Recommended films on TV


Greta Gerwig produced 350 pages of script as part of the process of creating her solo writing and directing debut Lady Bird (2017), intended as a female counterpart to Boyhood, Moonlight and The 400 Blows. At its heart is the relationship between rebellious Christine, who insists on being called “Lady Bird”, and Marion, her overbearing, exasperated mother.

Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) has a dream: she wants to leave working-class California and go to a top university in the East. Unfortunately, despite Lady Bird’s obvious intelligence, she has been idle at school, and almost everyone, starting with Marion (Laurie Metcalf), tries to talk her out of her plan, with varying degrees of insensitivity.

Lady Bird’s defiant attitude as she navigates the vicissitudes of teenage life, and her mother’s frustration, provide both plenty of laughs and moments of real emotion. The film garnered five Oscar nominations, including best picture, best director and best original screenplay. Lady Bird is on BBC2 on Friday (21/8) at 21:00, and subsequently on iPlayer.

Turning to World Cinema, on Sunday (16/8) at 00:00, BBC2 gives us The King’s Choice (2016), a Second World War drama about the King of Norway’s defiance in the face of inevitable defeat by the Nazi invaders. Some of the action scenes are underpowered, perhaps in consequence of limited budgets, but Jesper Christensen makes an inspiring King Haakon VII. Subsequently available on iPlayer.

At 01:10 the same night, Film 4 shows Berlin Syndrome (2017), a creepy drama about a young Australian woman (Teresa Palmer) who has a tryst with a local man, only to find herself imprisoned in his fortified flat when she awakes. What is worse, Andi (Max Riemelt) treats her as if they are a normal couple in a relationship. The stuff of nightmares.

If you’d like to see Kristin Scott Thomas playing against type, take a look at Only God Forgives (2013), an extraordinarily violent Thai gangster film in which she is a ruthless and terrifying mafia materfamilias. If you have a strong stomach, that’s on Sony Movies on Tuesday (18/8) at 23:05.

Nobody much liked We Are the Best! (2013) when we showed it in 2014/15 (it ranked 371stout of 404 films screened in recent years) but many of us on the viewing panel found it delightful. Two young Swedish girls rebel against the bland music of the early 1980s, give themselves bad haircuts and form the world’s worst punk-rock band, several years too late. Then they find an introverted Christian girl who can actually play and things start to pick up. Starring three virtual unknowns, it received considerable acclaim, though not in the Bacon Theatre. That’s on Wednesday (19/8) at 01:20 on Film4. The same day at 21:00, Sony Movies has District 9 (2009), an original South African sci-fi film in which a settlement of aliens are forced to live in grim conditions that parallel those of the apartheid era. Later some of them attempt to break out with the help of Nigerian mercenaries and the film turns into a less-original action movie. Worth a look, though.

On Friday (21/8) at 16:35, Sony Action brings us the Ukrainian director Sergei Bondarchuk’s epic Waterloo (1970), starring Rod Steiger as Bonaparte, Christopher Plummer as Wellington, and 17,000 extras supplied by the Soviet army. An unusual Italian-Soviet co-production, it required the bulldozing of two hills to create the battlefield, and failed to recoup its vast production costs, a mishap that persuaded Stanley Kubrick to cancel his proposed biopic of Napoleon.

Leaving World Cinema, Stephen Ilott has picked the horror parody Young Frankenstein (1974), on BBC1 on Sunday (16/8) at 00:15 and subsequently on iPlayer. Mel Brooks’s selection as his own best film, it stars Gene Wilder as the title character and Peter Boyle as the monster. For British audiences, though, the film is stolen by our own Mary Feldman as Igor. On Monday (17/8) at 21:00, with part two on Tuesday, Stephen has picked a TV movie. The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies (2014) tells the true story of the retired Bristol schoolteacher falsely accused of the murder of his tenant Jo Yeates; it now seems like a turning point in press-public and police-public relations. With a career-best performance from Jason Watkins, it’s on ITV.

Other notable films this week include, on Saturday (15/8) at 11.35 on ITV, The Queen (2006), directed by Stephen Frears from a Peter Morgan script, with Helen Mirren in the title role. The Sovereign struggles to deal with the sudden death of Diana, “the people’s princess”.

On Tuesday (18/8) at 01:00, Film4 has Brick Lane (2007), from Monica Ali’s acclaimed novel about two young Bangladeshi sisters in London and Dhaka. The same day at 11:25, Talking Pictures has a film documentary, Leslie Howard: The Man Who Gave a Damn (2015). And then at 18:55, Film4 brings us Belle (2013), based on the true story of a mixed-race woman on the edges of high society in 18thcentury England.

The mountaineering drama Everest (2015) is on Film4 on Wednesday (19/8) at 18:40. It follows the story of two commercial teams trying to reach the summit in the face of an unprecedented onslaught by the weather.

On Thursday (20/8) at 02:20, Film4 has Menashe (2017), a family drama set among Brooklyn’s orthodox Jewish community and performed entirely in Yiddish. Later the same day, ITV4 brings us Inglourious Basterds (2009), Quentin Tarentino’s characteristically idiosyncratic and spiky Second World War film. That’s at 23:10.

On Friday (21/8), there is a chance to see Nocturnal Animals (2016), an ingenious thriller from the former fashion designer Tom Ford. A successful woman in the art world receives the manuscript of a novel by her ex-husband and takes it as a threat of revenge. With Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. That’s on Sony Movies at 22:00 .

Moving on to the Oldies, Talking Pictures has the Peter Sellers industrial relations classic I’m All Right Jack( 1959) on Saturday (15/8) at 18:00.

On Sunday (16/8), Sony Action has Twelve O’Clock High (1949) with Gregory Peck as commander of a bomber unit at 18:15. Then, at 20:00, ITV4 is showing the tense Apollo 13 (1995). Rounding off the day, at 22:00, Talking Pictures has the Quentin Crisp TV biopic The Naked Civil Servant (1975).

On Monday (17/8) at 23:00, Talking Pictures is showing The Go-Between (1971), with Julie Christie and Alan Bates and a script by Harold Pinter.

On Tuesday (18/8) at 21:00, 5Star has Gladiator (2000), Ridley Scott’s Roman epic with Russell Crowe in the lead role.

On Wednesday (19/8), Sony Action shows The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), about the hi-jacking of a subway train at 21:00, while at 22:50 Film4 shows Sexy Beast(2000), the Brit crime drama, with a startling Ben Kingsley turn as a monstrous gangster.

On Thursday (20/8) at 14:55, Sony Action has The Bedford Incident(1965), a Cold War submarine drama.

Taking Pictures brings us the timeless Brighton Rock (1948) on Friday (21/8) at 18:40, and then at 23:50 Film4 has Pacino and De Niro in the crime thriller Heat (1995).

Enjoy your week’s viewing.

John Morrish and Stephen Ilott