Desson Thomson Recommends

The pub, as the social hub of British life, figures prominently in these three fabulous movies:

Last Orders (2001, 109 minutes) -- An intentional pun on the final wishes of the late Jack Dodds (played in flashback by Michael Caine and J.J. Feild) and that last chance for a quick one before the pub closes, this is a lovely little film about drinking, dying and everything in between. In other words, life. But it seems to be mostly about drinking. And what a great cast of British veteran tipplers: Caine, David Hemmings, Tom Courtenay, Helen Mirren, Bob Hoskins and Ray Winstone. Watching this, it's hard not to take the next plane to England and look for the nearest watering hole. (Rated R for sexual situations, nudity and some obscenity.)

The Crying Game (1992, 112 minutes) -- "Who knows the secrets of the human heart?" says a bartender in Neil Jordan's remarkably tender film. He's unknowingly talking about a sensational singer at his pub. Her name is Dil (Jaye Davidson) and she has taken the eye of Fergus (Stephen Rea), an IRA activist who has come to give her a message from a dead boyfriend (Forest Whitaker). Fergus finds himself irresistibly attracted to this torch chanteuse. And given her luminous performance, and the way she comes alive in this pub, it's understandable. A movie that deals in radical surprises, this is a romance you'll never forget, soaked in unspoken desire. (Rated R for nudity, obscenity and violence.)

Nil by Mouth (1997, 128 minutes) -- Drunkenness seems to be the operating mode in Gary Oldman's unslaked vision of life. Booze is the mood juice, and the blood, in this corner of England. Set in a London suburb, it's about a world of cornered souls who insult and torture each other, particularly the alcoholic Ray (Ray Winstone) and his abused wife, Valerie (Kathy Burke). Drinking, or shooting up (in one character's case), anesthetizes their shattered sensibilities. The performances are extraordinary, particularly by Burke, who carries suffering with touching, almost alarming stoicism. (Rated R for relentless profanity, emotionally disturbing material, violence and nudity.)

Cheers! From left, Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, Tom Courtenay and David Hemmings in the pub-centered "Last Orders."