‘Might Have Missed’ – a collection of the best films on streaming platforms that might have slipped under the radar. Let’s tackle UK’s Netflix…
An odd film to be on this list considering it won the Grand Prix at Cannes, but it seems to be buried very deep in the Netflix catalogue. It’s a romantic ghost story that challenges class disparity and systemic inequality in Senegal through the eyes of a seventeen year old. Ada is in love with Soulemaine yet she is being forced to marry another. After Soulemaine and his construction crew are lost at sea, they come back to haunt their old neighbourhood.
Director, Eliza Hittman, goes in search of masculine vulnerability by exploring classic machismo and insensitivity. In the midst of an existential crisis, Frankie tries escaping the doldrums by engaging in anti social behaviour with his friends and flirting with men over the internet. This escalates to him cruising gay beaches for men whilst trying to maintain a relationship with his girlfriend.
Birds Of Passage
Another outing for the Colombian director/producer duo, Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego. After the phenomenal Embrace of the Serpent, they swap an adventure into the heart of the Amazon for a journey into the Colombian desert where the indigenous Wayuu family struggle to adapt to the emerging drug trade of the 70s. Told through five ‘songs’ it’s a film that nicely waves realistic brutality with imaginative poeticism.
Two childhood sweethearts randomly bump into each other in their hometown twenty years after breaking up. What starts as a quick coffee quickly turns into them reminiscing about the past, and each other. The Duplass brothers have been stoking the fire of indie American cinema for the best part of a decade now and BlueJay fits snugly into their canon. What sets it apart from the rest is Sarah Paulson, who’s natural charm adds a genuine warmth to the film.
A documentary exploring the drug problem and tensions fizzing along the U.S – Mexico border. By getting up close and personal with the subjects, the scope of the film narrows from geopolitical to become extremely humanistic. Speaking to people from every side of the issue (including Cartel members) conveys the real scale of the problem and by spending a lot of time with militia leader, Dr. Mireles, it poses some interesting questions about morality.
The Death Of Mr Lazarescu
I use comedy in the loosest sense because it’s deadder than pan. Yet the black humour in The Death of Mr Lazarescu does prevent the film from spiralling into an endless depression. Set in Bucharest, old drunk, Mr Lazarescu, is slung from hospital to hospital as medical staff endeavour to diagnose the problem. The incessant complaining and slow descent into death of Mr Lazarescu is broken up by the inconsequential bickering and timid conversation of side characters from which the film derives its humour.
This claustrophobic Danish thriller unravels over 90 minutes and numerous phone calls. It’s set in a police dispatch office, or two rooms to be more precise. Officer Holm picks up a call from a woman in distress explaining she’s been kidnapped. After the call is disconnected Holm sets to finding the woman and her kidnapper. Much like similar films before it (Phone Booth, Locke to name a couple) it relies heavily on audience investment but it’s not asking too much considering how well the film and the central performance draw you in.
The Interview (1998)
I hate using the word ‘cerebral’ these days, but it is a perfect example of a cerebral thriller that explores the fragility of truth and culpability. Hugo Weaving, pre Matrix fame, gives a game winning performance as unemployed Eddie Fleming. He’s dragged downtown to answer questions about crimes that nobody is sure he committed. What begins as a cat-and-mouse game quickly turns into something more psychologically intricate as Fleming engages in some mental fencing with the police.
It’s not a groundbreaking piece of cinema but it’s definitely a refreshing change for the genre. Too many modern horror films are heavily reliant on jump scares to illicit their shocks whereas Karyn Kusama lets the film slowly build up to create a naturally weird, tense atmosphere that plays more with what is thought than what is seen. A stirring, yet authentic, final third makes The Invitation a nice palate cleanser.
Let There Be Light
Not to be confused with the faith based film of the same name, this one actually does more to encourage self discovery and the nurturing of relationships than its Christian predecessor. Milan spends most of his time in Germany where he can earn a higher wage in order to provide for his family in Slovakia. On his return home he finds his son has become involved with a facist group and we follow the process of dealing with this less than favourable situation. It’s a well layered film that packs a lot more poignancy given the currency of the subject matter.
