Film / Features

The definitive list of films made in Bristol

By Robin Askew, Monday Aug 13, 2018

We first did this list a few years ago and it certainly seems to have proven, ahem, inspirational (just google ‘Films made in Bristol’ to see what we mean). Anyhoo, since then considerably more features have been shot in our lovely city, thanks largely to the efforts of the Bristol Film Office.

We also spotted a few omissions from the original list, which have now been added. Corrections and additions are welcome, but we reserve the right to make fun of you on social media if you don’t pay attention to the following:

To qualify for inclusion, films must include at least one scene shot in Bristol and have received a UK cinema release. Specifically excluded are TV productions, straight-to-DVD movies and films shot in Bath, Clevedon, Weston, etc, etc (that’s another list for another time). We’ve bent these rules just once to include Java Head, because it’s such an intriguing movie with a great story behind it.

1. Java Head (1934)

A fascinating film with loads of Bristol connections, which was actually shot at Ealing Studios. Bristol-born editor Thorold Dickinson was educated at Clifton College and went on to become Britain’s first ever professor of film studies. He’s best remembered for directing the excellent The Queen of Spades. Set in the mid-19th century, Java Head is the story of the scion of a wealthy Bristol merchant shipping family who marries an exotic Chinese princess and brings her home to scandalise polite, conservative, god-fearin’ west country society (you know, bigots). The princess is played by Anna May Wong – the first Chinese-American film star, who relocated to Europe because she was tired of being typecast. It’s been claimed that the mildly racy Java Head made history with the first inter-racial kiss ever shown on screen. Places like the Clifton Downs and Brandon Hill are mentioned in the dialogue, there’s a shot of a suspension bridge that clearly isn’t the Clifton Suspension Bridge and a key scene takes place at a ‘St Mary Redcliffe Church’ that looks nothing like the real thing. The credits reveal the film is co-edited by a young chap named David Lean. Watch out too for a very early performance by Ralph Richardson.
Available on DVD from Optimum as part of an Anna May Wong double-bill with Tiger Bay.

2. Treasure Island (1950)

So far as we know, this is the only big screen version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s venerable yarn to contain scenes actually shot in Bristol, home of the fictional Long John Silver. Disney’s 1950 film also serves up the definitive cinematic Long John in the OTT form of Dorset-born Robert Newton, who made a habit of playing the pirate on screen and is credited with kickstarting the convention by which piratical types speak with Bristolian accents.
Available on DVD from Walt Disney

 

3. The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953)

Lots of Bristol and Somerset locations in this Ealing comedy classic. ‘Mallingford Station’ is actually Temple Meads.
Available on DVD and blu-ray from Studiocanal

4. Cone of Silence (1960)

A fictionalised version of a true story about a pilot who’s forced to take the blame for a passenger jet airliner crash, when a design flaw is really at fault. Because this was a low-budget production despite its relatively starry cast (Peter Cushing, Bernard Lee, George Sanders, Gordon Jackson, etc), some rather unfortunately obvious miniatures were used for many of the flying sequences and much of the rest was shot on a sound stage at Shepperton. But principal photography took place at Filton Airfield.
Available on DVD in Odeon Entertainment’s Best of British series

 

5. Some People (1962)

Bristol’s very own sixties juvenile delinquent flick, which also serves as a propaganda piece for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme. A trio of tearaways (including the very young David Hemmings) race along the Portway on their motorbikes, whereupon they get nicked, putting a stop to their ton-up fun. After getting caught breaking into All Saints Church on Pembroke Road to play rock’n’roll on the organ, they’re taken under the wing of nice cardigan-wearing Kenneth More, who lives in a grand house in Clifton and encourages them to form a band. We see them romping about on Christmas Steps, working at the docks, milling around the grotty old bus station, hanging out in Old Market and, um, clothes shopping in Marks and Spencers in Broadmead. They also groove in the Glen dancehall (later Tiffany’s and now the Spire private hospital on the Downs), chill in the groovy basement El Toro coffee bar (this was on Queens Road, opposite Dingles – now Wilkinson’s) and whizz around in a roller skating rink (actually South Bristol Baths, which was boarded over). Ken does something terribly important and hush-hush at Filton Airfield, while girl singer Terry (Angela Douglas, who wound up in plenty of Carry On movies) works at the Bristol Cigarette Factory. Watch out for Harry H. Corbett doing the worst-ever Bristolian accent.
Available on DVD from Network Releasing

