25 years of Wonderland: revisiting the locations from Michael Winterbottom’s millennial London drama

How have the London locations of Michael Winterbottom’s vital portrait of life in the capital changed in the 25 years since it premiered?

2 April 2024

By Adam Scovell

Wonderland (1999)

Depictions of London on screen during the 1990s often had a gritty, lived-in flavour. Films such as Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993), Antonia Bird’s Face (1997) and Gary Oldman’s Nil by Mouth (1997) showed a hectic city of high-rises and estates, revealing the progressively destructive effects on the characters living there. The last of these tougher London films before the millennium hit was Michael Winterbottom’s underrated drama Wonderland (1999).

Following the complicated lives of three sisters over five days around Guy Fawkes Night, Wonderland is a heavily intertwined social portrait of life in the capital. Nadia (Gina McKee) works in a café and is plagued by dates with disappointing men. Debbie (Shirley Henderson) is holding down a job as a hairdresser while trying to bring up her son with little help from his father Dan (Ian Hart). And Molly (Molly Parker) is expecting a baby with her partner Eddie (John Simm), who is about to lose his job. Coupled with the stresses of the three women’s lives is the disintegrating marriage of their parents Bill (Jack Shepherd) and Eileen (Kika Markham), their relationship strained by the silence of their absent son Darren (Enzo Cilenti). 

Shot entirely on location, Wonderland is packed with detail about life in end-of-the-century London. The frantic pace of the capital never lets up as life zooms by and the characters watch on.

Twenty-five years after the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, on 13 May 1999, here are five locations from the film as they stand today.

Dating in Soho

Wonderland opens with the ever familiar London scenario of a failed date night in Soho. Nadia makes a swift exit from a bar, finding herself walking south down Dean Street.

Wonderland (1999)

Winterbottom then cuts to looking north up the street with its array of bars.

Wonderland (1999)

Nadia’s exact positioning on the street is given away a few seconds later by the fact that she walks past the famous Groucho Club on the left.

Wonderland (1999)

Later in the film, Nadia goes on a second date in Soho, this time a little more successful, with Tim (Stuart Townsend). They meet further west in Soho on Beak Street.

Wonderland (1999)

We get a real sense of where Nadia is on Beak Street when Winterbottom deploys one of the film’s dreamy slow-motion shots, showing her after her date about to cross where the street intersects with Upper James Street.

Wonderland (1999)

The café

Nadia doesn’t just date in Soho – she works there too, in a café on Old Compton Street. We see the café at various points during the film, both inside and out. This shot is taken from the outside and shows the building to be at 27 Old Compton Street. 

Wonderland (1999)

Today, the café is closed, housing the remains of an Italian street food venue. The building has also been rearranged so that certain doorways appear slightly different to how they were 25 years ago.

Wonderland (1999)

We get a full view of the café at night when lovelorn Franklyn (David Fahm) leaves after yet another evening spent daydreaming about Nadia but not having the courage to talk to her.

Wonderland (1999)

The flat

Though she travels to work in Soho, Nadia lives south of the river. We first see her home when her father visits her early on in the film. The block of flats is on Lawn Lane in Vauxhall.

Wonderland (1999)

We see another shot showing a group of lads outside the block, next to a sign showing the block’s name: Bannerman House. Today, this part of the block has been entirely changed and the steps that Nadia walks down from inside the building have since been removed.

Wonderland (1999)

A final shot of the area shows the (since demolished) steps again as Bill walks back along Lawn Lane.

Wonderland (1999)

The bridge

Eddie has lost his job and doesn’t know how to tell Molly. In order to practise the speech he’s going to give her, he decides to walk to a bridge and rehearse over the flowing water of the Thames.

Wonderland (1999)

The location Eddie chooses is Southwark Bridge. The following shot shows Eddie looking east while the shot itself is looking north along the bridge.

Wonderland (1999)

Winterbottom films Eddie’s rehearsal from various angles, including this one showing his view out towards Cannon Street Bridge and Tower Bridge in the distance.

Wonderland (1999)

The estate

Bill and Eileen live in south London in the estates around Loughborough Junction. 

Wonderland (1999)

Of all the locations used in the film, this is the most detailed, with a huge array of shots showing various characters coming in and out of houses. The shot below, for example, shows Bill walking back towards his house on St James’s Crescent.

Wonderland (1999)

The location is also where the film ends. In the final scene, Franklyn bumps into Nadia talking to her father. This is on Swinford Gardens, just off St James’s Crescent.

Wonderland (1999)

The very last shot shows Franklyn and Nadia walking off down Swinford Gardens, with the doorway of Barrington Court marking the spot.

Wonderland (1999)

References


Wonderland screens at Prince Charles Cinema on 5 and 20 April.