5 things to watch this weekend – 4 to 6 September

Meet-the-parents nightmare, outback survival and the invasion of England – what are you watching this weekend?

4 September 2020

By Sam Wigley

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)

Where’s it on?  Netflix

We’ve been so starved for new releases by big-name directors this year that the arrival on Netflix this weekend of the latest Charlie Kaufman picture – his first since 2015’s Anomalisa – feels like a genuine event. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is based on a 2016 novel by Iain Reid, although its tumble down a rabbit hole of doubt-ridden subjectivity is Kaufmanesque to its core. This time, however, the head he puts us inside of is a woman’s – the undecided girlfriend played by Jessie Buckley who has joined her relatively new partner (Jesse Plemons) on a wintry road trip to meet his parents at their rural farm. She’s the one privately thinking of ending things, and meeting her oddball hosts (cockeyed turns from Toni Collette and David Thewlis) seems unlikely to persuade her otherwise. For a while, this all plays like a snowbound version of recent meet-the-weirdo-parents movies like Get Out (2017) and Ready or Not (2019), but Kaufman’s satnav is set for somewhere altogether more brain-boggling.

Walkabout (1971)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray, also BFI Player

Walkabout (1971)

Nicolas Roeg’s extraordinary outback tale has received a new Blu-ray edition this week. Together with the same year’s Wake in Fright, it’s credited with helping to kickstart the 1970s renaissance in Australian film that later brought us everything from Picnic at Hanging Rock (1976) to Mad Max (1979). A former cinematographer, Roeg was fresh off co-directing trippy gangland saga Performance (1970), choosing this adaptation of a 1959 novel by James Vance Marshall as his first solo venture. A teenage Jenny Agutter and the director’s own son Luc play the young English siblings who are abandoned by their father in the Australian desert. Innocents abroad in a savage wilderness, their chances of survival are pinned on an Aboriginal boy (David Gulpilil) who becomes their friend and guide. In his typically fragmented visual style, Roeg pits Edenic nature against the corruptions of civilisation in a visionary adventure film that remains one of cinema’s great survival stories.

The Chambermaid (2018)

Where’s it on?  BFI Player

From The Maid (2009) to Roma (2018), there has been a whole swathe of recent films from Latin America centring on the experiences of maids, yet Lila Avilés’s finely turned debut feature somehow finds fresh ground. The Chambermaid is set almost entirely within the air-conditioned walls of an upscale Mexico City hotel, where we follow the day-to-day tasks of Eve, a diligent and meticulous hotel worker with her eyes on promotion to more prestigious work in the building’s penthouse suites. At the beck and call of pampered guests and demanding superiors, Eve is a have-not working quietly behind the scenes to maintain the cushioned luxury visitors expect. In small measures, Avilés’s film documents the petty injustices and dehumanising encounters that become her cumulative burden, slowly inspiring an urge for rebellion.

Went the Day Well? (1942)

Where’s it on?  Talking Pictures TV, Saturday, 6pm

Went the Day Well? (1942)

Although Ealing is fondly remembered for its comedies, one of the studio’s best films – and among the most enduring of all British films made during the Second World War – is this alternative history thriller about a Nazi invasion on English soil. Although war was still raging at the time of filming, Alberto Cavalcanti’s film has a hopeful framing device set in a peaceful future, with an ageing villager recounting the time when German invaders nearly got their claws into the fictitious village of Bramley End, arriving in disguise as a troupe of British soldiers. Based on a story by Graham Greene, Went the Day Well? must have stoked genuine terror at the time for its depiction of fifth columnists at large in the British countryside, at the same time as it would have inspired pride in the courage and resilience with which the villagers are shown to meet the threat within.

Ginger & Rosa (2012)

Where’s it on?  BBC2, Sunday, 12.45am

Ginger & Rosa (2012)

With Sally Potter’s 9th feature film, The Roads Not Taken, a father-daughter story starring Javier Bardem and Elle Fanning, due in cinemas next week, here’s a chance to catch up with her 7th. 2012’s Ginger & Rosa, which BBC2 are airing this Sunday, was Potter’s first collaboration with Fanning, who made a vivid impression here, aged 14, as a troubled teen coming of age in early 1960s London. She’s teamed with Alice Englert as the eponymous pair, inseparable friends whose bond is nonetheless tested when Rosa falls for Ginger’s dad. It’s the nervy time of the Cuban missile crisis (with Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks presumably cast as Ginger’s mum to help set the period), with Ginger feeling adrift, anxious and betrayed as she puts her energies into campaigning for CND. The brilliant Irish cameraman Robbie Ryan – who’s more recently shot The Favourite (2018) for Yorgos Lanthimos and Marriage Story (2019) for Noah Baumbach – does miraculous work with misty backgrounds to reflect a world in turmoil.