Jonah Hill’s first foray into directing lands with a very pleasant, if a bit average, coming of age tale. Set in 90s LA, Stevie is a teenager bouncing between his friends and a problematic life at home. There’s a few enjoyable observations and it never feels sluggish but some of it does feel a bit unsubstantial. Still, I think it’s worth a look and definitely shows promise for upcoming features.o
Listen to the podcast episode to get the story behind the flavour.
500ml heavy cream
250ml milk (full fat)
2 red chillis (not dried)
200g brown sugar
5 tbsp cocoa powder
200g dark chocolate (I used 90%)
5 egg yolks
½ vanilla bean
Juice of 2 limes
Pinch of salt
Quantity: 12 scoops
Cook Time: 30 mins
Chill Time: 5 hours minimum
Churn Time: 50 mins (machine dependent)
Mix the cocoa powder and half of the cream in a saucepan over a low heat.
Break up the chocolate and melt it into the cream.
Once the chocolate has melted add the rest of the cream.
Bring it to a slow boil and remove it from the heat just as it’s about to boil.
De-seed and cut up the chillis into really fine pieces. Juice the limes. Slice open the vanilla bean.
Stir the milk, sugar, salt, chillis, vanilla and lime juice together in a cooking pot and put on a very low simmer.
Meanwhile put the egg yolks in a bowl and beat them until smooth.
When the milk mixture is fairly warm, gradually add half of it to the yolks to slow heat them, stirring constantly.
Once half the milk mixture has been added and the yolks are well combined, put it back in the pan with the remaining milk mixture and put on a medium heat.
Ensure that it doesn’t boil and that the eggs don’t start to cook. A good way to test if it’s ready is to use a wooden spoon. If the mix coats the back of the spoon without running then it’s good to go. Think of the consistency of custard.
Strain the custard over the chocolate mixture and stir together.
Bang it in the fridge for 5 hours minimum (ideally overnight) and when it’s chilled churn it in the ice cream machine.
Have a look at the full recipe video to get an idea of how I made it.
Listen to the podcast episode to get the story behind the flavour.
1/2 vanilla pod
500ml milk (full fat)
500ml heavy cream
100g brown sugar
5 egg yolks
6 tea bags (It’s Yorkshire Tea. Everything else is piss)
1 pinch salt
Quantity: 10 scoops
Cook Time: 20 mins
Chill Time: 2 hours minimum
Churn Time: 45 mins (machine dependent)
Add the milk, vanilla, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over a med/hi heat and continually whisk.
Still whisking and, once the sugar has dissolved, cook until the milk is about to boil but DO NOT let it boil.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the tea bags. I like to leave them in for a tad longer than recommended because the longer you stew it, the more tannin the tea excretes (which gives a bitter taste to balance out the sugar and vanilla). So steep the tea bags in the mixture for 10 mins.
Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk together.
Remove the tea bags from the milk mixture and gradually pour it over the egg yolks to slow cook them. Whisk continuously.
Put the mixture back in the saucepan and return to a medium heat. Ensure that it doesn’t boil and that the eggs don’t start to cook. A good way to test if it’s ready is to use a wooden spoon. If the mix coats the back of the spoon without running then it’s good to go. Think of the consistency of custard.
Once cooked, remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Meanwhile combine the cream and whiskey together in a bowl.
Stir in the stove mixture to the cream and whiskey. Once it’s well blended, chuck it in the fridge and leave it to chill for 2 hours minimum (ideally overnight). Check on it after an hour or so to make sure the whiskey hasn’t separated.
Once chilled, put it in the ice cream machine to churn.
N.B. in the batch I made for the podcast I also added honey but I’ve since decided it’s too much. If you wanted to use honey I’d recommend about 20g being added at the cream and whiskey mix point.
Have a look at the full recipe video to get an idea of how I made it.
