Recommended films of the week 26/12/2020 to 01/01/2021


We hope you have managed to enjoy your unusual Christmas. To welcome you into Tier Three we have dug deep for an old favourite that will, we hope, cheer everybody up.

If I had a pound for every time I’ve typed “coming of age drama” this year I would have enough for an artisan veg box, but Gregory’s Girl (1980) is slightly different. It is a teenage romcom in which the participants are seen not through a haze of nostalgia but with their own young eyes, as ordinary kids in a state secondary school in Cumbernauld, an unlovely New Town.
Gordon (John Gordon Sinclair) is a gawky player in the school football team. Glamorous Dorothy (Dee Hepburn) turns up and wants to play, contrary to all the rules, but she is so good she gets the job. Gordon fancies her like mad and asks her on a date, but she doesn’t turn up, so he goes to the chip shop with one of her friends. That’s the kind of film it is.

Written and directed by Bill Forsyth, it’s a slice of British, or rather Scottish, innocence, 500 miles away from the witless American teen comedies that were so popular at the time. It also introduced the world to Clare Grogan, working as a waitress when Forsyth found her and later to become the voice of Altered Images of ‘Happy Birthday’ fame. The Eighties weren’t so bad, were they? Gregory’s Girl is on Drama on Saturday (Boxing Day), at 23:50.

World Cinema

We are always listing Snowpiercer (2013), so I’ll say no more about that except that it is on Film4 on Saturday (Boxing Day) at 23:20. More interesting is The Motorcycle Diaries (2004), the story of the young Che Guevara’s wanderings around South America. Well made, and starring the reliable Gael Garcia Bernal. That’s on Film4 on Thursday (New Year’s Eve) at 00:55.

Stephen Ilott’s picks

Apart from Gregory’s Girl, Stephen has gone for Hitchcock. BBC2 provides us with a double bill on Wednesday (30/12), starting with To Catch a Thief (1955) at 13:05, followed by North by Northwest (1955) at 14:50. Both blend romance and thrills and star Hollywood’s favourite Bristolian, Cary Grant. On 21:00 on Friday (New Year’s Day), Sony Action has The Day of the Jackal (1973), the de Gaulle assassination drama that taught the world how to fake an identity. At 21:45 the same day, Talking Pictures has Witchfinder General (1968), the English Civil War shocker, starring Vincent Price in what he regarded as the best performance of his horror career.

Other modern films of note

On Saturday (Boxing Day) at 21:05, BBC1 has Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed and astonishingly successful Dunkirk (2017). The same day at 22:50, BBC4 has Suite Française (2014), a Nazi-occupation romance from the Irène Némirovsky book, starring Michelle Williams, Matthias Schoenaerts and Kristin Scott Thomas, among others.

On Sunday (27/12) at 11:40, BBC1 goes full Plasticine with Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005).

On Monday (28/12) at 22:30, BBC1 has Minority Report (2002), from a story by the deeply weird Philip K. Dick and starring the fairly weird Tom Cruise. At 23:50, BBC4 has Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love (2019), Nick Broomfield’s documentary about Leonard Cohen, his music and his lost muse. Emotional, but it helps to be a fan.

On Tuesday (29/12) at 19:30, ITV has Wonder Woman (2017), supposedly to be joined by a sequel this year. We may have a long wait.

On Wednesday (30/12) at 22:00, BBC4 has Uncle Vanya (2020), an Olivier-winning adaptation of the Chekhov play, with Toby Jones in the title role and the sonorous Roger Allam, Endeavour’s boss, as Serebrayakov.

Four notable items on Friday (New Year’s Day). At 09:00, BBC1 has silly family fun with Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017). At 18:20, BBC2 has Mr Holmes (2015), with Ian McKellen as an elderly Sherlock coping with dementia. We like Sky Arts: at  21:00 it has The Great Buster (2018), a documentary about the comedy genius Keaton, by Peter Bogdanovich. That has to be worth a look. At 21:30 BBC4 has Whitney: Can I Be Me (2017), another Nick Broomfield biographical documentary, this time about the tragic soul singer.


On Saturday (Boxing Day) there are three notable oldies. At 10:40, BBC2 has Kiss Me Kate (1953), the MGM backstage musical inspired by The Taming of the Shrew. At 13:10, the same channel has the adorable Calamity Jane (1953), with Doris Day and her Secret Love. At 14:40, and also on Friday ( New Year’s Day) at 11:55, ITV4 has Ben-Hur (1959), the biblical epic with Charlton Heston.

On Sunday (27/12) at 15:45, BBC1 has Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music (1965). (It’s also on BBC4 on Thursday, New Year’s Day, at 20.00.) Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, singing children, nuns, and Nazis in the final reel: something for everyone. At 18:35, ITV4 has Howard Hawks’s Red River (1948), with John Wayne and Montgomery Clift and then at 22:40 on ITV there is The Silence of the Lambs (1991). The Fava beans have been held up at Dover.

On Monday (28/12) at 14:10, BBC2 has Murder on the Orient Express (1974) in the most star-studded version.

On Wednesday (30/12) at 00:00, BBC1 has Point Break (1991), with Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves as a beach-bum bank robber and the FBI agent sent to catch him. Surf’s up.

On Thursday (New Year’s Eve) at 18:50, Talking Pictures has Dead of Night (1945), a haunted house horror. Then at 23:15, Film4 brings us Withnail & I (1986), the hilarious cautionary tale about drink and drugs. “We’ve gone on holiday by mistake.”

On Friday (New Year’s Day) at 16:00, ITV3 has Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), the sickly children’s favourite with Gene Wilder in the title role. Finally for this first Tier Three week, at 23:15, Paramount has the tense prison island drama Papillon (1973), with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.

All the BBC’s films will be available on iPlayer after broadcast.

Stephen Ilott and John Morrish