What-To-Watch #7

Autumn is in in air! So, this week, let’s adds some pumpkin spice to proceedings – here’s 5 autumnal (or autumnal adjacent!) treats for you.

Here’s What To Watch Wednesday #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6.

Ghosts (2019-: BBC: 24 x 30 mins)

With series 4 in its entirety having just dropped on BBC iPlayer, it’s the perfect time to get watching the finest British sitcom from this century so far. First Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) inherits a mansion in the countryside, then an accident results in her being able to see the ghosts who reside within it – except everyone else, including her husband Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) can’t see them. By the team behind Horrible Histories and Yonderland, this is British comedy at its finest – each episode is so well crafted and packed full of laughs.

If you like this, you might like: Yonderland (2013-2015), Inside No.9 (2014-)

Minx (2022-: Paramount+: 30 mins – 4 episodes aired currently)

This one is set in LA so it’s not traditionally autumnal, but there’s something about Jake Johnson in 70s get-up that feels autumn… somehow. Anyway, Joyce (Ophelia Lovibond) is a proud and earnest feminist who wants to start a magazine. Low-rent publisher Doug (Jake Johnson) is the only person open to funding it, and thus the first erotic magazine for women is born! There’s so many reasons to watch this, from the crisp script to the incredible rapport between Lovibond & Johnson. Be warned – this isn’t nesscarily one to watch with under 18s or your parents. If you don’t believe me, there’s a dong-tage during episode one that will clear things up…

If you like this, you might like: Loot (2022-), Kevin Can Fuck Himself (2021-)

Industry (2020-: BBC: 16 x 50 mins)

We left season one on some massive cliffhangers in 2020, and now season two is here. There’s something about autumn that has us craving crime & melodrama – we can live vicariously through their self-sabotage and disaster – this show has that covered and then some as we follow young bankers and traders make their way in the financial world in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse. Delicious.

If you like this, you might like: The Dropout (2022), Succession (2018-)

Gilmore Girls (2000-07-: Netflix: 154 x 44 mins)

It would be amiss of me not to mention the most autumnal show that has and will ever exist. Loreali Gilmore (Lauren Graham) was 16 when she had her daughter Rory, leaving behind her well-off family and abandoning the plans they had for her. Now 16, Rory (Alexis Bledel) has been offered a place at the best school in the state – but Lorelai needs her parents help to make Rory’s dream happen. That’s the starting point for it all. No show does Autumn as well at this one, nor has set an impossible bar for men as high as Scott Patterson’s Luke Danes…

If you like this, you might like: Jane The Virgin (2014-19), Ugly Betty (2006-10)

Romcom of the week: About Time (2013: Netflix: 123 mins)

I’ve got quite a low-tolerance for Richard Curtis movies and am firmly in the anti-Love Actually camp. This one, however, is my kryptonite. Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) felt that he was failing at life, until aged 21 when he discovers an inherited ability to travel back in time – allowing him all manner of redoes. He thinks getting a girlfriend will change everything, and Mary (Rachel McAdams) does – but maybe not in the manner he expects… MVP has to be Bill Nighy as Tim’s father. Funny, heartfelt and profound.  

What-To-Watch Wednesday #6

What To Watch Wednesday #5

After a break last week – due to personal, not national, reasons – W2W is back. 5 recommendations of underseen gems on your favourite streaming services

Here’s What To Watch Wednesday #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5)

Hacks (2021-: Prime Video: 19 x 35 mins)

Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) is one of the most faces and names in comedy. Her long-running residency in Las Vegas is renowned, even if her material is no longer as fresh as it used to be. That’s where Ava (Hannah Einbinder) steps in, when a professional crisis has her fleeing LA in desperate search of a job. Their shared agent Jimmy (Paul W.Downs) thinks this could be the start of a mutually beneficial partnership, but he’s already got enough on his plate in the form of his chaotic assistant Kayla (Megan Statler). Darkly funny and totally must-see.

