27 UK independent films to look out for in 2012

Yes, there are gritty gangster dramas, but you’ll also find sci-fi, horror, musicals, rom-coms and more on our list of 27 UK indies to see in 2012...
A few months ago, a satirical parody trailer appeared online which gently poked fun at trends in low-budget British film (below for anyone who missed it at the time). Entitled "Kevin Curtis is a Dead Man", the faux trailer pithily hit at a number of clichés in UK cinema which was characterised as being obsessed with sexy violence, “gangsters, hoodies and homeless drug addicted teenage single mum prostitutes”.
While we can’t promise the 27 films below don’t feature any of the above (we know for a fact that gangsters pop up at least half a dozen times in the list), there are also psycho comedies, historical dramas, cannibal thrillers, coming-of-age tales, sci-fis, love stories, musicals, survival horrors, a Thomas Hardy adaptation and a passion play. Join us then, as we look at 27 (mostly) UK (mostly) indie films to keep an eye out for in 2012…

Hunky Dory

Release date: March 2nd
From the duo behind Welsh relationship drama Patagonia comes Hunky Dory, a 1970s Swansea-set feel-good drama starring Minnie Driver as a secondary school teacher attempting to put on a David Bowie-infused rock opera version of Shakespeare's The Tempest.
Marc Evans’ film previewed at the 2011 London Film Festival where some received it as a post-Glee take on the small town themes of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s Cemetery Junction. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then there’s not long to wait as Hunky Dory comes out on general release at the beginning of March.

Hard Boiled Sweets

Release date: March 9th
Hard Boiled Sweets (formerly known as Crikey Villains) comes from former editor David L.G Hughes, who’s written, directed and edited the picture. Set amongst a group of criminals all of whom are targeting the same suitcase of loot in Southend, Essex, the film’s title references the US hard-boiled crime novels it’s taken inspiration from (why does that ring a bell? We’re thinking Pulp… Pulp something?).
As a stylised gangster tale with seriously good character posters and a strong visual identity, comparisons with Tarantino and Guy Ritchie are perhaps inevitable for Hughes’ film. What’s piqued our interest though are the character nicknames Hughes has opted for, with gangsters going by the name of The Gobstopper, Sherbet Lemon, The Rhubarb and Custard and more. Tasty.
Universal picked up distribution rights to Hard Boiled Sweets late last year.

The Decoy Bride

Release date: March 9th
Sally Phillips, best known for her TV comedy roles in Smack the Pony, Green Wing and more recently, the BBC’s Miranda, has made her feature film debut with the screenplay for romantic drama The Decoy Bride, co-written with Neil Jaworski.
Starring David Tennant and Kelly Macdonald, the film is helmed by TV director Sheree Folkson and tells the story of a young woman from a remote Scottish island (Macdonald) being hired to pose as the titular decoy bride to distract the paparazzi from the marriage of a Hollywood actress (Alice Eve) to a Scottish writer (Tennant). It may sound cute, but we’ve a lot of time for cute in the right context, and the presence of Tennant and Macdonald mark this low-budget romance out as one to keep an eye on.

Booked Out

Release date: March 12th
Written and directed by newcomer Bryan O’Neil, Booked Out is a low-budget comedy drama about a young artist, Ailidh, who spies on her neighbours in her block of flats using a polaroid camera, and builds a relationship with boy-next-door Jacob and a woman convinced her dead husband is still with her.
Those turned off by the signifiers of indie quirk (typewriters, girls with pixie-ish haircuts wearing berets, jaunty acoustic guitar, comic books and Juno-style typography) may want to give this one a miss, but we’re very much looking forward to seeing what O’Neil’s promising debut has to offer.

Payback Season

Release date: March 9th
From another first-time co-writer director, Danny Donnelly, Payback Season is a drama featuring Adam Deacon, who made his name in Noel Clarke-penned dramas Kidulthood and Adulthood. It’s the story of a young man (Deacon) who’s moved from life on a difficult council estate to the high-paying world of professional football, but who finds he can’t shake off his past.
Football hedonism, gang violence and a soundtrack by Dappy from N-Dubz might not be to everyone’s taste, but Deacon has a charismatic on-screen presence that should make Payback Season well worth a look.


Release date: March 9th
Nominated for Best Film at the 2011 London Film Festival (losing out to Lynne Ramsay’s well-deserving We Need to Talk About Kevin), Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna transplants the story of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles to modern day India.
Slumdog Millionaire’s Freida Pinto plays the updated Tess character opposite Four Lions’ Riz Ahmed as the new take on Alec D’Urberville. Since premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, Trishna has picked up critical praise and marks Winterbottom’s third adaptation of a Thomas Hardy novel, after 1996’s Jude and 2000’s The Claim.

