2019: The Year Ahead in Film

A scene from Mary Queen of Scots, featuring, from left, Ian Hart as Lord Maitland, Jack Lowden as Lord Darnley, Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart and James McArdle as the Earl of Moray PIC: Liam Daniel/Focus Features/AP
A scene from Mary Queen of Scots, featuring, from left, Ian Hart as Lord Maitland, Jack Lowden as Lord Darnley, Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart and James McArdle as the Earl of Moray PIC: Liam Daniel/Focus Features/AP
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From Saoirse Ronan’s Mary Queen of Scots to Michael Caton-Jones’s adaptation of Alan Warner’s much-loved novel, The Sopranos, cinemas will be full of familiar accents over the next 12 months, writes Alistair Harkness

Leading the charge in what looks set to be a big year for Scottish film, historical epic Mary Queen of Scots (22 January) sees Irish star Saoirse Ronan nailing a Scottish accent to play the French-raised monarch in a film that dramatises her rivalry with royal frenemy Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie). Reviews from the US – where it has already opened in order to qualify it for the Oscars – have ranged from tepid to terrific; at time of writing, though, it had yet to be screened for Scottish press, despite having been shown to plenty of London critics. Which is nice.

More intriguing is Michael Caton-Jones’s long-gestating adaptation of Alan Warner’s coming-of-age novel The Sopranos, which the Rob Roy director optioned back in 1998.

He’s just wrapped principal photography and the film is due for release in late 2019. More imminently, Filth director Jon S Baird returns with a more gentle story courtesy of late-years Laurel & Hardy biopic Stan & Ollie (11 January) while Wild Rose (19 April) – about a Glaswegian single mother (Jessie Buckley) pursuing her dream of becoming a country and western singer – arrives having wowed film festival audiences since the autumn. Then there’s the Brian Welsh-directed Beats (release date tbc), which, like The Sopranos, time-travels back to 1990s Scotland for a coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of the illegal rave scene; Glasgow-based playwright Kieran Hurley has co-adapted his own award-winning play, Glasgow club legend JD Twitch (Optimo) is on soundtrack duties, and Steven Soderbergh — yes that Steven Soderbergh – lends some indie movie cred as its executive producer.

Don’t miss Glasgow Film Festival (20 February until 3 March) either. Scotland’s premiere film fest has already revealed a tantalising array of event screenings (including immersive anniversary showings of The Matrix and Alien), a cracking free retrospective of pivotal American cinema from 1969, and a country focus on Belgium, home to the Dardenne brothers. It announces its opening and closing night films on 8 January and the full programme on 23 January. Look out too for the ever-excellent Glasgow Short Film Festival (13-17 March), the inaugural Glasgow-based feminist film festival Femspectves (22-24 March) and, in Hawick, the cutting-edge Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival (2-6 May), which has become one of the best international showcases for experimental and artists’ filmmaking in the UK. The Edinburgh International Film Festival, which will include a celebration of modern Spanish cinema in its programme, runs from 19-30 June.

On the franchise front, Captain Marvel (8 March) finally sees Marvel Studios give a female superhero top-billing. The 1995-set film casts Room Oscar-winner Brie Larson as the titular intergalactic warrior and features Samuel L Jackson as a younger, pre-eyepatch version of Nick Fury. In the present-day MCU timeline, Avengers: Endgame (26 April) will bring its current iteration to a close having culled half its characters in Infinity War – though the very existence of Spider-Man: Far From Home (5 July) already undermines the shock ending of that movie. Meanwhile, rival comic book giants DC look set to steal some of Marvel’s thunder with the Joaquin Phoenix-starring Joker (4 October), an origins movie about Batman’s arch nemesis co-starring Robert De Niro. There’s also M Knight Shyamalan’s new film Glass (18 January), which pulls double duty as a sequel to both his James McAvoy-starring comeback movie Split and 2000’s Bruce Willis/Samuel L Jackson superhero-themed Unbreakable (McAvoy, Willis and Jackson all return).

Away from superheroes, Keanu Reeves is out for even more puppy-avenging mayhem in John Wick: Chapter 3 (17 May); Jessica Chastain and busy bee James McAvoy lead the grown-up cast of coulrophobia-inspiring Stephen King sequel It: Chapter Two (6 September); Kenneth Branagh directs the first instalment of kid-lit blockbuster Artemis Fowl (9 August); Woody and Buzz return in Toy Story 4 (21 June), as do Elsa and Anna in Frozen 2 (22 November); and Arnold Schwarzenegger is back, again, this time with Linda Hamilton, for another as-yet-untitled Terminator reboot (1 November). JJ Abrams also returns to a galaxy far, far away with Star Wars: Episode IX (20 December).

For those who like their cinema more grown up, there’s The Big Short director Adam McKay’s Christian Bale/Amy Adams starring Dick Cheney biopic Vice (25 January); Keira Knightley as the eponymous (and largely anonymous) gender-fluid literary sensation Colette (11 January); Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to his Oscar-winning Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk (8 February), and, come the autumn, Brooklyn director John Crowley’s take on Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winning doorstopper The Goldfinch (11 October), which co-stars Nicole Kidman, who can be seen before that in Karyn Kusama’s awards-tipped detective thriller Destroyer (25 January). There’s also the tantalising prospect of Martin Scorsese re-teaming with De Niro for the ninth time and Al Pacino for the first time in the Netflix-produced gangster epic The Irishman (tbc).

But perhaps the two films likely to cause the biggest stir are Us (15 March) and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (26 July). The former is Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out, an ultra-secret social horror film starring Lupita Nyong’o and Elizabeth Moss. The latter is the ninth film from Quentin Tarantino, a sure-to-be controversial retelling of the Manson murders starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as failed actors intent on making a name for themselves in the Helter Skelter era of terror. Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning, Tim Roth and Damien Lewis are among the starry supporting cast, with Mary Queen of Scots’ Margot Robbie playing Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of Roman Polanski who was slain in the attacks.