Yes we know the cinema is expensive these days, but no you can’t just wait till this lot are out on-demand or DVD. Some pieces of filmmaking require a big screen to do them justice, whether it’s for the lushness of the cinematography or the intensity of the performances, or the fact that they’re happening now, for all assembled, and you can’t nip into the kitchen for a cup of tea halfway through, or whip out your phone to scroll through Facebook. Well, a good number of inconsiderate people do that in the cinemas here. But not you… right?
Plus, it’s the time of year when really good films come out, all plump and ready for awards season, so if ever there was a time to venture out, this is it. Here’s what to see:
Tom Ford likes his movies as he likes his clothes: slick, sleek and surprising. Coming seven years after his debut, A Single Man, this one is more than worth the wait (and to be fair, he’s had some other things on his plate, such as running his eponymous fashion empire). It seems, at first, to be set in a gilded world, examining the troubled relationship between art dealer Susan (Amy Adams) and her husband (Armie Hammer). However, when Susan is given the manuscript for a novel that her ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), is writing, and starts to read it, a very gritty and grisly subplot begins to unfurl, which has profound consequences, both visceral and symbolic, for all involved.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
American heroism of a questionable kind is the subject of Ang Lee’s new movie, an adaptation of Ben Fountain’s astonishing novel of the same name. Taking place on a single day, or rather, a single American football game, the film follows the titular Billy, played by British newcomer Joe Alwyn, as he is paraded in front of a stadium crowd at Thanksgiving to honour him for services in Iraq that he would rather forget. Fountain’s book is a biting satire about jingoism, trauma and desensitisation on a personal and national scale — it will be fascinating to see how Lee wrestles these themes in a cinematic medium.
Amy Adams seems to be many a director’s favourite actress just now, perhaps because she looks so unbelievably sweet and American and marketable and yet has an acting range that is far more expansive than that. This time, Denis Villeneuve has cast her as an interpreter who seems to be the only person with a chance of discerning the intentions of some alien visitors who have arrived on Earth in what looks like a gigantic black contact lens. Extraterrestrial invasions will always be a field that’s ripe and ready for intrigue and imagination, but in an age of heightened hysteria about immigration, the figurative resonance of the topic is stronger than ever.
So far in this list we’ve had psychopaths, aliens, terrorists and assassins (some of which we may not have mentioned, but trust us, they’re in there), and now we have… a bus driver. And not a psychopathic, homicidal one; a regular one, called Paterson, who drives a bus, in Paterson, which is in New Jersey. And yet director Jim Jarmusch’s capacity for restraint, inflection and nuance, and star Adam Driver’s capacity for the same, means this small film, with small ambitions, about an isolated but not unhappy man who loves his wife, writes poetry and enjoys listening to strangers’ conversations, will leave a monumental impression.
Manchester by the Sea
Casey Affleck — smaller, weirder brother of Ben — was born to play emotionally stunted blue-collar workers from snowy New England towns. So it’s no surprise that he’s mesmerising in this quiet masterpiece, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, about a lonely janitor who, following the death of his brother, finds himself in charge of his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). It sounds cheesy but is anything but, as the two negotiate the new terms of their relationship, which are uncomfortable and unsatisfactory for both, but for different, heart-wrenching reasons. Yet there are jokes, too. As films go, you couldn’t ask for more.
A United Kingdom
Two of Britain’s finest actors, David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, head up director Amma Asante’s real-life account of an episode of our recent history about which we might feel less inclined to crow. In 1947, Seretse Khama, a young African law student in London, met and fell in love with Ruth Williams, a willowy English typist, a relationship that was controversial not just because of the different colours of their skin, but because he was in fact the prince of what is now Botswana. Their union would create suspicion among his people, and, because of the colonial economic interests they wanted to protect, castigation from hers.