‘The way we live now’
Narratives exploring relationships in modern British society
in Sex and desire in British films of the 2000s
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Chapter 5 focuses on how film-makers working in British cinema during the 2000s sought to depict the social, emotional and sexual relationships of characters in a series of modern-day settings and dramatic situations. The chapter opens with a brief discussion of key examples of British films engaging with intimate relationships in British culture since the 1960s to create a basis for the examinations to follow. The chapter features detailed studies of films made by non-British directors exploring relationships in a British setting from something of an external perspective; films focusing on how sexual and loving relationships between various characters can meet with opposition from religious and secular communities. Notes on a Scandal (2006), a drama about a woman teacher’s damaging sexual behaviour outside the marital bedroom, is analysed for its powerful investigation of the consequences of the woman’s behaviour on her marriage, children, career and friendships. Noel Clarke’s ‘hood’ trilogy offers compelling and disturbing portraits of combustible relationships between young people in modern-day settings, providing a fascinating contrast with the very different films of another emerging auteur in British cinema, Joanna Hogg. The films analysed in this chapter explore the emotional and sensual connections between people and places, the perceived spiritual health of British society and its relationship with European and American cultures, and demonstrate the achievements of British cinema during a time of transition and uncertainty.

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