Recommended films on TV


Custody (2017) is a terrific tug-of-love drama by Xavier Legrand, with gripping performances by Léa Drucker and Denis Ménochet as the warring parents and Thomas Gloria as the young boy trapped between them. What starts off as a finely balanced dispute over custody, supervised by a judge, rapidly becomes the trigger for a dangerous obsession. A tense and suspenseful film that also feels horribly real. That is on Film4 on Monday (6/7) at 23:20.

Recently we recommended Two Days, One Night (2014), only to discover that for some reason BBC2 had postponed it. It is now back on again, on Sunday (5/7) at 00:15 and on iPlayer. It’s a gritty Dardennes Brothers story set in industrial Belgium with an almost unrecognisably dowdy Marion Cotillard in the lead role. Also on Sunday, at 21:00, Channel 4 has The Great Wall (2016), an unusual action-adventure-fantasy film directed by Zhang Yimou, celebrated for House of Flying Daggers. It stars Matt Damon as an 11th-century Western mercenary, looking to find the secret of China’s explosive black powder, who gets roped in to help the Chinese defend the Great Wall against marauding monsters. A China-USA coproduction, it is supposedly the film for which Damon gave up Manchester By The Sea, leaving Ben Affleck to pick up the Best Actor Golden Globe.

On Monday (6/7) at 01:45, Film4 has Marshland (2014), the excellent Spanish thriller we showed in 2016/17. A pair of contrasting cops are sent to the mysterious waterlands of Andalusia to investigate the disappearance of two young sisters. There they discover a web of corruption and rural depravity linked to the demise of the Franco regime. Highly recommended. At 18:35 the same day, the same channel has Life of Pi (2012), Ang Lee’s ingenious adaptation of Yann Martel’s almost unfilmable novel. Lee cast 17-year-old newcomer Suraj Sharma as Pi, a boy cast adrift in a small boat with a tiger called Richard Parker. The recently deceased Irrfan Khan plays Pi as an adult.

If your tastes run to war movies, consider Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), a US-Japan epic about the attack on Pearl Harbor, intended to show the story from both sides. The Japanese end of the film was supposed to have been directed by Akira Kurosawa, but he dropped out and was replaced by Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku. That will be shown on Film4 on Tuesday (7/7) at 13:10.

On Thursday (9/7) at 00:15, Talking Pictures has Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger (1975), starring Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider. Somewhat more accessible than many of Antonioni’s films, this is a story about a journalist who swaps identities with a dead man, only to find out he was an international arms dealer. In the hands of a Hitchcock, this could have been a straightforward thriller, but Antonioni gives us something altogether more alienated and artful.

On Friday (10/7) at 01:55, Film4 has She, A Chinese (2009). Mi Lei (Lu Huang) dreams of leaving rural China to come to the West. After a series of grim misadventures she ends up the girlfriend of a gangster who makes her ambition possible. But London proves anything but a land of dreams. A Golden Leopard winner at the Locarno Film Festival.

Leaving World Cinema to one side, we have, on Saturday (4/7) at 01:05 on Film4, The Survivalist (2015). A British post-apocalypse drama, it stars Martin McCann as a man living off the grid in total seclusion until a woman and her young daughter arrive to disrupt his grim existence. At 01:10 the same day on Sony Movies we have A Most Violent Year (2014), a crime story about the owner of a heating oil company who is forced to arm his drivers for their own protection. At 11:00 the same day, Film4 is showing The Straight Story (1999), a David Lynch biopic about a man who drove across two states on a lawnmower. On Sunday (5/7) at 14:35, Film4 gives us Bill Forsyth’s sweet and funny Local Hero (1990).

On Tuesday (7/7) at 01:10 on Film4 there is The Selfish Giant (2013), the British director Clio Barnard’s powerful story of teenage deprivation, loosely inspired by the Oscar Wilde story of the same name. At 22:00  the same day come Clint Eastwood’s WWII drama Hacksaw Ridge (2016) on Channel 5 and then at 23:15 on Film 4 Alex Garland’s spooky android thriller Ex Machina (2015).

On Thursday (9/7) on Channel 4 at 01:25 there is Boyhood (2014), Richard Linklater’s ingenious coming-of-age drama, filmed over 12 years with the same cast. At 23:40 the same day, ITV4 has American Sniper (2014), another Clint Eastwood film, this one set in the Iraq war. Still on snipers, Sony Movies has Enemy at the Gates (2001), about the battle of Stalingrad, on Friday (10/7) at 21:00. Also on Friday (10/7) at 21:00, 5 Star gives us The Commuter (2018), a tremendous Liam Neeson action movie from Jaume Collet-Serra, mostly filmed in the UK despite its US setting.

Turning to this week’s Oldies, there is a rich selection. On Saturday (4/7),  ITV1 has Dr No (1962) at 20:30. At 21:00 Talking Pictures has The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1966), from the Le Carré novel, with Richard Burton in the lead role. On Sunday (5/7) at 14:30, Sony Movies has The Truman Show. At 18:00 the same day, Talking Pictures has The Country Girl (1955), with Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and William Holden, while at 21:00 5 Select has Dead Man Walking (1995). Then at 22:25 5 Star has Erin Brokovich (2000). On Monday (6/7) at 23:05, Channel 5 has Thelma & Louise. On Tuesday (7/ 7), Talking Pictures has Whistle Down The Wind (1962) at 11:10 and ITV4 has Mad Max 2 (1981) at 22:00. Then on Friday (10/7) at 16:55 Talking Pictures has Blithe Spirit (1945).

John Morrish and Stephen Ilott