A closer look at… Calvary

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Calvary is rated 15 for very strong language, strong sex references, bloody violence. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

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.

Continue reading A closer look at… Calvary

A closer look at… Ida

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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Ida is rated 12, contains suicide scene. The film is available on DVD.

Poland, the 1960s. Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is a young nun who has grown up within the sheltered confines of the convent. Before she takes her vows, her superiors decree that she must meet her only living relative – her aunt, Wanda (Agata Kulesza).

Anna travels to stay with Wanda in her city home, and meets a woman about as different from herself as she could have imagined. A heavy-drinking court judge who loves dancing, jazz music and men, Wanda’s carefree persona hides a painful past. She quickly reveals to Ida that the family is, in fact, Jewish: Anna’s real name is Ida, and her parents were murdered during the anti-Semitic purges of the Second World War.

Together, the mismatched pair set off to find where Anna’s parents are buried. But digging up the past, it soon becomes clear, will change the direction of both of their futures.

Continue reading A closer look at… Ida

A closer look at…Philomena

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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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.

The Scoop

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.

Continue reading A closer look at…Philomena

A closer look at… Hail, Caesar!

© Universal, 2016
© Universal, 2016

Hail, Caesar! is rated 12A for infrequent moderate sex references

The ScoopAn affectionate and frequently hilarious Hollywood satire

It’s the golden age of Hollywood, and behind-the-scenes fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) has his work cut out making sure that the stars don’t lose their shine. A typical day includes covering up the pregnancy of unmarried actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), fending off twin gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton), and persuading pretentious director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) that singing cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is the perfect leading man for his new film.

But when matinee idol Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped by communists in the middle of filming swords-and-sandals epic Hail, Caesar!, even Eddie has to concede that the show may not go on.

Continue reading A closer look at… Hail, Caesar!

A closer look at… Spotlight

© Entertainment One, 2016.
© Entertainment One, 2016.

Spotlight is rated 15 for child sexual abuse references

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.

Continue reading A closer look at… Spotlight

A closer look at… The Lady in the Van

© Sony, 2015.
© Sony, 2015.

This is a level 2 guide, suitable for moderately experienced groups.
The Lady in the Van is rated 12A for infrequent strong language.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – A film with a big heart but not without bite,  The Lady in the Van is a funny and touching showcase for its leads.

In a Camden suburb, one person disrupts the comings and goings of the comfortable, middle-class residents. She is Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith), a chaotic force of nature whose personality is as overpowering as the smell inside the van where she lives. When playwright and actor Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) moves into the neighbourhood, he makes the mistake of offering her a little sympathy – and so begins a peculiar relationship which will span the next fifteen years.

To the bewilderment of everyone around him, Alan allows Miss Shepherd to park her van on his driveway, becoming a permanent part of his life. Is this a cynical attempt at getting material for his writing, a symptom of his guilt around his relationship with his mother (Gwen Taylor), or a genuine act of kindness? Alan isn’t sure. And whatever the truth, Miss Shepherd isn’t going anywhere.

I was looking after myself, Miss Shepherd only incidentally; kindness didn’t really come into it. – Alan Bennett

Continue reading A closer look at… The Lady in the Van