Stay At Home Seven: December 6 to 12

Films to look out for on streaming services and telly this week

by Amber Wilkinson

The Power of The Dog
The Power of The Dog Photo: Netflix

The Power Of The Dog, Netflix

Jane Campion's western-inflected psychodrama arrived on Netflix last week and though it might not be her best work - thanks largely to an exceptionally reverent approach to the material and weaker than usual female characterisation - it still generates plenty of tension by the time it reaches its climax. Benedict Cumberbatch gets another chance to test his range out on the range as a sullen and bath-avoiding cowboy, who takes against the new wife (Kirsten Dunst) and effete son (Kodi-Smit McPhee) of his brother (Jesse Plemons - who should be getting a lot more leading roles himself). Beautifully shot with an eye for open spaces and erotic intimacy in unexpected places, the "chapter" storytelling device it uses means it could be split over a couple nights if you don't fancy taking on the two-hour running time in one sitting. Read our full review.

200 Metres, Netflix, from Thursday

Also on Netflix this week, but more off the beaten track is this humanistic drama from Ameen Nayfeh - Jordan's submission for the 2021 non-English language Oscar. The everyday impact of living on either side of the Israeli West Bank Barrier is brought home via separated man and wife Mustafa (Ali Suliman) and Salwa (Lana Zreik). Although Mustafa, who is living with his mother, is only 200 metres away from Salwa and his children, it might as well be the other side of the world in the wrong circumstances. When one day he is unable to cross legitimately, an urgent problem forces him to try to smuggle himself across, which turns the film into a quasi-road trip. Although the everyday problems of the barrier are brought home, Nayfeh keeps his eye as much on the domestic tensions as the wider political ones and delivers on both counts. Read our full review.

The Wife, iPlayer, until January 3

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.

My Life As A Courgette, Tuesday, December 6, Film4, 2.40am

Celine Sciamma has continued to garner critical success after her Oscar-nominated Portrait Of A Lady On Fire with her modern fairy tale Petite Maman that shows how in touch with childhood she is. That sensibility is in evidence in her writing contribution to this stop-motion animation about a little boy - Courgette - who is sent to a children's home. Claude Barras spent 14 years bringing his film from storyboard to screens and you can feel the love in every frame as he (along with Sciamma and additional help from Germano Zullo and Morgan Navarro) step aside from the usual orphan stereotypes. The film, which has plenty to offer for adults as well as children, paints a complex portrait, showing how anxieties are leavened by friendship without becoming saccharine. The tactile nature of the stop-motion technique only makes you want to hug them more. Read our full review.

Wild Nights With Emily, Friday, December 10, 11.10pm

If you found Mora Fastvold's The World To Come a rather enervating affair when it came to hidden lesbian longings, then Madeleine Olnek's altogether more fun film is the perfect tonic. The writer/director charts the theory that poet Emily Dickinson, far from being the dusty Victorian many (male) academics might have you believe, was - as more modern research maintains - in fact a passionate and playful presence who conducted a life-long clandestine love affair with Susan Gilbert, who would go on to become her sister-in-law. Molly Shannon and Susan Ziegler spark off one another fabulously in the lead roles and although Olnek's focus is on having a good time, she never forgets to celebrate Dickinson's poetic achievements along the way, opening up to fresh interpretation as she does so. We don't have a full review on the site at the moment - but trust me, it's great.

The Ladykillers, 11am, Saturday, December 11

The Coen Brothers may have had a second bash at this in 2004 but Alexander Mackendrick's deliciously dark original tale of a group of criminals who find their plans foiled by a little old lady is still the best. Alec Guinness may be the name that springs to mind when you think of it but his master criminal is matched step for step in this gleeful Ealing comedy by Katie Johnson, who plays dear Mrs Wilberforce, the unwitting lady from whom Guinness' ne'er do well rents his lodgings. Light and shadow play key roles in this collaboration between Mackendrick and cinematographer Otto Heller as the murkiness of the criminals (who also include Herbert Lom and Peter Sellers, in his breakthrough role) contrasts with the lavender and light of Mrs W. A restored version of the film, celebrating its 65th anniversary, is also going to be available in cinemas from Friday. Read our full review.

It's A Wonderful Life, Film4, 3.45pm, Sunday, December 12

I've been holding off on the Christmas films in this recommendation list but if you're looking for something to put on while you're wrapping some presents this week, this is the perfect choice. This Christmas classic from Frank Capra 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 2021 - a year that has again been filled with these sorts of small gestures to help others - there has perhaps never been a better reason to watch it all over again. Read our full review.

This week's short is an award-winner from Matthew Walker - who has gone on to be part of the directing team for the Shaun The Sheep series. Here he has fun in space with a couple of hapless Astronauts.

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