I’ve curated this list from the main VOD platforms in the UK. At the time of writing Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have 30 day free trials, BFI Player is offering a 14 day free trial and NOW TV is free for 7 days. Honourable mention to Mubi (7 day free trial) which has a great selection but they change their films daily so it would’ve been a nightmare trying to keep on top of it.
Load up on your favourite ice cream and strap yourself to the sofa.
2001: A Space Odyssey(now tv)
Objectively the best film ever made. In true Kubrick fashion it charts human history from the dawn of man to the unknown future. Precisely how long it feels to be in quarantine.
8½ (bfi player)
Dip into the dream world of a director struggling to find inspiration to make his latest film. A beautiful balancing act of fantasy vs. reality.
A Hard Day’s Night (bfi player)
Spend a couple of wacky days with the Fab Four for some much needed escapism and well known musical interludes.
Airplane! (now tv)
A comedic stalwart. Watching a goof on airport disaster movies with outstandingly silly humour is a very fitting way of spinning the current situation.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (prime video)
The well known and much loved creation of Coogan is forced to turn his hand at hostage negotiation when a fellow DJ facing the sack goes on a mad one at local station North Norfolk Digital.
DOUBLE BILL – Alien // Aliens (now tv)
The original warning of what happens when correct quarantine procedure isn’t followed… followed by the action packed follow up.
American Psycho (netflix)
Dedicated to everyone hustling in their downtime. The struggles of New York yuppie, Patrick Bateman, as he tries to subdue his psychopathic tendencies.
Anchorman (now tv)
Sixty percent of the time, it’s funny every time.
Apocalypto (prime video)
At its heart it’s an adrenaline fuelled chase film as a Mayan hunter escapes capture to return home. Don’t let the violence (or Mel Gibson’s nutty outbursts) put you off from this brilliantly pulsatile piece of work.
Arcadia (bfi player)
A strangely mesmerising ‘documentary’ that explores the history of rural Britain. Presented through a curious mix of music and film , Arcadia is a real treat for the psyche.
Bait (bfi player)
An incredible mix of style and substance in Mark Jenkin’s debut feature. An examination of gentrification takes place in a small Cornish fishing village. Shot silently on 16mm with all the sound added in post production adds to the films intrigue.
The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs (netflix)
The Coen brothers go West in a series of vignettes set in the post-Civil War era.
Bande à part (bfi player)
A group of friends attempt to emulate their cinematic antiheroes in a bid to rob a bank in Godard’s darling of French new wave cinema.
The Big Lebowski (now tv)
LA noir with a big ol’ lug of smoke as The Dude falls into the city’s underbelly trying to gain reimbursement for his desecrated rug. Peak Coen.
Michael Keaton plays a fading movie star attempting to revive his career by acting in a Broadway show in this triumphantly creative satire.
Black Swan (now tv)
True to form, Darren Aronofsky deals with a slide into madness as Portman’s ballerina, Nina, fights to embody the role of the Black Swan in the popular ballet.
Blue Velvet (netflix)
No quarantine would be complete without a Lynchian fever dream. Kicking off with the discovery of a severed human ear the film just descends into a mysterious world of Americana.
A fresh, unpretentious, coming of age film as two overachievers realise they may have missed out on having fun in their formative years so agree to make amends.
Don’t be blinded by the twelve year scope of the filming, that merely adds to the whole experience. It’s a sentimental look at a boy and his family spanning his childhood and teenage years.
Buena Vista Social Club (bfi player)
Take a tuneful respite with this documentary about greatly adored musical ensemble ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ playing the music of a pre-revolutionary Cuba.
Burning (now tv)
An impressive psychological drama that skillfully delivers a feeling of unease throughout. Jong-soo bumps into an old friend, Hae-mi, and agrees to watch her cat whilst she’s out of town. She returns from her holiday with new friend, Ben, and the mystery of desire ensues.
Cast Away (now tv)
Tom Hanks is marooned on a deserted island with only himself and a ball for company. Can also be used as an isolation survival guide.
