Fried eggs, sausages, bacon, pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, and buttered toast, accompanied by hot tea or coffee: these are the basic ingredients for what they call a “full English breakfast,” often shortened to “full English.” You can smell it, can’t you? Unfortunately, as is usually the case for traditional food, things hardly ever taste the same as when you eat them on-site, in their birthplace.
Picture this: you’re at home, back from a trip to the UK; you feel nostalgic, you miss everything about the places you’ve been to, Manchester’s red bricks, Edinburgh’s gothic churches, even Irish pubs’ sticky floors… So, you decide to try and build the easiest replica you can think of to second your nostalgia: you put together some sausages and beans soaked in Italian tomato sauce, you fry some eggs, you butter some bread, you water down your espresso, and you think you’ve made it, you think you’ve just recreated some ad-hoc full English. The sad truth is, though it may look the same, it will never taste as fatty and delicious as the original. But that’s where evocation and imagination come in, and what is there that can evoke and stimulate imagination better than fiction? Movies and TV shows always come in handy when it comes to places we want to but can’t reach, or feelings we long for but can’t feel: the fictionalized worlds of cinema and television second our five senses when real life can’t make it.
I don’t know about you, but right here, right now, we’ve been having a bit of Union Jack nostalgia lately, and that’s why we’ve rounded up some titles that can help fight it. Forget about that full English breakfast, you can’t possibly get it right, do you really think you can find black pudding around the corner? Join us, instead, in a marathon of great movies and TV series to watch when dreaming of the UK.
Season(ed) full English
This BAFTA winner British TV show tells the struggled life stories of four generations of teenagers from Bristol. Written and created by Jamie Brittain and Bryan Elsley, each episode focuses on one character, showing the misadventures, love triangles, and addictions of their group of damaged teenage friends from their point of view. As the characters graduate from high school, we lose track of them, and a new season introduces us to the new generation teenagers who are somehow related to the ones we’ve just left. With a cast renewed every two seasons, this TV show was a springboard for many young and (at the time) little-known actors such as Nicholas Hoult, Hannah Murray, Dev Patel, Kaya Scodelario, Jack O’ Connell, and many more.
Glasgow city seen through a series of flashbacks that go from one month to four years before the present time of the story. What’s in the present time? A chlamydia situation. What’s back in time? A long list of possible infected women. Created by Tom Edge and aired between 2014 and 2018 on Channel 4 (season 1) and Netflix (seasons 2 and 3), the comedy sitcom follows the life and growth of Dylan (Johnny Flynn) and his friends Luke (Daniel Ings), Evie (Antonia Thomas), and Angus (Joshua McGuire), starting from the day Dylan is diagnosed with an STD. His attempts to contact all of his sexual partners will take him (and us) through a journey of self-discovery with significant consequences on his own love life and that of his friends.
“Ted Lasso” (2020)
The comedy series commissioned by Apple TV+ premiered on the streaming service in late 2020 and immediately became a huge success, reaching the highest point of its rise to fame with SAG, Golden Globe and Writers Guild Award nominations this year. Developed by “Scrubs” creator Bill Lawrence, Joe Kelly, and cast members Brendan Hunt and Jason Sudeikis, the hit TV series follows US American Football coach Ted Lasso (Sudeikis )moving to England with his long-time assistant and friend (Hunt) to coach a Premier League soccer team. However, unbelievable but true, coach Lasso has got zero experience in anything that has to do with what Europeans call “football.” Between dysfunctional marriages and a load of teamwork, Ted will take his American humor around the streets and pubs of London and Liverpool, and he will somehow manage to settle in, despite his indelible aversion to hot tea.
A co-production between BBC and Apple TV+, this British one season comedy series, created by Andy Wolton and directed by Jim O’Hanlon, introduces us to the exhausting world of adoption. Nikki (Esther Smith) and Jason (Rafe Spall) are a perfect match: lively, spontaneous, frivolous at the right point, they have been romantically linked for four years, sharing a rented house in Camden Town. Between child entertainment practices with scavenger hunts around London’s landmarks, and some very bad examples from already parenting friends, they realize they want to start a family of their own. After many unsuccessful attempts to conceive a baby, they decide to jump into the long a bureaucracy-filled journey of adoption, supported by an out-of-the-ordinary social worker (Imelda Staunton).
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (2007)
This movie, based on Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s 1979 musical of the same name, tells the Victorian tale of barber Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), an English serial killer who attracts customers in his shop with the sole purpose of finding corrupt Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), the man who took his daughter and wife away from him 15 years before. If the customer is not the man he’s looking for, Barker gets rid of him by cutting his throat with a razor and storing the corpse in the basement for his assistant Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) to use his flesh for her meat pies. This musical slasher film directed by Tim Burton offers a dark and gloomy overview of 1846 London town, showing its dirtiest and creepiest nature that you’ve only seen in drawings and paintings from Victorian times.
“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” (2018)
This historical romantic-drama film is based on a novel of the same name, and directed by Mike Newell. Set in 1946, the story focuses on London-based writer Juliet (Lily James) who exchanges letters with a mysterious resident on the island of Guernsey that goes under the name of Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman). In one of his letters, Dawsey tells Juliet the incredible story of the time he and his friends had to hide a pig from the German military forces and pretend to be part of a book club called “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” just to avoid arrest. Intrigued by both the story and her correspondent, and eager to learn more to write a book about it, Juliet travels to the island of Guernsey, but she soon finds out that its inhabitants are far more secretive than she thought, Dawsey and his friends included.
Written by Richard Curtis and directed by Danny Boyle, this musical dramedy follows the misadventures of singer and songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) between his small hometown in Suffolk and LA’s recording studios. Jack writes song and performs in pubs and niche music festivals with a very small (and mostly friend-based) fandom – you wouldn’t call him a successful musician, but he sure has a big heart and a great voice, especially appreciated by his manager and long-time friend Ellie (Lily James). After being hit by a bus, he wakes up in a distorted reality in which no one seems to have ever heard of Coca-Cola, cigarettes, or the Beatles. Jack decides to take advantage of the global memory loss and perform the Beatles’ songs passing them off as his own, until Ed Sheeran calls and asks to join him on his tour as his opening act in Moscow. The sudden success and the craziness of the pop star life will lead Jack to rethink his priorities and the role of the people in his life.
“Blinded by the Light” (2019)
It’s true what they say about music, that it can change your life. Sometimes, same goes for you musical heroes: not only they entertain you, but they can also inspire you to be the best version of yourself. This is exactly what Bruce Springsteen does to young Javed (Viveik Kalra), an introverted English boy with Pakistani origins, who writes poems and is a huge fan of The Boss. Directed by Gurinder Chadha and based on real-life events, the story is set in the 1980s in small and boring Luton, England, where Javed lives with his very conservative family. When a school friend introduces him with Springsteen’s existential rock, everything changes for the boy, from is looks to the way of approaching his parents and life in general, all thanks to the inspiring lyrics of one of America’s music legends.
“Doctor Who” (TV series, 1963-present)
“The Crown” (TV series, 2016-present)
“Sex Education” (TV series, 2019-present)
“Notting Hill” (1999)
“Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001)
“Casino Royale” (2006)