Five things to watch this weekend – 8-10 February

At home or at the cinema, here’s some recommended viewing to watch out for this weekend.

Samuel Wigley

América (2018)

Where’s it on?  Cinemas nationwide

América (2018)

That’s a big title for a 75-minute documentary, but in Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside’s tender portrait América is the name of a 93-year-old grandmother living out her final years in Colima, Mexico. After her son and guardian is put in prison on charges of neglect, her care falls to her three doting grandsons, street performers all, who refuse to put her in a home but see to her daily needs themselves. If that makes América sound tough-going, it shouldn’t: although admirably frank about the realities of caring for an elderly relative, this gentle, observational film feels warmed by sunshine and good nature.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Where’s it on?  Cinemas nationwide

Just three Oscar nominations, then, for Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to his surprise best-picture winner Moonlight. But don’t let that make you think If Beale Street Could Talk is anything less than major. Surprisingly the first ever adaptation of one of James Baldwin’s novels, this one’s a love story set amid the black community in early 1970s Harlem, where a young pregnant woman, Tish (KiKi Layne), sets out to clear the name of her partner Fonny (Stephan James) after he’s falsely accused of rape. Tender and tragic, it’s a film of blue notes and rhapsodic textures that’s totally bewitching.

A Special Day (1977)

Where’s it on?  BFI Player

A Special Day (1977)

BFI Player has been beefing up its Italian selection of late, and the newest addition is this brief-encounter tale from Ettore Scola set on the historic day in 1938 when Mussolini welcomed Hitler to Rome. Shot in sepia-like colour, the action brings together two neighbours – strangers who are left alone in an apartment block after the rest of its residents flock to the rally. A deglamourised Sophia Loren is the housewife, while Marcello Mastroianni is the gay radio broadcaster who’s due to be deported for his anti-fascist sympathies. Scola charts their meeting of minds in gorgeous tracking shots, achieving a density of feeling that’s reminiscent of a good short story.

Suddenly (1954)

Where’s it on?  Talking Pictures, Sunday, 01.15am

Suddenly (1954)

Here’s another film that does the business in a brisk 75 minutes. It’s a neat little thriller about an attempt to assassinate the president as he passes through the sleepy fictional town of Suddenly, California. Coming at the height of his crooning fame, it was quite the gamble for Frank Sinatra to play the part of the would-be assassin. He was so perturbed by later rumours that Lee Harvey Oswald had watched this film prior to killing JFK that he withdrew Suddenly from circulation. Thankfully, it’s back with us now and showing in the dead of night on Talking Pictures this Sunday. It’s worth being knackered on Monday for.

24 Frames (2017)

Where’s it on?  Blu-ray

This last film by Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami joins the dots between his work as film director and photographer. Comprising 24 sequences of four and a half minutes each, it uses digital animation techniques to bring to motion the before and after of Kiarostami’s own photos. Of a piece with one of his later, non-narrative, more structurally-minded films, particularly Five (2003), it offers a lulling, meditative experience. Snow, trees and birdlife recur throughout, while many of the shots are out of windows – frames within the frames. One for cloud watchers, fans of slow TV or anyone curious to see a final, calm contemplation of the world by one of the great filmmakers.

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