Film maker provocateur Gaspar Noé plunges you into the nightmarish scenario faced by a dance troupe when their party punch gets spiked. Noé’s reliance on dreamlike camera work pays off big time and the film exceeds most modern horrors in creating an throbbing sense of dread.
Coco (now tv)
Pixar of late have been really adept at addressing existential angst and Coco is no exception. Dia de Muertos provides the backdrop this time as young Miguel accidentally ends up in the Land of the Dead and must locate his great-great-grandfather who can help him return home.
Coffee and Cigarettes (prime video)
Told through a series of funny little sketches, the film studies different exchanges over cups of coffee and cigarettes.
Control (prime video)
A slow, but never boring, biographical drama about Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division.
The Death Of Stalin (netflix)
Some of the favourite writers in British comedy satirise the lunacy that swept the Soviet party after the death of their leader, Joseph Stalin.
Die Hard (now tv)
Just to clarify, this IS a Christmas film. Nevertheless, John McClane’s antics as he challenges terrorists who have taken over the building he’s in are good enough to be watched year round.
Dogtooth (bfi player)
Wonderfully weird Greek entry focusing on a family in an enforced lockdown by their overbearing father. Dealing with human connection/disconnection it’s a great companion piece for quarantine.
Donnie Darko (bfi player)
This cult favourite features a superb supporting cast and Jake Gyllenhaal in his breakout role as Donnie the titular character. Donnie befriends Frank, who only he can see, and Frank warns him that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds.
A WWII film that plays with the notion of time as soldiers from Britain, France and Belgium try to escape the town of Dunkirk having been pushed back by German forces.
Ex Machina (netflix)
Really accomplished debut from the writer of The Beach. The film expertly tackles AI and what it means to be human. A programmer wins the chance to take part in a scientific experiment with one of the world’s leading tech designers.
Faces Places (netflix)
Charming little Sunday-afternooner. A pioneer of French cinema, Agnes Varda, is duped into travelling the country with an insufferable bellend. As they make their way through rural France they make portraits and murals of the people they encounter.
First Man (now tv)
A much overlooked biographical about astronaut Neil Armstrong and the moon landing. The visual crafting by Damien Chazelle is mixed with Justin Hurwitz’s sublime score is a delight for the eyes and ears.
Fitzcarraldo (bfi player)
A story fixated on the obsession of man. An opera loving rubber baron endeavours to build an opera house in the middle of the Peruvian jungle despite the impossibilities.
Four Lions (prime video)
Pitch black comedy from some of the best comedic minds in Britain. Using a group of wannabe terrorists as the vehicle, it showcases the absurdity of people and life in a post 9/11 world.
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (netflix)
A history of the doomed Fyre festival. If it weren’t for the countless locals they harmed in the making, there’d be nothing better than watching jumped up rich kids get dicked on.
A touching, emotional drama about a teenage girl, born into the body of a boy, trying to make it as a ballerina. It portrays transgender struggles with some real depth.
DOUBLE BILL – The Godfather & The Godfather Part II (now tv)
Another masterpiece you’ve never managed to see because “waahhh, it’s too long”. Back-to-back ’em and watch Al Pacino as Michael Corleone rising through the ranks of the mafia. Just don’t watch part III, it’s crap.
Gomorrah (bfi player)
A rough around the edges, neorealist crime film which fictionalises the life of organised crime in the outskirts of Napoli.
DOUBLE BILL – Good Time // Uncut Gems (netflix)
A really unique style of film making by the Safdie brothers whips you around at a neck breaking speed. Good Time sees Robert Pattinson as a bank robber attempting to save his brother from prison. Accompanied by Uncut Gems, where a dazzling turn from Adam Sandler drags you into the pumping heart of a dodgy jewellery shop.
Scorcese’s vivid depiction of mob life is gripping from start to finish.
Groundhog Day (now tv + netflix)
Bill Murray plays a self-centred weather reporter who’s forced to relive the same day over and over. Relatable.
One of the main players in the state wide Russian doping program risks his career, and his life, explaining the depths of the scandal.
