a crew of mischievous aliens, who gift Simon Pegg with the power to do Absolutely Anything he wants. This film marks a welcome return for Terry Jones as a writer-director, as well as the final role of Robin Williams, who was rumoured to be cut from the film but (as this generous clip suggests) will here voice Simon Pegg’s dog, who is blessed with the powers of speech and rational thought. The Monty Python films and Erik the Viking (1989) give Terry Jones unlimited good will in my book and it’s encouraging that he and co-writer Gavin Scott are not bound to making a family friendly film.
45 Years – 28th Aug. UK / TBA, USA Premiering in-competition at this year’s Berlinale, 45 Years stars Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling as a couple preparing to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. But feelings of resentment and anxiety begin to emerge when news arrives that the corpse of Courtenay’s former girlfriend has been discovered fifty years after a fatal accident in the Swiss Alps. Both consistently powerful and compelling throughout their long careers, Rampling and Courtenay seem sure to generate sparks together in the steady hands of director Andrew Haigh (Weekend, 2011).
Suffragette – 11th Sep. UK / TBA, USA Like every film starring Meryl Streep these days, Suffragette has the scent of awards bait wafting about it but the presence of screenwriter Abi Morgan (Shame, 2011) and director Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane, 2007) suggests that this will at least be a worthy contender. Charting the fight for women’s right to vote in Britain, Suffragette stars Meryl Streep as movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst with Helena Bonham Carter, Carey Mulligan and Anne-Marie Duff also taking up the cause. This cast and the Above The Line talent not only makes Suffragette a shoe-in for the 88th Academy Awards but also one of the most overwhelmingly female-led feature films in recent memory.
Spectre – 23rd Oct. UK / 6th Nov. USA Director Sam Mendes will return to the revived 007 franchise with Ralph Feinnes now heading-up MI6 as M and Daniel Craig once again flexing his muscles as everyone’s favourite red-blooded English super-spy-cum-swimsuit-model. The announcement of Christoph Waltz as the villain has been met with whispers invoking the name of Bond’s arch-nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. For reasons explained here I’m hoping that this does not turn out to be the case. Nonetheless if ever there was a born Bond villain, it’s Waltz. Dutch-Swedish cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema is slated to deliver breath-taking visuals for Spectre. The stately, textured look that Van Hoytema brought to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) and Interstellar (2014) seems like a perfect fit for Mendes’ luxurious, unhurried style and the return of the archetypal evil organisation that first appeared in Ian Fleming’s 1961 novel Thunderball.
Brooklyn – TBA Premiering at Sundance to glowing reviews, British-Irish-American co-production Brooklyn was snapped up by Fox Searchlight, and marks a role of maturation for the formidable Irish star Saoirse Ronan. Novelist and screenwriter Nick Hornby adapts Colm Toibin’s Costa Book Award-winning novel that tells the story of a young woman who emigrates to America, caught between the different opportunities that lie with one man in her native Ireland and another in the titular New York City borough. Praise has been heaped on director John Crowley and his crew’s absorbing recreation of the 1950s period and universally excellent performances from the cast. Here’s hoping that Fox Searchlight sees fit to release Brooklyn to the masses sooner rather than later; it is already being touted as a potential ace in the hole for awards season.
Carol – TBA What emerged the last time Todd Haynes directed Cate Blanchett was the highlight of his astonishing Bob Dylan anti-biopic I’m Not There (2007). Haynes has a talent for eliciting world class performances from his female actors and an eye for sumptuous period detail, two things that bode very well for Carol. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt and starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Sarah Paulson, Carol centres on the romantic relationship between a married woman (Blanchett) and a department store clerk (Mara), set in 1950s New York. Never mind Patricia Highsmith, never mind the talented cast; with Haynes and his regular cinematographer Edward Lachman behind the camera, this will be among the best looking films of 2015 and will surely be essential viewing come Best Of season.
High Rise – TBA Jeremy Thomas of RPC has been trying to bring J.G. Ballard’s brutal novel of class division and social degredation to the screen for close to forty years and now with Ben Wheatley at the helm this long overdue adaptation is expected to premier at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. That Wheatley and his wife and regular co-writer Amy Jump are leading this project is reassuring, given the rocky history of Ballard’s work on the big screen (I’m looking at you, Crash). Leading with the perennial charisma of Tom Hiddleston and supporting turns from Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans and Elisabeth Moss High Rise figures highly on my most essential watch list this year as Wheatley continues to gain traction on both sides of the water as a uniquely brilliant filmmaker.
Macbeth – TBA Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, David Thewlis, Sean Harris and Paddy Considine will be getting blood everywhere in Australian director Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of The Scottish Play (roughly the 14th big screen version to date). Michael Fassbender’s raw masculinity, wild eyes and deep, deep lungs make him the perfect candidate to play the Scottish nobleman driven to murder his king and plunge Scotland into civil war. Another obvious choice destined to light up the screen is Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth, who most certainly has the chops to hold her own against Fassbender in what is sure to be a riveting on-screen power struggle.
Mr Holmes – TBA Looking transformed, Ian McKellan plays an aged version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s reknowned Baker Street detective in Bill Condon’s adaptation of Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind. The film premiers out of competition at this year’s Berlinale and examines the retired detective as he tries to reconcile his memories of his mysterious final case. To see McKellan cast as Holmes is both unsurprising and an unexpected treat. McKellan’s tremendous body of work and knockout performances on stage and screen have been largely eclipsed by his roles as Tolkein’s famous wizard Gandalf and X-Men villain Magneto. A three dimensional role for McKellan to inhabit would be worth the price of admission on its own.
Slow West – TBA Another successful sale for HanWay Films at Sundance (along with Brooklyn) Slow West is set in 19th Century Colorado (played here by New Zealand) and stars Kody Smit-McPhee as a youth on the run from a violent past in Scotland, trekking across the Rocky Mountains in search of the woman he loves. Accompanying the young fugitive is a onsie-clad Michael Fassbender as the shady outlaw, Silas. The slow burn feature debut of writer-director John Maclean (formerly of The Beta Band and The Aliens) premiered to mostly positive reviews at Sundance and praise for Robbie Ryan’s beautiful cinematography and the performances of Fassbender and Smit-McPhee. Needless to say, this only stokes my anticipation for another addition to the inclusive spectrum of the Western genre. I’m glad to read that A24 and DIRECTV have swooped down on the rights to Slow West as it’s not like A24 to sit on a buzzing indie title for long.
Sunset Song – TBA Terence Davies returns with this adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 novel, starring Peter Mullan, Agyness Deyn and Kevin Guthrie. Sunset Song relates the saga of a young woman tied to her family farm in North East Scotland as depression, hardship and the outbreak of war invariably pull her family members away from her. For the longest time it looked as if Terence Davies would never have the chance to return to feature film drama, so to have another period piece from this wonderful British auteur so soon after his triumphant return with The Deep Blue Sea (2011) is cause for celebration indeed.