The Rise of British Independent Cinema

One of the things I’ve realized the most during this last year is the number of movies that shows the logo of the British Film Institute at the beginning of the credits. After finishing watching the incredible Beast by Michael Pearce, I couldn’t help but noticing how many incredible independent British films I’ve seen, making me look back at the best films from England during the past few years and realize what incredible material this northern country has been giving us and how we’re not talking about it.

The line that distinguishes an American film to a British one has been blurred out for a while now as many English actors and actresses have been appearing in major American productions while many movies from the US has been produced by the United Kingdom. If we look closely at the local British production of independent films, however, we’ll find not only an impressive amount of fine titles but also a supportive community for young British filmmakers. Because of that, I’ve decided to share/remind some of my favorites.


Beast (2017) by Michael Pearce

Probably one of the most powerful films of 2018 so far, Beast tells the twisted story of Moll, a repressed young adult with a violent pass that blossoms up after she meets a mysterious man. When the local community starts to think this man is responsible for the several murders that have been taking place on the island they live, Moll finds herself in a difficult situation where she must confront reality or believe on the man she loves. With incredible performances by Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn, Michael Pearce directorial debut is a twisted thriller full of layers and open to many interpretations, resulting in one of the most interesting movies of the year.


Lady Macbeth (2017) by William Oldroyd

Considered in my opinion one of the best movies of 2017, Lady Macbeth is based on the Russian novel by Nikolai Leskov about a woman who is sold through marriage to a man she despises. Living a life full of rules and restrictions, she starts a secret relationship with one of the workers and as she falls for him, she will do anything on her power to fight for her love. With impressive turns of events, Lady Macbeth is a beautiful feminist tale of revenge, directed by William Oldroyd with a very raw and simplistic point of view that will please the cold-hearted ones.


God’s Own Country (2017) by Francis Lee

One of the most beautiful and outstanding films of last year, God’s Own Country is Francis Lee’s debut about a farm boy who falls in love for an immigrant newcomer who comes to help out in the land. More than that, the film focuses on the difficulty of expressing our feelings and how our surroundings affect our ability to love and be loved by the ones who want us. Francis Lee shows us in an incredibly beautiful way with outstanding performances by Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareaun.


A Prayer Before Dawn (2017) by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire

Based on the true story Billy Moore, A Prayer Before Dawn is an impressive film that tells the story of how Billy Moore was arrested in Thailand and became a boxing champion. Shot in a real Thai prison, Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire creates a sweaty, violent and rough mise en scene that transports us to a world which the only language the people know how to communicate between each other is fighting. Joe Cole plays Billy in a challenging performance where he is constantly being beaten up or beating someone up while he tries to survive the manners and secrets of a Thai prison, resulting in one of the most impressive films of this year.


Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (2017) by Paul McGuigan

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is a lovely film that almost made it to award season but his BAFTA’s nominations were enough for its glory, especially because it was an important role for Jamie Bell, a favorite actor of mine. Based on the true story, the film focuses on the relationship between Pete Turner, a twenty-something British actor with the legendary femme-fatale Gloria Grahame, who appeared in classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, In a Lonely Place, The Big Heat and The Greatest Show on Earth. Annette Bening and Jamie Bell give live to this couple who faced many problems because of the difference of their age and Gloria’s health, resulting in a beautiful cartoonish film where Paul McGuigan brings the late 70s back through fake beach scenarios and an amazing dance sequence.


Apostasy (2017) by Dan Kokotajlo

Released both on theaters and on demand, Apostasy is a little powerful independent film about faith that follows the story of a Jehova’s witness family and how the pregnancy of one of the daughters put their beliefs at test by having to shut down the communication with her. Dan Kokotajlo gives us a very raw and apathetic point of view while he introduces us to a very strange and surreal world where many fanatics still live in our modern days. Apostasy reminded me a lot of Sebastián Lelio’s Disobedience by dealing with faith traditions and boundaries, however, Apostasy will be less gentle with those who watch it.

Other movies to look it up: Trespass Against Us (2016) by Adam Smith; Departure (2015) by Andrew Steggall; Starred Up (2013) by David Mackenzie; The Selfish Giant (2013) by Clio Barnard; Weekend (2011) by Andrew Haigh and Fish Tank (2009) by Andrea Arnold.


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