 

6. The Beauty Jungle (1964)

The Day the Earth Caught Fire director Val Guest headed west to film this, er, searing expose of the beauty pageant game. A pretty, working class Bristol typist is seduced with dreams of glamour by a sleazy photographer from the evil Western Daily Press while on holiday in Weston-super-Mare. The Bristol scenes are all early in the film. Hapless young beauty Shirley Freeman (Janette Scott) lives in Redcliffe Parade West. As she wanders the streets with her fiance, you can see St Mary Redcliffe Church, some fascinating shots of the undeveloped docks, the Ostrich Inn, the inevitable Suspension Bridge, the Clifton Observatory and Sion Hill. Then it’s off to glamorous Butlins in Minehead, Weston-super-Mare and Monte Carlo. Watch out for cameos by Sid James (as a beauty contest judge in Minehead), Sterling Moss, Lionel Blair and the Duchess of Bedford.
Available on DVD from Strawberry Media. Alas, this is a pan and scan version. Bizarrely, the only widescreen edition available anywhere is the Australian DVD. You can find this on eBay.

7. Darling (1965)

Oh, the shame! The winner of three Oscars (Best Costume Design, Best Actress for Julie Christie, Best Screenplay for Frederic Raphael), John Schlesinger’s now rather dated pre-swinging sixties drama follows the misadventures of Christie’s amoral starlet. In one vérité-style scene, Dirk Bogarde’s reporter takes to the streets of central Bristol to solicit punters’ views on what they’re most ashamed of in 60s Britain. “How rife homosexuality has become,” replies one gent, possibly unaware that both Bogarde and his director are gay.
Available on blu-ray and DVD in digitally restored form from Studiocanal

 

8. A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972)

Temple Meads, Clifton and Hotwells (mostly Freeland Place) are among the locations for Peter Medak’s adaptation of Peter Nichols’ stage play: a black comedy about a couple bringing up a severely disabled child. This is also one of the very few films to include a sequence shot in Broadmead.
Available on DVD from Sony Pictures.

9. Deadly Strangers (1974)

A rare example of the British psycho-killer road movie, shot on location in Bristol and Weston-super-Mare (spot the Grand Pier!). Cast includes Hayley Mills, Simon Ward and Sterling Hayden.
Not officially available on DVD, though you can find dodgy copies on eBay.

 

10. The Medusa Touch (1978)

In this pleasingly misanthropic British supernatural thriller, Richard Burton plays a telekinetic catastrophe magnet whose party tricks include crashing a passenger plane into a tower block more than two decades before 9/11. His piece de resistance, however, is a plan to take revenge on the hypocrisy of god-botherers by causing ‘Minster Cathedral’ to collapse from the comfort of his hospital bed, where he lies in a coma after being bashed about the head by his own shrink (Lee Remick). His target is none other than Her Maj and sundry bigwigs who are due to attend a service. No amount of Routemaster buses shipped in to drive up and down past the building can disguise the fact that Minster Cathedral is actually Bristol Cathedral (back in the days when you could drive anything past it). The Council House and lower end of Park Street are clearly visible in the background and the filmmakers seem to have enjoyed remarkable access to the Cathedral, which crumbles to the ground in an entertaining shower of bouncing rubber bricks. One can only presume that the Cathedral authorities were reassured that Burton’s supernatural abilities were not depicted as being in any way Satanic.
Recently reissued on DVD and blu-ray by Network Releasing.

