Debutante | Programme Notes

A season dedicated to revisiting the debut films of some of the UK's most promising female directors.

The Picturehouse Team

14 Aug 23

In celebration of the upcoming release of Charlotte Regan's Scrapper on 25 August, this season is dedicated to revisiting the debut films of some of the UK's most promising female directors, whose distinct voices and soaring career trajectories have brought them each felicitous acclaim.

Whilst the season's namesake heralds from the pomp & circumstance surrounding a young woman's emergence into upper-class society, this programme of films turns these ideas on their head: telling refreshingly normal stories about regular people. This by no means detracts from their intrigue, but rather makes them all-the-more compelling to audiences.

Each of the filmmakers in the season has used their debut to dedicate a special kind of attention to issues that pervade a society we recognise — from homophobia, grief, masculinity, and the quotidian experience of loving another.

Narratively, they share in common a mode of storytelling that goes beyond being sympathetic to their causes: engaging in intimate dealings with the everyday to treat their vulnerable subject matter with a kind of familiarity designed to ring true, rather than trying to prescribe any one way of feeling.

Separately, these films are standalone testaments to the talents of the women who made them, and the true-to-life stories that they're telling. Yet, together, they paint an epitomising portrait of the desires, fears, and realities of our diverse yet deeply individualistic nation, giving credence to the complex beings that they belong to.

In a cultural landscape oversaturated with sequels and rehashed intellectual property, it's a welcome sign that these original and deeply personal stories are able to hold their own and reach the audiences for whom they were intended, and beyond.

It's a credit to Oakley, Wells, Allen Miller, Edwards & Regan (and their countless peers), and their innovative storytelling, tireless work ethic, and their definitive marking of a new age of British filmmaking.    

In the midst of a Summer chock-a-block with larger-than-life blockbusters, we're proud to be dedicating the time to celebrate each of these brilliant titles at a pivotal early moment in each of their directors' careers. 

Hope Hopkinson, Picturehouse Marketing

The line-up

Blue Jean  Georgia Oakley

From 6 Aug

Living in a time where you're scorned and persecuted for the things that characterise you, opting out of your identity as a means of survival can feel like a comforting solution. 

Georgia Oakley's examination of the titular Jean (Rosy McEwen) is a richly complex and intimate portrayal of a woman vacillating between an outward queer identity, and repression as a means of self-preservation.

Jean's highwire act is achingly relatable, but the real tragedy would be to let Section 28 define her – she must define herself. It's the character of Viv (Kerrie Hayes) that exposes Jean's rational hypocrisy and the restraints of the closet she resides in. Viv is unflinching in her willingness to be herself despite the horror of the circumstances.

This resolute approach doesn't make things any easier for her, but crucially she doesn't let anything external define her, she defines herself. 

The notion of torture porn is often invoked when difficult queer stories are presented on screen, and Blue Jean could, on paper, be dismissed as another joyless experience where gay characters suffer.

Yet despite the upheaval of its Thatcherite setting, much like Viv, the film won't let itself be defined by adversity. Blue Jean is full of revelatory love, acerbic wit and an infectious community spirit — a distinctive and uncompromising delight.

 —Johnathan Kirk, Ritzy Picturehouse Marketing

Aftersun  Charlotte Wells

From 11 Aug

Can we ever truly know those who raised us? Topping Sight and Sound's Best of 2022 list, Charlotte Wells' unflinching Aftersun begs a question almost too painful to consider, requiring very little in way of introduction.

Much like the vignettes of a childhood holiday lost to the throes of memory that it mulls over, its narrative ebbs and flows in and out of fus, filling in the gaps with bleak glimpses of reality. As father and daughter, Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio masterfully play out a symbiosis between childlike wonder and the abruptness of solitude, revealing itself only when the sun goes down.

Despite it being her debut feature, Wells manages to sustain an unrelenting anxiety throughout its 101-minute runtime that suggests decades of finesse — culminating in one of the most understatedly devastating sequences of recent memory. 

 — Hope Hopkinson, Picturehouse Marketing

Pretty Red Dress  Dionne Edwards 

From 11 Aug

Dionne Edwards' debut feature is a testament to the age-old adage that a new dress is about much more than just the fabric — examining the confines of masculinity and its complex intersections with Blackness, fatherhood, and sexuality.

Newly released from a custodial sentence, we find Travis (Natey Jones) traversing the frontier of fitting neatly back into his vacant role in the family home, experimenting through the medium of his girlfriend's (Alexandra Burke) clothes and accessories to consider what life could look like beyond this.

Edwards tenderly considers how his foray into nonconformity reverberates through his family; to his daughter whose own identity is thrown up into question throughout the narrative's course, and his partner, standing at the precipice of a big break in her performing career.

Set to the hits of the late Tina Turner, music plays a salient role in the film; comparable to a fourth member of the family in the way it's employed to offer perspective on pivotal moments whilst maintaining true to what each of the characters would really be listening to.

As much attention is paid to its sonic and visual identity as its emotional core, creating a beautifully big-hearted snapshot of modern family life in South London.

 — Hope Hopkinson, Picturehouse Marketing

Rye Lane  Raine Allen Miller

From 18 Aug

Hugh Grant's loving declaration to Andie MacDowell on the South Bank in Four Weddings and a Funeral. The Somerset House Ice Skating Rink that sets the tone for Love Actually's opening montage. Hugh (again) and Julia Roberts' tearful parting at the Travel Book Shop in Notting Hill… in Notting Hill. London has been home to some of cinema's most magical romantic moments, yet some may raise an eyebrow at Rye Lane Market, Nour Cash and Carry, and Ritzy Picturehouse being added to that list.

Raine Allen-Miller says otherwise, painting a vibrant portrait of young lovers in London amidst the backdrop of the landmarks that surrounded her growing up.

The kinetic chemistry between our leads is palpable from the start, even if they don't see it right away. But it's the comedic impulses and sensibilities of the directing and writing that remind us why they're called romantic comedies.

Finding love is a rejuvenating thrill that feels at once gleefully daunting and assuredly impulsive. However, navigating the nuances of dating in the big city? Comedy gold. And, hey — an endorsement from a burrito-loving icon of the British rom-com goes a long way, too.

 — Johnathan Kirk, Ritzy Picturehouse Marketing

Scrapper  Charlotte Regan

We will be joined by Harris Dickinson and Charlotte Regan for a Q&A at Picturehouse Central on Fri 25 Aug. 

Despite comparisons to a Wes Anderson-esque take on The Florida Project with a healthy dose of British frankness and wit, Scrapper is unmistakably told in the inimitable voice of Charlotte Regan. Her first feature comes after a roster of acclaimed shorts centering true-to-life British stories — not hesitating when breaching the tough stuff, but always doing so with a signature sense of playfulness and levity.

Scrapper is perhaps the epitome of this: telling the story of an 11-year-old girl navigating a life alone after the death of her mother, until the arrival of her estranged father (in the form of Harris Dickinson climbing over the garden fence). 

The story that unfolds is one of resilience and recovery, but under Regan's guiding hand it never breaches a dreary or self-pitying territory, whilst still hitting all the right emotional beats. Its vibrant palette, daydreaming sensibility and charmingly unconventional direction breathes life into a story that could otherwise play as a straight drama, choosing to exist as a living, breathing thing — with the wide eyes, dry humour, and open heart of its protagonist. 

 — Hope Hopkinson, Picturehouse Marketing

From beloved classics to unearthed gems, reintroduce yourself to the best films of yesterday with reDiscover  be that last decade, or last century. Tickets are £8 and free for Picturehouse Members.