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September 5–11, 2014

Chicago Premiere

Starred Up

Film still: Starred Up Film still: Starred Up Film still: Starred Up Film still: Starred Up Film still: Starred Up
Best Supporting Actor
Best British Film
Best Director
Best Actor
+4 other awards
British Independent
Film Fest
"Ben Mendelsohn once again proves himself the master of the supremely scuzzy antihero... The real power of Starred Up, however, comes from [Jack] O'Connell's electrified and electrifying performance"
  —Guardian UK
Critics' Pick "Affecting... [the protagonists'] performances unfold in a counterpoint of brute force and deep craft"
  —New York Times
"This is an unsparing picture, one whose violence, though deftly handled, is bone-crunchingly rough. Yet its emotional contours are surprisingly delicate"
  —Village Voice
"Brutal, but profoundly humane... What makes Starred Up exceptional, as both an unpredictable drama and a sneaky issue movie, is the empathy it has for all of its incarcerated characters"
  —AV Club
"This is furiously compelling stuff, convincingly mounted and superbly acted"
  —TimeOut Chicago
"Brilliantly disorienting"
3 stars½ "We've seen many visually arresting films in recent years and character studies are as common as film festivals, but it's the remarkable blend of the two here that makes Starred Up devastating"
Recommended "Each moment is just one terse component of a breathtakingly accomplished canvas... it's the dramatic dialectic of one of the most accomplished of world filmmakers yet to be widely recognized"
  —NewCity Chicago
4 stars "This is strong medicine, yet it's also exhilarating"
  —Chicago Reader
"[A] brutal full-body immersion into the British prison system... the behavior onscreen feels too raw and immediate to register as 'acting,' every twitch of it captured with handheld cameras and reinforced by a completely plausible supporting cast"
  —Chicago Tribune

Eric (Jack O'Connell, Unbroken) is a violent young offender who has been prematurely transferred into the dark world of an adult prison. As he struggles to assert himself against the prison officers and the other inmates, he has to confront his own estranged father, Nev (Ben Mendelsohn, The Dark Knight Rises), a man who has spent most of his life in jail. Eric forges allegiances with other prisoners, while discovering the new rules of survival, but his already volatile relationship with his father is being pushed past breaking point. Providentially, Eric is approached by the prison psychotherapist (Rupert Friend, Homeland), who invites him to join his anger management group, which leads him to reflect upon his life and actions. Torn between gang politics, prison corruption, and the hope that things will get better, Eric finds himself in a fight for his own life, unsure if his own father is there to protect him or join in punishing him.

Filmmaker David MacKenzie (Young Adam) has made an incendiary, visceral, riveting drama with a fascinating Oedipal twist, with its realistic depiction of male behavior and prison culture. Written by prison system therapist Jonathan Asser, Starred Up is an uncompromising portrayal of a dehumanizing life behind bars, in a film whose narrative boldly charts a path that resembles a Greek tragedy.

Directed by David MacKenzie, UK, 2013, 106 mins.


  • Fri., Sept. 5 at 7 & 9 pm
  • Sat., Sept. 6 at 3, 5, 7 & 9 pm
  • Sun., Sept. 7 at 5 & 7 pm
  • Mon.–Thurs., Sept. 8–11 at 7 & 9 pm
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$9 general admission

FREE for Facets Members

The Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. Call the Cinémathèque Hotline at 773.281.4114 for the latest schedule, showtimes and updates.

For all Cinémathèque inquiries, contact Charles Coleman at 773.281.9075 or

  • John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Artworks: National Endowment for the Arts
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
  • Comer Family Foundation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Alphawood Foundation
  • Polk Bros. Foundation