11. Radio On (1980)

So far as we know, this is the only road movie ever to be set on the A4 between London and Bristol. Thrill to the sights of Temple Meads station, the former Grosvenor Hotel, the Hippodrome and that rickety single-lane Victoria Street flyover which was removed in 1998. Warning: cast includes Sting!
Available on DVD from the BFI.

 

12. White Nights (1985)

The opening scenes of Mikhail Baryshnikov on stage were filmed at the Bristol Hippodrome.
Available on DVD from Sony Pictures.

 

13. Hearts of Fire (1987)

Your eyes do not deceive you: that really is Bob Dylan on stage at the Colston Hall.
Never released on DVD.

 

14. King of the Wind (1990)

A rare foray into feature film production by HTV (remember them?), this gave Bristol-born actor Navin Chowdhry his big break. The UK sequences were shot in Bristol, Bath and Badminton.
Only available on US Region 1 DVD.

 

15. Paper Mask (1990)

“All they do is wank around for four years and then get dumped on the wards.” Anyone who’s ever observed the Great British Medical Student at close quarters will acknowledge the essential truth of this uncharitable assessment by frustrated hospital porter Matthew Harris (Clifton’s very own Paul McGann). Effortlessly plucking the most attractive female nurses from Harris’s grasp, the sawbones at West Harwood hospital earn his contempt and envy until he decides to join their ranks by acquiring the identity of recently deceased Dr. Simon Hennessy and applying – successfully – for the post of Casualty Officer at the Royal Clifton Hospital.

Nurse Christine Taylor (Amanda Donohue) guides him through the routine procedures involved in sewing back detached lumps of anatomy and wielding Really Big Needles as though he were just another green junior doc, and it’s not long before they’re exchanging bodily fluids after work as well. Things start to turn nasty when Matthew inadvertently polishes off a patient while administering anaesthetic on his own after a tiff with Christine and the profession closes ranks to protect him.

The first hour of Paper Mask is brilliantly paced, with McGann making a mightily impressive, convincing impostor, realising everybody’s darkest fears about the medical profession as he stumbles from hopelessly inept diagnosis to unnecessarily painful procedure without being challenged. Former Bristol doctor John Collee’s adaptation of his own novel portrays the whitecoats variously as bumbling, arrogant and callous careerists whose loyalty is to pals and profession rather than the Hippocratic Oath. Alas, his script comes seriously adrift when it bounds beyond the basic premise to introduce a melodrama that hinges of a series of increasingly improbable coincidences. Still, there’s much fun to be had in spotting all the Bristol locations – from Royal York Crescent to the obligatory suspension bridge shot. There’s even a promotional poster for Bristol City Council on the wall of Harris’s flat.
Available on DVD from Guerilla Films.

16. Truly, Mady, Deeply (1991)

Goldney Hall and bits of Clifton (notably Birdcage Walk) double for London in the late Anthony Minghella’s debut feature.
Recently reissued on DVD and blu-ray by the BBC

 

17. The Hawk (1993)

A cheapo BBC-backed thriller, with Helen Mirren as a suburban housewife who begins to suspect that her hubby (George Costigan) might be a serial killer known as The Hawk. The real mystery, however, is why all these people with Lancashire accents are living in Totterdown. Yep, although David Hayman’s film is set in the north of England it was filmed entirely on location in Bristol – apparently during a permanent downpour.
Cinema Club DVD release is long deleted, but you can get the film as part of the Helen Mirren at the BBC box set from 2 Entertain.

