2

Staff & contributors

Grounded by Lesley Manville and Timothy Spall’s powerhouse performances, this gut-wrenching family drama from Mike Leigh is an acting juggernaut. Penny and Phil are a working-class couple whose marriage is rapidly deteriorating and pushed to the brink when their son, played by a young James Corden, is hospitalized. 

While Manville and Spall are centered as the leads, Leigh draws a staggering amount of depth from Corden as well as a young Sally Hawkins who plays a neighbor. Despite being one of Leigh’s grimmest films, there is still a profound sweetness lingering at the edges as the story teeters between despondency and hope.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alan Williams, Alex Kelly, Alison Garland, Badi Uzzaman, Ben Crompton, Brian Bovell, Daniel Mays, Daniel Ryan, Di Botcher, Diveen Henry, Dorothy Atkinson, Edna Doré, Emma Lowndes, Gary McDonald, Heather Craney, Helen Coker, James Corden, Jean Ainslie, Joe Tucker, Kathryn Hunter, Leo Bill, Lesley Manville, Marion Bailey, Mark Benton, Martin Savage, Matt Bardock, Maxine Peake, Michele Austin, Oliver Golding, Parvez Qadir, Paul Jesson, Peter Stockbridge, Robert Wilfort, Russell Mabey, Ruth Sheen, Sally Hawkins, Sam Kelly, Timothy Bateson, Timothy Spall, Tracy O'Flaherty

Director: Mike Leigh

Rating: R

With a driver protagonist, trying to reintegrate with the rougher parts of his home city, forming a connection with a woman way out of his league, Soho-based Mona Lisa has spawned comparisons to the New York-classic Taxi Driver (1976), but this British neo-noir has a completely different tone and spirit, with a completely different conclusion. Mona Lisa has, of course, Nat King Cole crooning the similarly named tune, and as George gets enamored with Simone, both roles played fantastically by Bob Hoskins and Cathy Tyson respectively, they both keep their cards to their chest, as if similar to the famous painted smile. The ending may be a tad abrupt, but Mona Lisa has a lot of compassion and hope for these two trying to make a better life for themselves, a lot more than expected from the genre.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Bob Hoskins, Cathy Tyson, Clarke Peters, David Halliwell, Dawn Archibald, Gary Cady, Hossein Karimbeik, Jack Purvis, Joe Brown, Kate Hardie, Kenny Baker, Maggie O'Neill, Michael Caine, Pauline Melville, Perry Fenwick, Raad Rawi, Richard Strange, Robbie Coltrane, Rod Bedall, Sammi Davis, Zoë Nathenson

Director: Neil Jordan

Rating: R