Recommended films on TV


When you learn that a film is influenced by The Book of Job, you know not to expect a lot of laughs. The biblical Job experiences an unending series of trials inflicted upon him by a harsh God. In Leviathan, a film from 2014 set in contemporary Russia, Kolya, a car mechanic, falls foul of his small town’s corrupt mayor. The mayor tries to buy Kolya’s house for a pittance, ostensibly to erect a telephone mast but, in Kolya’s suspicions, to build a villa for himself. The mechanic brings in a friend, Dima, a Moscow lawyer, but the pair soon run into trouble with the local police. Kolya’s troubles get worse and worse and lurch into real tragedy. The leviathan, by the way, is both the symbolic creature in the biblical story and a cetacean washed up on the shore near Kolya’s home.

This all sounds grim, and it is, but the film is made with such assurance that it is a bracing experience. It was critically acclaimed upon release, but director Andrey Zvaginstev faced harsh criticism at home for showing his countrymen as vodka-swigging criminals and not “real Russians”. Subsequently, guidelines were issued by the Ministry of Culture banning films that “defile” Russian culture. It is hard to imagine it being made now. The film is shown on BBC2 at 01:00 on Monday (22/6) and subsequently on iPlayer.

Altogether less gritty is Call Me By Your Name (2017), the third in Luca Guardigno’s loose “Desire” trilogy, coming after I Am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015). It is a romantic drama set in the beautiful surroundings of northern Italy. Elio, 17, meets Oliver, 24, one summer holiday. After chasing the local girls, the two young men fall in love with each other. The acclaimed film, highly promoted by Film4, is notable as the first feature written by the veteran James Ivory but not directed by him. It is on Monday (22/6) at 21:00.

On Tuesday (23/6) at 01:50, Film4 has In Between (2016), an excellent Israeli-produced feature about three young Palestinian women in Tel Aviv, trying to chart a course between tradition and modernity. On Thursday (25/6) at 01:30, the same channel has A Fantastic Woman, which CFS showed in 2018/19. Directed by the Chilean Sebastián Lelio, who later went on to make Disobedience in English, it tells of a transgender waitress and nightclub singer whose life goes into a spin after her older boyfriend dies suddenly. A vivid and moving film.

Still in World Cinema, Film4 has Rafiki (2018), a poignant Kenyan film about two young girls from rival political groupings who become friends and then fall in love, a dangerous development in a country where same-sex relationships are illegal. A powerful second feature from director and co-writer Wanuri Kahiu, it is shown at 02:20 on Friday (26/4). Later that day, at 23:05, Film4 is showing Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013), another same-sex romance, this time set in France. Adèle (Adèle Exarchopolous) is a French teenager who has a tempestuous affair with Emma (Léa Seydoux). The film, directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, generated huge amounts of controversy on release on account of its graphic sex scenes. These were particularly criticised on the grounds that the director was male. Also, crew and lead actors complained bitterly about conditions on set. It should be noted that the film is 2 hours 39 minutes long.

In English-language cinema, we have Rango (2011) on E4 on Saturday (20/6) at 10:00. This is a strange animated feature about a chameleon who becomes sheriff of a lawless Western town, with Johnny Depp voicing the lead role. On Paramount on Sunday (21/6) at 23:05 there is Rescue Dawn (2006), a Werner Herzog adventure movie about a US pilot shot down over Laos in 1965, when bombing was still a classified mission. Starring Welsh actor Christian Bale, the film represented a move by the venerable director into the mainstream. On Monday (22/6), Film4 has Sing Street (2016), the delightful teenage musical that we showed at our Musicals! event at the Playhouse last year. That’s on at 23:40.

Also of note are I Am Not Your Negro, about the black writer James Baldwin, on BBC2 on Saturday (20/6) at 21:00 and subsequently on iPlayer. The film is immediately followed by the three-part documentary series Black Hollywood. On Sunday (21/6) at 00:35 on BBC1, there is Kajaki: The True Story, a startling, realistic and occasionally grimly humorous British film about a group of soldiers patrolling in Afghanistan when one steps on a mine. Subsequently on iPlayer. At 18:45 on Film4 the same day, there is The Imitation Game (2014), about Alan Turing. That can also be seen on Thursday (25/6) at 18:45. On Tuesday (23/6) at 23:15, Film4 gives us Carol (2015), directed by Todd Haynes, a lesbian romance based in New York in the 1950s. On Wednesday (24/6) at 21:00, BBC2 has On Chesil Beach (2017), adapted by Ian McEwan from his own Booker-winning novel about a disastrous honeymoon. Subsequently on iPlayer. Finally, two notable films on Friday (26/6). Grandma stars Lily Tomlin as a misanthropic widow trying to raise money for her teenage granddaughter to have an abortion. It is on Film4 at 00:40. Meanwhile, BBC1 at 22:45 gives another outing to The Lady in the Van, the very funny adaptation of an Alan Bennett story starring Maggie Smith. Also on iPlayer.

Oldies now. BBC2 has The Magnificent Seven (1960) on Sunday (21/6) at 14:00 and subsequently on iPlayer. Later the same day, at 14:20, Talking Pictures has the evergreen Genevieve. On Tuesday (23/6) at 01:30, the same channel has Charade (1963),  the Stanley Donen romcom with Cary and Audrey. At 13:05, Film4 has Hatari! (1965), an unusual Howard Hawks romcom, with John Wayne in Africa; and then at 19:20, Talking Pictures has Passport to Pimlico. On Wednesday (24/6) at 01:55, Talking Pictures has Hawks’s wonderful His Girl Friday (1940). On Thursday (25/6) at 14:30, Talking Pictures has Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and on Friday (26/6) at 16:50 Film4 has Heaven Knows, Mr Allison (1957), directed by John Huston, with Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr as a marine and a nun stranded on an island during World War II.

And that’s just a selection of films from the Freeview channels.

John Morrish and Stephen Ilott