 

18. The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb (1993)

The winner of a heap of film festival gongs, including an Evening Standard British Film Award and Best Director at the Sitges international fantasy film festival in Spain (“an entirely original hour-long masterpiece” enthused judge and renowned horror expert Kim Newman), bolexbrothers studio co-founder Dave Borthwick’s brilliant feature combines live action and stop-motion animation in a truly innovative way to tell the macabre tale of an unwanted tiny fella who’s born into an insect-infested slum and is then kidnapped for gruesome medical experiments in a freak-filled laboratory. There are few points of reference to the real world except in an hilarious, instantly recognisable pub skittles scene, peopled by monosyllabic Bristolians. Future Creature Comforts and Shaun the Sheep director Richard Goleszowski was among the extras recruited from among the bolexbrothers’ Aardman chums for this sequence. “You can go into pubs in Bedminster and hear people having conversations like that, without actually saying anything at all,” remarked Borthwick.
Available on DVD from Manga.

19. The Big Swap (1998)

Spot the Hollywood Bowl, Watershed, Berkeley pub, Weston’s Hutton Moor Leisure Centre and loads of bits of director Niall Johnson’s home town of Clevedon in his debut: a middle-class wife-swapping drama.
Cinema Club DVD is long deleted.

20. Living in Hope (2002)

‘Cabot University’ is, of course, Bristol University in this student romp from local director John Miller. Features an early performance by Naomie Harris, who trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and went on to star in Miami Vice, Pirates of the Caribbean and Skyfall.
Available on DVD from Pegasus

 

21. The Truth About Love (2004)

The Evening Post got wildly excited about this romantic comedy, in a cheesy provincial ‘Hollywood comes to Bristol’ kind of way, when stars Jennifer Love Hewitt, Dougray Scott and Jimi Mistry pitched up in the city. Alas, it turned out to be an utter turkey that took ages to get a (very brief) cinema release after premiering in, er, South Korea. On the plus side, it makes the best big-screen use of Bristol – or the posh Clifton/dockside parts of it, at least – since Paper Mask (see above). The Suspension Bridge looks lovely and twinkly when lit up at night, and you’ll recognise all the local landmarks, from Christmas Steps to At-Bristol, Buchanan’s Wharf and even the former Twentieth Century Flicks DVD emporium in Clifton – where one could rent porn flicks with titles like A-Cock-On-Lips Now, if the film is to be believed. Nit-picking locals will also notice several intriguing anomalies. Who knew, for example, that the Suspension Bridge was pedestrianised?
Available on DVD from Universal.

 

22. These Foolish Things (2005)

This one certainly had an eye-catching cast (Lauren Bacall, Terence Stamp, Anjelica Huston, a pre-Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln) and the producers spent a fortune transforming King Street and the Bristol Hippodrome into 1930s London theatreland. But the reviews were absolutely terrible. “This embarrassing affair somehow managed to attract, and waste, a strong cast,” opined Philip French in The Observer. It was never shown in Bristol.
Available on DVD from Showbox. There’s also a blu-ray, released only in Germany.

 

23. Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

Our very own Oscar winner: made entirely on location in a big, anonymous warehouse in Aztec West, as was the earlier Chicken Run and later The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!, The Shaun the Sheep Movie and Early Man.
Available on DVD from 20th Century Fox. Oddly never released on Blu-ray.

 

24. Starter For Ten (2006)

You don’t need to have been an undergraduate at Bristol University during the 80s to enjoy David Nicholls’ cannily scripted adaptation of his bestselling, semi-autobiographical novel, which blends broad comedy with touching romance and emotional truth, without getting all Richard Curtis on our asses. But there’s a special resonance here for those who lived through those years that manifests itself in the form of cringes of recognition: the fashions, the music, the authentically grim and under-populated ‘welcoming’ Tarts and Vicars party…

For working class Essex boy Brian Jackson (likeable James McAvoy, in what was a career-making lead role), Bristol represents an opportunity to escape his home town backwater and pursue a lifelong trivia geekboy ambition to get on University Challenge, which will inevitably result in enormous quantities of sex. Needless to say, it doesn’t quite work out like that. Although he’s initially drawn to serious “Jewish socialist non-Zionist” political activist Rebecca (Hall, daughter of Sir Peter), Brian soon finds himself enthralled by intimidating, promiscuous posh blonde Alice (Alice Eve, daughter of Trevor), who’s given to saying things like “I lost my virginity to this song on a mime course in Tuscany”. The University Challenge team isn’t what he expected either, being overseen by priggish control freak Patrick (Benedict Cumberbatch). Meanwhile back home, mum (Catherine Tate) is coping with the death of dad by copping off with Mr Whippy the ice cream man.

