It’s time for something different as a breather or palate-cleanser from all the Nordic reading I’ve devoted myself to since Christmas! It’s the return of my Watchlist – on the big and little screen.
Big Screen Movies
I went to the cinema twice – to see two films in black and white (although Branagh’s has its technicoloured moments).
The Tragedy of Macbeth
I loved Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth which places the action in a land of mists and shadows and a modernist castle. Denzel Washington was superb as a world-weary Macbeth, worn down by underachieving and easily persuaded for one last go at being king by his steely wife (Frances McDormand), who for me wasn’t quite mad enough later. The entire supporting cast was ace. Bertie Carvel as Banquo spoke wonderfully, but was upstaged by his bushy eyebrows though. Alex Hassell as Ross exuded menace in a slimfit floor length cassock. But the supporting star was Kathryn Hunter as the witches – all three of them! It’s a strongly visual adaptation, that references Ingmar Bergman and Hitchcock’s The Birds amongst others.
You might like to read Joel’s brother Ethan’s spoof review here – it’s hilarious.
My late mum left Belfast for a job in London in the 1950s. Having fallen out with her father, as a child we only went to visit surviving relatives the once in 1967 but I can’t really remember the city or them at all. I do remember coming home after that fortnight in Belfast and Bangor with a strong Northern Irish accent!
Kenneth Branagh is just a few months younger than I am, his auto-fictional movie is set in 1969, when he and I were both nine-years-old, like Buddy in the film. The terraced house they lived in was similar enough to my other grandparents’ house that I was easily taken back to feeling that old. The film is mostly seen through Buddy’s eyes and as such the worst of the Troubles that were starting are mostly in the background. Buddy is a delight, gullible enough to be persuaded by his older cousin to nick sweets from the corner shop only managing to get the Fry’s Turkish Delight (yuck!), and obsessed by Thunderbirds, Matchbox toy cars and football. He also misses his Da when he’s away working in England. Jude Hill as Buddy was just wonderful. Jamie Dornan, clean-shaven, was a handsome Da, Catriona Balfe a feisty Ma, and who wouldn’t love Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench as your grandparents. Yes, it’s sentimental, but it twanged my heart-strings and I just loved it. It should do well in the Baftas!
Small Screen Movies
- Don’t Look Up – star-studded and absolutely hilarious comedy disaster movie with a script by Aaron “West Wing” Sorkin and Meryl Streep as the most awful US President since, well… (Netflix)
- The Lost Daughter – this one is divisive. Maggie Gyllenhal’s brooding directorial debut adapted by her from Elena Ferrante’s novel stars Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley as older and younger Leda, a mother who struggled with motherhood when younger, and is driven to interfere when older when a child goes missing. It’s very slow-burn but a brave film showing a mother in a negative light. Can’t say I enjoyed it, but I did appreciate it, and Ed Harris was great in support. (Netflix)
- The Father – I finally caught up with Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar-winning performance in this superb film about an ageing man dealing with increasing dementia and the tricks it plays on his mind. Hopkins is absolutely amazing, supported by Olivia Colman (again!), Mark Gatiss, Rufus Sewell, Imogen Poots, and Olivia Williams (who is always worth watching). Highly recommended (Prime).
- The Unforgiveable – Sandra Bullock plays against type as the ex-con who served time for murdering the sheriff who came to evict her and her little sister after their father committed suicide. It’s very, very grim – she has to work two jobs and live in a hostel and when the son of the murdered sheriff discovers she has been released, she’s in danger. She also can’t see her little sister who was adopted. We’ll gradually find out what really happened, but it is very grim. (Netflix)
- Station Eleven – I’ve signed up to Starzplay via Prime for a while just so I can watch this series adapted from one of my favourite novels (reviewed here). At the moment there are only 4 episodes available, with one added each week, so my impatience will incur a few months of subscriptions beyond the free trial. However it is just brilliant! (Starzplay in UK, HBO Max in US)
- The Responder – Set in Liverpool, Martin Freeman is a cop working the night shift, suffering from PTSD, demoted from an inspector, marriage on the brink. More concerned with brokering the peace rather than making arrests. When his mate Carl (Ian Hart), a drug dealer, gets him involved in looking for Casey who’s stolen his £30k worth of coke destined for people he owed money to, Freeman’s character gets in deep and nearly doesn’t get out. Grim with a capital G, but a glimmer of hope and we never find out why he was demoted – a second series beckons? (BBC1)
- Dopesick – The story of how Purdue Pharma mis-sold Oxycontin and the doctors they duped into prescribing it and precipitating an opioid crisis in the USA is horrific. Michael Keaton as one of the duped doctors is brilliant, Kaitlyn Deaver as one of his poor patients and Will Poulter as one of the Purdue salesmen are excellent too. (Disney+).
- Snowpiercer – is back for series 3 – Hurrah! I just love Sean Bean’s creepily nasty Mr Wilford. (Netflix, new episodes weekly).