The Farewell (2019 – 100 mins – Amazon Prime)
To start with, a joyful happy-sad story about Chinese family discovering their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies. The fact it’s based on writer-director Lulu Wang‘s real life experiences only adds the poignancy.
Crazy Stupid Love (2011 – 118 mins – Amazon Prime)
This week’s underrated romcom slot goes to a film I find myself rewatching regularly for two reasons. The first is the cast Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei. The second is just how well the story is told, with every plot point weaved in and playing out so perfectly. A middle-aged husband’s (Carell) life changes dramatically when his wife (Moore) asks him for a divorce. He seeks to rediscover his manhood with the help of a newfound friend, Jacob (Gosling), learning to pick up girls at bars.
Only You (2018 – 119 mins – Netflix)
Elena (Laia Costa) and Jake (Josh O’Connor) meet by chance on New Years Eve, arguing for the same taxi. However, instead of going their separate ways after sharing a taxi ,they start a passionate relationship. The end result is a film that is quietly profound and full of intimacy, just beautiful.
Fish Tank (2009 – 123 mins – Netflix)
This film, by writer-director Andrea Arnold, is one of the finest British movies of the 21st Century. Everything changes for 15-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis) when her mum brings home a new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender). With his breakthrough performance here, there was no doubt that Fassbender was going to be a star. But if you come for his performance, you’ll stay for Jarvis. A nonprofessional actor who got the role after being scouted during an argument with her then-boyfriend, she’s extraordinary as an older-than-her-years teen who has little reason to hope for more than she has.
Game Night (2018 – 100 mins – Netflix)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, comedy is the hardest genre for cinema to get right – a fact that was truly clear when this film came out as it truly stood out and continues to stand out. An action-comedy about a group of friends (Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnussen, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury) who meet regularly for game nights find themselves entangled in a real-life mystery when the shady brother (Kyle Chandler) of one of them is seemingly kidnapped by dangerous gangsters.
20 Feet From Stardom (2013 – 91 mins – Netflix)
The winner of the Oscar for best documentary, this is another total must-watch. Backup singers live in a world that lies just beyond the spotlight. Their voices bring harmony to the biggest bands in popular music, but we’ve had no idea who these singers are or what lives they lead, until now. If you’re a fan of any songs from 1950s onwards, you’re going to want to watch this. (My favourite anecdote is the one about The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter, which is one of my all-time favourite songs.)
Apostasy (2017 – 95 mins – BBC iplayer)
Screening as part of the British Film Premiere season from BBC Film and the BFI, Apostasy follows Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran), a faithful Jehovah’s Witness who lives with her two grown-up daughters Alex (Molly Wright) and Luisa (Sacha Parkinson). A religious transgression means that Luisa is shunned by her community and her family. As the separation draws out, Alex starts to question the meaning of God’s love.