With the world on lockdown, who do we turn to for escapism? Streaming films and shows made by the self-employed who have no financial support for the foreseeable… or at least till June. Hashtag #justsaying. Anyway, here are some films I’m recommending, now streaming on various platforms, to distract yourself from the crazy global situation. Rest assured I’ve steered away from any trending films about pandemics! I mean, just watch the news…
ANNIHILATION [above] – streaming on Netflix
Alex Garland’s intelligent sci-fi, based on Jeff Vandemeer’s novel, slipped under the radar and headed straight to Netflix – but, unlike a lot of original Netflix films, is really rather excellent. Natalie Portman stars alongside Oscar Isaac as a scientist who heads into a mysterious quarantined zone (sorry, broke a pandemic rule already…) – The Shimmer, created by an alien entity, where human DNA is altered, apparently copied and turned into something else. Annihilation is thoughtful, head-trippy and peppered with original scares and twists.
A horror film from Ari Aster, maker of the unsettling Hereditary, this creeps under the skin and lodges there. Florence Pugh is superb as Dani, who travels with boyfriend Jack Reynor and his friends to a remote Swedish retreat where centuries-old rituals are being reenacted with escalating weirdness and slow-burn terror. It’s also a breakup film, taken to a real extreme and with darkly funny flashes, with Will Poulter excellent as Reynor’s sarcastic friend.
Before the Oscar-winning Parasite, writer/director Bong Joon-ho brought us this superb action film with a social conscience. Long delayed by release wrangles and final cut problems, it finally reached us via Netflix in 2019, six years after being made. Recently retired Captain America Chris Evans stars as a leader of a resistance movement on a fast-moving train that holds the remnants of humanity in a rigidly upheld class structure. The wealthy are at the head of the train living in luxury, the poor at its rear living in squalor. Evans and his fellow mutineers decide to even things out with nailbiting, violent results. Worth seeing for Tilda Swinton’s bizarre Northern baddie alone.
Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, two Welsh actors at the top of their game, bounce off each other with sparkling results in this talky but fun examination of Popes Benedict and Francis. Laying out the future of the Catholic Church, when Benedict retires and Francis takes over amidst the backdrop of abuse allegations, their meetings are fabricated, but the chemistry between the two leads is infectiously endearing, funny and moving. Watching them eat pizza and have a fizzy orange Tango is joyous. An acting masterclass.
Adam Driver and Scarlett Johannson are superb as a divorcing couple struggling to come to terms with the end of their relationship and the ramifications it will have for their son and work lives. Driver has never been better – his rendition of the Sondheim song Being Alive is electric and layered with so much meaning. Supporting cast Alan Alda, Ray Liotta and Laura Dern are also superb as dueling divorce lawyers given great lines by writer/director Noah Baumbach. Very funny at times, this is rich and authentic and may require tissues throughout.
OTHER FILMS TO CATCH IF YOU CAN
BIG NIGHT – Netflix
Stanley Tucci’s family comedy drama about chefs will leave you ravenous and entertained.
BOY – Netflix
Taika Waititi’s first film is a charming, offbeat and very funny coming-of-age story as an 11-year-old finds out some home truths about his wayward dad, played by a hilarious Waititi. Do a double bill with Hunt For The Wilderpeople, also on Netflix.
WILD ROSE – Amazon Prime
Jessie Buckley is superb in this rollicking drama about a wayward Glaswegian lassie who wants to sing country and western and travel to Nashville.
BOOKSMART – Amazon Prime
Fantastic comedy with heart, fronted by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein as two young women who discover their academic endeavours may have got in the way of partying and set about making up for it.
THE MARVEL BACK CATALOGUE – Disney+
Every movie from the Marvel stable, from Iron Man to Endgame, this should fulfil any superhero needs.
words KEIRON SELF