A closer look at… The Railway Man

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The Scoop

Reserved, eccentric Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) loves trains. He spends his time train-spotting at stations, and curating his collection of timetables. It’s when travelling on a train that he meets Patti (Nicole Kidman), a beautiful woman who isn’t put off by his shyness. One whirlwind romance later, and the two are married.

But Eric has a secret, and as they settle into their life together, Patti discovers that he’s a haunted man. He’s dogged by horrifying nightmares and flashbacks, and though he won’t tell her what’s wrong, his friend Finlay (Stellan Skarsgård) agrees to reveal the truth. As young men, they were taken prisoner during the Second World War and forced to work on the notorious Thai-Burma railway.

The young Eric (Jeremy Irvine) and his friends secretly built a radio in the prison camp, and were caught in the act by their Japanese captors. What followed would leave Eric with deep physical and emotional scars – including an enduring hatred for a man called Nagase (Tanroh Ishida/Hiroyuki Sanada). Can Patti help Eric to untangle the pain of the past, and find some kind of peace?

Continue reading A closer look at… The Railway Man

A closer look at… La La Land

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La La Land is rated 12A for infrequent strong language 

The Scoop

Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz fanatic Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) cross paths in Los Angeles. The city is full of dreamers, and Mia and Sebastian are no exception: she wants to be a star on the silver screen, while he wants to open his own jazz club. From their first encounter, sparks fly between them, and soon they are falling in love.

Their relationship plays out against the sweeping backdrop of Hollywood, to a soundtrack of wistful musical numbers. Will they get where they want to go – and will their love survive the journey?

Continue reading A closer look at… La La Land

A closer look at… Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly.

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Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is rated 15 for brief strong violence. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

Bob (Casey Affleck) and Ruth (Rooney Mara) are young and in love. They’re also criminals who, after committing an armed robbery, end up in over their heads. During a shootout with the police force, Ruth puts a bullet in Sherriff Wheeler (Ben Foster), and Bob agrees to take the rap. He goes to begin a twenty five-year stretch in prison, while Ruth gives birth to their baby daughter.

Four years and five escape attempts later, Bob finally breaks out and writes to tell Ruth that he’s coming for her. But things have changed since the lovers were parted. Ruth is doing her best to raise little Sylvie (Kennadie and Jacklynn Smith), under the watchful eye of Bob’s adoptive father Skerritt (Keith Carradine), and the kindly Wheeler, who has fallen in love with her. Will she take off with Bob to live the outlaw life they’d always planned? Or are other priorities now guiding her choices?

Continue reading A closer look at… Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

A closer look at… The Skeleton Twins

Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly.

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The Skeleton Twins is rated 15 for strong language, sex, sex references. The film is now available on DVD.

The Scoop

Twins Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) haven’t spoken in ten years. When Milo’s failed suicide attempt brings his sister to the hospital, the two are forced to resume their relationship. Once drawn close together by tragedy in their childhood, they have now taken very different paths.

Flamboyant failing actor Milo is horrified to discover that his sister now apparently lives in blissful, bland domesticity with her upbeat husband, Lance (Luke Wilson).  But under the surface, Maggie is struggling just as much as her brother. Her marriage is built on a crumbling foundation of lies, and her will to keep going is failing.

As the twins begin to reconnect, their blossoming mutual understanding is threatened by ghosts from the past: the parents who made them who they are, and Rich (Ty Burrell), the high school teacher whose relationship with Milo cast a shadow over all of their lives.

Continue reading A closer look at… The Skeleton Twins

A closer look at… A Most Violent Year

Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly.

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A Most Violent Year is rated 15 for very strong language, strong violence. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

New York, 1981 – the most violent year in the city’s history. Immigrant businessman Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) and his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) are trying to expand their heating oil company, but a DA agent (David Oyelowo) is investigating their dealings. To add to their troubles, the Morales’ trucks keep being hijacked at gunpoint by anonymous goons. Not only is the company losing money, but the drivers – including Julian (Elyes Gabel), who lands in hospital after a savage beating – are becoming too afraid to work.

Though Abel suspects that one of his competitors is behind the attacks, he’s determined to behave honourably, and not resort to violent tactics in return. Anna, whose father and brother are in the mob, has other ideas. How far will each of them go in order to protect what they’ve built?

Continue reading A closer look at… A Most Violent Year

A closer look at… Anna Karenina

Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly.

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Russia, the late nineteenth century, and one of the best-known tragedies in literature is about to unfold. We meet Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) as she prepares to rescue her boisterous brother Stiva (Matthew Macfadyen) from a marital crisis, brought on by his infidelity to wife Dolly (Kelly McDonald). Anna bids farewell to her mild-mannered husband Alexei (Jude Law) and beloved young son Serhoza (Oscar McNamara), and embarks upon a fateful train journey to Moscow.

