5 things to watch this weekend – 15 to 17 March

A Japanese mystery plays with perspectives. A lesbian road trip comedy sees Ethan Coen cutting loose. What are you watching this weekend?

15 March 2024

By Sam Wigley

Monster (2023)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

The elegant, three-part structure of this latest film from Hirokazu Koreeda slowly peels away at the enigma surrounding the unusual behaviour of a teenage schoolboy. In the opening section, told from his mother’s perspective, all signs point to the possibility of mistreatment at the hands of his schoolteacher, but as Koreeda shifts the viewpoint to examine the same incidents through the eyes of the teacher and then the boy himself, a different, more tangled web begins to emerge. The gambit has inevitably led to this master of the domestic drama, forever compared to Yasujiro Ozu, now being likened to the Akira Kurosawa of Rashomon (1950). But this is a delicate and very human mystery such as really only Koreeda could have made.

Banel & Adama (2023)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Brushing up against Koreeda’s film and other veteran work in competition at Cannes 2023 was this impressive first feature by French-Senegalese director Ramata-Toulaye Sy. An apocalyptic love story told with the clarity and simplicity of fable, it tells of two infatuated lovers in rural Senegal – the eponymous Banel (Khady Mane) and Adama (Mamadou Diallo) – whose desire to go their own way falls foul of the expectations of the community elders, perhaps even causing a deadly drought. Working in the gentle, parable tradition of great African filmmakers such as Souleymane Cissé and Idrissa Ouédraogo, Sy’s poetic drama is tinged with magic and rendered in gorgeous, tactile images, bathed in sunlight.

The Roaring Twenties (1939)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

The Roaring Twenties (1939)
© Criterion

In the decade between the Wall Street crash and the start of the Second World War, Hollywood had its great wave of gangster movies, when the rat-tat-tat of the dialogue and the tommy guns competed for speed. Raoul Walsh’s The Roaring Twenties is the grand finale of the cycle, picking up with James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart’s returning WWI soldiers as they turn to bootlegging and racketeering, while a third comrade gets a start on the other side of the law as a lawyer. Spanning the years between Armistice and the Great Depression, Walsh’s epic sweep points forward to the New Hollywood mobster movies of Coppola and Scorsese, but draws down the curtain on this 30s era of gangster picture with a memorable climax on the steps of a city church.

Now, Voyager (1942)

Where’s it on? BBC 2, Saturday, 13:15

Now, Voyager (1942)

Part of a double bill of Bette Davis weepies on Saturday afternoon, Now, Voyager is one of golden-age Hollywood’s supreme so-called ‘woman’s pictures’. Queen bee of the form, Davis here plays Charlotte Vale, the mousey and repressed daughter of a domineering Boston socialite who finally begins to bloom after encountering Paul Henreid’s dashing architect during a restorative ocean cruise. The plot may be soapy but it’s transformed into something transcendent by the irresistible polish of the Warner Bros machine: the shimmering photography, plungingly romantic score and consummate grace of some of the studio’s finest contract stars – not least Claude Rains as psychiatrist Dr Jaquith. Dark Victory (1939) follows at 15:10.

Drive-Away Dolls (2024)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

The solo fiction debuts by the parted-company Coen brothers rival the Barbenheimer double header in their wild, yin-and-yang dichotomy. First came Joel’s artful, mortuary-sombre The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) and now Ethan’s giddy, silly, lesbian road-trip comedy Drive-Away Dolls with its scrappy, cartoonish vibe and subplots about giant dildos. Co-written with his wife Tricia Cooke, it’s set in 1999 and harnesses some of the high-voltage, transgressive energy of a 90s Gregg Araki movie as it follows two friends who tag along together on a road trip down to Tallahassee in unwitting possession of a criminal cargo. Brightly coloured, outrageous and full of big, lively performances.