Wild Bill

Release date: March 30th
Wild Bill comes co-written and directed by Dexter Fletcher and tells the story of ex-convict Bill’s (Charlie Creed-Mills) release from prison and his relationship with his two young sons, played by Attack the Block’s Sammy Williams and Son of Rambow’s Will Poulter. Andy Serkis stars as a local gangster who makes life on the outside even trickier for Bill, alongisde Liz White, Jaime Winston and Misfits' Iwan Rheon.
Despite only being in his forties, Dexter Fletcher has already accrued veteran status in the acting world, having bagged credits in Bugsy MaloneThe Elephant Man and The Long Good Friday all before the age of fourteen. An early nineties spell as American heart-throb Spike in Steven Moffat’s brilliant kids' series Press Gang was followed by a very long list of supporting parts in all manner of film and TV roles, and now comes Fletcher’s inevitable and very welcome move into directing.

The Gospel of Us

Release date: April 13th
A rarefied beast this, you may remember that Hollywood chameleon Michael Sheen returned to his home town of Port Talbot last Easter to perform in a promenade passion play. Well, A Gospel of Us is the film of that play, and comes courtesy of director Dave McKean and Welsh poet and novelist Owen Sheers.
Last Easter’s Port Talbot community project, which thousands of locals gathered to watch, was chronicled by two films on BBC Wales, and now comes the feature version of the event, out this April on an understandably limited release.

Outside Bet

Release date: April 13th
80s-set comedy Outside Bet (previously known by the mouthful Weighed In: The Story of the Mumper) starring Bob Hoskins and Jenny Agutter looks like something of a  departure from crime dramas for director Sacha Bennett. The film seems to tread similar ground to last year’s Made in Dagenham, in which Hoskins also appeared, and deals with a group of friends and their part in the mid-80s Fleet Street print workers’ strikes.
Adapted from the novel The Mumper, the film will chronicle a period of dissatisfaction with the government over privatisation and unemployment. Sounds about perfect for a 2012 release then.

Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy

Release date: April 20th
Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy began life as a join UK/Canadian project and has since lost the first half of that partnership, so perhaps it doesn’t quite fit onto this list, but as it’s been gestating for so long on this side of the pond it’s hard not to think of it still as a UK indie.
It’s also hard not to think that the film has missed the Irvine Welsh boat by a few years. When Canadian director Rob Heydon obtained the rights to adapt Welsh’s Ecstasy for cinema back in 2000, it was just three years after the novel was published and Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting was still very fresh in people’s memories. Twelve years later, the long-gestating project has finally wrapped and is due for an April release in the UK.
Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy tells the story of a relationship between Heather and Lloyd, an unhappily married woman and a hard-partying drug addict set, as you might imagine, in a world of illicit substances and, judging from the trailer, strobe lighting.

Elfie Hopkins

Release date: April 20th
Now this looks like fun. With a premise that looks like a cross between Fright Night, Hot Fuzz, and Meet the Applegates, Elfie Hopkins is the story of an stoner wannabe detective (Jaime Winstone) obsessed by conspiracy crime novels who investigates a mysterious new family that moves into her small town. Ray Winstone stars as a local butcher in the film, marking the first occasion father and daughter have appeared on screen together.
Horror Elfie Hopkins is director and co-writer Ryan Andrews’ feature debut.

Strippers vs. Werewolves

Release date: April 27th
The ironic joke title may have worn thin, and but that hasn’t stopped people from using it. Strippers vs. Werewolves is yet another comedy horror which requires little explanation: there will be strippers, there will be werewolves. Wouldn’t you have thought everyone would have learnt their lesson with Lesbian Vampire Killers?
We thought it was worth a mention though for its quality film geek casting, with lead roles going to Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund, and Lyssa from Krull (a.k.a Lysette Anthony) with supporting parts filled by Martin Kemp, Page 3 girl Lucy Pinder and Hollyoaks’s Ali Bastian. Possibly not a keeper, this one.

Tower Block

Release date: TBC
Written by Doctor Who and Torchwood writer James Moran and directed by James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson, Tower Block previewed at this year’s Berlin Film Festival though its UK release date is yet to be confirmed.
Being Human’s Russell Tovey, Skins’ Jack O’Connell and Three Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps’ Sheridan Smith star in the high concept survival thriller, which tells the story of a sniper attack on a condemned high rise one year after its residents witnessed, but failed to come forward about, a murder. Early reviews have been promising, with praise forthcoming for Tower Block’s action and performances.

