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.
K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner, hunting down old-model replicants, synthetic slaves who once mounted an uprising against the human race. In the neon and shadows of futuristic Los Angeles, K lives a lonely life. His only companion is his holographic girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas), who is programmed to please him.
Then while out on a routine job, K stumbles across a mystery which could disrupt the delicate truce between humans and replicants, leading to all-out war. As he follows the trail of clues, pursued by ruthless replicant-maker Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), K must confront a crisis that goes right to the heart of who he is.
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.
Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) are young, in love and expecting a baby. The year is 1958: because Richard is white and Mildred is black, a marriage between them will be illegal in their home state of Virginia. In order to get married, they will have to cross state lines.
After a small ceremony in Washington they return to live quietly in the town of Central Point. But though their own rural community is relatively integrated, the state authorities have got wind of their relationship, leading to the couple being arrested after a night-time raid on their home. In order to avoid prison time, they must accept a 25-year banishment from the state of Virginia, meaning a separation from family and friends.
As the years pass and their children grow up in the city, Mildred in particular misses her home, and begins to wonder if anything can be done to overturn the ruling. A phone call from the American Civil Liberties Union ignites her hope – setting this unassuming couple on the path to changing history.
59-year-old Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is in an impossible situation. Told by his doctor that he should’t work because of his dodgy heart, he nonetheless fails a Work Capability Assessment. So now he can’t claim sickness benefits, but he can’t look for a job either.
He meets and befriends young single mother Katie (Hayley Squires), whose own dealings with the benefits system have been equally nightmarish. Together they must fight to keep their dignity, and find hope in the midst of their desperation.
Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly.
Saving Mr Banks is rated PG for scenes of emotional upset. The film is available to buy on DVD and to stream on Amazon Instant Video.
Author P.L Travers (Emma Thompson) is in dire financial straits. Her Mary Poppins books are beloved by readers young and old, but since she’s resolved not to write another, her income has dried up. She does have a single remaining option – but it’s one she’s been resisting for years. She could sign on the dotted line, and let filmmaking maestro Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) adapt her stories for the screen.
Without concealing her reluctance, Travers finally agrees to travel to LA from her London home and meet with Disney. Outspoken and unbending, it’s not long before she’s making mincemeat of his creative team, producer Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and songwriters Robert and Richard Sherman (B.J Novak and Jason Schwartzman). She is determined that Mary Poppins will not be Americanised in any way, and that the film will feature neither singing nor animation. The immovable object of her willpower is about to meet the unstoppable force of Disney’s persuasive charm.
But in the course of their clash, he will discover that there’s more to Travers than mere stubbornness. The waspish author was once a little girl called Helen Goff (Annie Rose), whose relationship with her adored but troubled father Travers (Colin Farrell) would shape her future life and work.
The Scoop –As human and subversive as it is noisy and brash, Mad Max: Fury Road is a journey like no other.
In the post-apocalyptic desert that was once Australia, former warrior for justice Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) has been reduced to his basest survival instincts. Captured by men who serve the tyrannical warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), Max is imprisoned and has his blood drained into sick soldier Nux (Nicholas Hoult).
Meanwhile Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), one of Joe’s lieutenants, is sent on a mission to collect gasoline from a nearby town. But en-route she drives her truck wildly off course, and Joe realises that she has kidnapped five of his ‘wives’ – young women kept for breeding – and is making a desperate bid for freedom.
When Nux and the other soldiers set off in pursuit, Max is brought along – and so begins a terrifying odyssey through the wasteland.
The Scoop – At once delicate and deeply powerful, Room finds hope in the midst of unimaginable horrors.
Jack (Jacob Tremblay) is turning five. He’s excited to celebrate his birthday by making a cake with his beloved Ma (Brie Larson). Jack’s life is happy and colourful, filled with daydreams and imaginary friends. Jack’s world is the size of a single room.
But now he’s bigger, Ma wants him to know something. The world outside, the pretend world he thought only existed on TV, is real. And Ma is concocting a plan to escape the clutches of their captor, leaving Room behind forever.
Hey, it’s a new Film Blog feature! I’ll now also be covering films which have recently been released on Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, or other popular on-demand services, or on DVD. This way, you can host a film club evening from the comfort of your own home, or catch up on hidden gems you might have missed the first time around.
Slow West is rated 15 for strong violence. Available on DVD and Netflix.
The Scoop –An odd, atmospheric arthouse Western with a few surprises up its sleeve
Young Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) has travelled all the way from Scotland to the American frontier to find the girl he loves: Rose (Caren Pistorius), who fled there with her father under shady circumstances. A helpless idealist in a country of hard, cynical men, Jay looks set to meet a violent end, and soon.
He is rescued by Silas (Michael Fassbender), who offers to protect him on his journey in exchange for money. But unbeknownst to Jay, Silas is hoping to kill Rose and her father and claim the bounty on their heads.
Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly. This guide was written by Hannah Rowe.
Edge of Tomorrow is rated 12 for moderate violence, threat, infrequent strong language. The film is available on DVD.
An alien race known as the Mimics are about to conquer the world, starting with Europe. Lieutenant Colonel Bill Cage (Tom Cruise) is a cowardly army marketing man who finds himself unceremoniously sent to the front line to fight. Despite the fact that he kills a rare Alpha, he dies within minutes. Then he awakens again, back at the beginning of the same day. Somehow, the Alpha has condemned him to live this day over and over again, fighting and dying in an endless loop.
There is only one person who seems to understand what is going on. Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), known as the Angel of Verdun, is a celebrated Special Forces warrior. She trains Bill so that every day he is able to fight more skilfully. Together, they plan to use his unique power to beat the invaders. But for it to work, Bill will have to ensure that he does one thing every single day: die.