Inside Out (now tv)
Again, Pixar, with the philosophy of self. Riley has to move to San Francisco with her family and she, along with her five emotions, struggle to cope with their new life.
Into The Wild (now tv)
A biographical about Christopher McCandless who decided to renounce all his possessions and hitchhike his way across America. It does a really good job of imbuing the spirit of travel.
La Dolce Vita (bfi player)
A real treasure of Italian cinema. It’s an absorbing character study of a troubled reporter tackling the excesses of hedonism told through scenes of dreamlike surrealism.
La La Land (netflix)
A hark back to the golden age of Hollywood musical in a sharp, snazzy, modern number.
An honest, down to earth depiction of high school life aptly handled by Greta Gerwig through her refreshing script and nice direction.
Lek & The Dogs (bfi player)
A more experimental offering loosely based on the true story of a kid in poverty stricken Moscow being raised and living with dogs for two years. It’s an enthusiastically odd film which almost ditches narrative altogether to create a fascinating piece of arthouse cinema.
An interesting sci-fi concerning time travel as the mob send their victims back in time to be taken out by hitmen known as loopers. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one such looper who comes face to face with his own mortality when his future self is sent for execution.
Lost In Translation(netflix)
A tender exploration of existentialism, love and loneliness when an ageing actor and the young wife of a photographer form an unlikely friendship.
The Machinist (netflix + now tv)
Christian Bale plays a factory worker suffering from insomnia. When he begins noticing strange occurrences at work and an even stranger man following him around, things take a dark turn in this gnarly psychological thriller.
Man On Wire (bfi player)
You kind of have to see it to believe it but this French guy broke into the twin towers when they were being built and tightrope walked between them. Cool documentary made even better by the charm and charisma of the central character.
Marriage Story (netflix)
A truly authentic, affecting portrayal of a couple struggling through a divorce with a fantastic supporting cast.
Midsommar (prime video)
A completely mental take on the breakdown of a relationship and dealing with grief. From one of the most promising names to tackle horror in recent years, Ari Aster, you’re dragged feet first through a summer festival in Sweden which starts out as a picturesque retreat but quickly devolves into anything but.
Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life (now tv)
The different stages of life explained through sketches by the screwball troupe of comedians.
Munich (now tv)
An almost forgotten film by Spielberg about the ’72 Munich Olympic disaster. It’s one of his grittiest, yet slick, offerings.
Oasis: Supersonic (netflix)
Alright our kid, it’s a fucking film about Oasis. You know what I mean?
Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (bfi player)
This intricate Turkish thriller concentrates on the hunt for the remains of a murder victim that the killer claims to have forgotten where he buried the body.
Paris Is Burning (netflix)
A vibrant, intimate look at the New York ball scene of the 80s which offered a home to many outcast LGBTQs.
Paris, Texas (bfi player)
It’s a deeply moving account of a lost drifter wandering the desert before trying to reconnect with his family, himself, and society.
The Phantom Thread (netflix)
PTA presents the PThreAd. Behold cinema in all its glory. The lauded fashion designer, Woodcock, becomes entranced by waitress, Alma, and the pair soon develop a codependent relationship.
Pi (prime video)
A tortured mathematician is the object of unwanted attention from Wall Street execs when he discovers a mystical number in this fraught psychological thriller.
Possum (now tv)
What may seem like a surprising departure for the guy behind Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace shows itself to be a deeply rooted contemporary horror. A puppeteer returns home faces confrontation his vicious stepfather.
The Proposition (bfi player)
With a script penned by Nick Cave you know it’s gonna be bleak. An outlaw is given nine days to capture his older brother otherwise his younger brother will cop for it. A film as brutal as it is elegant.
Rear Window (now tv)
A Hitchcock fitting of the current climate. A professional photographer is housebound with a broken leg and spies on his neighbours in the backyard until things turn sour when he believes he witnesses a murder.
Reservoir Dogs (netflix)
It wouldn’t be a list of films without a Tentin Quarantino. A heist film in which you never actually see the heist. Nice.