It’s all here: the awkward dates, first tokes, fumbling snogs, romantic confusions and mistakes, and even a riotously disastrous country house weekend with Alice’s wealthy, bohemian parents (Lindsay Duncan, a naked Charles Dance) during which Brian’s self-medication results in an excruciating Mrs Robinson moment after partaking of midnight munchies. There’s not quite as much of the Bristol cityscape as you might have hoped for, and certain dramatic licence is employed in conjuring up hordes of lefty, protesting students (at Bristol University? In the 80s? Yeah, right!). But it’s certainly refreshing to see a rites-of-passage student comedy that isn’t set on a US campus. Cold Feet/I Saw You director (and fellow Bristol University graduate) Tom Vaughan has a sure hand on the rudder for his feature debut, coaxing excellent performances from a fine ensemble cast, including a quite uncannily accurate impersonation of Bamber Gascoigne by Mark Gatiss. Locations to watch out for include Royal York Crescent, Christmas Steps, the Floating Harbour and Bristol University’s School of Chemistry.
Available on DVD and blu-ray from Icon.

 

25. The Duchess (2008)

Bath was Georgiana Spencer’s bolthole from her marital shenanigans, so naturally the production spent five days shooting round these parts. Shots of the Royal Crescent feature prominently, the Holburne Museum was temporarily transformed into the Duchess’s rented property, and the Assembly Rooms were used for a sequence where she makes a head-turning entrance into a grand ball full of 200 locally recruited extras. The Bristol Old Vic also doubles for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Available on DVD and blu-ray from 20th Century Fox.

 

26. Shank (2009)

One of the problems with watching this locally made, sexually explicit gay coming-of-age/gang violence drama is that it’s hard to concentrate on all the vigorous sodomy when you’re so busy spotting the locations and wondering how the characters managed to get around the city so quickly. This is, of course, not the fault of the filmmakers. For such a low-budget, digital video production, Shank is exceptionally technically accomplished and directed with breezy confidence by 21-year-old Simon Pearce, who makes excellent use of his Bristol locations, which range from the obvious (that bloody Suspension Bridge) to inner city streets, plus everybody’s least favourite monstrous carbuncle: Westmoreland House. The performances, while a tad rough and ready, are generally pretty good, with Wayne Virgo acquitting himself well as the conflicted lead. More problematic is the script, which is heavily reliant on coincidence and builds to a rather overwrought, drawn-out climax which some will find uncomfortable to watch.

Cal (Virgo) is a member of a chavvy Bristol street gang, unusually led by a girl, Nessa (Alice Payne), whose Big Secret is hinted at early in the film. He’s also a repressed homosexual with a deep yearning for his mostly shirtless best mate Jonno (Tom Bott). The only outlet for his sexuality is anonymous rough sex, which he foolishly records on his mobile phone for further masturbatory enjoyment once the self-loathing has died down. After his gang beats the crap out of gangly French student Olivier (Marc Laurent) for looking a bit poofy, Cal takes pity on their Gallic victim and offers him a lift home. They then wind up in bed with remarkable haste given the circumstances of their meeting. In his absence, nasty Nessa discovers Cal’s trophy videos on his PC, Jonno goes ballistic at the thought that his chum’s a secret shirt-lifter (protesting, you might think, a little too much) and the scene is set for a nasty showdown when they next run into each other. Which shouldn’t take too long since everybody seems to live in Montpelier.