If you like this, you might like: Broad City (2014-2019), The Marvellous Mrs Maisel (2017-)

Abbott Elementary (2021-: Disney+: 13 x 23 mins)

The finest sitcom on tv currently, it feels sure to go down in TV history for all the best reasons. By and starring writer-creator Quinta Brunson, she plays Janine – one of a group of teachers who are brought together in one of the worst public schools in the country, simply because they love teaching. Grounded in the experiences by Brunson’s own teacher mother, this teacher-writer gives it the full double thumbs up here.

If you like this, you might like: Superstore (2015-2021), Great News (2017-2018)

We’re Here (2020-: Sky/Now: 14 x 50 mins)

Drag brings people together. It also has the ability to pull people out of their comfort zones and find their voices, as is encouraged here by Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka and Shangela as they travel the country visiting small-town residents and encouraging to own the stage in a lip sync extravaganza.

If you like this, you might like: Queer Eye (2018-), Glow Up (2019-)

Only Murders In The Building (2021-: Disney+: 20 x 35 mins)

Long-time friends Martin Short and Steve Martin have an incredible rapport, as showcased here in this murder mystery with a difference. They play Oliver Putman and Charles-Haden Savage, respectively. Both residents of an affluent Upper West Side apartment building, a shared love of true crime podcasts finds them teaming up with Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) to solve the murder of one of their neighbours. Funny and carefully crafted, there’s nothing like it on TV right now.

If you like this, you might like: The Flight Attendant (2020-), Barry (2018-)

Romcom of the week: Marry Me (2022: Sky/Now: 111 mins)

Global pop superstar Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) ends up married to a stranger, divorced maths teacher Charles (Owen Wilson), after finding out her actual fiancée has been cheating on her. Determined to not become a laughingstock in the press, Kat persuades Charles to carry on their fake-marriage until the attention is no longer upon them. Bet you can guess what happens next… CINEMA!

What To Watch Wednesday #5

Right. Start of September. It’s getting darker quicker, the world starts to feel a little smaller, scarier and bleaker. You need some comfort telly, which I am more than happy to provide!

Here’s What To Watch Wednesday #1, #2, #3 and #4.

Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022: Prime Video: 139 mins)

An aging Chinese immigrant (Michelle Yeoh) is swept up in an insane adventure, in which she alone can save the world by exploring other universes connecting with the lives she could have led. One of the most profound and moving sci-fi films I’ve ever seen, as well as being mental and a lot of fun.

If you like this, you might like: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022), Minari (2020)

Paper Girls (2022: Prime video: 8 x 40 mins)

What if your preteen self, collided with your early 40s self? On Hell Day 1988, whilst doing their paper round, four girls unwittingly time travel to 2019. While searching for a way home, they come face-to-face with their adult selves and learn how to work together to save the world. Thought-provoking and endearing sci-fi.

If you like this, you might like: A League of Their Own (2022-), The Umbrella Academy (2019-)

Son of Rambow (2007: Netflix: 96 mins)

During a long English summer in the early 1980s, two schoolboys from differing backgrounds (Bill Milner & Will Poulter)  set out to make a film inspired by First Blood. One of the most delightful things you could ever possibly show your eyeballs.

If you like this, you might like: Submarine (2010), Boy (2010)

Drag SOS (2019: Netflix: 6 x 45 mins)

Drag collective The Family Gorgeous help unlikely protégées to unlock their long-lost confidence and become bolder, braver drag-enhanced versions of themselves. Wonderful feelgood telly.

If you like this, you might like: Queer Eye (2018-), We’re Here (2020-)

Romcomdram of the week: The Edge of Seventeen (2016: Netflix & BBC iPlayer: 97 mins)

When this film arrived, it felt like it could be heralded return of the impeccable teen movie. Whilst a few others folded, they didn’t equal this one. High school misfit Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) only has one friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), an older brother who has always eclipsed her and a crush on a boy who doesn’t knows she exists. Life is unbearable, but at least she has an ambivalent teacher (Woody Harrelson) to listen to her complaints… A proper coming of age story that isn’t afraid to show teen years for how crappy they really are.

