New Essential Indie Cinema in June

Here we are, still in the thick of lockdown. GFT remains closed for the time being, and while we know there is no substitute for enjoying a new film in the warm embrace of your favourite picture house, we also know that new movies are finding their way out into the world, and there’s some really good ones to be found. Here, GFT Programme Manager Paul Gallagher offers his pick of new indie cinema coming out in June, and info on where you can watch it.


Never Rarely Sometimes Always (15)

Hot on the heels of last month’s The Assistant, this is another thrilling example of the best that US independent filmmaking has to offer right now. Like that film, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a fictional drama about a young woman in a desperate situation – and also like that film, it feels absolutely authentic, bringing us up close to real lived experiences we can be sure have happened and will no doubt happen again. 

Debut actress Sidney Flanigan plays Autumn, a 17 year old in rural Pennsylvania who, upon discovering she is pregnant, decides to travel to New York in order to get an abortion. The reasons for this decision, and the secrecy with which Autumn feels compelled to act, are factors that writer/director Eliza Hittman is in no rush to explain. Rather this is a film that is rigorously economical in its storytelling. Working largely in tight close-ups of Autumn and the cousin who accompanies her, Hittman keeps us in the fraught present moment with Autumn on every step of this journey. The details of Autumn’s life – in particular the abusive men who have populated it, and the lack of anyone she can relate to – gradually seep into our understanding, until in a key scene Hittman lets us fully feel the emotion of what Autumn has suffered. This is excellent, disciplined, compassionate filmmaking, with a stunning central performance by Flanigan.

Watch Never Rarely Sometimes Always on Amazon, YouTube and Google Play from Wednesday 27 May. From £3.49 rental.


Only the Animals (N/C 15+)

For something more squarely in the realm of ‘only in the movies’, try this gripping multi-stranded mystery thriller from Franco-German director Dominik Moll (Harry, He’s Here To Help). After a brief and bizarre opening scene in a bustling West African street, the film begins in the remote French mountains with the disappearance of a woman during a snowstorm. This disappearance is the connecting point for the stories of five characters that the film follows over the course of five chapters, each focusing on one character. 

Moll cleverly drip-feeds information so a complete picture of events gradually becomes clear – and even that bizarre opening scene falls into place. The chapters are structured in such a way that as each twist is revealed, we have to adjust our understanding of all that we have previously seen. As the coincidences line up, the film demands a hefty suspension of disbelief from an audience, but as one character says to another, 'chance is greater than you'. The idea of chance as the great reckoner is played out here in a pleasingly tricksy fashion, with a great ensemble cast including Denis Menochet and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi.

Watch Only the Animals on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday 29 May. £11.99 rental.


The Uncertain Kingdom (15)

This collection of 20 new short films by 20 different directors offers a dual snapshot of the rude health of British independent filmmaking, and of the diverse and multiple nature of British identity. The Uncertain Kingdom project was initially created as a response to the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and the films reflect on the impact of that decision on UK society through drama, animation, fiction and documentary. But they also appear in a new light being released in this lockdown period, when the immediate need is to think about ourselves and our immediate families.

These films remind the viewer that life in the UK is not one shape and size, and that one’s own experience can’t be used as a reference for what someone else might be going through. Correspondingly, each director has approached the broad brief in their individual way: Hope Dickson Leach’s Strong Is Better Than Angry is a drama-documentary that faces womens’ oppression literally head-on, while Jason Bradbury’s tense film Isaac and the Ram is a much more enigmatic exploration of sexuality, prejudice and faith through a claustrophobic single scene. Runyararo Mapfumo takes a gentler but no less powerful approach in What’s In a Name? as British people of colour reflect on the meanings of their names, and the attitudes that they have encountered towards their names in the UK. Each film here adds to a hugely compelling, eye-opening picture of our nation.

Watch The Uncertain Kingdom Parts 1 & 2 on BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema, iTunes, Amazon and Google Play from Monday 1 June. Price £3.49-£4.99 rental per part.


Days of the Bagnold Summer (12)

An audience favourite at Glasgow Film Festival this year, Simon Bird’s directorial debut comes to streaming services in June, and is a bit of an ideal lockdown antidote. Adapted from the graphic novel of the same name, and shot in clear, crisp images that occasionally look like comic strip panels, it’s delightful, warm-hearted and very funny. Single mum Sue (Monica Dolan) and her teenage son Daniel (Earl Cave) are unexpectedly forced to spend the school summer holidays together in their suburban home, after Daniel’s dad and new wife in Florida cancel Daniel’s planned summer visit. The beauty of the film is that both characters are fully realised, believable people, so what could have just been an extended version of Harry Enfield’s 'Kevin the Teenager' sketch is actually very touching, sweet and sad, and will connect with anyone who has been a teenager or been the parent of one. The icing on the cake is a lovely score from Glasgow’s own Belle and Sebastian.

Watch Days of the Bagnold Summer on BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema and others from Monday 8 June. Price TBC.


The Booksellers (N/C 12+)

This enlightening documentary takes a deep dive into the world of New York’s rare book dealers, unearthing enough overly-stuffed bookshelves to give Marie Kondo nightmares for a year. Director DW Young leads us on a rambling and expansive tour of this industry and the kinds of people who work in it, and considers its health and viability since the internet has changed the game in so many ways. Beginning with a look at the changing face of Manhattan’s bookselling district, the film slowly becomes a more substantial consideration of the importance of books as a physical archive of the pre-internet era; 'a sort of cultural DNA', is how the author Susan Orlean puts it. She is one of over 50 interviewees who appear over the course of the film, which occasionally feels stacked like one of those bursting bookshelves. A Gershwin-esque jazzy soundtrack always keeps it moving, and any book-lover or budding archivist will find this a fascinating way to spend 90 minutes – especially while browsing bookshops remains off the cards.

Watch The Booksellers from Monday 29 June. Check back for platform/price details nearer the time.

As per Scottish Government restrictions, seats available for all shows from 27 December to 23 January will be capped to meet the 1m social distancing requirement.

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