Bechdel Test Fest: Wonderland

The Bechdel Test Fest celebrates Wonderland, Michael Winterbottom’s intimate portrait of a family of working class women living in London in the late 90s.

Loosely circling the interlocking lives of lonely Londoners, the characters of Wonderland gradually interlace as they pace the same lamp-lit streets and navigate their own brand of crisis. Sisters Nadia (Gina McKee), Molly (Molly Parker) and Debbie (Shirley Henderson) have individual stories to tell and different lives to lead. From fishing for love via Lonely Heart ads, being a proud single mum, or handling the mid-life crisis of a fretting husband whilst heavily pregnant, there’s a simple chaos throughout that’s knowing, compassionate and eventually unites these typically unique London women.

Wonderland brings a sobering sensibility to cinematic portraits of London. Whilst Notting Hill, also released in 1999 – also starring Gina Mckee, was busy peddling romantic, tourist board representations of the Capital’s leafier streets, Wonderland was mining the kitchen sink dramas of urban life in its grit and glory.

With what might be the most apt theme tune ever, legendary composer Michael Nyman’s score has been described by composer Melissa Parmenter as ‘ insane’ and ‘the best score ever’ as it elevates the optimism, faith and humanity found in the whistle of any Londoner.

Shot on 16mm Wonderland is often remarked as Michael Winterbottom’s greatest work. It breathes refreshing, fag-breath life into those otherwise sanitised brush strokes of The Big Smoke, especially those that appear eerily whitewashed, upper-class and manspread with cockney gangsters or stiff upper-lipped gentlemen. Winterbottom gives Londoners a spit-polished reflection of their home and everyone a piece of British cinema at its best.

Where better place to revel in the realities of some genuine London tales than in the underground haunts of the Vaults of Waterloo. Join us as we screen and discuss a film that resonates with our own experiences of questing through the capital bringing some very special guests.

Wonderland (1999)

Dir.: Michael Winterbottom

Running time: 106 mins

Cert.: 15

Starring: Shirley Henderson, Gina McKee, Molly Parker, Ian Hart,John Simm, Stuart Townsend, Kika Markham, Jack Shepherd

2hr 00m
The Vaults
18 Mar 15:00
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About the company

Michael Winterbottom’s intimate portrait of London women in the 90s

Bechdel Test Fest is an ongoing film festival in and around London. The festival started as a one-year celebration to hail the 30th anniversary of the Bechdel Test in 2014 and due to its success, continues to screen and support new releases and unearth classic treasures which provide positive representations of women in film. The Bechdel Test was inspired by Alison Bechdel’s ‘The Rule’ comic strip in 1985. In order for a film to pass the Bechdel Test, it must have all of three things: Two named women, who talk to each other, about something other than a man. It’s a low-bar measure that barely 50% of films manage to pass.