Ema Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute
Ema, Film4 on Demand
Chilean director Pablo Larraín takes a step towards the experimental with this visually arresting tale of a dancer who, after an adoption she makes with her choreographer husband goes awry, begins to go to extraordinary lengths to get the boy back. Larraín has long had an interest in the amorality of anti-heroes, explored by the likes of Post Mortem and Tony Manero, and here it is Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo, an up-and-coming name to watch), who seems to be trying on roles for size - both maternal and otherwise - while playing to a set of rules only she is privy to. The intensity of Di Girolamo's performance is matched by the film's colour palette, which features seething suns and flamethrowers that split the sky with sulphurous yellow. Look out for Di Girolamo in upcoming film La Veronica, another anti-hero role which sees her character trying on personas for sport and which just shared the best Feature Debut prize at Tallinn. Read our full review of Ema.
Education, BBC1, 9pm, Sunday, December 13
Anne-Katrin Titze writes: Storytelling and history let us understand who we are and who we can be. Science and legends, outer space and the inner realm of the imagination don’t contradict each other. Deliberate dulling of the spirit of a child is a crime. As Simeon in Alex Wheatle (episode 4 of the Small Axe anthology) points out: “You have to supplement what they teach you, by teaching yourself. You have to unlearn what you have learned.” In Education, the fifth and final 2020 film of the Small Axe anthology, Steve McQueen builds his scathing criticism of the 1970s British school system in layers. “These are the stars of Andromeda!” 12-year-old Kingsley Smith (Kenyah Sandy) visits the planetarium with his class and knows then and there that he wants to become an astronaut. In school, they read John Steinbeck’s Great Depression novella Of Mice and Men. When it is Kingsley’s turn, he remains silent. He is called a “big blockhead” by his teacher (Sam Fourness) and his mainly white classmates laugh. Kingsley’s mother Agnes (Sharlene Whyte) is informed that it would be best to send him to a “special school.” The warning signs mount and the small axes are powerfully set in motion. Help shows up for Kingsley at his “special school” in the form of Hazel Lewis (Naomi Ackie), a spy to check out what is really going on. She is a psychologist and part of a group of West Indian women intent to change the unfair system. Lydia Thomas (Josette Simon) arrives unannounced at the Smith household determined to open their eyes to the peril at play for their son. Education is a film about strong, formidable performances by women whose characters take on the systemic wrongs and grinding injustices imposed upon the children in their community. Read our full review.
Addicted To Sheep, BBC iPlayer until January 5
If you enjoyed our Streaming Spotlight on films set down on the farm last week, then don't miss this immersive documentary about sheep farming family The Hutchinsons - although it's a shame it has been cut down from feature length for its TV slot. Documentarian Magali Pettier follows the family and their beloved Swaledale sheep through the seasons, falling into the rhythms of work and play and finding joy in the children's voices and opinions as well as the experiences of the adults. Read our full review.
Brooklyn, BBC4, 8pm, Thursday, December 8
John Crowley's achingly romantic drama charts the story of small-town Irish lass Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) who heads for a new life in New York and finds herself torn between the old and the new and between American Tony (Emory Cohen) and Irishman Jim (Domnhall Gleeson). With old-school romance pumping through its veins, fans of the genre will find this a pleasing indulgence that builds up a head of emotional steam. The film is also beautifully crafted, particularly in terms of the colour palette used by Odile Dicks-Mireaux in the costuming, which helps to underline the emotional transition of Crowley's heroine. Read our full review.
120BPM, Film4 on Demand
Robin Campillo's film about French activist group ACT UP, which, through direct action in the 1980s, aimed to give voice to those marginalised by AIDS and HIV and fought for better treatments. The director shows the personal meeting the political through a romance between Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) and HIV-negative Nathan (Arnaud Valois). Campillo's film bristles with energy - from the activists meetings where sparks fly to the erotic charge between Sean and Nathan and the sharp sting of grief. The director was a member of ACT UP himself and you can feel the truth of his experience pulsing through the film. Read what Campillo told us about drawing on his own experience, Biscayart's approach to the role and our full review.
It's A Wonderful Life, Film4, 3.25pm, Saturday, December 12
If you're looking to put yourself in a festive mood this week, then you could do a lot worse than pull up a tin of chocolates and park yourself in front of Film4 for a few hours this coming Saturday. Their family-friendly daytime line-up includes animation Kubo And The Two Strings, Local Hero and this Christmas classic from Frank Capra that sees an angel (Henry Travers) help a businessman (James Stewart) at the end of his tether. A story celebrating the little acts of selflessness and kindness that can make a big difference, even if we don't realise it at the time, in 2020 - a year that has itself been filled with these sorts of small gestures to help others - there has perhaps never been a better reason to watch it. Read our full review.
Ghostbusters, Film4, 6.15pm, Saturday, December 12
Once your tear ducts have had a holiday workout, why not stick around with Film4 for laughs and an enormous Marshmallow man? This wasn't Bill Murray's first major film - he'd already been in the likes of Caddyshack and Tootsie - but it is arguably the one that propelled him to household name status as the drily humorous Peter Venkman alongside Dan Akroyd's Ray Stantz and Harold Ramis as Egon Spengler. As this trio of unlikely spook catchers find themselves on an unlikely mission to save New York, the gags just keep coming and director Ivan Reitman never takes his foot off the gas. With a cast that also includes Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis on fine form and big budget special effects, who else are you gonna call for comedy on a wintry weekend? Read our full review.
As Christmas nears, spare a thought for the poor old Christmas trees with our short this week, Treevenge, directed by Jason Eisener who would go on to make Hobo With a Shotgun, and which sees the firs pine for violence.