There’s a strong element of gay wish-fulfilment in all of this (is no male gang member unambiguously straight?), but the film is at its best in the more tender, character-revealing moments involving tormented Cal, macho Jonno and openly gay Olivier. Fascinating factoid: producer Christian Martin is the former Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Bristol City Council.
Available on DVD from TLA Releasing.

 

27. In the Dark Half (2012)

The first micro-budget Bristol iFeatures film to get a cinema release, Alastair Siddons’ stylish psychological spooker makes excellent use of its urban/rural border locations, from Hartcliffe to the wilds of Dundry. Stronger on mood than it is on story, this is a consistently unsettling experience that works wonders with its piddly £300,000 budget.

Jessica Barden – the scene-stealing little girl from Tamara Drewe – is cast as 15-year-old Marie, who lives on a grim Hartcliffe estate. Mum Kathy (Lyndsey Marshal) seems hell-bent on tearing their house apart to facilitate an ill-conceived home improvement project. Little wonder the troubled lass would rather spend her time in the adjoining wilds of Dundry, where her poacher neighbour, who goes by the delightful name of Filthy (Tony Curran), enjoys killing anything that moves. After Filthy’s six-year-old son perishes in mysterious circumstances while Marie is babysitting, matters take a turn for the supernatural.

Terrific cinematography, effective sound design and more rabbit symbolism than you could shake a carrot at help to mitigate the fact that the twist, when it comes, isn’t entirely unexpected.
Available on DVD from Verve Pictures

 

28. Flying Blind (2013)

The second Bristol iFeatures film to reach cinemas, Flying Blind certainly makes excellent use of diverse city locations (the docks, Clifton, the Downs, the Filton Airbus factory, the Glass Boat, er, that grotty bit of Easton in the shadow of the M32) while sparing us the clichéd shot of the suspension bridge. Polish director Katarzyna Klimkiewicz’s debut feature is an action-lite political thriller-cum-love story with more than a hint of Ken Loach about it.

Award-winning veteran Helen McCrory, previously seen in Skyfall, is well cast as single fortysomething aerospace engineer Frankie, who designs military drones at Filton and lectures at Bristol University. Somewhat clunkily, the script telegraphs her personal journey in an early scene where she shrugs off a student’s concerns about the ethics of her work, insisting that she’s interested only in “the beauty of flight”. Enter handsome, mysteriously scarred young French-Algerian Muslim student Kahil (Najib Oudghiri) for an unlikely if passionate affair. This disturbs Frankie’s retired Concorde engineer dad (Kenneth Cranham) and, subsequently, the security services, who declare Kahil a “person of interest”.

According to perspective, Frankie is either remarkably naïve or blinded by love, and much of the subsequent drama hinges on how little she really knows about her lover. There are few surprises in store, the film’s strength being in emotional verisimilitude rather than edge-of-seat thrills. Now about that lack of a Suspension Bridge shot… “We did actually shoot one scene of the bridge,” Katarzyna confesses. “I couldn’t resist, because it’s so beautiful. But then it was cut out. There was no need for it in the story.”
Available on DVD from Soda Pictures

 

29. 8 Minutes Idle (2014)

The third Bristol iFeatures film: a comedy adapted from Matt Thorne’s novel about call centre life. The first movie ever to put Turbo Island on screen.
Available on DVD from Luxin

30. Judas Ghost (2014)

Bristolian director Simon Pearce’s belated follow-up to his excellent 2009 feature debut Shank (see above) is a fantasy horror flick adapted from the Ghost Finder novels by prolific British fantasy author Simon R Green. It follows a quartet of ghost hunters from the Carnacki Institute, which is billed as a “top-secret organisation set up to combat the dead”. When the team pitch up at an old village hall for what they anticipate will be a common or garden haunting, they’re somewhat surprised to find themselves facing something rather more ‘orrible. Judas Ghost was shot entirely on location in Bristol back in 2013.
Available on DVD from Bulldog Films

 

31. The Inbetweeners 2 (2014)

There’s not much of Bristol in this one, as it mostly takes place down under (with all the arfing and sniggering that implies), but the film opens with Will (Simon Bird) landing a place at Bristol University, where he remains terminally uncool and unpopular. Watch out for the Clifton Observatory and that inevitable Suspension Bridge.
Available on DVD and blu-ray from Entertainment.

