Stay-at-Home Seven: June 17 to 23

Films to catch on telly or stream this week

by Amber Wilkinson

Limbo
Limbo Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival
Limbo, 11.05pm, Film4, Monday, June 17

Ben Sharrock's moving tragicomedy is a fitting watch for the start of this year's Refugee Week (read more about film events happening in Scotland for that here). The action unfolds on the Outer Hebrides where a clutch of asylum seekers are waiting to hear if they will be granted leave to remain. Among them is homesick Syrian Omar (Amir El-Masry, frequently heart-rending), his unplayed oud emblematic of his ongoing trauma. Sharrock - who lived in Syria for a year as an undergraduate - navigates the absurdities of the situation with a delicate touch, while always keeping one eye on compassion as he critiques the situation so many refugees find themselves in through no fault of their own.

Flee, 10pm, BBC4, Tuesday, June 18

The winner of Sundance's Grand Jury Documentary prize in 2021, this is another essential bit of viewing for Refugee Week.  Its focus is Afghan Amin Nawabi - whose anonymity is preserved thanks to the use of animation - who escaped his homeland and the Mujahadeen as a child in the 1990s. The film considers the lingering trauma of that time and its ongoing impact on Nawabi's relationships as well as exploring Nawabi's experience of coming to terms with his sexual identity as a gay man. Jonas Poher Rasmussen capitalises on the use of animation so that he is able to employ it not just to retell the facts of the story but more impressionistically, to explore Nawabi's mental state and the lingering effects of his journey.

Strange Days, Talking Pictures TV (Freeview channel 82), 2.10am, Saturday, June 22

Jennie Kermode writes: Overlooked in its time - before the public at large fully understood why the work of Kathryn Bigelow deserved attention - Strange Days may be set at the end of the last century but it stands out today for its prescience and its incisive exploration of issues which we have only just begun to deal with. It stars Ralph Fiennes as former cop Lenny, a dealer in black market recordings of sensory experiences, who has a talent for getting on the wrong side of everyone and just can't get over his ex-girlfriend Faith (Juliette Lewis). Since their break-up, she has become a singing star, with a wealthy and influential promoter boyfriend, and she's scheduled to perform at a big street party for the turn of the millennium, but with tensions running high in the city after the killing of a talented young rapper, there's a real risk of violence. With real visual flair, humour and some very dark themes, Bigelow takes us into the heart of a mystery which interweaves the personal and the political. There's a superb turn from Angela Bassett as the long suffering friend whom Lenny turns to for everything from mopping up his tears to serving as his bodyguard, but whose reason for sticking around he may not recognise until it's too late.

The Duke, 10.35pm, BBC4, Saturday, June 22

This classic tale of British eccentricity fits Jim Broadbent like hand in glove. He plays ageing radical Kempton Bunton, who, unlikely though it may seem, was the mastermind behind the real-life 1961 theft of Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington from London's National Gallery - just the start of a plan. Alongside him, Helen Mirren also delivers as his long-suffering wife Dorothy, in a film that is as built around small moments of family drama as it is around the bigger picture. Roger Michell's final film is a charmer, its themes handled lightly but with humour and heart.

Men In Black II, 5.15pm, Film4, Sunday, June 23

One thing to be said about second entries in franchises is that they're able to cut to the chase as we're already on board with the set-up. That's true of this second instalment which sees the secret agents tasked with regulating alien activity - Jay (Will Smith) and Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) -  back in the game. The scripting is a bit hit and miss but the fact that everyone appears to be having a good time is infectious and Lara Flynn Boyle makes for an enjoyably slippery villainess. Frank the streetwise pug is also a winner. You won't need your brain zapped to forget the plot within a week but it's enjoyable while it lasts. You can catch the first in the franchise at 3.20pm earlier in the afternoon and go into full binge mode with the third instalment at 5.15pm.

Pan's Labyrinth, midnight, BBC1, Sunday into Monday, June 23/24

Jennie Kermode writes:  When Franco’s fascists dominated Spain in 1944, many others went into hiding. Perhaps they weren’t all human. Guillermo del Toro’s haunting fable balances perfectly in that ambiguous space between fantasy and metaphor, tragedy and triumph as it tells the story of young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a girl whose mother has married a cruel commander. Relocated to a wooded area where his troops are trying to break down guerrilla resistance, she takes refuge in a world which may or may not be real and makes a pact with a faun, agreeing to complete a series of tasks. The rules by which these are governed abide closely by European folkloric tradition, but it’s no small thing for a hungry girl to resist eating on the other side, and Ofelia soon finds that there are dangers whichever way she turns. The performances here are superb and the visual wonder of the film stems not just from its spectacularly detailed otherworld but from the way Del Toro finds magic in the forest which anyone might glimpse if they really cared to look.

Gosford Park, ITVX, streaming for free now

Jennie Kermode writes: This murder mystery in a stately home (a world away from the empty frippery of Downton Abbey which its screenwriter Julian Fellowes would go on to co-create) offers a withering critique of the country’s class system, even if it expresses it in a terribly genteel way. In the tradition of heritage films like A Room With A View and The Remains Of The Day, it dazzles viewers with pretty period costumes and its stately home setting while revealing the damage done by the habitual exploitation of inherited power. Even the aristocrats are not really free, the choices constrained by social expectation and potential financial precarity at every turn. Robert Altman directs with a light touch and the mostly splendid cast improvise brilliantly. The final song sums it up. In films like this, perhaps, we are looking not for reality but for the dream of England, for a lovely land of might-have-been.

Our short choice this week also ties in with Refugee Week. Refuge England charts the experiences, in the late Fifties, of a Hungarian refugee arriving in London and is still pertinent today. It's free to watch on the BFI Player

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