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.
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.
Calvary is rated 15 for very strong language, strong sex references, bloody violence. The film is available on DVD.
Patient priest Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) hears confession. A voice on the other side of the grille – known to him, anonymous to us – recounts an appalling experience of childhood abuse at the hands of the priesthood. Father Lavelle is a good priest, the voice acknowledges, an innocent man – and for that very reason, he’s going to be shot. He has a week to get his affairs in order before the confessor will meet him on the beach, on Sunday, and end his life.
Instead of going to the police, Father Lavelle goes about his business as usual. His troubled daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly) comes to stay, and he visits his parishioners; including sharp-tongued atheist Dr. Harte (Aiden Gillen), adulterous Veronica Brennan (Orla O’Rourke), the husband who might be beating her (Chris O’Dowd), mechanic Simon (Isaach De Bankolé) and arrogant banker Fitzgerald (Dylan Moran). He encounters a male prostitute (Owen Sharpe), a serial killer (Domhnall Gleeson) and a grieving widow (Marie-Josée Croze). In unexpected places, he comes across faith and doubt, fear and solace, anger and grace.
Against the backdrop of a country caught between past pain and the crises of the present, Father Lavelle will suffer and possibly die for all of these people.
Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly.
Philomena is rated 12A for infrequent strong language and moderate sex references. The film is available to buy on DVD or to stream on Amazon Instant Video.
Labour spin doctor Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), fired after an unforgivable political blunder, is down in the dumps. Once a journalist, he vaguely considers writing a book, though scoffs when someone suggests he look for a ‘human interest story’. He looks down his nose at this kind of ‘soft’ journalism – but then, just such a story falls right into his lap.
He hears about Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), a retired nurse from Ireland, who after a lifetime of silence has just told her daughter (Anna Maxwell Martin) about the baby boy she gave up for adoption fifty years before. A teenaged single mother, she was taken in by nuns who forcibly separated her from her son. Now all she has is a faded photograph of little Anthony, and a heavy burden of guilt and regret which her continued belief in God can’t relieve. She’s willing to share her story with Martin, if he will help her find out what happened to Anthony.
The search takes them to America, and into unfamiliar territory for both the cynical Martin and the frightened – but still faithful – Philomena.
The Scoop – Gripping, humane and good-humoured, Bridge of Spies is a superior thriller.
It’s 1957, and in the midst of escalating tensions between America and the Soviet Union, a nondescript Brooklyn artist is arrested as a Russian spy. Since Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance) refuses to cooperate with the US government, he faces either thirty years in prison or the electric chair.
Enter insurance lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks), who has been asked to represent Abel in court. Donovan’s superiors expect him to do little more than show up: but he isn’t that kind of man. Against the objections of his wife Mary (Amy Ryan), his colleagues and the American public, Donovan sets about fighting Abel’s corner. His principles will lead him on a cloak-and-dagger trip to East Berlin, and into an unlikely friendship with the mercurial spy.
The Scoop – An intelligent drama which manages to be both restrained and powerful.
It’s 2001, and the Spotlight investigative team at the Boston Globe are looking for their next big story. They’re dubious when their new boss, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), asks them to dig deeper into a case involving an abusive priest, John Geoghan. The documents are all legally sealed, and any attempt to access them will be viewed by the Church as a hostile move. In a city where Catholicism is part of everybody’s life, the Globe doesn’t want to alienate its readers.
But when journalists ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaten), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) start asking questions, they realise that Geoghan is just the tip of the iceberg. Not only are there more abusive priests in Boston than anybody had guessed, but the cover-up encompasses powerful figures from the Church and across the city.
Shining a light into this story will involve not only confronting the painful experiences of the many victims, but also coming to terms with the shocking complicity of everyone involved.
The Scoop – Bleak, brutal and often beautiful, The Revenant makes for a gruelling cinema experience.
In the wilderness of nineteenth century America, fur-trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) ekes out a living for himself and his half-Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). While their hunting party is on the run from hostile natives, Glass is badly wounded in a bear attack. Though Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) attempts to save him, unscrupulous Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) believes it’s best to just let Glass die.
As Glass teeters on the boundary between life and death, Fitzgerald does something unforgivable. And Glass will get revenge, even if it means clawing his way out of his own grave.