Recommended Films on TV


There are plenty to choose from, but I thought this week I would pick a foreign-language film we haven’t shown at CFS. The Dardenne Brothers are the Belgian equivalent to Ken Loach, in that they make uncompromising dramas about working-class subjects. For Two Days, One Night (2014) they engaged the services of the glamorous Marion Cotillard, but they cast her as a downtrodden wife and mother in the midst of industrial turmoil. Cotillard did them proud, ensuring her superstar baggage was left on the shelf.

The story concerns Sandra, who is returning to work in a factory in northern Belgium after a period of absence for depression and stress. While she has been away, the remaining workers have done extra overtime and management offers them a bonus of €1,000 each if they agree that Sandra should be made redundant. Out of 16 polled, 14 vote for the bonus at the cost of Sandra losing her job. The factory manager reluctantly agrees to a second vote, giving Sandra a weekend to criss-cross the town trying to change her colleagues’ minds. Along the way, she faces fierce opposition from the factory foreman, and her efforts are hindered by the fact that many of the workers are immigrants in fear for their livelihoods.

The film is straightforward and heartfelt, with a complete absence of gloss. Cotillard is wonderful, portraying a woman emerging from the depths of depression to become a fighter in her own cause and that of her cowed co-workers. The performance earned her a 15-minute standing ovation at the 2014 Cannes festival and she was also nominated for a best actress Oscar. Two Days, One Night is on BBC2 on Monday (15/6) at 00:35 and subsequently on iPlayer.

Still in the World Cinema area, we have Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark (2000), which stars Björk as a Czech immigrant in the US who is losing her sight and wants to raise enough money for an operation to prevent her son from sharing the same fate. To escape from the rigours of her life, she goes to watch Hollywood musicals, described to her by her best friend as they sit in the stalls. Björk found making the film an unhappy experience, and it has sharply divided critics and audiences between those who find it deeply affecting and those who find it shallow and sentimental. All this was overshadowed when, in 2017, Björk announced on her Facebook page that she had been sexually harassed by a “Danish film director” she had worked with. That’s on Film4 on Monday (15/6) at 01;10.

At 23:45 on Monday (15/6), the same channel is showing Stoker (2013) an English-language film by Chan-wook Park, director of The Handmaiden. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Dermot Mulroney and Nicole Kidman, this is an intense family drama. India (Wasikowska) loses her father and best friend in a car accident. Then Uncle Charlie (a man she never knew existed) arrives and moves in with her and her unstable mother (Kidman) and she comes to suspect he has ulterior motives while also being drawn to him.

On Tuesday (16/6) at 01:45, Film4 is showing The Brand New Testament, a comedy in which God and his family live in a tower block in Brussels while his daughter rewrites the Bible. That was shown by CFS in 2016/17. On Wednesday (17/6) at 01:50, Channel 4 is showing The Handmaiden, which CFS showed in 2017/18. This period drama caused great controversy at the time for its frank depiction of lesbian sex and its sudden and shocking violence.

Three personal picks from Stephen: The Shallows (2016), in which Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra pits Blake Lively against a shark (Saturday 13/6, Film4, 21:00); 99 Homes, a moral tale about mortgage default in the aftermath of the 2008 banking crisis,  (Saturday 13/6, BBC1, 23:05, and subsequently on iPlayer); and a compelling documentary, Precinct Seven Five, on Friday (19/6) at 01:50 on Film4.

Otherwise, we have Room (2015), with Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay held captive for seven years (Saturday 13/6, Channel 4, 23:25); Philomena, the Irish adoption scandal feature with Steve Coogan and Judi Dench (Sunday 14/6, BBC1, 22:30, and subsequently on iPlayer), Almost Famous (2000), Cameron Crowe’s cultish rock-journalism saga, on Sony Movies on Tuesday (16/6) at 00:40; the dramatised Facebook history The Social Network on Sony Movies on Wednesday (17/6) at 21:00; Unbroken (2014), a wartime survival drama directed by Angelina Jolie from a script by the Coen Brothers, on Film 4 on Thursday (18/6) at 21:00; and Selma (2014), the story of Dr Martin Luther King and his civil rights struggles, on BBC2 on Friday (19/6) at 23:20 and subsequently on iPlayer.

As far as real oldies go, we can offer you, among others, The Bridge on the River Kwai (Paramount, Saturday 13/6, 17:40), Bullitt (ITV4, Saturday 13/6, 21:30); A Kind of Loving (Talking Pictures, Monday 15/6, 23:00); and The Fallen Idol (Talking Pictures, Thursday 18/6, 14:45).

Finally, for children of the 1950s, there are reruns of some much-loved ITV series on Talking Pictures: The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (Saturday 17:30/Sunday 7:50/Thursday 09:00); The Adventures of Robin Hood  (Sunday 17:30/Wednesday 09:00); Sir Francis Drake (Monday 09:00); and The Adventures of William Tell  (Tuesday 09:00).

Cheltenham International Film Festival

Cheltenham International Film Festival’s online event continues, with many of the features still available for streaming. Most are foreign-language and many of them are UK premieres. I (John) have seen some excellent films already. I particularly recommend Rounds, a Bulgarian police comedy-drama and Son-Mother, a moving family story made by a heroic Iranian film-maker. The full programme is available here.

John Morrish and Stephen Ilott