Streaming: Ali & Ava and Other Great Films Set in Yorkshire | Drama movies
VSlaire Rushbrook and Adeel Akhtar are the middle-aged lovers defying family prejudice and cultural barriers in Ali and Ava (arriving on major VOD platforms on Monday), but that’s just one of the romances unfolding in British director Clio Barnard’s sweet and sentimental flick. More metaphorically, Ali and Ava extends Barnard’s continued devotion to the Yorkshire town of Bradford, not far from his own home town of Otley.
It’s her third film set in the once-booming beneficiary of the Industrial Revolution, and while she doesn’t over-romanticize Bradford’s mix of Victorian grandeur and contemporary poverty, a palpable affection for its physical and social geography softens the edges of its realism. More so than in Barnard’s previous Bradford films, his extremely harsh fable of childhood tragedy and trauma The selfish giant (Arrow) and its formally daring, semi-acted documentary The Arbor (BFI Player), a portrait of Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar in which the authenticity of place is grounded in an experimental mix of performance and archival recording. Together, they confirm Barnard as one of the great British filmmakers from Yorkshire.
She is in good company. There are a host of landmark films shot and filmed in Yorkshire, starting with the director to whom Barnard, among many others, is obviously indebted. A Midlander himself, Ken Loach struck at the heart of Yorkshire’s working class in 1969 with the Barnsley-set Kes (Apple TV), his heartbreaking story of childhood deprivation finding fleeting spiritual release in the natural world.
Before Loach, meanwhile, Yorkshire was a major playground for the so-called Angry Young Men who populated the mid-century revolution in British realist cinema. The former mining town of Wakefield served as the ruthless backdrop to Lindsay’s 1963 stunner This sporting life (Amazon Prime), in which work, lust and rugby leave their various scars on the brooding hero of Richard Harris. In the still powerful drama of the class war Room at the top (BFI Player), Laurence Harvey’s ambitious office worker tries to forget his factory town roots by climbing all the social ladders West Riding has to offer. Halifax and Bradford replaced the film’s fictional Yorkshire towns; Bradford got to play himself, more vibrantly, in John Schlesinger Billy Liar (Google Play), which mixed the grit of a kitchen sink with catchy flights of fancy, and made working-class Hull boy Tom Courtenay a star.
But Yorkshire cinema is much more than angry men and kitchen sinks: the regions of rolling moorland and misty atmospheres also lend themselves to a unique brand of British romance. Take Paweł Pawlikowski’s Delighted and Sunny Coming-of-Age Romance my summer of love (Google Play), which perhaps doesn’t skimp on harsh social realities in its story of two teenage girls falling in love across grades, but also paints the (never more beautiful) countryside as a place of magic unleashing possibility. The glorious of Francis Lee God’s country (Curzon) does something similar in his study of sheep herders baring and uncovering on the Yorkshire slopes, though he finds a different kind of heat in the stormy dreary of the region. The radical reinvention of Andrea Arnold The Wuthering Heights (Netflix), meanwhile, is as feverish with the county’s wilderness — its changeable weather and blossoming wildflowers — as it is with Heathcliff and Cathy’s own unruly passion.
Finally, turning to even younger subjects, Yorkshire stirred many childhood imaginations with the work of Lionel Jeffries. Railway children (AppleTV). Moved north by necessity, children born in central London initially settle on the nearby railway line as a way to look back on their past, but country life soon offers new revelations and adventures. And speaking of childhood classics, the area serves as the backdrop for one of Britain’s greatest animated films: Aardman’s wild and ingenious film. Chicken coop (Netflix), which sets an entire world war on a local poultry farm. Yorkshire cinema has never been so epic.
Also new in streaming and DVD
The hearing (New Wave) A performance of emotional intensity laid bare by the fierce and dependable Nina Hoss gives a chilling jolt to this simmering German psychodrama. As a dedicated violin teacher whose investment in an anxious young student becomes increasingly obsessive – at the expense of her own gifted son – she lends fundamental credibility to potentially mad plots.
Murine (Modern Films) Croatian filmmaker Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović won the Camera d’Or for Best First Feature at Cannes last year, and deservedly so. Deftly dealing with the tensions between a frustrated teenage girl, her oppressive father, and the suave stranger who separates them, this dark and sultry fusion of black sun and coming-of-age tale has cool tonal control that even turned the head of executive producer Martin Scorsese.
Bagnold summer days (Anti-Worlds) A somewhat different study of parent-teenager conflict over a sleepy summer, Simon Bird’s amiably shaggy British comedy comes late to Blu-ray in a package as elaborate as the film is modest, with extras including three quirky shorts by Joff Winterhart, author of the graphic novel behind the feature film.