32. The Fold (2014)

Recently bereaved Cornish Anglican priest Catherine McCormack is drawn to a self-harming Bulgarian daffodil picker who reminds her of her late daughter in this drama that takes a late turn into thriller territory. Mainly shot in Cornwall, The Fold also includes scenes filmed in Bristol. Yes, the Suspension Bridge is in there.
Available on DVD, but only on import. Unreleased in the UK.

33. The Darkest Dawn (2016)

It’s got a budget of just £43,000, bristles with special effects produced using software that costs £50 a month to use, and its 22-year-old director recruited a cast led not by actors but YouTube stars. Yep, Bristol’s very own ambitious micro-budget alien apocalypse blockbuster is quite a calling card for the St Paul’s-based Wildseed Studios. It so impressed the folks over at the Watershed that they gave the film a week-long run. Go here for our feature on the story behind The Darkest Dawn.
Available on DVD from Gilt Edge Media

34. Golden Years (2016)

John Miller, director of Living in Hope (see above), made excellent use of Bristol locations for this Henleaze pensioner heist comedy. Go here for our full feature on the making of the film.
Available on DVD from High Fliers Films

35. B&B (2017)

Gay Londoners Marc (Tom Bateman) and Fred (Sean Teale) are suitably outraged when the Christian owner (Paul McGann) of a remote B&B denies them a room. After successfully suing the bigot and driving him into debt, they decide to return to rub his nose in it by insisting on exercising their hard-won right to sleep together under his roof. But matters take an alarming turn with the unexpected arrival of a mysterious hulking great Russian guest with a potentially sinister motive. The winner of Best LGBT film 2017 at London Independent Film Festival, this debut theatrical feature by BAFTA-nominated TV director Joe Ahearne (The Replacement, several episodes of Doctor Who) was shot entirely on location in Bristol. And, of course, it stars Bristol’s very own Paul McGann, of Withnail and I fame.
Available on DVD from Saffron Hill

36. The Sense of an Ending (2017)

Julian Barnes’s Booker Prize-winning 2011 novel came to the screen courtesy of playwright Nick Payne, this being his first screenplay, and director Ritesh Batra, whose 2013 debut feature The Lunchbox was nominated for a BAFTA. Something of a male-oriented counterpart to Iain McEwan’s Atonement, it’s an exploration of selective memory and how the past can weigh heavily on the present, unfolding in two time frames.

The great Jim Broadbent stars as curmudgeonly, divorced and solitary Tony Webster, who finds himself forced to confront flawed recollections of his younger self. This is sparked by the arrival of a lawyer’s letter telling him that the mother of Veronica, his girlfriend at Bristol University back in the sixties, has bequeathed him a diary. It was written by his best friend, Adrian, who dated Veronica after the couple split up. Now all the deceit, heartbreak and guilt comes flooding back as Tony faces up to the devastating consequences of his actions all those years ago.  Charlotte Rampling is cast as the adult Veronica, while Downton Abbey‘s Michelle Dockery plays his pregnant lesbian daughter. Freya Mavor (Mini McGuinness in Skins) and Billy Howle are the young Veronica and Tony in the Bristol scenes. Although it’s a fine film, there isn’t really an awful lot of Bristol in it (most of the filming was done in London) apart from the mandatory suspension bridge shot.
Available on DVD and blu-ray from Studiocanal

