Our film and TV recommendations: What we’re watching now, from Red, White and Blue to Uncle Frank

Nancy Durrant,Jochan Embley,Katie Rosseinsky,Jessie Thompson and Charlotte O'Sullivan
·12-min read
<p>Boyega stars in the third Small Axe film</p> (BBC/McQueen Limited/Will Robson-Scott)

Boyega stars in the third Small Axe film

(BBC/McQueen Limited/Will Robson-Scott)

Daylight is in short supply, the weather’s grim and we’re still locked down - at least there’s plenty of streaming material to bide the time.

Here are the films, TV shows and special streaming events on our cultural radar this week…

Death of England: Delroy

<p>The play opened and closed on the same night</p>Normski Photography

The play opened and closed on the same night

Normski Photography

It opened to glowing reviews on the eve of lockdown, and had to close on the same night. Clint Dyer and Roy Williams’s one-man play on what it is to be black and British is being streamed for free tonight on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel (live performances resume in the spring). Don’t miss it, and donate if you can.

Streaming on YouTube on November 27

Uncle Frank

This Seventies-set drama on Prime Video about a gay man (Paul Bettany) and his niece (a pleasingly understated Sophia Lillis) returning to their homophobic hometown after the death of his father – accompanied by his flamboyant partner of 10 years (a delightful Peter Macdissi, and no, the family are not aware) – is a compassionate look at how fear breeds hate, hate breeds guilt, and love saves lives.

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Red, White and Blue

<p>Boyega plays Met officer Leroy Logan</p>BBC/McQueen Limited/Will Robson-Scott

Boyega plays Met officer Leroy Logan

BBC/McQueen Limited/Will Robson-Scott

For his first post-Star Wars role, John Boyega has teamed up with Steve McQueen to tell the story of Leroy Logan, one of few black officers serving in the Met in the Eighties. Red, White and Blue is a galvanising watch, rooted in the complex dynamic between Boyega and his on-screen dad Steve Toussaint. It airs on Sunday evening as part of McQueen’s BBC One Small Axe series.

BBC One and BBC iPlayer, November 29 at 9pm

Offended by Irvine Welsh

Should artists have the right to offend us? Author Irvine Welsh attempts to answer that question in this Sky Arts documentary, coming up with theories far too nuanced for the stroppy breeding ground that is social media. Amid insightful interviews with artists like Jake Chapman and Sarah Maple, Welsh is left wondering if his masterwork, Trainspotting, would even be published today.

Sky Arts and Now TV

Happiest Season

<p>Stewart’s rom-com is a Christmas cracker </p>Handout

Stewart’s rom-com is a Christmas cracker

Handout

Harper (Mackenzie Davis) is still in the closet and, when she invites girlfriend Abby (Kristen Stewart) home for the holidays, that means Abby is forced to hide her identity too. The script for this clever festive treat contains slapsticky scenes worthy of Meet the Parents. Compare Happiest Season with Last Christmas. Both films feature a closeted woman but where the latter had only one decent joke, this one has many. It’s funny, as well as brave. Thanks, Santa!

Available on VOD

Adventures in Film

<p>New Adventures present a trio of dance films</p>Handout

New Adventures present a trio of dance films

Handout

A new venture from Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures company, this trio of short dance films kicks off on November 20 with Nostos. Choreographed by Tasha Chu, it depicts a couple separated by war and brought together again, trying to recapture what they’ve lost. Two further films, Little Grasses Crack Through the Stone and Checkmate, are released on Nov 27 and Dec 4.

Streaming on YouTube

No Direct Flight

The timings will sometimes be tricky (Nairobi is three hours ahead) but this is the first time the festival of African film and storytelling, which runs from today to November 29, has been live-streamed globally, so its programme of performances, screenings and conversations is a treat worth rejigging your WFH schedule for. And it’s free, with tickets available via Eventbrite.

Until November 29.

L’enfant et les sortileges

<p>Gorgeous animation that’s great for kids and adults alike </p>Handout

Gorgeous animation that’s great for kids and adults alike

Handout

New company Vopera has ingeniously reworked Ravel’s short 1925 opera into a lockdown story of a frustrated child who is transported into a fantasy world via her laptop with humour and gorgeous animation - and fabulous singing. Great for kids and adults alike and on the LPO’s YouTube channel until December 14.

Streaming on YouTube until December 14

Lovers Rock

<p>McQueen’s big night out comes to the BBC </p>BBC/McQueen Limited/Parisa Taghizadeh

McQueen’s big night out comes to the BBC

BBC/McQueen Limited/Parisa Taghizadeh

The second part of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology series is a love letter to the blues party scene of the Eighties, playing out over the course of one big night (and the subsequent Sunday morning headache...) 17-year-old Martha (inspired by McQueen’s aunt, played by Amarah-Jae St Aubyn) sneaks out of her window to head off to a flat in Ladbroke Grove where the bass makes the walls shake. This gorgeous film, which airs on Sunday night on BBC One, will have you pining for packed dancefloors.

