Spencer to County Lines: the seven best films to watch on TV this week

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Kristen Stewart plays a desperate Princess Diana on the edge, and a tough British drama goes behind the headlines to look at city kids lured into rural drug dealing


Pick of the week

Spencer

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in Spencer.
Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in Spencer. Photograph: Landmark Media/Alamy

Pablo Larraín revisits similar terrain to his 2016 film about Jackie Kennedy with this intimate drama focusing on Princess Diana, another iconic figure beset by tragedy. Gamely and unnervingly impersonated by Kristen Stewart, Diana is a woman on the verge. Duty-bound to attend a royal family Christmas at Sandringham in 1991, she rebels against her sterile marriage and suffocating public role. Despair soon leads to physical and mental disintegration. In a way, Diana was badly cast as a princess and Larraín makes us empathise with her stage fright – she can’t remember her lines, the costumes don’t fit and her audience is brutally unforgiving.
Friday 25 March, Amazon Prime Video

***

Burning

There’s a surreptitious flavour to Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s fine drama, adapted from a Haruki Murakami story. Yoo Ah-in stars as slightly gormless would-be writer Jong-su, who hooks up with an old schoolmate, Jeon Jong-seo’s restless Hae-mi. However, his place in her affections is soon usurped by Steven Yeun’s Ben – rich, self-assured, blandly enigmatic. Drifting almost imperceptibly from youthful romance to murky mystery, the film is deliciously disconcerting and, like Yeun’s pivotal performance, doesn’t appear to be trying too hard.
Saturday 19 March, 10pm, BBC Four

***

Climax

A group of dancers are celebrating the last night of rehearsals for their new show at a school building somewhere in France. Fatefully, someone has spiked the party punch with LSD and, this being a Gaspar Noé film, all hell breaks loose. The collapse of fellowship and social order in an already sexually febrile atmosphere is laid out in epically long takes, the camera swirling and staggering after the improvising actors as they succumb to hallucinations, paranoia, violence and desire. It’s a blunt-force approach, but deliriously effective.
Saturday 19 March, 1.50am, Film4

***

Our Ladies

Rona Morison, Tallulah Greive and Sally Messham in Our Ladies.
Rona Morison, Tallulah Greive and Sally Messham in Our Ladies. Photograph: Landmark Media/Alamy

This boisterous screen treatment of Alan Warner’s novel The Sopranos follows five Catholic girls from Fort William on a school choir day trip to Edinburgh in 1996. There’s no mob business here, though, just teenage hormones running rampant in the big city. Singing comes a distant second to illicit drinking and trying to get laid for a tight-knit group who each have their distinct dreams and hopes (or lack of hope). A frank, funny drama from Michael Caton-Jones, underlaid with coming-of-age poignancy and the ache of time passing.
Sunday 20 March, 8.40am, 10.30pm, Sky Cinema Premiere

***

Notorious

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Notorious.
Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Notorious. Photograph: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy

Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1946 thriller pairs Ingrid Bergman with Cary Grant to scintillating effect. She is the daughter of a wartime traitor; he is the agent who sends her undercover in Brazil to infiltrate the circle of neo-Nazi Claude Rains. She commits to her “Mata Hari” role while feeling demeaned by it – pointedly, the film exposes the gaslighting hypocrisy of her male handlers. Grant’s spy, however, has fallen for her and is torn between love and duty as she becomes increasingly compromised.
Sunday 20 March, 7pm, Talking Pictures TV

***

The Elephant Man

This one’s a real heartbreaker. David Lynch reined in his surrealist tendencies for this 1980 black-and-white drama about John Merrick, a real-life Victorian with severe deformities that brought him fame and notoriety. Anthony Hopkins is solid as Frederick Treves, the surgeon who rescues Merrick from a miserable life as a circus attraction, but it’s John Hurt’s performance in the title role that makes the film shine. Beneath layers of makeup, he gives Merrick a delicacy and pathos that lends the story an emotional resonance far beyond its “freakshow” tragedy.
Monday 21 March, 12.15am, BBC Two

***

County Lines

A tough British drama that delves deeper into the headline-grabbing stories of city kids being sent to rural areas to deal drugs. Conrad Khan is excellent as the withdrawn, inarticulate 14-year-old Tyler, lured into criminality when his single mum Toni (the equally convincing Ashley Madekwe) loses her job. His descent into a life even more troubling than the one he is fleeing is given the social realist treatment by director Henry Blake, emphasising how easily young people like Tyler – who have few options and a lack of support – can be groomed.
Friday 25 March, 10pm, BBC Three

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