5 things to watch this weekend – 21 to 23 June

An urgent epic about the migrant crisis, a neo-noir turns 50, and Richard Linklater’s breakthrough arrives on Blu-ray. What are you watching this weekend?

Green Border (2023)

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

Agnieszka Holland’s panoramic, urgently contemporary epic presents a powerful look at immigration and border policing on the boundary between Poland and Belarus – a frontier of the EU. Tense and harrowing, it begins as a heart-in-your-mouth thriller about a Syrian family’s arrival in Europe and their subsequent plight in the borderland forests, but then shifts perspectives to bring in a young border guard and his pregnant wife, and then a group of activists and their new recruit. Its cross-section approach bringing to mind movies like Steven Soderbergh’s drug-war drama Traffic (2000), Holland’s drama is rendered in black and white and sprawls across 147 minutes, but the balance of broad scope and behind-the-headlines detail is devastatingly achieved.

Slacker (1990)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

Slacker (1990)Criterion

With his delicious undercover comedy Hit Man currently doing the rounds on Netflix, Richard Linklater’s breakthrough indie gets a Criterion Blu-ray this week, with his never-properly-distributed debut feature It’s Impossible to Learn How to Plow by Reading Books included as an extra. Slacker remains one of 1990s US indie cinema’s freshest and most original creations – a multi-character roundelay of Gen X life in Austin, Texas over the course of a single day. Linklater directs like a butterfly, never resting on one character for long but passing from one eccentric, idly philosophising or gently paranoiac character to the next. Yet, as he’s often done in different ways since, Linklater pulls off this structural ambition like it’s a walk in the park, with smart insouciance and casual insights into the foibles of a generation.

Chinatown (1974)

Where’s it on? 4K UHD

Chinatown (1974)

Turning 50 this week, this highwater mark of 1970s New Hollywood gets a bells-and-whistles 4K UHD release. Starring Jack Nicholson as bandage-nosed private eye J.J. Gittes, it merges nostalgia for 1940s film noir with Watergate-era paranoia for an extraordinarily potent and resonant modern myth about power, corruption and the control of water in desert California. John Huston, who had helped kick off the original noir cycle with his directorial debut The Maltese Falcon (1941), plays water tycoon Noah Cross – among cinema history’s most indelible portraits of evil – while Faye Dunaway is the enigmatic Evelyn Mulwray who initially hires Gittes to trail her unfaithful husband. Happy 50th to one of Hollywood’s greatest and most troubling films.

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

Where’s it on? BFI Player

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

A dark dream of puberty, the wonderfully titled Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is a classic of the Czech New Wave from director Jaromil Jireš. A kind of early teenage Alice in Wonderland, it presents the sexual awakening of 13-year-old Valerie as a surreal walk on the wild side involving magic earrings, vampires and a disorienting rush of other fairytale imagery. Psychedelia, gothic stylings and folk tradition collide in a waking nightmare of ominous happenings and startling non sequiturs. Quintessentially 1970, it’s at once reminiscent of a Hans Christian Andersen fable, some flowery softcore erotica and a folk rock album cover. 

Something in the Water (2024)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

A stranded wedding party is picked off by sharks in this lean, watery thriller. Bridezilla Lizzie (Lauren Lyle) has come to a Caribbean island with her circle of besties. There are tensions and the requisite unmentioned trauma among them: couple Kayla (Natalie Mitson) and Meg (Hiftu Quasem) have lately split up after becoming the victims of homophobic abuse. Ahead of Lizzie’s picture-perfect wedding, the group heads out on an ill-advised jaunt on a small motor boat to a neighbouring desert island – and before long, they’re marooned at sea and looking tasty to the passing marine life. A thin but pleasantly nightmarish survival drama, this is a debut feature by Hayley Easton Street, formerly an art director on the likes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021).