We’re so inspired by the community organisations we partner with, who this year have included the brilliant organisations below. The work they do and the values they represent are amazing all year round, of course. But at Christmas they have a special relevance.
Inspired by our partners, I’ve picked some of my personal favourite films which capture the spirit of what these organisations do – and reflect the real reason for the season.
You won’t find any tinsel or sleigh-bells here: these are films with an evergreen message.
In 1930s Tenessee, 31-year-old ‘spinster’ Laura (Carey Mulligan) makes a marriage of convenience to Henry McAllen (Jason Clarke) – despite being more attracted to his charming brother Jamie (Garret Hedlund). When the war breaks out, Jamie enlists, while Henry announces that he will be moving Laura, their children and his elderly father (Jonathan Banks) to a farm on the Mississippi delta.
Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan), one of Henry’s tenants, longs to own the land that he farms, as did his slave ancestors before him. His wife Florence (Mary J Blige) agrees to work for the McAllens, fearing what her absence might mean for her own children. Meanwhile their son Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) becomes a sergeant in a tank regiment, discovering that in Europe he’s seen as a liberator and a hero, not a second class citizen.
When the war ends, bringing Jamie and Ronsel home, the precarious balance of both family’s lives comes under threat.
This is a child-friendly guide; some of the discussion questions are for younger viewers. Paddington 2 is rated PG for mild threat.
Paddington (voice of Ben Wishaw) is now living happily with the Brown family, and has friends all over the neighbourhood. But though he’s settled into London life, he’s still thinking of Aunt Lucy (voice of Imelda Staunton), who he left behind in Peru. He wants to send her a very special birthday present, and he thinks he’s found the perfect gift – a beautiful pop-up book showing famous landmarks of London.
But while Paddington is trying to save enough money to buy the book, it catches the attention of egotistical faded actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant). He knows that there’s more to the book than meets the eye, and hatches a devious plan to steal it and frame Paddington for the theft.
With their beloved bear wrongly imprisoned, it’s up to Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins), Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville) and the rest of Paddington’s friends to clear his name.
First They Killed My Father is available on Netflix
Loung (Sareum Srey Moch) lives an ordinary life in Pnom Penh with her brothers, sisters, mother (Sveng Socheata) and beloved father (Phoeung Kompheak). She catches glimpses of fighting and bombs on the television, but none of it means much to her. Then one day an army marches through the streets outside, and Loung’s world changes forever.
The Khmer Rouge have taken power in Cambodia, and Loung’s father – an educated employee of the former government – could be in serious danger. The family must hide their identity as they are turned out of their home and forced into a labour camp. As conditions worsen and her former life begins to feel ever further away, Loung loses her innocence piece by piece.
When stand-up comedian Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is heckled by graduate student Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his shows, it leads to a flirtation, which leads to a one-night stand – and then, unexpectedly, to something more serious. But their blossoming relationship is about to hit two major roadblocks.
The first is Kumail’s parents, first-generation Pakistani immigrants who dote on their son but are determined that he will have a traditional arranged marriage. And the second is a mysterious illness which lands Emily in hospital, in a medically induced coma. As he waits anxiously by her side and wrestles with his doubts about their relationship, Kumail forms a bond with her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) which will change everything.
Joe (Nick Robinson) is sick of putting up with the moods of his distant, widowed father (Nick Offerman). Meanwhile, Joe’s best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) is being driven round the bend by his own doting parents, the Keenans (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson). The two teenagers make a pact: they’ll run away and build their own house deep in the woods, make their own rules, and live their own lives. Somehow, diminutive oddball Biaggio (Moises Arias) ends up tagging along with them.
For a while, everything seems perfect as the three boys enjoy their freedom – though their attempts to live off the land leave something to be desired. But then Joe invites Kelly (Erin Moriarty), the girl with whom he’s infatuated, into their secret idyll, and there’s trouble in paradise.
This guide comes from our archive. It was written by Rachel Helen Smith.
Martin (Pierce Brosnan) is a disgraced TV presenter. Jess (Imogen Poots) is the wild child daughter of a politician. JJ (Aaron Paul) is a failed musician from America. Maureen (Toni Collette) is a single mother with a disabled son. These four characters could hardly be more different, but they share a common intent: they want to kill themselves.
Their lives collide one New Year’s Eve on the roof of ‘Toppers’ House’, a popular London suicide spot. The unlikely situation allows them to form an equally unlikely bond, and they all commit to surviving the next six weeks. One holiday, two trips to the hospital and one media firestorm later they’re still friends. But will it be enough to convince them that life is worth living after all?
This is a child-friendly guide. Some questions are suitable for younger viewers.
Five years on from the events of How to Train Your Dragon, humans and their scaly, fire-breathing friends now live in harmony in the Viking town of Berk. Dragon-racing is a favoured sport, and Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now closer than ever to his fearsome black steed, Toothless. The pair loves nothing more than to soar away and explore new horizons, with Hiccup evading the request of his father Stoick (Gerrard Butler) that he takes over as town chieftain.
But on one such adventure, Hiccup and his girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera) make an alarming discovery: a band of dragon-trappers working for the fearsome Drago Bloodvist (Djimon Hounsou), a tyrant amassing a dragon army. As Hiccup fights to counter this threat to Berk’s future, he meets Valka (Cate Blanchett), a mysterious woman who holds the key to his past.
This guide comes from our archive. It was written by Rachel Helen Smith.
The once ill-tempered super-villain Gru (Steve Carell) has given up a life of crime in order to care for his boisterous adopted daughters, Agnes (Elsie Fisher), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Margo (Miranda Cosgrove). However, when someone steals a secret Arctic laboratory using a giant magnet, The Anti-Villain League (AVL) recruit Gru to help them find the thief. He is put to work alongside perky undercover AVL agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) and finds himself hiding out in a bakery at The Paradise Shopping Mall.
Life at home is just as eventful. Gru’s assistant Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) has decided that he misses being evil and is leaving for a new job. Margo has fallen for the handsome young Antonio (Moisés Arias). Agnes must recite a poem about mothers in the school performance, but really she longs for a mother of her own. To top it all, Gru’s minions keep going missing. But most despicable of all, everyone seems insistent on helping Gru to fall in love…
This guide is from our archive. It was written by Rachel Helen Smith.
What We Did On Our Holiday is rated 12A for moderate bad language, discriminatory language, moderate sex references
The McLeod family are setting off on a holiday in the Scottish Highlands. Surprising, given that parents Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) are about to get a divorce. They have been living in separate houses – they fight constantly – and so the idea to take a trip together seems bound to end in tears. However, they have all promised not to talk about the imminent separation during the holiday.
It’s because they are planning to visit Doug’s father Gordie (Billy Connolly) to celebrate his birthday. Gordie is suffering from cancer and they are desperate not to upset him. However, the presence of Doug’s obnoxious brother Gavin (Ben Miller), his depressed wife Margaret (Amelia Bullmore) and their nerdy son Kenneth (Lewis Davie) inevitably makes things even more difficult. Indeed, it is not long before they discover that various family members are keeping even more unexpected secrets.