All the movies worth catching in the capital, from a brilliantly-acted biopic to the year's most controversial film...
Out and about this week? Fancy a film but can’t make your mind up what to see? Look no further: we’ve assembled the best of what’s on in London and gathered them here to make choosing a great movie as easy as possible. Whether it’s a toe-tapping documentary about one of the world’s greatest record labels or an indie coming-of-age drama set in Brooklyn, WeLoveCinema has you well and truly covered…
Renée Zellweger delivers arguably her best ever screen performance in this highly watchable drama based on the last years of screen legend Judy Garland. Spanning multiple timelines and co-starring Jessie Buckley and Michael Gambon, it zeroes in on Garland – addicted to drugs, drink, and on her fourth husband – as she relocates to London for a five-week-long sell-out show. Judy is a film that peels back the Hollywood glamour to tell a story of a woman whose life was ultimately ruined by the pressures of stardom. Zellweger is transformed here, giving a performance so raw, fragile, and broken that you quickly forget you’re not watching the real deal. Though the film itself is far more conventional, it’s worth seeing for Zellweger’s extraordinary, award-worthy turn.
Before its general release, even, the critics went to war over the murky politics inherent to Todd Phillips’ supervillain origin, Joker, making it the most controversial and divisive movie in years. The question remains: is this a masterpiece or a shallow inditement of our times? The story concerns one Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a failed comedian whose contempt with the world at large transforms him into the iconic Batman villain of the title. Channeling the vibes of Scorsese classics like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, Phoenix fully commits in an undeniably impressive performance. No matter how you look at it, there’s so much to unpack here – culturally, ethically, cinematically. See it and make up your own mind.
Hitsville: The Making of Motown
Released just in time for its 60th birthday (not to mention Black History Month), Hitsville: The Making of Motown offers a fascinating look into the iconic ’60s music label that pushed out stars and hit singles with a production-line efficiency. Built from archive clips and interviews with those once associated with the label, this lovingly crafted and accessible documentary grants insight into the company’s foundations and the music it made with stars like Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, the Temptations, and Diana Ross. Oprah and Jamie Foxx pop up too, if only to further cement Motown’s legacy as an inimitable hit-making factory.
Get Hitsville: The Making of Motown showtimes in London.
Actor Dolly Wells makes her feature debut with Good Posture, an indie comedy set in – where else? – Brooklyn, New York, and starring Grace Van Patten as Lilian, a young woman who splits from her boyfriend only to move in with an acclaimed novelist, played by Emily Mortimer. A series of events results in Lilian accidentally explaining to her ex that she’s making a documentary on her new housemate, and so – this being a film – sets the sort-of plot in motion. There’s something of filmmaker Noah Baumbach in the film’s exploration of smart, confused, yet privileged people: the result is a witty, enjoyable, if slight little comedy.
Get Good Posture showtimes in London.
The Last Tree
Writer-director Shola Amoo’s semi-autobiographical sophomore feature hones in on the life of a Nigerian-British foster child named Femi, played by Tai Golding as a child, and by Sam Adewunmi as an adult, whose life takes a sudden turn when he has no choice but to uproot from his idllic home in the Lincolnshire countryside to inner city London. It’s a switch that transforms him completely – and onto a less fortunate path filled with crime. Amoo’s film is a sad yet heart-warming story that asks questions about how the past and the places we live come to shape us into who we are. Adewunmi is excellent in a breakout role.
Get The Last Tree showtimes in London.
Ready or Not
It’s hard to argue with the delicious set-up that powers this relentlessly entertaining horror-comedy, in which a newlywed (Samara Weaving) must enter into a murderous game of hide and seek with her husband’s parents in order to join the family. It’s silly, of course, but that’s part of the fun – Ready or Not wears it tongue firmly in its cheek, as Weaving’s unsuspecting Grace learns of the traditions of a clan whose wealth has been accumulated selling board games. Funny and gory in equal measure, Ready or Not also works as a rallying cry against the super rich, and gives us a great new Scream Queen in Weaving.
Get Ready or Not showtimes in London.
Based on true events experienced by the film’s writer and director, Lulu Wang, The Farewell zeroes in on a Chinese family who learn that their elderly matriarch is terminally ill and decide not to tell her. Instead they fake a wedding party as a way of gathering the family together for one last goodbye. Though fairly common in China, such practices are – of course – at odds with western sensibilities, a point emphasised here by Wang surrogate “Billi,” played by the ace Awkwafina (finally getting the nuanced role she deserves). The Farewell has already been lauded overseas for its balanced approach to the subject matter and its fresh depiction of family life. Remarkably, it even stars some of the director’s actual family.
James Gray has made his best and most mythic film yet with this strange, hypnotic, and life-affirming space adventure starring Brad Pitt. Like so many directors who venture into this cosmic territory, Gray is channeling 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris (and even a bit of Interstellar). But he’s also reworking Apocalypse Now here, too, with a Freudian story about a stoic astronaut (played by Brad Pitt) on a perilous mission to stop his dad (Tommy Lee Jones) from destroying the universe. What sets Ad Astra apart from other sci-fi films is the surreal blend of blockbuster action sequences and Terrence Malick-like ruminations. And at the middle, there’s Pitt – quiet, contemplative, shining like the brightest star in the galaxy.
It’s impossible to imagine what trying to live your every day life in the midst of a war zone is actually like; this riveting documentary is about as close as most of us will get. Recorded using a handheld camera during the Siege of Aleppo in war-torn Syria, For Sama hones in on a student-turned-filmmaker named Waad al-Kateab (who shot the footage), her husband, and daughter, Sama, as they attempt to survive five years within the city walls. The footage was later assembled with help from co-director Edward Watts, and the results are terrifying and brutal, but ultimately life-affirming. Surviving a war zone is one thing; raising a baby as bombs are dropping around you is another. If you only catch one doc this year, let it be this one: more than deservedly, it won the Prix L’Œil d’Or at Cannes in May.
This post was categorised in Features.