Ray And Liz Photo: Courtesy of New York Film Festival
Richard Billingham draws on his own upbringing and his photographic studies of his parents to realise this gritty slice-of-life drama about a dysfunctional family. Presented as a triptych, we see his alcoholic father Ray (Patrick Romer), in a framing device, elderly and alone after Liz (Deidre Kelly) has left him. The film then flashes back to two more periods in the family's life with the focus falling on Richard's little brother Jason - first seen as a toddler and then as an older child, mostly living on pickled beetroot and trying to avoid his parents as much as possible. The strong production design - right down to buzzing flies - captures its points in time perfectly, and if there is a bleakness here, not to mention a heart gut punch to Thatcher's Britain, there is also dark humour and a surprising amount of hope to be found in the unexpected kindness of others. Read our full review.
Local Hero, 1.30pm, Film4, Saturday, May1
Ask anyone to name their five favourite Scottish films and, chances are, you'll end up with at least one Bill Forsyth film in this mix and it could well be this one. Three years after his success with Gregory's Girl, he returned with a bigger budget to tell the tale of an oil executive (Peter Reigert) who finds himself stuck in Scotland attempting to buy up a beach for a refinery. Needless to say, he gets more than he bargained for, finding himself won over by the charms of the place, while the locals prove savvy in terms of what they want in return for their land. Beyond the gentle comedy, which hits all the right notes, there's a wistfulness and lyricism here that elevates the film's emotions without bogging them down or succumbing to tartan and shortbread tweeneess. Read our full review.
Westworld, BBC iPlayer, until May 17
With Artificial Intelligence increasingly sparking moral arguments as technology marches on, this cult film about an amusement park where the robots go rogue retains a chilling undertone to this day, with its ideas about computer viruses well ahead of their time. It's also a gripping thriller as wealthy holidaymakers John (James Brolin) and Peter (Richard Benjamin) find their gunslinging fun in the Wild West is about to turn genuinely bloody, thanks to malfunctioning robots, including the unstoppable gunslinger (Yul Brynner), who feels like a blueprint for the later Terminator. Working not just as a popcorn ride but as a sharp satire on rich, white privilege, Michael Crichton's film debut offers a savage view of humanity. Read our full review.
Given that Elton John's stage persona was so flamboyant and endlessly creative it's fitting that Dexter Fletcher's biopic (written by Lee Hall) takes its cue from the man itself, fabulously flinging itself into the story of the star's life, complete with his addiction - explored in a framing story set in rehab. The 'musical' form allows freedom to break away from naturalism and escape on emotions, so that, for example, we see John floating with emotion at a key moment. The song arrangements are used inventively, often carved into duets or manipulated in other ways in order to help the story move along at pace. Like a piano counterpoint, we're able to see his public persona contrasted with his offstage feelings and if Taron Egerton is not a carbon copy of John in terms of looks, he captures the essence of the star - "We wanted to tell a human story," said Egerton in Cannes, "That's why you see the peaks and the troughs". The end result glitters, not just with rhinestones, but with emotion. Read our full review.
The Disciple, Netflix
Anne-Katrin Titze writes: Chaitanya Tamhane’s exquisite second feature, The Disciple, is about meaning and history, loss and grace, legacy and discipline. It is also a film about North-Indian classical music called Khayal, and the fine differences between the truthfulness and art of its performers. If you are clueless about this form of music, it places you in a fine position and state of mind, as feeling palpably inadequate is a leitmotif for the film’s hero, Sharad Nerulkar (Aditya Modak), a Khayal singer whom we first meet in 2006. He is in his early twenties, performing with his master or Guruji, Maestro Vinayak Pradhan (Dr. Arun Dravid), practising alone at night, and buying pale-peach kurta-pyjamas in a fabric store to wear at a competition. Not too fancy, not too plain, “simple” is what this Goldilocks wants and he quotes his father as saying, in English, that once you are on stage “everything is part of the performance.” Sharad’s father (Kiran Yadnyopavit), who shows up in beautifully framed childhood flashbacks, swathed in golden light (cinematography by Michal Sobocinski) teaching his son about music, was himself a failed performer, so we hear, whose self-delusions kept him from greatness in this art form that lives and dies through the vocalists’ truthfulness and honesty in the moment. Images of what selling out to greed and falsehood looks like enter this picture in various scenes and accumulate in the career of a young singer who is discovered in an appalling TV talent contest, that Sharad follows with fascination and dismay. The Disciple’s wonderful last note takes place in motion with a musical tall tale, where fishes sprout from trees and deer hold a wedding - the perfect link to centuries of storytelling. Read our full review.
Ema, All4, until May 17
Actress Mariana Di Girolamo is a Chilean name to watch as she brings chameleon-like qualities to roles like this and, a year later, Leonardo Medel's La Veronica. Here, she plays reggaeton dancer Ema, one half of a couple (alongside Gael Garcia Bernal's choreographer Gaston) whose adoption of a young boy has turned sour along with their relationship. Blazing with contradiction, we see Ema trying on personas for size - mother, wife, sexually liberated fly-by-night - with Di Girolamo bringing a magnetic intensity to each, as her character begins to show she wants to get the child back, no matter what the cost. Beyond the performances, the dance choreography embeded in the film and fiercely colour-coded cinematography from Sergio Armstrong are stunning. Read our full review.
Leaning Into The Wind, All4, until May 14
If you're looking for a relaxing change of pace then Thomas Riedelscheimer's portrait of artist Andy Goldsworthy is every bit as elemental as the title suggests - watching the artist work with nature in what emerges as an engaging dialogue between the documentarian and his subject. In a world where the emphasis on our environment is hitting the headlines, this is a chance to see an artist collaborating with the natural landscape - often with surprising results. Listen out for the great jazz-inflected score by Fred Frith, which adds greatly to the film's mood. Read the full review.
If you're looking for a short to watch this week, why not check out this year's short documentary winner Colette, an emotional resonant film about a former French resistance fighter visiting the concentration camp where her brother died for the first time. It's available to watch for free over at The Guardian.