Love ruled on the big screen in 2015
- THE LAST FIVE YEARS A glorious feel-good romance that celebrates the art of musicals, featuring a young couple singing about their failed marriage from two perspectives. It’s not a compilation of popular songs, but features an absolutely superb music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, an American musical theatre composer, lyricist, and playwright whose music sensibility fuses pop-rock stylings with theatrical lyrics – he won Tony Awards for his work on the musicals, Parade and The Bridges of Madison County. This musical deconstruction of a love affair and a marriage takes place over a five-year period. Jamie Wellerstein (Jeremy Jordan) is a young, talented up-and-coming Jewish novelist who falls in love with Cathy Hiatt (Anna Kendrick), a Shiksa Goddess struggling actress. Its beautiful pop music score portrays an honest, heartbreaking, often funny, exploration of love and its consequences on individual identity. Read more
- BROOKLYN John Crowley’s (Intermission, Closed Circuit) love letter to his homeland is a rare and treasured film. Brooklyn feels as timeless as the movies it celebrates, shedding new light on the tumultuous experience of an Irish immigrant in the 1950’s. Somehow, the film is able to simultaneously feel like a sweeping epic and an artsy passion project. Brooklyn follows Ellis Lacey (in a game-changing performance by Saoirse Ronan) as she leaves her family in search of a prosperous life in America. She moves into a boarding house full of other immigrants from the Emerald Isle run by Madge Kehoe (played by a delightfully sassy Julie Walters). It isn’t long before a dashing lad (Emory Cohen) sweeps her off her feet, but can their love withstand the strain of Ellis returning to Ireland? Feature: Bringing Brooklyn to the Big Screen
- A ROYAL NIGHT OUT A Royal Night Out will steal your heart and is definitely the greatest love story never told about one perfect evening in the lives of two real-life princesses. This utterly charming fictional fairytale romance is rooted in a pivotal historic event – 8 May 1945, V-E Night when the whole of London was out in town to celebrate the official end of World War II in Europe – challenging the emancipation and sexual awakening of two young royal princesses – Elizabeth and Margaret Windsor, who slipped out of Buckingham Palace to join the communal euphoria and went dancing at the Ritz. Directed with imaginative flair by acclaimed UK director Julian Jarrold (Becoming Jane, Brideshead Revisited), from a crackling original screenplay by newcomer Trevor de Silva and Kevin Hood. It gets my vote as the best romance I have seen since Titanic! Read more
- CAROL A British-American romantic drama film directed by Todd Haynes, with a screenplay by Phyllis Nagy based on the novel The Price of Salt (also known as Carol) by Patricia Highsmith. The film stars Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler. Set in 1952 in New York City, the film tells the story of a young aspiring photographer and her relationship with an older, married woman. Feature: Bringing Carol to the Big Screen
- CINDERELLA An enchanting masterwork from legendary filmmaker Kenneth Branagh. This live-action feature was inspired by the classic fairy tale, and brings to life the beloved characters and timeless images from the studio’s 1950 animated masterpiece in a visually dazzling spectacle for a whole new generation. It’s a spectacular cinematic experience for anyone who needs an invigorating injection of magic, romance and storytelling at its best. Read more
- FIFTY SHADES OF GREY Directed by Sam-Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy), this erotic and authentic love story from series creator E L James takes us deep inside a rich and mysterious world that explores frankly the complexities of male-female dynamics, and the limits to which we will allow ourselves to go–and to be taken. Stepping into the iconic roles of billionaire entrepreneur Christian Grey and curious college student Anastasia Steele are Jamie Dornan (television’s The Fall, Once Upon a Time) and Dakota Johnson (The Social Network, 21 Jump Street). In a story that is as much about the redemption of the unattainable Christian as it is the liberation of the inexperienced Ana, the protagonists have taken on lives of their own for readers who’ve pored over the vulnerabilities of the characters and intricacies of the novels.
- THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY Eternal love blossoms optimistically in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, a relatable portrait of love, empathy and truth that explores the heartache of a once-happily married couple who suddenly find themselves as strangers longing to understand each other.It’s New York writer-director Ned Benson’s debut feature as a director and is a passionate and heartfelt journey into the hearts and souls of two soulmates whose irrefutable love for each other becomes their greatest enemy. Featuring heartbreaking performances from Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, it’s one of those rare romantic films that does not dwell on sentimentality, but seduces you with its sincere honesty. The film has a strange journey to the big screen that might be confusing for some viewers. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is broken into three films, Him, Her, and Them. Him and Her were screened at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival as a “work in progress”. Them premiered in the United States on September 12, 2014, while Him and Her was released together as a double feature on October 10, 2014 in select art house cinemas. Them is released in South Africa. Read more
- TESTAMENT OF YOUTH In 1914, Vera Brittain overcomes the restraints on women of the time to become a student at Somerville College, Oxford. When World War I breaks out, her brother Edward, her fiancé Roland Leighton, and their friends Victor and Geoffrey, are sent to serve at the front lines. Brittain follows their sacrifice, leaving college to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment as a nurse tending the wounded and dying (both British and German) in London, Malta and France. A British woman recalls coming of age during World War I – a story of young love, the futility of war, and how to make sense of the darkest times. Directed by James Kent with Kit Harington, Alicia Vikander, Taron Egerton, Colin Morgan. Feature: Adapting the book into a screenplay / Interview with screenwriter Juliette Towhidi
- SAINT LAURENT A mesmerising journey into the life and mind of celebrated French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, who is regarded as one of the greatest names in fashion history. It’s a fictional tale that draws a compassionate and elegiac portrayal of his personality, lifestyle and friendships and a darkly romantic and visually distinct period documentary and homage which is set in France mostly in the late 1960s and 1970s, reconstructing real events and where shallowness, decadence and excessiveness is present. It also focuses Saint Laurent’s (Gaspard Ulliel) troubled romance with life partner Pierre Berge (Jérémie Renier) as well as on his individual neuroses, insecurities and delusions. Written and directed by Bertrand Bonello
- FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD Based on the literary classic by Thomas Hardy, it tells the story of Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), a fiercely independent and spirited young woman who inherits her uncle’s farm. Financially autonomous (a rarity in Victorian times), beautiful and headstrong – she attracts three very different but determined suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer, captivated by her willfulness; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a handsome and reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor. This timeless story of Bathsheba’s choices and passions, while trying to maintain her own independence, explores the nature of relationships and love – as well as the human ability to overcome hardship through resilience and perseverance. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg, the screenplay is by David Nicholls from the Thomas Hardy novel
ALSO: On the local front there were several South African films that explored matters of the heart: French Toast was one of the most charming love stories of 2015, with Strikdas, Mooirivier, Somerson, Trouvoete and Die Pro also celebrating love.