5 things to watch this weekend – 19 to 21 January

Jodie Comer flees from rising floodwaters, Paul Giamatti holds the fort at a New England boarding school, and a great German director gets ready for his close-up. What are you watching this weekend?

19 January 2024

By Sam Wigley

The End We Start From (2023)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Trailer for The End We Start From (2023)

Post-apocalyptic cinema usually feels comfortably like a subgenre of sci-fi, but this adaptation of Megan Hunter’s 2017 novel of the same name does a disconcerting job of making its world of catastrophe and collapse feel only a hair’s breadth from our reality. Jodie Comer plays the young mum who gives birth in the midst of an ecological crisis. Waters are rising and London has flooded, forcing Comer and family to flee northwards, escaping into a countryside where the rule of law is breaking down and life has shifted gears into a grim new normal. With echoes of 28 Days Later (2002) and Children of Men (2006), the feature debut of TV director Mahalia Belo is an impressively up-close-and-personal vision of climate disaster.

The Holdovers (2023)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide, including BFI Southbank

Trailer for The Holdovers (2023)

Reteaming Paul Giamatti and director Alexander Payne for the first time since their wine-country roadtrip comedy Sideways (2004), The Holdovers is a future perennial of Christmastime viewing which, for some reason, is being released in late January. Giamatti plays the cantankerous classics teacher at a New England boarding school who is left in charge of the eponymous holdovers – the boys who, for varying reasons, need to stay over at the emptied out school over the festive period. It’s the 1970s, snow is on the ground, Cat Stevens is on the soundtrack, and Payne gives the credits a retro crackle that make his latest amiable dramedy feel like a lost Hal Ashby movie. Like Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph picked up a BAFTA nomination this week for her turn as the school’s dinner lady.

Werner Herzog: Radical Dreamer (2022)

Trailer for Werner Herzog: Radical Dreamer (2022)

Into his eighties now despite a career embracing danger at every turn, Werner Herzog gets a feature documentary profile courtesy of journalist and filmmaker Thomas von Steinaecker. As we’re so used to seeing Herzog on camera at the far ends of the earth, the coup of von Steinaecker’s film is to offer us glimpses of Herzog at home; the mundanity behind the myth. Not that this film leaves the myth untended – the legendary boat tugging, shoe eating and bullet-wound dismissing are all revisited. But we also get plenty of less familiar, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, alongside starry testimonials from the likes of Christian Bale and Nicole Kidman. This week also sees the 40th anniversary re-release of Herzog’s early masterpiece, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974).

The Civil Dead (2022)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide and on demand

Trailer for The Civil Dead (2022)

A deadbeat wannabe photographer bumps into an old school friend who turns out to be a ghost in this mumblecore comedy, a graduate of last year’s Slamdance Film Festival. YouTube comics Clay Tatum and Whitmer Thomas star as Clay and his clingy, ectoplasmic buddy Whit. Whit is just pleased he’s found someone who can actually see him, but Clay isn’t so sure he wants this needy interloper hanging around, and in its deadpan and easygoing indie style The Civil Dead – which is also written by the pair, and directed by Clay – has some fairly piercing things to say about companionship and the hustle we’re all engaged in to make something of ourselves. It’s a hilarious, slacker subversion of ghost story tropes.

Hakob Hovnatanyan (1967)

Where’s it on? Klassiki Online

Hakob Hovnatanyan (1967)

Curio of the week is this Fabergé egg of a short film from Armenian-Georgian visionary Sergei Parajanov. In between his towering duo Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965) and The Colour of Pomegranates (1969), Parajanov created this 11-minute study of the work of Hakob Hovnatanyan, a 19th-century portrait painter dubbed the ‘Raphael of Tbilisi’. We see his work in fragments – close-ups of hands and eyes that are filmed near enough to see the cracks in the aged paint. There are poetic cutaways to furniture and precisely composed interiors before Parajanov takes us out into the streets of modern Tbilisi. In some ways, it’s difficult to know what to make of it all, but there’s no shot that isn’t transportive and barely one that isn’t recognisably Parajanovian.