Want to hunker down in front of a screen but stuck for something to watch?
Here are the films, TV shows and special streaming events on our cultural radar right now, plus some of our favourites from recent weeks that you can catch up on…
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The English-language debut from the Thai artist and filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul is a long-awaited collaboration with Tilda Swinton and it’s exactly as esoteric as that sounds. Beautiful, slow, nearly silent, it’s the story of a woman, visiting her sister in Bogota, trying to identify the origin of a sound only she can hear, and it is genuinely astonishing.
A box of letters, notebooks and audiotapes arrives at the home of three generations of Lebanese ex-pat women in Montreal in Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s film, based loosely on Hadjithomas’s experience.As a curious daughter secretly trawls through them, she begins to unravel painful secrets that lie in the past. A stylishly shot, poignant depiction of how stories can bring us closer.
HBO’s dazzling, daring high school drama is back for round two, once again making Skins look like a polite CBBC series and prompting a spate of outraged headlines. Featuring a talented ensemble (including The White Lotus standout Sydney Sweeney), Zendaya’s moving performance as relapsing drug addict Rue is the glitter glue holding it all together.
Sky Atlantic and NOW, Mondays
Rules of the Game
Maxine Peake is on top form in this clever, considered series, playing the COO of a sports brand that desperately needs to clean up its toxic work culture. When new HR director Maya (Rakhee Thakrar) arrives, she starts digging up secrets about a young female employee who died in mysterious circumstances.
BBC iPlayer and BBC One, Tuesday and Wednesday at 9pm
Munich: Edge of War
This adaptation of Robert Harris’s bestselling novel set in the lead-up to the Second World War stars George MacKay and German heartthrob Jannis Niewohner as former college pals who must try to avert conflict from either side of the growing national divide. Striking (as is the novel) for its revisionist take on one of Britain’s most reviled prime ministers.
In cinemas now and on Netflix from January 21
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain
Benedict Cumberbatch puts in a winning turn as the much-loved but troubled Victorian artist who made it normal to love cats with his extraordinary illustrations of our fluffy chums. Claire Foy as his short-lived but adored wife is a likeable, anchoring presence in a sweet, moving, fever dream of a film.
The latest film from Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) won the Cannes Grand Prix and is now being talked up as a potential Oscar-winner. Quite right. The story of Rahim (Amir Jadidi), who is essentially a bit of a bulls**t artist, and how a small, calculated gesture during two days leave from his debtor’s prison spins off into a web of lies, is a blistering, if gentle, triumph.
This true crime drama, from the makers of The Moorside, tells the story of the deeply flawed investigation into the murders of four young gay men in Barking by ‘Grindr killer’ Stephen Port (played by Stephen Merchant) and of their families’ struggle for justice. A difficult but necessary and sensitively handled watch.
The Hand of God
More Sorrentino, just landed this week on Netflix. The Naples native’s latest isn’t, in fact, about Diego Maradona, though the footballer does appear briefly. Instead we follow the 1980s coming of age of gangly, toothy, film-loving Neapolitan Fabietto, as he gropes his way forward in a selection of terrible shirts to a future which might take him far from his family.
Paolo Sorrentino’s favourite actor Toni Servillo brilliantly plays the three-time prime minister, political survivor and all-round dodgy character Giulio Andreotti in this grimly captivating film about the depth of corruption and twisted logic that power the politics of Italy - “perpetrating evil to guarantee good”. Utterly absorbing and totally terrifying.
Being the Ricardos
Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem take us through a terrible week in the life of comedy genius Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz as she deals with newspaper gossip about his infidelity, more damaging rumblings that she might be a communist, and a pregnancy, which might well be the biggest threat to her hit TV show. Aaron Sorkin’s behind it, so it’s packed with zingers.
Amazon Prime Video
This absorbing documentary, in cinemas, focuses on Arthur Ashe, the only black man to have won Wimbledon and, despite his famous reserve, a quiet radical in his way. His relationship with his swaggering rival Jimmy Connors alone would make for a great film, but this is a more thoughtful, respectful look at a man who made huge strides for equality with stoicism and dignity.
Starring Olivia Colman and written by her husband Ed Sinclair, Landscapers is rooted in the real-life case of Susan and Christopher Edwards, an apparently unassuming couple found guilty of murdering her parents - yet it couldn’t be further from the average true-crime procedural. It’s unsettling, relentlessly original viewing.
Sky Atlantic and Now
You Don’t Know Me
This four-part drama opens in court as a young man accused of murder (Samuel Adewunmi) decides to take matters into his own hands, directly addressing the jury in a last-ditch bid to share his story authentically and convince them of his innocence. It’s an absorbing watch with a great lead performance from Adewunmi.