37. Another Mother’s Son (2017)

Written by Jenny Lecoat and directed by BAFTA-winning Chris Menaul, Another Mother’s Son tells a little-known true story from WWII. In the Nazi-occupied Jersey of 1942, prisoners of war are put to work in slave labour camps. When Russian soldier Feodor (Julian Kostov) escapes and begs for sanctuary, local woman Louisa Gould (Jenny Seagrove) cannot bear to hand him back. So she joins forces with her sister Ivy (Amanda Abbington), brother Harold (popster Ronan Keating) and the village postmaster Arthur (John Hannah) to harbour the young man, whom she calls Bill. But her defiance places them all in grave danger. This was the first of two films in quick succession to have Princes Wharf doubling for wartime docks in a Channel Islands-set WWII flick. The quayside by the Balmoral became the backdrop for a sequence in which Jersey deportees are loaded aboard a 1940s steam ship. Many other West Country locations were used during the film’s six-week shoot. As you can see in the trailer above, Wells Town Hall was draped with a giant swastika flag. Nazis were also seen stomping through Bath’s Parade Gardens and around the Guildhall. Additional scenes were shot in Priddy, while the East Somerset Railway in Shepton Mallet played host to a steam train filled with POWs.
Available on DVD from Signature Entertainment

38. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

Mike Newell’s first feature since his 2012 bash at Great Expectations was a long-gestating, handsomely staged prestige Britflick adapted from the 2008 bestseller by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Downton‘s Lily James is back in period garb as free-spirited hackette Juliet Ashton, who forms a life-changing bond with the eccentrics of the eponymous Nazi-resisting book club while researching their experiences in occupied Guernsey during WWII. Michiel Huisman (Daario Naharis from Game of Thrones) plays a pig farmer and the supporting cast includes Jessica Brown Findlay, Matthew Goode, Tom Courtenay and Penelope Wilton. The steamer in the background in the trailer above is the Balmoral, as Princes Wharf was once again pressed into service to stand in for a 1940s dockside – in this case the Weymouth docks of 1946.
Released on DVD and blu-ray by Studiocanal on August 27, 2018

39. Crowhurst (2018)

These things always come in pairs. The Mercy, starring Colin Firth, was the higher profile of 2018’s two Donald Crowhurst biopics, even though it didn’t exactly set the box office alight. So you’re probably already familiar with the true-life tale of the Devon sailor who came a cropper after faking his progress in the 1968 Sunday Times round-the-world yacht race. Brit indie horror director Simon Rumley puts a Lynchian twist on the tale in his version, which was actually completed first but held back because both films were handled by the same distributor. There’s more local interest in this one though, because it was shot in the Bristol Channel.
Available on DVD from Studiocanal

40. The Festival (2018)

Setting a film against the backdrop of an actual music festival is hardly a novel idea (remember the mediocre You Instead, shot at T in the Park?), but this one from the people behind The Inbetweeners TV series and movies has another bash at capturing the authentic British festival experience. After being dumped by his girlfriend, glum Nick (Joe Thomas – Simon from The Inbetweeners) is dragged off by a chum for a full-on three-day festival blowout to perk him up a bit. The supporting cast includes Jermaine Clement, Noel Fielding and Nick Frost. Scenes were shot at Bestival and the Leeds Festival last year, but much of the footage comes from a large festival set created in a field in Chew Magna. Additional scenes were shot in Ashton Court and Hengrove Park. The Colston Hall was used for the graduation sequence seen at the start of the trailer above, while other local locations that you may recognise include Westbury Baptist Church and Bristol Medical Simulation Centre.
In cinemas now

41. Stan & Ollie (2018)

Didja know that Laurel and Hardy came to Bristol? Yep, they were here just the once in their declining years, when they played the Bristol Hippodrome on September 29, 1952 as part of a gruelling, under-attended UK tour. That tour is the subject of this new film with Steve Coogan as Stan and John C. Reilly as Ollie. Filming took place on Princes Wharf and around the Hippodrome last April. Stan & Ollie gets its premiere at October’s London Film Festival, where it has been selected for the closing film slot.
Released in cinemas on January 11 2019

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