Stay-At-Home Seven: January 4 to 10

Start the New Year with some streaming and telly gems

by Amber Wilkinson

Pete's Dragon
Pete's Dragon Photo: Disney

Welcome to our first Stay-at-Home Seven of 2021, thanks to the glut of films on telly over the festive period, there's plenty still to catch on streaming services this week. Here's our pick of the bunch.

Pete's Dragon, iPlayer, until January 10

David Lowery cut his teeth on the US indie circuit with films including St Nick and Sundance breakout hit Ain't Them Bodies Saints before heading to the House of Mouse for this reimagining of the children's story about a boy and a dragon. The result shucks off a lot of the candy coated sentiment of the Seventies original in favour of a more earthy consideration of the friendship that springs up between an orphan and his mythical pal. The writer/director - whose next film is a retelling of Gawain and the Green Knight - draws on the natural world to imbue his film with a sense of adventure and finds interesting things to say about the nature of friendship and loyalty in its quieter moments. Read our full review.

The Motorcycle Diaries, Film 4 on Demand until end of January

Gael Garcia Bernal was fast cementing his name among international audiences when he starred as the young Che Guevara in Walter Salles' coming-of-age film about the young revolutionary, having already grabbed attention with Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Crime Of Padre Amaro and Bad Education, released the same year. The film - based on books by Guevara and his biochemist buddy Alberto Granado (played onscreen by Rodrigo de la Serna) - hits the road with the pair as they head across South America, learning about their continent and themselves as they go. With winning central performances and cinematography from Eric Gautier that captures the magnificence of the landscape in all its diversity, Salles keeps his storytelling simple but effective as Guevera's ethos is shaped by his experience. Read our full review.

Love & Friendship, BBC iPlayer, until the end of January

Whit Stillman brings extra bite to Jane Austen's epistolary novel about a widow (Kate Beckinsale) who is determined to manipulate her daughter (Morfydd Clark) into marriage. Beckinsale's Lady Susan is a triumph of scripting and portrayal as her sharp-witted anti-heroine schemes away, blissfully unaware of her own failings, with Stillman inventing new characters that slot perfectly into Austen's world to help the story flow. Tom Bennett also steals every scene he is in as the bumbling Sir James, whose consideration of peas on a plate is particularly delightful - "How jolly, tiny green balls!" Read our full review.

The Wife, 9pm, BBC2, Friday, January 8

Björn Runge's marital drama has a slow creep that only gradually reveals the secrets that lie within the marriage between the wife of the title (Glenn Close) and her Nobel-winning husband (Jonathan Pryce). On the surface, everything seems glossy and good, but watch their faces for a while - and Runge is very observant - and the hints of selfishness and dissatisfaction start to show. The film has a strong feminist streak that highlights the million tiny ways in which women can be sidelined, while also exploring the complex ways that relationships can operate after so many years, the mechanism so finely tuned that each half of the couple knows how to achieve maximum pain or pleasure with consummate ease. Close and Pryce are old hands at this sort of complex work and fit together like hand in glove. Read our full review.

Inglourious Basterds, Sony Movies (Freeview Channel 33), 9pm, Friday, January 8

Quentin Tarantino leaves his usual American stomping ground behind for this period piece about a group of Jewish-American soldiers on the hunt for Nazis during the Second World War, led by Brad Pitt's Aldo Raine, who find themselves involved in a plot to blow up Hitler. The writer/director's penchant for creative violence and baroque scripting is very much in evidence as the story unfolds in chapters, showcasing a broad cast of characters, including Christoph Waltz in a memorable role as an SS colonel. Although the film's five segments are a little uneven, with Tarantino's love of dialogue inevitably leading the pace to slacken in places, this is nevertheless a polished homage to war films that gathers pace as it goes. Read our full review.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 8.30pm, BBC2, Saturday, January 9

Back on the BBC in the wake of author John Le Carre's death - and preceded by an hour-long interview with him - this is a superior adaptation of his novel about a spy trying to root out a civil service mole. Tomas Alfredson crafts a cooly intellectual and tension-filled tale of ethical cut and thrust as the inscrutable George Smiley (Gary Oldman) goes about his business while betrayal hangs in the air like cigar smoke. If watching this gives you a taste for Le Carre, you can also catch excellent miniseries The Night Manager - starring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie - on iPlayer for the next 10 days. Read our full review of Tinker Tailor.

Saint Frances, Netflix

If you're looking for something to beat the winter blues, this recent addition to Netflix should do the trick. Alex Thompson's debut about a slacker nanny (Kelly O'Sullivan), who forges an unexpected but delightful friendship with her young charge (Ramona Edith Williams), doesn't shy away from subjects other films avoid, including period sex and abortion, handling them with care. The film takes a warm, refreshingly matter-of-fact approach to all of its characters, major and minor, as Bridget finds the gears of her life and what she wants from it begin to subtly shift. Read our full review.

We're returning to themes of unexpected friendship and starting our New Year short selections with a Palm d'Or winning classic, Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon, which charts a young boy's relationship with the balloon of the title. Hopefully it'll help you start 2021 with a warm glow.

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