A series in which TCS writers give their recommendations for alleviating the boredom (or exam stress) of life under lockdown.
Shallow Grave (1994)
The first film on this list is one of Danny Boyle’s lesser-known works, but still a masterpiece that foreshadows the dry humour and stylised cinematography that made ‘Trainspotting’ a cult classic two years later. The search for a new flatmate reaches its conclusion as a mysterious writer moves into the spare room, but things quickly change as the new flatmate is found dead in his room, with a suitcase full of money on the floor. ‘Shallow Grave’ is a wonderful mix of comedy and tragedy, as the light-heartedness rife at the start of the film quickly gives way to anxiety and mistrust. Starring Kerry Fox, Ewan McGregor, and Christopher Eccleston, all relatively unknown at the time, this film tackles the thought-provoking question of how ordinary people react when exposed to something out of the ordinary.
What Richard Did (2012)
Lenny Abrahamson’s emotive exploration of friendship and romance amongst a group of well-off South Dublin teenagers quickly gets darker as one terrible mistake changes the life of the protagonist and his entourage forever. The film centres around Richard, a well-to-do South Dublin rugby player who seems at ease with everything. A trip to his parent’s beach house sees him introduced to Lara, girlfriend of his teammate Conor at the time. His feelings for her lead to increased friction among the squad and the film goes on to explore the effects of his actions on himself, his family and his elite social circle.
Abrahamson creates a moving and considered examination of privilege and masculinity in the modern day that asks ever-important questions about jealousy and responsibility. The film also tackles the issues of elitism and drinking culture and allows us to see straight through to the fragile inside of someone so flawless and resolute in the early parts of the story. With an amazing soundtrack and sterling performances from composed lead Jack Reynor as Richard along with Lars Mikkelsen and Sam Keeley who play his character’s father and love rival respectively, ‘What Richard Did’ is a poignant piece that makes a deep impression and shows just how quickly everything can come tumbling down.
In the Loop (2009)
Absence making the heart grow fonder: it had been a long time since I had watched ‘The Thick of It’, but I found Armando Ianucci’s farcical feature-length comedy to be jam-packed with incredible lines as many of the much-loved characters from the series returned on the big screen, often with different roles but almost always the same personalities. Its release in 2009 was rather controversial given its proximity to the Iraq War, very unsubtly referenced throughout the film’s primary plot line as UK and US government officials come together to debate the decision to go to war. Peter Capaldi is at his absolute best as the foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker (never did I dream I would see him square off with James Gandolfini) and Chris Addison and Tom Hollander are suitably incompetent as adviser and government minister respectively. The very British nature of Ianucci’s comedy works surprisingly well across the pond, with Anglo-American differences understandably exploited to great comedic effect. It’s a masterpiece of political satire that is as clever as it is hilarious.
Before Sunrise (1995)
The first of Richard Linklater’s seminal ‘Before’ series which follows the lives of two people who meet on a train in Europe in the 90’s. Céline and Jesse hit it off straight away and the latter persuades her to delay her return to Paris to spend a night with him in Vienna before he flies back to the US. What follows is a meandering journey through the Austrian capital that leads the two to rapidly fall for each other, and spend the night discussing everything from love to first experiences. It’s a heartwarming, innocent conversation that underlines the tenderness of youth and the jovial frivolity that can ensue from chance encounters with strangers. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy excel, and clearly have great chemistry, as shown when they chance upon other people during their walk through Vienna. The film’s main success comes down to its simplicity; a man and a woman pondering the meaning of life and love throughout a light-hearted night in a beautiful city. That’s all it is, and that’s all it needs to be.
In Bruges (2008)
A slightly different film that also focuses on the interactions between two people with a historic European city as its backdrop. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson star as two professional assassins in Martin McDonagh’s black comedy that picked up an Academy Award nomination for best Original Screenplay, and it’s really not difficult to see why. The film begins with Farrell’s character, Ray, shooting a priest during confession but accidentally killing a young child in the process. As a result, his handler Harry (Ralph Fiennes) sends him and more experienced assassin Ken to Bruges to cool off for a while. Ken’s intentions to make the most of their time in the city clash with Ray’s miserable, depressive outlook on life. While it’s more chuckle-to-yourself than laugh-out-loud funny, it’s the wit of the lines and the absurdity of the events that happen to the protagonists that make this film so easy to watch and so enjoyable.