Stay-At-Home Seven: November 2 to 8

Films to catch on TV and streaming services this week

by Amber Wilkinson

System Crasher
System Crasher Photo: Kineo Film/Weydemann Bros/Yunus Roy Imer

As lockdown returns in England and restrictions continue elsewhere, we hope you'll find something to take your mind off it in this week's Stay-At-Home Seven. If you want more streaming suggestions, check out our guide to Halloween movies - many of which are still available to stream - and read last week's Stay-At-Home Seven here.

System Crasher, YourScreen, until November 20

There's a new kid on the UK stream-at-home block this month, as virtual cinema YourScreen has launched. Every two months a new programme of films will be available, and the service is also partnering with film societies to give their members access. Films cost £9.99 and among the first "season" of films showing is this German film from Nora Fingscheidt, which saw its young star, Helena Zengel, win a best acting award at Palm Springs Film Festival. She plays Benni, a youngster with behavioural problems, who is pushing social services to breaking point. Our reviewer Jennie Kermode writes: "On the one hand, System Crasher is a fierce critique of a system that routinely fails children with problems of this sort (a critique that can be applied far beyond Germany). On the other, it's a character study, inviting the audience to get inside the head of the sort of troubled kid that they might usually shun." Read her full review here. Details at YourScreen.net.

Make Up, BBC iPlayer for eight months

This excellent debut from Claire Oakley has had swift passage from wide release to television - but it's claustrophobic atmosphere works just as well on the small screen. Ruth (Molly Windsor) has come to join her boyfriend Tom (Joseph Quinn) at the campsite where he works for the first time as the summer declines into autumn and the campers all pack up and go home. Oakley amplifies the sense of transition - of the seasons and of Ruth's emotions, as childhood falls away in the face of encroaching adult feelings. There's plenty here that's unsettling, from the dangerous red of the pair of acrylic nails older campsite worker Jade (Stephanie Martini) gives her, the flap of the plastic they're using to close off the caravans for the winter, but Oakley lets things simmer slowly, as the psychological tensions between Tom and Ruth mount and surprising awakenings wash in on the tide. Read our full review.

Poltergeist, BBCiPlayer, until November 30

The pumpkins might have gone from Jack o'lantern to soup by this point, but if you didn't catch this when it screened at the weekend, then why not treat yourself to some late Halloween tricks? Texas Chain-Saw Massacre director Tobe Hooper may be at the helm but you can feel the spirit of Steven Spielberg, who co-wrote the script, haunting almost every inch of this tale of spooks in suburbia, although Hooper lends Spielberg's softer inclinations plenty of edge. The Freeling family are as All-American as it gets, with their new home on a shiny estate, but trouble lurks beneath the veneer of respectability and soon their daughter Carol-Anne (Heather O'Rourke) is spirited away. Enter Tangina (the wonderful Zelda Rubenstein) as a medium who attempts to cleanse the home and get Carol-Anne back in the process. All the comforts of American life are subverted - from dolls to televisions - and because a lot of the special effects are driven by old school techniques like wind and lighting, they don't look too shabby even now, almost 30 years on. Read our full review.

Our Little Sister, BBC iPlayer, until November 30

If you find all the scary movie scheduling at the a bit much, then take a warm time-out with Hirokazu Kore-eda's consideration of family dynamics as a trio of sisters take in their half-sister. When the father of siblings Sachi (Haruka Ayase), Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa) and Chika Kôda (Kaho) dies, they take their younger half-siter Suzu (Suzu Hirose) under their wing. Like much of Kore-eda's output, there's a gentle sweetness to this film that plays out in the small moments that can mean a lot. Big ideas of grief and loss are tackled but Kore-eda's touch is light, allowing the film's charms to unfold in unsentimental fashion. REad our full review.

Notes On Blindness, BBC4, 11.30pm, Wednesday, November 4

This BAFTA-winning debut from Pete Middleton and James Spinney took the cassettes recorded by Australian theologian and dad-of-five John Hull as he gradually lost his sight over a number of years and turned it into a documentary that tunes into his world, complete with philosophical observations and existential crises. The film uses innovative lip-synch to help us visualise the experience. Things that may have seemed small to the sighted in a pre-Covid mask world, like smiling, are considered, with the camera used to help us understand the loss of connection Hull experienced. Read our full review.

My Pure Land, Channel 4, 2.10am, Wednesday, November 4

A mother and her two daughters fight to protect their home in this western-inflected tale from writer/director Sarmad Masud. Our reviewer Andrew Roberton writes:  "In a film based (astonishingly) on a true story, there are also parables, stories within the story, a dreamlike intersection of a wedding party and bandit gunmen that is a breathtaking moment of cinematic abandon. There are flashes back, forth, and throughout a palpable tension. Never resting, always resisting, this is a tale of stunning defiance, one that showcases filmmaking skill and strength that is a worthy tribute to the actions of its inspiration." Read his full review.

The French Connection, Sony Movies Action, 10.50pm, Wednesday, November 4

There's quite a lot of ho-hum output screened on Sony's action channel, but William Friedkin's gritty 1971 thriller is as good as they get - plus you're likely to find yourself mourning the fact that Gene Hackman retired from acting 16 years ago all over again. He stars as NYPD detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle alongside the equally reliable Roy Scheider as his partner Russo as they take on a narcotics ring while breaking every rule in the book. There's a docu-realism to the camerwork meaning you can almost taste the tang of the New York city streets and the subway train chase scene has also lost little of its impact down the years, even if Doyle's attitude is even more problematic by today's standards than it was back then. Read our full review

Our short pick this week is the original Notes On Blindness short, which was later expanded to feature form but which uses many of the same techniques. You can read more about the project in the New York Times.

Notes on Blindness from The New York Times on Vimeo.

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