Finding Jack Charlton

Handout
Handout

English football legend Jack Charlton, who died this summer, never did get a knighthood. And after watching this breezily profound documentary, you’ll understand why. Charlton backed the miners in the 80s, and managed Ireland at a time when they were seen as a joke. He sided with the underdog, with the full support of his wife, Pat, and their three children, and the Charltons’ commitment to doing the brave thing, as opposed to the easy thing, is laid bare in the film.

Available on digital download from November 23

Love Child

<p>This gripping documentary was filmed over five years </p>

This gripping documentary was filmed over five years

From the team behind the award-winning For Sama and filmed over five years, this is another gripping, emotional real life story. Iranian couple Leila and Sahand are seeking asylum with their son Mani, who was conceived while both were married to other people. Fearing discovery - which would result in execution for them both; stoning to death for Leila – they seek a new life in Turkey. Their difficult journey is captured unflinchingly in this must-watch documentary.

Available on vod and at modernfilms.com/lovechild

Perfect 10

Rentable for free for a week on BFI Player, Eva Riley’s accomplished drama follows a teenage gymnast as she gets to know her half-brother and falls head first into his world. First-time actor Frankie Box, a real-life gymnast, is astonishing in the leading role.

Available to rent on BFI Player

The Queen’s Gambit

<p>Anya Taylor-Joy plays a chess prodigy</p>CHARLIE GRAY/NETFLIX

Anya Taylor-Joy plays a chess prodigy

CHARLIE GRAY/NETFLIX

If you’re not already hooked on this Netflix miniseries, get a move on. The story of an orphan chess-whiz (a mesmerising Anya Taylor-Joy) battling encroaching drink and drug addiction while taking the male-dominated game by storm is grippingly told and never falls into depressing ‘woman in a man’s world’ cliché. A great supporting cast and ravishing design round out a satisfying watch.

Streaming on Netflix

How To Be: Anne-Marie

<p>The pop sensation opens up in a new YouTube film </p>Handout

The pop sensation opens up in a new YouTube film

Handout

Essex sensation Anne-Marie was all set for a huge arena tour in 2020. “And then,” she says in this new YouTube documentary, “corona happened”. How she dealt with that loss, and how the enforced break encouraged her to confront her own personal demons, is explored in this candid, straight-talking film. It’s an intriguing look behind the curtain at an artist on the rise, and not without its light-hearted moments.

Streaming on YouTube

Billie

<p>A fascinating portrait of a legend</p>Handout

A fascinating portrait of a legend

Handout

This tantalising documentary approaches the life of trail-blazing jazz singer Billie Holiday from the most oblique of angles. It is filtered through the eyes and preoccupations of part-time journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl, who spent years interviewing Holiday’s lovers, colleagues and family. The Holiday who emerges from this portrait is creative, bisexual and brave.

On Amazon and iTunes from November 16

The Life Ahead

<p>Sophia Loren makes a screen comeback after a decade</p>Netflix

Sophia Loren makes a screen comeback after a decade

Netflix

Sophia Loren is truly moving as Italian-Jewish Madame Rosa, a former prostitute, whose tiny flat in the port of Bari is full of children, including cynical Senegalese orphan, Momo, played by gifted newcomer Ibrahima Gueye. Blazingly alive, even when catatonic, Rosa might be dismissed as a mother courage. In Loren’s wiry hands, she is something much more disturbing: a lank-haired lady Lazarus, with venom to spare.

Available on Netflix now

Wolfwalkers

<p>This animation tells the story of a hunter’s daughter</p>Apple TV+

This animation tells the story of a hunter’s daughter

Apple TV+

I can’t remember the last time I saw such a beautiful hand-made animation as this sweet fantasy on Apple TV+, about a hunter’s daughter in 17th century Ireland who meets a strange girl living with wolves in the woods. Religious intolerance, the oppression of women and the relationship between fathers and daughters are all touched on but ultimately it’s just a lovely story of bravery and open-heartedness.

Streaming on Apple TV+

Luxor

<p>Luxor explores sexual and racial politics</p>Handout

Luxor explores sexual and racial politics

Handout

Luxor is reminiscent of other deliberately excruciating movies in which uptight, middle-class singletons lose the plot (see Maren Ade’s Toni Erd-mann). The end result though, is closer in spirit to Eric Rohmer’s gentle classic The Green Ray. The new thing that London-born Arab director Zeina Durra brings to the table is a fresh perspective on how sexual and racial politics can rebalance a relationship.

Streaming on Curzon Home Cinema and BFI Player

Is This Coercive Control?

<p>Coercive control remains a little understood issue </p>BBC / John O’Kane

Coercive control remains a little understood issue

BBC / John O’Kane

This documentary, on iPlayer, is BBC Three at its best: a group of 18 to 25-year-olds watch a specially created film about a fictional couple’s relationship and discuss whether what they see constitutes coercive control, which became illegal in 2015. Presented by journalist Ellie Flynn, surely the big-hooped successor to Stacey Dooley, it quickly becomes depressingly clear how little understood the issue remains.