Tash Force

Release date: May 1st
We’ve a soft spot for the varied online appearances of Officer Tash McDermott and his dreadful wig, and we don’t care who knows it (well okay, don’t tell anyone at Sight and Sound). The head of football intelligence, Tash’s life work is to infiltrate and bring to justice football hooligans and, as he might say himself “bad bastards”.
We don’t expect you’ll be able to see feature Tash Force at your local Cineplex, but keep an eye on its Facebook page if this sports-based comedy looks like it might give you a chuckle.

Ill Manors

Release date: May 4th
Ben Drew, more familiar to some as singer Plan B, has popped up in a good few UK film roles already and later this year will be taking the George Carter role in The Sweeney, opposite Ray Winstone as Regan. Before that though, you may be able to catch his directorial feature debut, Ill Manors starring Four Lions’  Riz Ahmed and My Summer of Love’s Natalie Press.
Set in Forest Gate, London, the film weaves together six short stories about a group of four main characters using a different Plan B song to illustrate each story. The hip hop, soul and dubstep-infused soundtrack is also set for an album release.

All in Good Time

Release date: May 11th
All in Good Time comes from successful British film comedy stock, from Made in Dagenham and Calendar Girls director Nigel Cole, to East is East screenwriter Ayub Khan-Din.
A comedy that tells the story of Vina (Amara Karan) and Atul (Reece Ritchie), a pair of newlyweds who have difficulty consummating their marriage, All in Good Time is set in a British Indian community in the north of England and also stars writer and actress Meera Syal alongside Four Lions’ Arsher Ali.

Now Is Good

Release date: May 25th
If any of you saw Gus Van Sant’s Restless towards the end of last year, then you may notice some similarities between that film and this UK adaptation of Jenny Downham’s Before I Die starring Dakota Fanning. Both feature a terminally ill teenage girl trying to live her remaining time alive meaningfully, though thankfully no kooky ghost kamikaze pilots tip up in Now Is Good.
Fanning dons a wig and an English accent to play Leukaemia patient Tessa, with Paddy Considine and Olivia Williams as her parents, Jeremy Irvine as her love interest neighbour and Kaya Scodelario as her best friend. Ex-Grange Hill writer and recent scribe for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,Ol Parker has adapted Downham’s novel and has directed the difficult teen drama.

The Happy Lands

Release date: TBC
The product of a Theatre Workshop Scotland project created and developed with members of the mining community of Fife, historical drama The Happy Lands has an interesting provenance and tells an important story. The film is inspired by true stories from local Fife families about the austerity period surrounding the 1926 General Strike.
Like a number of films on this list, you’re unlikely to be able to buy a ticket for The Happy Lands at your local multiplex, but it should be available at a number of festivals this year. Robert Rae directs.

Rock and Roll Fuck'n'Lovely

Release date: TBC
Drugs, drink, music, a tour bus, more drugs, a festival, some horror, and Pete Docherty (who else?). That seems to be the order of the day for Rock and Roll Fuck’n’Lovely, from first-time writer/director Josh Bagnall.
A tour chronicle which promises to capture the essence of the festival spirit better than any British film to date, Rock and Roll… kicks off as a story of band hedonism and drug use before taking a darker turn. Who knows, perhaps Docherty’s just been going method for the past decade?
Babyshambles guitarist Mik Whitnall and Gorillaz, Muse and The Streets’ musician Morgan Nicholls also feature in Bagnall’s film, which debuted at the 2011 Cambridge Film Festival and is set for release later this year.

A Fantastic Fear of Everything

Release date: June 8th
Not the only film on this list to be directed by someone better known as a musician (see Plan B’s Ill Manors above), A Fantastic Fear of Everything comes from the pen of co-director and former Kula Shaker singer Crispian Mills.
Described by Mills and the film’s star, Simon Pegg, as a “psycho comedy”, A Fantastic Fear of Everything is the story of a children’s author turned crime novelist whose research fuels a growing sense of paranoia. Since it’s being released by Universal, we suppose this isn’t technically an indie, but as a low-budget UK production from a first-time writer/director we thought it was worth sneaking onto this list.