What To Watch Wednesday #4

I don’t usually do a theme to one of these posts, but the last day of the summer holidays felt like it warranted a theme. So, this week’s edition is feelgood films – six (I know, giving you a bonus one this week!) films that are chicken soup for the soul. For all you teachers out there, good luck with the new academic year…

Here’s What To Watch Wednesday #1, #2 and #3.

The Way, Way Back (2013: Disney+ & Amazon Prime: 104 mins)

It’s always been 14 year-old Duncan (Liam James) and his mum, Pam (Toni Collette), against the world, but her overbearing new boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell), is having none of that. Trent takes the pair, along with his daughter, to stay at his summer home to trial at being a family, where a chance encounter with water theme park manager Owen (Sam Rockwell) may just be the thing to help Duncan find his place in the world. The incredible ensemble is rounded out by Alison Janney, Maya Rudolph, Amanda Peet, Rob Corddry, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash – the pair making their debut as co-writers and co-directors.

If you like this, you might like: Kings of Summer (2013), Hearts Beat Loud (2018)

Instant Family (2018: ALL4: 119 mins)

Inspired by the real adoption experiences of writer-director Sean Anders, a married couple Pete (Mark Whalberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) decide to foster three siblings – Lizzy (Isabela Merced), Juan (Gustavo Escobar) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz). A real surprise when it came out, a film as full of laughs as it is heart.

If you like this, you might like: Blockers (2018), Game Night (2018)

What We Do In The Shadows (2014: BBC iPlayer & Amazon Prime: 86 mins)

If you’ve not seen this already, or the spin-off show now in it’s fourth season, ‘Where the bloody hell have you been?’ It’s fine though, we can get that fixed now – and in less than 90 minutes too! A mockumentary following four flatmates who live in Wellington, New Zealand. Viago (Taika Waitit), Vladislav (Jermaine Clement), Deacon (Jonathon Brugh), and Petyr (Ben Fransham) also happen to be vampires. Saying any more would be a spoiler, suffice to say what follows is very, very funny.

If you like this, you might like: Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016), This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Good Vibrations (2012: Disney+ & MUBI & Britbox: 111 mins)

Based on a true story, Belfast punk impresario Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer) becomes the unlikely leader of a motley band of kids and punks, who join him in his mission to bring his city back to life. If you’re a fan of Teenage Kicks by the Undertones, you’re going to want to see this. Jodie Whittaker plays his long-suffering wife with Adrian Dunbar, Liam Cunningham and Dylan Moran also playing supporting roles. Packed full of riotous heart and soul, there’s a sequence here that never fails to make me flood with happy tears.

If you like this, you might like: Ali & Ava (2022), Sing Street(2016)

Pride (2014: Disney+ & Amazon Prime & Netflix: 120 mins)

In 1984, gay activist Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) realised that the brutal attention of the police had shifted from the gay community and onto the miners’ strikes. Striking to prevent colliery closures that would destroy small communities throughout the United Kingdom, they faced an onslaught both in press and in person that was all-to-familiar to Mark and his friends. This was the start of beautiful friendship – two marginalised groups finding each other- and thus ‘Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners’ (LGSM) was formed. Not only is the most joyful film in existence, listen up for its cast – George MacKay, Andrew Scott, Joe Gilgun, Freddie Fox, Dominic West, Paddy Considine, Jessie Cave, Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy. It’s just so bloody lovely.

 If you like this, you might like: Kinky Boots (2005), Rocketman (2019)

Romcomdram of the week: The Lunchbox (2013: Disney+: 104 mins)

An unlikely mistake by a tiffin carrier service results in Ila’s (Nimrat Kaur) tiffin, that was made for her husband, being delivered to Irrfan (Saajan Fernandes). An unusual correspondence soon develops between the two. A tale of love, loss and longing – simply beautiful.