The Revenant (netflix)
The specialist direction of Iñárritu coupled with the insane camera work of Lubezki makes for an enthralling tale of a frontiersman who, after being attacked by a bear, is left for dead by his companions. He nurses himself back to health and sets out for revenge.
An absolutely stunning, heartfelt drama in which the focal character is a live-in housemaid working for an upperclass family in Mexico City during the 70s. It’s brimming with compassion and looks so beautiful you could eat it.
Room 237 (bfi player)
A study of some of the biggest conspiracy theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ including behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew.
The Royal Tenenbaums (now tv)
Quirky stuff from Captain Quirk, Wes Anderson. An estranged family reunite when they learn their father is dying.
Scarface (now tv)
The overindulgent style of De Palma complements the exorbitance of Tony Montana, working his way up from hustling on the streets being to the cocaine kingpin of Miami.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (now tv)
Comic book shenanigans from Edgar Wright, made with the same love and gusto that he attacks every project with. Scott Pilgrim must battle seven ex boyfriends of Ramona in order to date her.
Seven Samurai (bfi player)
Now you can finally get around to seeing the famous Kurosawa film that paved the way for Western remakes. One samurai gathers a band of six additional samurais to help him defend a village under attack by bandits.
The Seventh Seal (bfi player)
Bergman’s classic. A knight returns from an arduous crusade to find his home plagued by the Black Death. He challenges Death himself to a game of chess for his life.
Shoah Parts I + II (bfi player)
If you watch anything from this list, let it be Shoah. When Claude Lanzmann began filming Shoah he insisted that it was to be made from nothing but interviews with bystanders, perpetrators, and survivors of the holocaust. It’s one of the most emotionally draining, yet awe inspiring films I’ve ever seen. It has a total run time of about seven hours so set aside a weekend. It’s breathtaking.
Shoplifters (now tv)
Profundity in spades with this stirring Japanese piece about a family of petty thieves living in poverty on the outskirts of Tokyo.
Snatch (now tv + netflix)
Back when Guy Ritchie made halfway decent films he released Snatch, which manages to nicely straddle the line between puffed up wide boy gangster film and irreverent comedy.
Snow Piercer (prime video)
Hot off the heels of his Oscar sweep for Parasite, streaming platforms have seen a boom in the viewing figures for Bong Joon-ho’s films. Snowpiercer is a train that houses the survivors of Earth’s second ice age, the poorer of whom become dissatisfied with the inequality aboard.
The Social Network (netflix)
I’m guessing you’re spending more time on Facebook than ever so you may as well watch a film about it. It features a blinding score and smart, quick fire dialogue, wound together with precision.
Sunset Boulevard (now tv)
Fading film star, Norma Desmond, is given a second shot at success when an upcoming screenwriter agrees to write a picture for her. It’s part noir, part scathing caricature of the end of the silent era of film.
DOUBLE BILL – Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance // Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (bfi player)
The first and third part of Park Chan-wook’s vengeance trilogy (Oldboy is the middle one and not included in any of the platform subscriptions). Luckily the films are only linked thematically so it doesn’t matter which order you watch them in. All three are astonishingly smart thrillers handling the notion of vengeance.
Taxi Driver (now tv)
Taxi Driver is a monument of outsider cinema. There’s too much to unpack in a short blurb but De Niro plays a Vietnam vet turned taxi driver, suffering from insomnia and endlessly driving the squalor filled streets of New York. Streets he feels need cleansing.
Taxi Tehran (bfi player)
The Iranian government banned Jafar Panahi from creating films because he was found to be “making propaganda against the system”. So instead, he poses as a taxi driver, bangs a camera on the dashboard and makes a film about the social difficulties in Iran.
Team America (now tv)
There’s got to be some silly daftness during quarantine and this string heavy comedy fits the bill perfectly.
The Truman Show (now tv)
A film which seems ever more relevant in today’s society of social media and constant surveillance. Jim Carrey plays an insurance salesman who’s entire life is a TV show. When he discovers the truth he initiates his escape.
