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The Essentials
Smiling girl from 'Aftersun'

Image credit: Sarah Makharine / Still From Aftersun

10 British films from female filmmakers to watch this International Women’s Day.

From comedies to real-life dramas and biopics of world-famous musicians, we’ve compiled a list of 10 British films directed by women to mark International Women’s Day 2024:

1. ‘How to Have Sex’ (2023)

Nominated for three BAFTA awards this year, Molly Manning Walker’s How to Have Sex tells the story of a group of young teenagers as they embark on their first holiday abroad without parents. BAFTA 2024 Rising Star and Spotlight member Mia McKenna-Bruce leads the cast as ‘Tara’, who’s discovering what it means to grow up and finds herself tangled up with a group of older guys. 

How to Have Sex tackles pivotal moments of being a teenage girl and delves deeply into the emotions of friendship and romance. Molly Manning Walker started her career as a cinematographer but, in recent years, has transitioned into a successful director. 

You can stream How to Have Sex now on MUBI.

2. ‘Aftersun’ (2022)

Aftersun marks Charlotte Wells’ directorial debut, and tells the story of a young father and his daughter as they go on holiday to a resort hotel in the summer. The eerie, atmospheric style of the film allows the viewer to interpret the intentions of the film – while the refreshing performances carry the emotion. 

Rising star Paul Mescal earned his first Oscar nomination as he took on the role of ‘Calum’, father to Spotlight member Frankie Corio’s ‘Sophie’. 

Aftersun is available to watch via BBC iPlayer.

3. ‘Rye Lane’ (2023)

Peckham-based romantic comedy Rye Lane is a heartwarming story of two unlikely strangers finding solace and happiness in each other’s company while overcoming their own relationship struggles. 

With a cast led by Spotlight members David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah, Raine Allen-Miller’s uplifting drama is bright, colourful and hugely entertaining. Allen-Miller received a BAFTA nomination for her work on Rye Lane, which marks her feature-length directorial debut.

Rye Lane is now streaming on Disney+.

4. ‘Nowhere Boy’ (2009)

Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays ‘John Lennon’ in this chronicle of his early years, during which he grows up in working class Liverpool, meets Paul McCartney and George Harrison, and develops a bond with them like no other.

Nowhere Boy makes a conscious effort to include the empowering female presences in Lennon’s life as he grows from a boy to a man. His Aunt Mimi, played by Spotlight members Dame Kristin Scott Thomas, and his mother Julie, played by Anne-Marie Duff, feature heavily in this charming story of the birth of an icon. 

BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson will be stepping back into the world of musical biopics as she releases the highly anticipated Amy Winehouse biographical film Back to Black later this year.

Nowhere Boy is now streaming on Disney+.

5. ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ (2002)

Bend it Like Beckham has recently become a feminist icon in its own right. Telling the empowering story of two young girls who dream of playing professional football, Keira Knightley and Spotlight member Parminder Nagra lead the cast as ‘Jules’ and ‘Jess’, and tackle the judgemental stereotypes of women in sport.

Alongside the gender inequality they experience, Jess also has to deal with the cultural complications of her Indian family’s expectations of her. 

Gurinder Chadha directs this heartwarming film about two girls doing whatever it takes to achieve their dreams. 

Bend it Like Beckham can be streamed now on Disney+.

6. ‘Mamma Mia!’ (2008)

BAFTA-nominated Phyllida Lloyd directed this on-screen adaptation of the hit West End musical Mamma Mia! – which follows ‘Sophie’ (Amanda Seyfried) and ‘Sky’ (Spotlight member Dominic Cooper) as they prepare for their upcoming wedding.

After finding the diary of her mother ‘Donna’ (Meryl Streep), Sophie decides to invite all three of her potential fathers to the wedding. Much to Donna’s horror, hilarious events unfold as the family find themselves with a tough decision to make. 

Lloyd’s other works include The Iron Lady (2011) and Herself (2020)

Mamma Mia! is available to watch on Prime Video.

7. ‘Rocks’ (2019)

BAFTA winner and Spotlight member Bukky Bakray leads the cast of Rocks, a homegrown drama about a young girl, ‘Shola’, and her kid brother who find themselves without parental care and are left with no choice but to live on the streets. As Shola tries to navigate a relatively normal life, between caring for her brother and holding onto her friends, she’s forced to mature and act as both a teenage girl and a mother. 

Sarah Gavron’s direction leans into the hopelessness of the main characters – while highlighting the power of female friendships and recognising the struggles of British youth in today’s society. Gavron’s other works include Suffragette (2015) and Brick Lane (2007). 

Rocks is currently streaming on Netflix.

8. ‘The Party’ (2017)

The Party is a high-intensity comedy about a group of friends coming together to celebrate Spotlight member Kristin Scott Thomas’ ‘Janet’, as she finds out she has received a promotion at work. The unlikely collection of characters get together and before dinner is served the sophisticated ambience is soon shattered as opinions clash and secrets amongst the guests start to surface. 

This dark comedy is punchy, poetic and overflowing with masterful performances from Spotlight members Cillian Murphy and Timothy Spall, as well as Emily Mortimer

The Party can be streamed now on MUBI.

9. ‘Saltburn’ (2023)

After her hugely successful directorial debut (Promising Young Woman, 2020) Emerald Fennell returned to the director’s chair with her ‘eat the rich’ drama Saltburn

Starring rising stars Jacob Elordi and Barry Keoghan (Spotlight member) and British national treasures and Spotlight members Rosamund Pike and Richard E. Grant, the comedy-drama tells the story of a young Oxford student who becomes somewhat infatuated with the son of an extremely wealthy family and in doing so, finds himself spending the summer at their illustrious mansion ‘Saltburn’. 

Full of clever dialogue and scene-stealing performances, Saltburn is now available to watch on Prime Video.

10. ‘The Souvenir’ (2019)

Spotlight members Honor Swinton Byrne and Tom Burke lead the cast of this delicate, romantic drama directed by Joanna Hogg. The Souvenir takes place in the early 1980s and follows a young film student as she becomes entangled with a man who can’t be trusted. 

Joanna Hoggs other works include The Souvenir: Part II (2021) and The Eternal Daughter (2022). 

The Souvenir can be streamed now on Netflix.

These remarkable films highlight some of the incredible work from female filmmakers in Britain over the last few decades. In addition to these select few, the talent that comes from female filmmakers goes from strength to strength every year worldwide.

Support your favourite female filmmakers today by streaming their works on all available streaming services.

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