Pick of the week
You expect films about con artists to be knotty, but Benjamin Caron’s ingenious drama is as twisty and rug-pulling as it gets. Its episodic narrative – which goes backwards in time – focuses on Justice Smith’s bookshop owner Tom, grad student Sandra (a standout Briana Middleton), Sebastian Stan’s unreadable grifter Max and his wealthy mother Madeline (Julianne Moore). Few of them are what they seem, and there’s a great deal of fun to be had in second-guessing their moves. It has the feel of a Michael Mann movie in its fascination with the stylish but superficial world of high-end criminals, their methodology and, ultimately, their hubris.
Friday 17 February, Apple TV+
Kursk: The Last Mission
The 2000 Kursk disaster, in which a Russian sub sank in the Barents Sea after a torpedo exploded in its bay, has been turned into a suspenseful drama by Thomas Vinterberg – even with the knowledge that all 118 crew members died. Matthias Schoenaerts gives the tragedy a human dimension as (fictional) officer Mikhail, one of a handful of initial survivors who tackle rising waters and diminishing oxygen. Meanwhile, wife Tanya (Léa Seydoux) faces secrecy and lies from the navy, whose rescue mission is hampered by cold war paranoia and old equipment.
Sunday 12 February, 10pm, BBC Two
John Cassavetes overlayed his oddball indie sensibilities on this thriller, which boasts a crackling performance by Gena Rowlands. She plays the titular ex-gangster’s moll, who finds herself on the run with a six-year-old boy, Phil (John Adames), after his family are murdered by mobsters. Largely filmed on the streets of New York, it fuses an observational style with a refreshingly unsentimental take on the relationship between a not very cute kid and a frosty, impatient woman who can handle herself.
Sunday 12 February, 10pm, Talking Pictures TV
This exquisite drama is based on the experiences of writer Owen McCafferty’s wife, and so has an air of unadorned authenticity. Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson play a couple who are put under strain when she is diagnosed with breast cancer, coping with the treatment – surgery, chemotherapy – and its side-effects, physical and emotional. Directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn ground the medical travails in a sensitive portrait of a long and happy marriage, its easy familiarity rendered flawlessly by the two leads.
Monday 13 February, 11.15pm, BBC Two
Todd Haynes’s righteous film borrows Ken Loach’s trick of leaving you fired up about injustice and, unusually for a mainstream US drama, capitalism. Mark Ruffalo, the go-to actor for dogged, honest types, stars as real-life lawyer Rob Bilott, who went from defending chemical companies to attacking them after a West Virginia farmer revealed a dump of toxic waste by DuPont had killed his cattle and contaminated the water supply. An eye-opening tale of dodgy practice and WTF revelations.
Tuesday 14 February, 11.15pm, BBC Two
The Shape of Water
For your Valentine’s Day viewing pleasure, an Oscar-laden romance of love against the odds, in which a young mute woman meets a misfit who understands her perfectly. Sure, he’s a 7ft amphibious creature, but nobody’s perfect. Guillermo del Toro’s fairytale stylings and love of cinema are in full effect as night-shift cleaner Elisa (Sally Hawkins) bonds with a strange beast (Doug Jones) over Glenn Miller and hard-boiled eggs in the cold war secret government facility where it’s trapped. Michael Shannon is great fun as her nemesis, an almost comically bigoted alpha-male colonel.
Tuesday 14 February, 11.20pm, Film4
A film that turns its bloody nose up at the slow crescendo of chills typically found in horror movies in favour of a string of game-changing shocks. Ari “Midsommar” Aster’s debut feature centres on the always brilliant Toni Collette as Annie, an artist who creates intricate miniature houses filled with disturbing, autobiographical detail. She’s married to Gabriel Byrne’s Steve and has two kids – and it’s the children who play key roles in the unfolding terrors. Fears about motherhood, unprocessed trauma and inherited illness combine in an unforgettable experience. SW is great fun as her nemesis, an almost comically bigoted alpha-male colonel.
Wednesday 15 February, 9pm, Film4