A British boxing drama with Ray Winstone and a Washington legal drama with Jessica Chastain lead our selections for May 2017
Vertigo Releasing / 12 May / Cert: 15
A British boxing drama that really lands its blows, Jawbone is written by and stars Johnny Harris. Famed for his role as the pimp in London To Brighton, this is similarly raw, with Harris playing Jimmy McCabe, a boxing champion in his youth who has gradually succumbed to alcoholism.
Returning to the shabby boxing club of his teens, still run by Ray Winstone’s owner and Michael Smiley’s trainer, McCabe’s journey of redemption is less about glory in the ring than finding honesty inside.
A British Rocky then this is not. But directed by first-time feature filmmaker Thomas Napper, the boxing scenes are brilliantly choreographed, the acting is blistering and the emotional impact is far greater than any uppercut to the jaw.
E1 / 12 May / Cert: 15
Jessica Chastain returns with yet another powerful and provocative performance, to rank alongside films like Zero Dark Thirty and A Most Violent Year.
Here she plays Elizabeth Sloane, an unscrupulous, career-driven Washington DC lobbyist who becomes embroiled in campaigning for gun reform. Reuniting with John Madden, her director on The Debt, Chastain is typically forceful in a film that feels like a female version of the George Clooney-legal drama, Michael Clayton.
Co-starring Mark Strong and John Lithgow, as it dips into the murky dealings on Capitol Hill it’s also a fine portrait of a woman who treats everything – including relationships – like transactions. For anyone who’s currently missing House of Cards on television, this will plug the gap.
The Secret Scripture
Vertigo Releasing / 19 May / Cert: 12A
After an extended sojourn to Hollywood, Irish director Jim Sheridan (In The Name of the Father) is back on home turf with this moving adaptation of the Booker-shortlisted novel by Sebastian Barry (top picture).
The film stars Vanessa Redgrave as Rose, a long-standing patient in a mental hospital who is facing relocation. When Eric Bana’s doctor begins to research her case file, the film flashes back to her younger years, with the character played by Carol star Rooney Mara, and we learn just how she came to be committed.
Featuring strong support from Poldark star Aidan Turner and Divergent’s Theo James alongside the ever-watchable Mara, it suffers in the final stretch from difficult-to-swallow dramatic revelations but it’s still a heartbreaking, beautifully-crafted tale.
The Other Side of Hope
Curzon Artificial Eye / 26 May / Cert: 12A
Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki is famed for his sandpaper-dry sense of humour in films like The Man Without a Past and Le Havre.
This latest work, which recently claimed Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival, seasons his trademark droll outlook with real anger. The story stars Sherwan Haji as Khaled, a Syrian who arrives in Helsinki hidden on a coal freighter and on a mission to find his missing sister.
Applying for asylum, Khaled is taken through the unforgiving Finnish system – and eventually meets with middle-aged divorcee salesman Wikstron (Sakari Kuosmanen), who shows him kindness where others fail to. The result is a funny yet tragic tale that is full of stringing criticism about western attitudes to the refugee crisis. Don’t miss.
The Red Turtle
StudioCanal / 26 May / Cert: PG
Most animated films these days are for children – but The Red Turtle feels more geared towards adults. Like a silent Robinson Crusoe, it’s a dialogue-free tale about a man who, after a storm, is washed up on a deserted island.
The minimalist plot sees him meet the titular turtle, who becomes crucial to both his incarceration and his survival on the island. It’s directed by the Dutch-born Michael Dudok de Wit, who here becomes the first non-Japanese filmmaker to work with Studio Ghibli, the company famed for Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke.
Fans of the Ghibli canon may see some similarities, not least with its gentle animation and deep sense of humanity, but The Red Turtle is still very much its own beast.