Having talked Stiva and Dolly into a reconciliation, Anna is persuaded to attend a ball with Dolly’s sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander), who is innocently infatuated with the dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). She is expecting a proposal at any minute – but to her dismay, Vronsky suddenly has eyes for nobody but Anna. His gaze is reciprocated. Having been in a passionless marriage since the age of eighteen, Anna is completely swept off her feet, and it isn’t long before the two have plunged headlong into an affair.

Continue reading A closer look at… Anna Karenina

A closer look at…Begin Again

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 Rachel Helen Smith.

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Begin Again is rated 15 for strong language, sex references. The film is available to buy on DVD and on Amazon Instant Video.

The Scoop

Dave (Adam Levine) has just landed a music deal with a major record label in New York City. Gretta (Keira Knightley) travels with him to America, both as his girlfriend and his musical partner. Dave comes alive on the stage, whilst Gretta prefers to hide away writing songs. But when Dave becomes intoxicated with his newfound fame, he soon forgets Gretta. Alone in a foreign city she relies on the friendship of her entertaining pal Steve (James Corden) to distract her from her broken heart.

Meanwhile, Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is fired from his role at the record label that he co-founded. He has also been exiled from the house that he used to share with his wife Miriam (Catherine Keener) and teenage daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld). When he hears Gretta singing in a local bar, he is captivated by her simple, unpolished charm. He suggests that they collaborate, and the resulting album is a tribute to hope, friendship, and New York City.

Continue reading A closer look at…Begin Again

A closer look at… Brooklyn

 

© Lionsgate, 2015.
© Lionsgate, 2015.

This is a level 2 guide, suitable for moderately experienced groups. Brooklyn is rated 12A for infrequent strong language, moderate sex.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop a sweet-natured, old-fashioned love story that’s bound to charm.

A big change is coming for small-town Irish girl Eilis (Saoirse Ronan). Concerned about the lack of opportunities for her at home, her older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) has arranged for her to emigrate to Brooklyn, New York. One rather rough voyage later and Eilis is walking through the famed checkpoint at Ellis Island, into her new life.

At first all she can think about is how much she misses home. But with the encouragement of kindly priest Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), and of the community of women in the boarding house where she stays, Eilis gains confidence. When she meets a kind, funny Italian boy named Tony (Emory Cohen) she begins to fall in love both with him and with Brooklyn.

Just when she’s beginning to think of America as her home, Eilis gets some shattering news from Ireland. She will need to decide, once and for all, where she really belongs.

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A closer look at… The Lobster

 

© Picturehouse Entertainment, 2015.
© Picturehouse Entertainment, 2015.

This is a level 3 guide, suitable for more experienced groups. The Lobster is rated 15 for strong language, sex, sex references, bloody images.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – A pitch-dark satire on the contemporary relationship game. Would make an excellent double-bill with ‘Her‘.

Think it’s tough being single? At least you don’t live in the off-kilter futuristic world inhabited by David (Colin Farrell). When his wife leaves him, he is sent to stay in a hotel where he and a large group of other singletons have forty-five days to fall in love with someone, or be turned into an animal. David decides that if it comes to that, he’ll be a lobster. He’s always liked the sea.

When things at the hotel go awry, David runs away to the woods, where he encounters a group of rebel Loners whose fearsome leader (Lea Seydoux) enacts bloody punishments on those who are tempted by romance. Falling in love with a Loner woman (Rachel Weisz) could be a short-sighted move.

Continue reading A closer look at… The Lobster

A closer look at…Testament of Youth

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.

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The Scoop

It’s the golden Edwardian summer of 1914 and Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) is excited about what the future holds. After persuading her parents (Dominic West and Emily Watson) to let her sit the entrance exam and tutoring herself, she has been offered a place to study at Oxford and will soon escape provincial Derbyshire. Her brother Edward (Taron Egerton) is also Oxford-bound along with school friends Victor (Colin Morgan) and Roland (Kit Harrington). Vera and Roland, both aspiring writers, have been in correspondence with one another over the last few months and are falling in love. But as they embark on a heavily chaperoned courtship, the bells of war begin to toll and their worlds are turned upside down. Roland immediately turns down his place at Oxford to enlist and is soon joined by Edward and Victor. Vera moves to Oxford alone but after a while finds it impossible to study in the context of war. She surrenders her hard-won place at Oxford to become a nurse.

Day after day the newspapers list pages upon pages of the dead, and it becomes apparent that the war is not going to be as brief as everyone first thought. Vera’s nursing takes her to the western front where she witnesses the devastating cost of war on both sides. As she nurses captured German soldiers the seeds of her future pacifist thinking are sown. Will the Armistice come soon enough to save Vera’s loved ones and will she be able to find any hope in the devastation left by war?

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