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1996, Janus Films, 136 min, UK/France, Dir: Mike Leigh

After the death of her adoptive parents, black middle-class Londoner Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) is shocked to discover that her birth mother is white working-class Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn), a hard-drinking disaster completely at odds with the professional success of her estranged daughter. Blethyn and Jean-Baptiste are marvels as their characters learn how to relate to one another amidst the tumult of Cynthia’s own extended family life. Navigating the chaos and catharsis of fraying and reconfigured family ties, this winner of the 1996 Palme d’Or at Cannes (Blethyn also won for Best Actress) is a testament to the constant surprises that life sends our way. With Timothy Spall and Phyllis Logan.

2005, Focus Features, 128 min, UK, Dir: Joe Wright

Keira Knightley throws off sparks as independent Elizabeth Bennet, one of five sisters whom parents (Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn) and aunt (Judi Dench) are hoping to marry off to local gentry in Georgian-era England. But the arrival of two eligible young bachelors, Mr. Darcy (Mathew Macfadyen) and Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods), throws a spanner into the works. Jena Malone also sparkles as the youngest and least mature sister, Lydia. Director Joe Wright puts an equal emphasis on period and emotional realism as well as romance and humor, balancing the elements as to not only remain faithful to but enhance the trenchant social observations of Jane Austen’s original classic novel

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