Streaming on BBC iPlayer

DEAD

<p>This low-budget production is adorable nonsense</p>

This low-budget production is adorable nonsense

Having eschewed all scary movies over Halloween we loved this ultra-low budget New Zealand production (available on Amazon, GooglePlay and AppleTV) that pairs a hapless stoner who can see ghosts with a recently deceased cop to solve an increasingly ridiculous murder mystery. Adorable nonsense.

Streaming on Amazon, GooglePlay and Apple TV+

Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb

<p>This new documentary is fascintaing, funny and moving</p>Netflix

This new documentary is fascintaing, funny and moving

Netflix

Join the all-Egyptian team of specialists excavating one of the country’s most important burial sites as they close in on the mysterious incumbent of a stunningly ornate tomb in this new Netflix doc. Will the bodies still be there? How did the family die? And who was the man whose name is all over the walls? Fascinating, funny, beautifully made and rather moving.

Streaming on Netflix

The Forty Year-old Version

The debut film from multi-hyphenate Radha Blank, recently released on Netflix, should be getting way more love. Shot on 35mm black and white film, Blank stars as a talented playwright who finds that she is only accepted by the white theatre establishment if she lets them co-opt her creations. In a burst of frustration, she becomes a rapper instead. Written, directed and produced by Blank, it heralds the arrival of an unmissable new voice.

Streaming on Netflix

Relic

<p>Relic’s exploration of ageing and loss will stick with you</p>Jackson Finter

Relic’s exploration of ageing and loss will stick with you

Jackson Finter

This fresh twist on the classic haunted house tale from first-time director Natalie Erika James is a masterclass in building tension. Emily Mortimer stars as a woman dragged back to her family home when her elderly mother goes missing. Are the notes she has left around the house further proof of her decline into dementia or evidence of something more sinister? There’s jump scares aplenty, but it’s James’ exploration of ageing and loss that will really stick with you.

Available to rent via Amazon Prime Video

What the Constitution Means to Me

<p>You’ll wish you were in the room where it happens</p>

You’ll wish you were in the room where it happens

You’ll soon get over any reservations about watching theatre on a screen (why is everyone shouting so loudly?) when you watch this superbly captured recording of Heidi Schreck’s recent Broadway hit. In 100 minutes, she explores how she fell out of love with the American constitution, in a way that is gripping, personal and audacious. You’ll wish you were in the room.

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

The Painter and the Thief

When Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova had two of her most important paintings stolen from an Oslo Gallery, she had a surprising reaction: she tracked one of the thieves down and made friends with him. This often jaw-dropping documentary from director Benjamin Lee is full of fascinating tensions borne from her decision to choose empathy over anger.

Available via digital download

Mogul Mowgli

PR Handout
PR Handout

Mogul Mowgli is one of the funniest, darkest and smartest movies of the year, which is great news for anyone who loves Riz Ahmed. Whether you’re into his music (he’s a fab rapper in real life), or his acting, this film feels like a summation, as well as a canny dismantling, of everything that’s gone before.

Streaming on BFI Player now

Shirley

<p>Elisabeth Moss is magnificent in Josephine Decker’s latest effort</p>Neon

Elisabeth Moss is magnificent in Josephine Decker’s latest effort

Neon

Elisabeth Moss is scary, absurd and utterly magnificent in this alt-biopic about the American horror writer Shirley Jackson, which also boasts brilliant supporting performances from Michael Stuhlbarg (as her philandering husband Stanley) and Odessa Young (as Rose, a pregnant newly-wed who moves into the couple’s home and starts to fascinate Jackson).

Streaming on Curzon Home Cinema now

Summer of 85

Francois Ozon’s sun-drenched adaptation of Aidan Chambers’ 1982 novel Dance on My Grave is, the director says, the film he wished he could have seen when he was 17. The story of two teenage boys and their intense summer fling wobbles occasionally as it treads the line between tragedy and hope but Ozon captures the fierceness and cruel imbalance of young love perfectly, and the two central performances are flawless.

Streaming on Curzon Home Cinema now

Over the Moon

The script of this co-production between Sony Pictures and China’s Pear Studio starts out a little flat (it’s no Pixar) but things pick up when our grieving heroine, young Feifei, builds and launches a rocket to visit the moon goddess, who is basically an intergalactic pop lunatic. The songs get better too. It’s also a bit of a love letter to Chinese food, which is right up our street.

Streaming on Netflix

The Grand Party Hotel

This endearing documentary transports you to a simpler time, when your biggest woe was sacrificing endless weekends to bumper-sized hen and stag dos. Available to stream on iPlayer, it takes you inside the Shankly Hotel in Liverpool, a brilliant Scouse institution boasting 24-person rooms decked out in jaw-dropping fashion - one looks like the set of Jungle Run, another has a plunge pool running down the middle. It’s absolute carnage, but the lovely staff and heartwarming guest stories make it perfect comfort viewing.

Streaming on BBC iPlayer