What To Watch Wednesday #3

Welcome back! Just like my Stream On feature from last year (all 19 editions available here), every Wednesday I’ll put up some suggestions of TV & Films you may be missing on your various streaming services. Here’s What To Watch Wednesday #1 and #2.

The Con (2020: Disney+: 8 x 45 mins)

Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, each episode focuses on a different con – from more familiar stories such as Fyre Festival and the 2019 college admissions scandal, to the story of a manipulative love bombing surgeon and a film-industry producer whose scam has to be seen to be believed.

If you like this, you might like: Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist (2022), The Tinder Swindler (2022)

Hobby Man (2022: All4: 4 x 60 minutes – two episodes aired already, two to go)

Alex Brooker has realised he’s a 38-year-old man with the same interests he had as a child, ‘football and Ghostbusters’. So, paired with a different friend each week, he tries out three different hobbies and meets the incredibly passionate people who are involved in them. The end result is an incredibly charming show full of joy, a celebration of oft underappreciated and undercelebrated people & their passions.

If you like this, you might like: The Great Pottery Throw Down (2015-), The Great British Sewing Bee (2013-)

Boys State (2020: Apple TV+: 109 mins)

‘Won’t somebody please think of the children?!?’ In the heart of Texas, there’s something on an unusual rite of passage for a select 1,100 teenage boys. A chance to come together and build a representative government from the ground up, over the course of a week. It’s a fascinating experiment to behold, with truly unpredictable consequences.

If you like this, you might like: Minding the Gap (2018), Accepted (2021)

Bad Sisters (2022: Apple TV+: 10 x 45 mins – two episodes aired, eight to go)

John Paul Williams (Claes Bang) may very well have been the worst brother-in-law in the world. But he didn’t deserve to die, did he…? The Garvey sisters – Eva (Sharon Horgan), Becka (Eve Hewson), Ursula (Eva Birthistle), Bibi (Sarah Greene) and Grace (Anne-Marie Duff) always swore to look out for each other. But just how far have they taken this promise? A pitch-black revenge comedy, deliciously well-cast this is a must-watch.

If you like this, you might like: The Resort (2022), In Bruges (2008)

Romcom of the week: Set It Up (2018: Netflix: 105 mins)

Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell) are both overworked and underpaid assistants. Their respective bosses, Kirsten (Lucy Liu) and Richard (Taye Diggs) make their lives miserable – seemingly because they’re miserable themselves. Thrown together in unlikely circumstances, the two assistants decide to set their bosses up together – it looks set to work a treat, although it involves Harper & Charlie working very closely together. So closely, in fact, their may be even more attachments forming… Cinematic comfort food at it’s finest, both Deutch and Powell are charisma machines and a total joy to watch.

What To Watch Wednesday #2

Welcome back! Just like my Stream On feature from last year (all 19 editions available here), every Wednesday I’ll put up some suggestions of TV & Films you may be missing on your various streaming services. Here’s What To Watch Wednesday #1.

A League of Their Own (Amazon Prime: 8 X 60 mins)

Chicago, 1943. With so many men fighting in the war, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is formed by a confectionary tycoon. The intent is to make money and create entertainment. For the women who attend the try-out, this is their big moment. After spending their entire lives being told they cannot take part, this is finally their chance to spend their lives doing what they love. For Carson Shaw (Abbi Jacobson) it’s a chance to feel alive whilst also, literally, running away from home & her husband. For Greta Gil (D’Arcy Carden) it’s a chance for fame and adoration. But,  for Max Chapman (Chanté Adams), she quickly realises how little it changes as there may now be space for white female players – there isn’t for black women. Often funny, but rooted in carefully handled serious issues, along with the queerness, – the show hits home thanks to a roster filled with all-stars and a field rich with possibilities.

