Tuesday, May 06, 2008
British Cinema: Social Films with a Laugh
By CARLOS MARTÍN GAEBLER
In the wake of the global success of The Full Monty (Peter Cattaneo, 1997), British cinema has made a joyous comeback. Probably the third most productive film industry in Europe now, after the French and Spanish, British cinema is finally making the screens of continental arts cinemas proving that entertainment needn’t be shallow or unconnected to everyday life. A series of high-quality independent films have proved to be major box-office hits without having to resort to sentimentality, as most Hollywood films tend to do.
A common feature of all of these films is a social concern combined with humour. They aim at showing the shortcomings and achievements of today’s multiracial, multicultural Britain, and narrate stories of racial, social or sexual integration, thus analysing ethical conflicts in the best tradition of European cinema.
Get Real (Simone Shore, 1998), based on a script by Patrick Wilde, one of Britain’s most reputed scriptwriters, is a typical coming-out story of adolescents with enough humour to make it fully enjoyable; it is both moving and hilarious. (I particularly recommend this film to language learners because of the well-enunciated English spoken throughout.)
The family conflicts derived from second-generation descendants of Asian immigrants trying to reconcile their fully-Westernised lives in today’s Britain with the prejudices and outlandish traditions they were brought up with is the topic of East Is East (Damien O’Donnell, 1999) and Bend It Like Beckham (Gurinder Chadha, 2002). These two films have become huge box-office hits in the UK in recent years by word of mouth. The latter film stars actress Parminder Nagra in the role of a girl who wants to play in a football club against the wishes of her conventional Hindu parents.
Probably the most successful British film at the turn of the century, Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry, 2001) has had rave reviews worldwide. The story of a boy’s inner struggle to face the stereotypes of a macho society to become a dancer has moved filmgoers around the world. The film also stands as a metaphor for an individual’s fight to be oneself despite the narrow-mindedness of mainstream social expectations. As an added bonus, Julie Walters, in the role of Billy’s dance teacher, gives a stunning performance.
Finally, Born Romantic (David Kane, 2000) portrays a series of social misfits who set about finding true love in and out of a London salsa nightclub. Actors Ian Hart, Adrian Lester and Catherine McCormack give superb performances. The dialogue is witty from the very start and the soundtrack will have you dancing in your seat! Another feel-good film not to be missed.
In short, here you have some wonderful, highly-entertaining stories with substance to rent out on dvd from your local video store.