Fast Girls

Release date: June 8th
The title may tease, but these girls are literally, rather than figuratively fast (at least as far as we can tell from the press release). The story of a British female sprint team, Fast Girls is a sports drama starring Being Human’s Lenora Critchlow and Wrath of the Titans’ Lily James as two athletes competing from very different social backgrounds.
The film comes from a screenplay co-written by Jay Basu, Noel Clarke and Roy Williams and directed by relative newcomer Regan Hall. Partly financed by the BFI Film Fund and developed by the UK Film Council, Fast Girls is a StudioCanal release.

Storage 24

Release date: June 29th
Actor, writer, producer and recently, director of and Adulthood, Noel Clarke doesn’t seem to be one for luxuries like days off or say, sleep. Clarke has written screenplays for two indies out this June, Fast Girls (above) and sci-fi horror Storage 24.
Clarke plays Charlie in Storage 24, ex-boyfriend of Shelley (Lead Balloon’s Antonia Campbell-Hughes), who finds himself at the storage facility with his ex and their two friends while London, unbeknownst to the quartet, is put in lockdown after a military cargo plane crashes releasing a sci-fi predator. F helmer Johannes Roberts directs.


Release date: July 1st.
Jonathan Newman’s comedy drama Foster starring Toni Collette was previewed at the 2011 UK Film Focus event and, if IMDb is up-to-date, is set for a wider UK release this July. Expanded from Newman’s short film of the same name, Foster is about a couple who have lost a son and are unable to conceive again, on whose doorstep a young boy (Maurice Cole) arrives unexpectedly.
Early reviews have been mixed for the film (which appears to share alarming similarities with Disney’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green, also due for release this summer) but if nothing else we’re intrigued by the prospect of hearing Toni Collette’s Scottish accent…

Strawberry Fields

Release date:  July 6th 
Funded by Microwave, the group that champions micro-budget films from visionary filmmakers, Strawberry Fields is a drama that takes place over one summer in the lives of two sisters (played by Anna Maddley and Christine Bottomley) set in the world of seasonal fruit picking in the Kent countryside.
Taking themes from Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, Strawberry Fields has been described as a beguiling beautiful piece about the complexities of love and dysfunctional relationships. The film was warmly received during previews at the 2011 London Film Festival and is due for release in July (just in time for Wimbledon audiences to start tucking into their strawberries and cream). Frances Lea directs and co-writes with Judith Johnson.

Welcome to the Punch

Release date: September 7th
Shifty, Eran Creevy’s directorial and screenwriting debut about a man returning to his hometown to find an old friend in over his head with drugs and crime, received almost universal praise for its naturalistic dialogue, performances and shrewdly told story. Mercifully free of stylised Guy Ritchie gangster tics, the film was a calling card for a very talented new writer/director.
Creevy has assembled a strong UK cast for his follow-up, Welcome to the Punch, which starsJames McAvoy, Mark Strong, Andrea Riseborough, and Peter Mullan. An action thriller set in the world of detectives and criminal kingpins, Welcome to the Punch may have the ring of just another Jason Statham or (gulp) Danny Dyer film, but Creevy’s handiwork and his excellent cast are sure to elevate it well above lesser examples of the genre.

The Seasoning House

Release date: 31st October
Horror aficionados will recognise first-time director Paul Hyett’s name as the man behind some of the most gruesome UK film make-up and special effects of the last decade. To name just a few, Hyett has created the gore for The Woman in Black, Attack the Block, Eden Lake, Dog Soldiers and The Descent meaning he couldn’t be better positioned for a move into horror directing.
Having spent so many years amidst blood, guts and wounds, it should come as little surprise that Hyett’s directorial debut sounds disturbingly violent. The story of a young girl, Angel, who plots her escape and revenge on the military brothel she’s been enslaved in, Hyett has described The Seasoning House as “a cross between Pan’s Labyrinth, Martyrs, and Die Hard”.

Nativity 2: The Second Coming

Release date: 23rd November
Debbie Isitt’s 2009 Nativity! was one of many sweet, gentle Brit family comedies with a warm heart but a somewhat tepid sense of humour. The story of two rival primary schools each trying to outdo one another’s nativity play, Nativity! starred the affable Martin Freeman and was so warm and fuzzy it made Love Actually look almost gritty.
Isitt has swapped Freeman for the similarly loveable David Tennant for her follow-up Nativity 2: The Second Coming, which looks set to tread similar ground with its story of a national “Song for Christmas” competition. Tennant plays a teacher who takes his pupils and pregnant wife on a road trip with – what else – a donkey. Merry Christmas everyone.