They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (netflix)
It’s difficult not to have a good docco when the subject is one of the greatest minds of cinema. It exhibits the sheer madness, and brilliance, of the production of what was to be Orson Welles’ final film.
The Thing (netflix)
A research team in remote Antarctica are faced with the danger of an unknown virus. As suspicion and distrust reign supreme, the scientists fight for survival.
Under The Shadow (netflix)
It went, seemingly, under the radar. But this well executed ghost story set during the chaos of the Iran-Iraq war demands your attention.
Under The Skin (prime video)
As a premise it sounds pretty naff. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien driving around Scotland tracking down men to consume. But a completely hypnotic performance from Johansson coupled with deft film making (BIG shout out for the sound design) it’s totally beguiling.
Vertigo (now tv)
Hitchcock’s cerebral masterpiece follows Detective “Scottie” as he investigates the wife of an old friend whilst simultaneously battling personal obsessions.
Wedding Crashers (netflix)
Honestly, it’s a weak offering from that era of American comedy (Anchorman, Dodgeball, Old School et. al) but it’s worth watching just for Christopher Walken’s “We’ll sail without ‘im!” line. Then you can turn it off.
What We Do In The Shadows (bfi player)
Dry comedy from currently en vogue director, Taika Waititi, centred around a group of vampires sharing the same house as they try to cope with the fast paced change of the modern world.
You Were Never Really Here (netflix)
You can read my full review here, but in short “bloody brilliant”.
Zama (now tv)
An alluringly surreal film about a Spanish officer awaiting his transfer from a dreary South American town.
Lynne Ramsay drives us through an internal horror show set in the gloomy, sordid backstreets of New York. It features Joaquin Phoenix giving one of the performances of his life, some slick editing, and utterly absorbing audio/visual pleasures. We’re only a couple of months into 2018, but already this is one of the highlights.
Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) lives in the suburbs where he cares for his is infirm mother. He’s an old school hired hand dealing only in cash monies, payment of which is granted upon completion of undesirable jobs that either involve killing people or severely hurting them. Joe is tasked by politician Votto (Alex Manette – who also starred in Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin) to retrieve his teenage daughter, Nina, from a high-end brothel where she is forced to work after being kidnapped. Joe accepts the job and we’re dragged along through the nightmarish hellscape that’s never quite clear whether it’s realism or Joe’s psyche.
Early on we learn that children and childhood seem to be somewhat of a trigger for Joe’s hallucinations and flashbacks. Images of kids playing on a war ravaged Afghan plain, violent recollections of Joe himself being abused as a child. The symbolic cinematography is suitably ambiguous for both the subconscious and reality. Not too vague to not know what’s going on, but not explicit enough to be a giveaway, it presents enough of a glimpse of Joe’s twisted thoughts to feel empathetic yet not be entirely sure if he’s kosher.
This affinity for youngsters means that he shares a particular bond with Nina, and Ekaterina Samsonov (I’d not seen her in anything until this) gives an astute performance in her role. It’s a fairly silent depiction but the two play off of each other wonderfully. Almost mirroring Joe’s outsider angst, she acts as a calming influence on our anti-hero. As the pair becomes further embroiled in a conspiracy that ramps up the frenetic edits and hallucinations, there are real moments of tenderness between the two in an otherwise irregular friendship, bookended by extreme bloodshed.
Despite some really gruesome moments most of the unease comes from the suggestion of violence, almost tricking the mind into picturing the brutality to induce a feeling of dread. Soundtracked by captivating sound design and Jonny Greenwood’s macabre score, the evocative visuals imply the horror. Whilst this doesn’t detract from the barbarity of the act, it does keep the film from descending into a gore fest. That, and a trim 90-minute run time, ensures that although everything is derailing around Joe the film stays very much on track.
You Were Never Really Here manages to keep equilibrium between a thriller and an explorative psychological drama. Ramsay is able to safeguard the engaging, gripping story as well as the integrity of the artistry. I left the cinema in no doubt that the film was most definitely there.
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