If you like this, you might like: A League of Their Own (1992), The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel (2017-)

A Secret Love (Netflix: 83 minutes)

Then, when you can’t get enough of a wonderful baseball drama that is about more than just sport, check out a true story from the time period. This understated and moving documentary is about two women who met while taking part in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, fell in love and then kept their love a secret for seven decades. A moving and profound love conquers all story.

If you like this, you might like: Circus of Books (2020), The Pass (2016)

Big Boys (All4: 6 x 30 mins)

Jack (Dylan Llewellyn) is finally starting university after a gap year. His dad died a year ago after a long illness, starting uni so soon after would not have been possible. He arrives to campus, driven by his doting mum Peggy (Camille Coduri) only to find that he’s not been given campus accommodation and his housemate is not only a mature student but a bit of a lad. However, there’s more to Danny (Jon Pointing) than first appears. When Jack inadvertently comes out to Danny, as unlikely friendship follows as Danny devotes himself to supporting Jack. Based on comedian Jack Rooke’s real life experiences, this show is funny, moving and a total joy.

If you like this, you might like: Dead Pixels (2019-), This Is Going to Hurt (2022)

Prey (Disney: 99 mins)

The Great Plains, 1719. Naru (Amber Midthunder) is a a young Comanche woman trained as a healer, yet dreams of becoming a great hunter like her brother, Taabe (Dakota Beavers). When part of a search party for the mountain lion that attacked one of the tribe’s hunters, Naru quickly realises something far scarier is hunting them. A prequel to the Predator franchise, this taut and thrilling is atmospheric and exceptionally well-told.

If you like this, you might like: Edge of Tomorrow (2014), District 9 (2009)

Romcom of the week: Wedding Season (2022: Netflix: 98 mins)

Pressured by their parents to find spouses, Asha (Suraj Sharma) and Ravi (Pallavi Sharda) pretend to date during a summer of weddings, only to find themselves falling for each other. It may tick all the tropes of the romcom bingo card, but when it does it this charmingly – who are we to complain?!?

What-To-Watch Wednesday

My weekly recommendations are back, baby! Just like my Stream On feature from last year (all 19 editions available here), every Wednesday I’ll put up some suggestions of TV & Films you may be missing on your various streaming services.

The Newsreader (BBC iPlayer: 6 X 50 mins)

Set in Melbourne in 1986, The Newsreader follows a daily news team through their trials & tribulations – both professional and personal. The sets & costumes are so evocative, the storylines so well rendered but it’s the cast that are standout. Anna Torv (Fringe, Mindhunter) plays the station figurehead, a ‘difficult’ woman who wants to cover real news. Sam Reid (The Limehouse Golem and the upcoming tv adaption of Interview With the Vampire) is the up-and-comer desperate to break through. Covering the AIDS crisis, Chernobyl, Halley’s Comet and the Challenger space shuttle explosion – The Newsreader is a compelling drama series grounded in reality.

What this if you like: The Newsroom (2012), Please Like Me (2013)

The Resort (Sky/Now: currently airing season 1, 4 x 30 mins aired already, 4 left of season 1)

A bitterly frustrated couple go on vacation to celebrate their ten-year anniversary. Neither Emma (Cristin Milioti – Palm Springs, HIMYM) or Noah (William Jackson Harper – The Good Place, Love Life season two) seem able to acknowledge to each other just how unhappy they are. When Emma falls off a quad bike during a day trip, she finds an abandoned  and extremely outdated mobile phone. Intrigued by the mystery, she discovers it belongs to Sam (Skyler Gisondo – Booksmart, The Righteous Gemstones) who disappeared from the resort fifteen years prior. Emma & Noah decide to solve the case together which may just force them to answer some far bigger questions along the way. Part comedy, part love story, part thriller and part sci-fi tinge – this is exactly what you might expect from the writer of the wonderful Palm Springs.