Aml Ameen’s writing/directing debut, about a British writer who brings his American fiancée home to meet the fam over Christmas, is a solid festive rom-com which, if a touch overloaded, is made hugely enjoyable by its rich and affectionate depiction of Black British and Caribbean culture. Leigh-Anne Pinnock, of Little Mix, puts in a nice turn as the inevitable ex-girlfriend.
Perfect for Christmas, this gorgeous and charming new Disney animation follows the only non-gifted girl in a magical Columbian family as she tries to find out what’s threatening their (also magical) home. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s songs are slightly L-MM by-numbers but the animation is lush, the story layered and complex and the performances a delight.
Adam Driver makes another appearance this week in this absolutely barking musical laced liberally with sardonic humour, available on Mubi from Friday. As toxic comedian Henry he shines alongside Marion Cotillard in what resembles A Star Is Born, as re-jigged by Charlie Kaufman after watching The Shining and La boheme on loop.
LA’s most glamorous estate agents are back for the fourth series of Netflix’s addictive reality series, available to stream now. Since the Oppenheim Group last graced our screens, Chrishell and boss Jason have struck up a shock romance, so expect that particular twist to occupy plenty of screen time, interspersed with more jaw-dropping vistas of multi-million dollar residences and more bonkers outfits from scene stealer Christine.
This enjoyable sports biopic focusing not on the players (Venus and Serena Williams, perhaps they’ll get their own at some point? Seems reasonable?) but on their hard-pushing, determined father Richard Williams is elevated by a barnstorming central performance by Will Smith, who knows a thing or two (according to his recent autobiography) about domineering dads.
In cinemas now
Portrait of a Lady on Fire director Céline Sciamma’s latest is a gem of a film centring around a lonely young girl and a strange new friend she makes in the woods near her recently bereaved mother’s childhood home. The conversation between the children flows through past and future with a breathtaking fluidity, capturing the sheer weirdness of the idea that your parents were once young too, feeling what you feel.
In cinemas now
Marvel’s recent spin-off series - this one begins on Disney+ on November 24 - may deviate from the usual superhero formula (see WandaVision and its sitcom parodies for a case in point) but few could have predicted that Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)’s standalone drama would be so festive in theme. The bow and arrow-bearing Avenger teams up with protégée Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) to defeat some baddies and get home to his family in time for Christmas.
Actress Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut is an adaptation of a novel by the American author Nella Larsen, first published in 1929. It starts with a chance meeting of two black former-schoolfriends, Clare (Ruth Negga) who passes as white, and Irene (Tessa Thompson, marvellous) who could, if she wanted to. The fallout from their reconnection makes for an understatedly headlong ride.
The Colour Room
Phoebe Dynevor’s first film role couldn’t be further from her breakout turn as aristocratic debutante Daphne in Netflix’s all-conquering period drama Bridgerton. In this winning, warm-hearted biopic, she plays Clarice Cliff, the pioneering ceramicist whose Bizarre pottery line was all the rage in the 20s and 30s (and can now command huge prices at auction). She’s joined by Matthew Goode as Colley Shorter, the factory owner who she fell in love with.
Sky Cinema and Now
This ambitious and rightfully angry drama attempts to grapple with America’s opioid epidemic, broaching this subject through multiple storylines across several timelines. It gets a little confusing in places, but it’s anchored by strong performances from Michael Keaton (as a Rust Belt doctor), Kaitlyn Dever (as a miner who is prescribed with OxyContin) and Will Poulter (as a sales executive for Purdue Pharma, the makers of Oxy).
There’s more than a little WALL-E about this post-apocalyptic AppleTV+ film which features Tom Hanks as a scientist, teaching a robot, Jeff (played winningly like a young teenager by Caleb Landry Jones), how to be human in order that someone might be left behind to look after his dog, Goodyear. Hanks is, as always, eminently watchable.
The Harder They Fall
Stylish, riotous and righteous, this debut feature by Londoner Jeymes Samuel (produced by one Shawn Carter, AKA Jay-Z) finally hits Netflix after a triumph at the London Film Festival. Jonathan Majors leads a nearly all-black cast that includes Idris Elba, Regina King and LaKeith Stanfield in a rollicking Western that rewrites the rules while paying loving homage to the genre.
If you’re not already watching this ingenious, hard-hitting Netflix drama about a young mother struggling to rebuild her life after escaping an emotionally abusive relationship, you should be. Margaret Qualley is excellent in the leading role and the unconventional structure paints an evocative portrait of what it’s like to be in the middle of a legal system that you don’t understand.
Game of Thrones alum Gemma Whelan leads the cast of this new three-part thriller from Homeland writer Patrick Harbinson, playing a police officer tasked with hunting down a fellow cop who has gone missing after witnessing two people falling to their deaths from a London tower block. It kicks off on ITV on Monday evening at 9pm.