London suburbs in films

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’Son of Rambow‘ is a puckish and funny new film from the director-producer partnership of Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith (aka ’Hammer and Tongs‘) which offers a fascinating glimpse of the mysterious, rarely explored London hinterland. But it is in no way the first film to do so – Time Out‘s crack film team ventures beyond Zone 1 to pull back the net curtains on a street-full of suburban cinema

London suburbs in films
'Carry on Constable' Ealing (1960)

‘Carry on Constable’

Ealing (1960)Gerald Thomas made his ‘Carry On’ series sublimely suburban: ‘Carry on Constable’ is set on the old Ealing High Street, ‘Carry on Again, Doctor’ in Maidenhead.

‘Confessions of a Window Cleaner’

Elstree (1974)The ‘Confessions…’ series saw a mop-haired Robin Asquith ‘cop off’ with married women while their spouses were at work… and that was it. Shot in Elstree and on location in the leafy outskirts.

‘Bend It Like Beckham’

Hounslow (2002) Gurinder Chadha’s ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ saw its two leads (an Anglo-Indian girl with strict Sikh parents and her equally repressed white ‘girlfriend’) take up football as a means to escape their stifled lives under the noisy, joyless Heathrow flightpath. Well, wouldn’t you?

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'Hope and Glory' Shepperton (1987) © Columbia

'Hope and Glory’

Shepperton (1987) Director John Boorman was born near Walton-on-Thames and called his autobiography ‘Suburban Boy’. His wartime movie, ‘Hope and Glory’ gives a child’s-eye view of the Blitz: rockets arching like fireworks over Rosehill Avenue.

'London Orbital’

The M25 (2002)If the suburbs are the edge of the city, then the M25 is the point at which city-dwellers fall off into oblivion. Filmmakers Chris Petit and Iain Sinclair drove and walked its length for this psychogeographical documentary.

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'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' Martins Heron, Bracknell, Berkshire (2001) © Warner Bros

‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’

Martins Heron, Bracknell, Berkshire (2001)A row of Barratt-style homes serves as the bland, fictitious residence (4 Privet Drive) of young wizard-in-waiting Harry Potter in this first film in the super-successful franchise. He doesn’t fester long in the suburbs – soon he’s off to the exciting surroundings of Hogwarts and a dangerous apprenticeship in magic.

‘Quadrophenia’

, Shepherd’s Bush (1979)Not strictly suburbia, but close – and hey, The Who hailed from here, so there could be no better setting than the narrow confines of Shepherd’s Bush Market for Ray Winstone’s Kevin to receive a good thrashing.

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'A Clockwork Orange' Hertfordshire (1971) © Warner Bros

‘A Clockwork Orange’

Hertfordshire (1971)Kubrick’s dystopian vision was no ad for inner-city living, but the suburbs didn’t come off well either. It was in leafy Herts that middle-class Mr and Mrs Alexander lived, but their seclusion was no protection from the ultra-violence of Alex and his droogs.

‘My Beautiful Laundrette’

Bromley (1985)Hanif Kureishi’s anti-Thatcherite, interracial gay love story was set in the Bromley of his birth. The prejudice an Anglo-Asian faces when he falls for a white man (while running the eponymous laundrette) revealed the homophobia and racism of ’80s suburbia (although Daniel Day-Lewis’ career still took off like the proverbial rocket).

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'Shaun of the Dead' Finchley/Hornsey (2004)

‘Shaun of the Dead’

Finchley/Hornsey (2004)Even when armies of the undead saunter around his terrace, Shaun (Simon Pegg) fails to clock that the apocalypse is upon him, in this terrific zombie update.

‘This Happy Breed’

Clapham Common (1944)It was here that Noël Coward located his family of ordinary folk. Their approach to the years between 1919 and 1939 was a comfort to war-stricken audiences.

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'The Cement Garden' Beckton Gasworks (1992) © Metro Tartan

‘The Cement Garden’

Beckton Gasworks (1992) This creepy Ian McEwan adaptation about kids left alone when their parents die was shot on east London wasteland that’s meant to look like a sad stretch of the Thames estuary.

‘Things to Come’

Bromley (1936)Bromley-born HG Wells scripted this lavish 1936 sci-fi movie which saw Everytown develop over a century. Many things he predicted were spot on – World War II-style aerial bombardment, mass public housing – but he missed the spread of coffee-shop chains.

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'Personal Services' Abbey Wood
(1987)

'Personal Services’

Abbey Wood (1987) The south-east London ’hood was where former Python Terry Jones set much of ‘Personal Services’, a saucy comedy based on the real-life sexploits of ‘Luncheon Voucher Madam’ Cynthia Payne.

'Secrets and Lies’

Winchmore Hill (1996) Many of Mike Leigh’s films are set in the London suburbs, but this is his best: Timothy Spall plays a photographer who lives in north London and has a studio almost close enough to home to hear the yelling when all hell breaks loose in the family abode.


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