Stay-at-Home Seven: May 2 to 8

TV and streaming picks for the week ahead

by Amber Wilkinson

Spartacus, 2.10pm, ITV4, Monday, May 2

Few films scream "perfect Bank Holiday viewing" more than this stylish sword and sandals epic from Stanley Kubrick. And heroes don't get much more iconic than Kirk Douglas' Thracian slave with a passion for freedom, with the declaration: "I'm Spartacus!" still holding cultural weight 60 years on. It's not just Douglas who holds the attention in this tale of slave revolt in Rome, there's plenty of depth in the cast, from Peter Ustinov, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for turn as gladiator dealer Bataitus (Douglas missed out on a nomination), to Charles Laughton and Laurence Olivier as scheming senators and Jean Simmons as the love interest. The gladiatorial scenes are where the film really grabs the attention, however, still gripping despite the passage of time and shot with verve by Russell Metty, who also won a cinematography Oscar for his efforts.

Two Faces of January, 10pm, BBC2, Monday, May 2

Jennie Kermode writes: A dream cast brings tenderness and soul to Hossein Amini's adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's melancholy thriller. Oscar Isaac, in one of his first leading roles, plays Rydal, a young man who makes his living by guiding tourists around Athens, with the odd bit of swindling and seduction along the way. He meets his match in elegant yet sociopathic con man Chester (Viggo Mortensen) and his much younger wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst). When the three leave the city in haste after Chester kills a private detective, their fortunes becomes increasingly bound up together. This is complicated by Rydal and Colette's mutual attraction, though it's between the two men that the sparks really fly. Rydal sees Chester as a surrogate father figure but it's plain that there's more to it than that, and as Colette finds herself squeezed out, her existence becomes increasingly precarious. Beautiful, bleached cinematography presents Classical ruins in a whole new way and an orchestral score full of yearning and regret completes the picture. It's a must see for mystery fans who find themselves most intrigued by the human dimension.

The Souvenir, Netflix, from Tuesday

Joanna Hogg's autobiographical story of a young film student's potentially destructive relationship with a charismatic but flawed older man is notable not just for the psychological complexity of its storytelling but also for the central performances. Although Honor Swinton Byrne has understandably received plaudits for her debut role (her mum Tilda also plays her on screen mother), Tom Burke is arguably the real revelation here, displaying the sort of impervious to his own failings posh-boy charm that became the stock-in trade of Hugh Grant and Rupert Everett. The film's less emotional, more intellectual sequel was released this year and sees Swinton Byrne really come into her own but this first instalment works perfectly as a self-contained watch. Read our full review and about what the stars and director said about it.

45 Years, 1.25am, Film4, Tuesday, May 3

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay both won Berlin Silver Bears for their portrayal of a long-married couple whose marriage is thrown into turmoil. Andrew Haigh's adaptation of David Constantine's short story In Another Country explores the run-up to Geoff (Courtenay) and Kate's (Rampling) 45th wedding anniversary. They find themselves kicked off-course when news arrives that the body of a long-dead old flame of Geoff's has been found in a glacier. As things that once seemed concrete to Kate suddenly become fluid beneath her feet, she struggles to cope with the ghosts of the past, while Geoff finds himself increasingly at sea in the present. The performances strike a compelling balance between Courtenay's understated portrayal of the sincere but hapless Geoff and Rampling's subtle unravelling of Kate. Read what Haigh and Rampling told us about the film.

Them That Follow, 9pm, Film4, Thursday May 5

One of the more unusual entries from Olivia Colman's back catalogue, she plays a fearsome - and God fearing - Appalachian ma Hope in this tense indie film that is definitely not for the snake phobic. Mara (Alice Englert) is lined up for an arranged marriage to Garret (Lewis Pullman), thanks to her pastor father (Walton Goggins, on fine form as ever), which presents a problem for her secret romance with Hope's son Augie (Thomas Mann). It's really the rattle snakes owned by the pastor that top, the bill though, as his church believes: "They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." Although suffering a little from signposting in terms of plot Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage keep a tight grip on the mood and deliver plenty of mayhem in the film's final third.

The Other Side Of Hope, 12.20am, BBC2, Sunday, May 7

It's a shame this humanistic cracker from Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki is tucked away in the small hours of the schedule as its mix of gentle absurdity and societal comment has broad appeal. The action follows a restaurateur who befriends a refugee, and, as with all Kaurismäki films, the look is as important as the story.  The dominant shade he uses is a melancholic blue - but if that all sounds gloomy be assured that Kaurismäki finds plenty of droll humour in unexpected places and you'll certainly never look at sushi in quite the same way again. Refugee Khaled (Sherwan Haji) may be navigating Kafkaesque bureaucracy, but the emphasis is on the bright spots of humanity that he encounters along the way. One of Kaurismäki's more mainstream films, it nevertheless hides a strong message about attitudes to asylum seekers beneath its sweet surface.

The Hurt Locker, 10pm, BBC2, Sunday, May 8

If you like the sort of film that keeps you on the edge of your seat then Kathryn Bigelow's Best Picture Oscar winner certainly delivers. Her film charts the struggles of an elite bomb disposal squad in Iraq and drips with tension from the start. It also features three heavy-weight performances at its heart - from Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty and, particularly, Jeremy Renner as a risk-taking sergeant who is addicted to the adrenaline rush of his job. Beyond the well-executed action, Bigelow confronts us with the horrors of war, showing the terror and dehumanisation it can cause alongside its impact on everyone it touches.

This week's short selection is quirky animation The Reason I Collect, by Emma Curtis - a Jan Svankmajer-style treat that celebrates the joys of hoarding.

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