Daughter and father hi-jinks in Toni Erdmann with Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
Toni Erdmann, w4free
Although this free-to-view streaming service majors in horror films, there's also a handful of foreign language gems on offer, including this multi-award winning German comedy from Maren Ade. This tale of a wisecracking dad (Peter Schimonischek) who infiltrates the life of his workaholic daughter (Sandra Hüller) under the guise of an absurdist alter ego is an offbeat triumph. There's a shaggy dog story element to this lengthy film that's rooted in the often unpalatable truths of modern Europe (as Ade puts it: "I was interested in giving the work environment enough space") - but the filmmaker also nails the back and forth of family emotions, complete with all its love and frustrations. Both actors shine in roles that require them to display vulnerability and whip smart comic timing. A Hollywood remake, involving Kirsten Wiig (good choice) has been much-touted since - but why wait for ersatz seconds when you can watch the original? Read our full review.
The Conversation, 9pm, BBC Four, Thursday, December 2
Frances Ford Coppola was on a serious roll when he made this gripping psychological thriller between his Oscar-winning Godfathers. Its subject of surveillance is ever-green, while its anti-hero Harry Caul (Gene Hackman, at the top of his game here as a haunted surveillance expert whose troubled conscience drives the film) is also one for the ages. From the opening slow zoom sequence on the conversation of the title to the sound design from Walter Murch and the jazz-inflected score from David Shire, the craft is classy all round. Look out for Harrison Ford in an early role as a slimeball and a small and uncredited but noticeable appearance by Robert Duval. Read the full review here
Vivarium,11.15pm, Film4, Thursday, December 2
Jennie Kermode writes: Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) dream of getting a house together, but on their modest salaries, it seems impossible. Then, one day, they meet an estate agent who promises them a solution and invites them to follow him to one of those out-of-town, new-build estates where all the houses look perfectly charming and perfectly identical. The problem comes when he subsequently disappears and try as they might, they can’t find their way out of the estate. Lorcan Finnegan’s surreal satire takes on not only consumerism but expectations of the life course, with sympathy for cuckoos who never really have homes of their own. Read our full review.
The Old Man and the Gun, 12.30am, Monday, December 8
Although he said, "Never say never", Robert Redford indicated this would most likely be his final film role - and if it is, he certainly went out on a high with this low-key crime charmer. He plays Forrest Tucker - a character based on a real-life ageing bank thief who hit the headlines after pulling off a series of unfailingly polite bank robberies. Writer/director David Lowery has always had an interest in mortality and legacy and it's in evidence again here, while he also nods to the breadth and depth of Redford's own career. The whole thing is topped off by lovely supporting performances from the likes of Sissy Spacek and Danny Glover. Read our full review.
Mistress America, 2.40am, Channel 4, Friday, December 3
A reminder that it's still possible to make a satisfying screwball comedy, this warm-hearted film from Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig channels a similar female energy to their previous writing collaboration Frances Ha. Gerwig plays Brooke, who blasts like a whirlwind into the life of freshman and her stepsister-to-be Tracy (Lola Kirke). As Brooke's imagination takes flight, Tracy barely has time to catch her breath - and neither do we as Baumbach takes us on a road trip to Connecticut and the edge of farce after Brooke's plans threaten to crumble, deftly skewering the American dream as he goes. Read our full review.The Social Network, 10.01pm, Great Movies! Sunday, December 5David Fincher has a knack for being able to distill sprawling stories and he proves it again here with this drama about the founding of Facebook, scripted by Prince of Dialogue (so long as it's male-dominated) Aaron Sorkin. Jesse Eisenberg is perfectly cast as the young Mark Zuckerberg, his twitchy social interactions overlay a cut-throat attitude to business but he brings just enough vulnerability to the role to evoke a certain sympathy. By asking us to scrutinise Zuckerberg, Fincher and Sorkin are, by extension, inviting us to consider our own complicity in the ubiquity of the end result. Fast paced, fascinating and imbued with plenty of humour, Fincher takes what could be a stodgy subject and fills it with fluidity. Read our full review.
Gran Torino, 11.45pm, ITV4, Wednesday, December 1
Like The Old Man & The Gun this is an old-fashioned film in the best sense of the phrase and shows that veteran star Clint Eastwood, who also directs, has, like Redford, lost none of his acting ability down the years. He plays grumpy, not to mention racist, Korean war veteran Walt Kowalski, who has a mint-condition Gran Torino car in his garage. Things change, however, when he catches Hmong teenager Thao (Bee Vang, who it's worth noting has criticised the film for its portrayal of the Hmong community since) trying to steal his motor and the gears of his neatly ordered world start to shift. Eastwood gets under the bonnet of Walt to find out what makes him tick like he does, even as he starts to find new rhythms through his interactions with Thao and his sister Sue (Ahney Her). The result has a touching, if strictly conservative, trajectory with a surprising amount of comic mileage in the tank. Read our full review.
Our short selection this week is short chiller Broken Night by Guillermo Arriaga, who is perhaps better known as a writer of the likes of 21 Grams and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Here he shows he's more than capable behind the camera as a mother and daughter find themselves in trouble after a car accident. Pop over to YouTube to watch it.