What this if you like: The White Lotus (2021-), Palm Springs (2020)

Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 (Netflix: 3 x 45 mins)

The 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair was a coming together of likeminded souls, spirits joined in a search for peace, harmony, and good vibes. To commemorate its 30 year anniversary, the organisers decided to throw Woodstock ’99 in an act of celebration. As you probably guess from the title, it didn’t go well. Each of the three episodes focuses chronologically on a separate day of the festival – Friday, Saturday and Sunday – whilst also intercutting the now with some past decisions that emphasises the hubris and obviousness to the awfulness to come. This one really needs to be seen and talked about, particularly when it comes to accountability of mob mentality and the pervasive nature of sexual assault at music festivals.

What this if you like: Fyre (2019), Keep Sweet: Pray & Obey (2022)

Instant Hotel (Netflix: 15 x 45 mins)

This Australian series may just be the greatest example of perfect reality tv. Using all the formats and formulas you know and love, this show manages to be the pinnacle of how it’s done. Five couples tour the country visiting each other’s ‘Instant Hotels’ (think Air BnBs). As you’d expect, there’s personality clashes galore and all manner of surprises along the way. Chuck in the various glamourous, and not so glamourous settings, you’re in for a treat.

What this if you like: Selling Sunset (2019-), Four In A Bed (2010-)

The Broken Hearts Gallery (2020: Netflix: 108 mins)

Lucy (Geraldine Viswanathan – Blockers, Miracle Workers) is devastated after her boyfriend breaks up with her. But when she meets Nick (Dacre Montgomery – Stranger Things, Elvis), a hotelier, she decides to create a gallery where people can leave memorabilia from their past relationships. Funny, charming and a total joy.

A love letter to Abbott Elementary and teaching

Here’s a list of just a few things that occurred during my PGCE (training year of becoming, in my case, a secondary school English teacher):

  • I spent five hours cutting out butterfly templates for a series of lessons on Ray Bradbury’s ‘A Sound Of Thunder’. They were utilised for about 20 minutes of a lesson before being abandoned.
  • I dressed up as an alien called Lady Stardust so students could help ‘send me home’ by asking me questions, as they had social & communication difficulties.
  • I had a two month stint as head of media, setting up the subject as the school had never taught it before.
  • Had a three month spell of crippling depression where I lived, quite literally, on a day-to-day basis.
  • Got bullied by a class of year 7 students. There were only 12 in the class. Words cannot do them justice.
  • Had the loveliest year 8 class who I taught story writing to. They wrote wonderful stories which I compiled in an anthology I still have tucked away in my memories box
  • Helped a new student settle in during a school merger where the school population increased by a 1/3. He then surprised me with a bee shaped thank you card that said ‘You’re the bees knees’. I cried in front of the aforementioned year 8 class. Not the year 7 class, they would have eaten me alive – even more than they already had done.

During my NQT year, the adventures continued. Ask me some day about the attack of the GIANT bee that sprayed liquid at the class during my first ever lesson as a ‘proper’ teacher. Or the fight that occurred between two year ten girls bigger than me (I’m 6ft – have a think about that) but they both separately snuck out of internal exclusion to apologise and they became my total favourites for the remaining 18 months I taught them. Or the day my year 7 boys spent a week planning and then performing film pitches to their visiting head of key stage who posed as a famous film director.

I’ve got 9 years worth of stories that I wish I had compiled more formally than snatched memories that come in waves. Ask any teacher to tell you a story and they’ll have so many you’ll most likely regret asking. Stories that will make you laugh, stories that will make you wince and stories that will break your heart.

Quinta Brunson, creator and star of Abbott Elementary has managed to capture the bittersweet insanity of schools so wonderfully. In fact, it might, quite possibly, be the most accurate depiction of the bittersweet joys of being a teacher. Which I don’t write, or throw my total seal of approval at, lightly.

When I share some of these anecdotes with loved ones, quite often I get the response ‘I don’t know how you do it!’ Occasionally, ‘Why do you keep doing this?’ Lately I’ve found myself struggling to answer either question. I’ve continued to know it in my bones but had difficulty getting the words to string together and articulate it. Because, when you think about it, it’s pretty mad isn’t it? We work silly hours, for silly money following the mindless dictations of government officials who really have no idea. We’re overworked, overstretched and underfunded. Yes, we might get those long holidays but most of us work those and when we’re not working them we’re desperately trying to refuel our batteries before the next cycle begins. We’re running a marathon at the pace of a sprint. We’re working with young people, the only thing that is predictable about that is how notoriously unpredictable they and it can be. We work a job where the good is fantastic. Phenomenal. Brilliant. Effervescent. Magical. But the bad can be soul-destroying. Heart-wrenching. Devastating. Demoralising. Hopeless.

But we keep on doing it.

Why?

I reckon you need to watch Abbott Elementary, now on Disney+, to get it. Within those 13 x 22 minute episodes, you will see why we keep on doing it – laid on in the most accessible, universal and properly hilarious way possible. We do it for those smiles, the recurring in-jokes, the comradery, the joy of helping young people learn something new and seeing them believe in themselves. We are cheerleaders, coaches, parents, social workers, police officers and allies all wrapped-in-one. We are sages on stages, guides on sides and *ahems* at the fronts…

We do this oft-beautiful, sometimes-awful, job because we are compelled. Something has drawn us to it. That want to help. To make a difference. To encourage, support, nurture and instil in our young people wonder and joy and hope and kindness. To make a building strong you need to make sure it has strong foundations. To ensure ‘good bones’ as that brilliant Maggie Smith (not that one) poem says. That’s where we come in. We do this job as we continue to believe in countless possibilities and want to be that helping hand along the ladder to whatever comes next.

No tv or film deception has ever shown our profession so earnestly, with neither cynicism or cloying melodrama. With an estimated 50% of teachers in the UK saying they plan to leave the profession within the next five years, maybe this extraordinary can serve as a reminder of why we do it but perhaps, most importantly, this can serve as a timely callout of how greatly our educational institutions and practitioners need supporting.

The Northman

‘I will avenge you, Father, I will save you, Mother. I will kill you, Fjölnir.’

Imagine being Robert Eggers right now. Stunning audiences in 2105 with the captivating The Witch (and also introducing them to the incredible Anya Taylor-Joy), following up in 2019 with the near-indescribable The Lighthouse – we’re now here with an epic for the ages. A feast for the senses, Norse mythology has never looked this good on the big screen nor felt as vitally visceral.

A retelling of the story of Amleth, the direct inspiration of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Viking King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke) returns from battle badly injured and determined to commence his son’s training to be a man and future King. But loving son Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak) instead has to witness his father’s murder at the hands of his Uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang), who also enslaves grieving Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) as his new wife. Amleth flees for his life, determined to get vengeance for himself and his family. Years pass, he’s now a strong and fierce warrior (Alexander Skarsgård) when the fates and Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) suggest that it is finally time to wreak his revenge.

What follows is a cinematic marvel. Continuing his partnership with cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, the signature visual style with Eggers is present, correct and as brutally beautiful as we would expect. Each shot is a feast for the eyes – there’s something hauntingly captivating about every single frame. And there’s much to be haunted by here. This is a film that is as vicious and violent as you would hope for from a tale with these origins. It’s to point of near-ecstatic deliciousness that we bare witness to such primal and pulsating savagery.

The reason it is so compelling is the substance that comes with the ascetic. Skarsgård in particular is a tour-de-force, a hulking embodiment of unbridled obsession with fate & destiny. It feels wrong to describe his undeterred quest for retribution as a pleasure to watch yet, thanks to Eggers at the helm it genuinely is. Within the barbarity, there’s wonderful teasing out on the threads than bind and drive us – how humans are dammed to follow a path that is not of their own choosing.

If you’re looking for a bold and nihilistic tale, you’ve come to – quite literally – the perfect place.