Films of the week: Classic tale of tension, lies and racial prejudice

 

Saturday

To Kill a Mockingbird

2.25pm ITV3

(Robert Mulligan, 1963) Atticus Finch – a widower, father of two children and a lawyer principled enough to defend a black man accused of rape in Thirties Alabama – was Gregory Peck's greatest role, and Harper Lee even said that it gave Peck "the chance to play himself". Like the character, this film's blend of courtroom drama and Southern gothic is well-intentioned, impeccably presented and wholly admirable. *****

Sunday

Juno

10pm Channel 4

(Jason Reitman, 2007) Juno (Ellen Page) is a precocious 16-year-old schoolgirl having to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. She has a quip for every occasion, and almost every line in Diablo Cody's Oscar-winning script is quotable. Page is brilliant, as is the supporting cast. But this funny and cool indie hit is far more than a sum of its quirks, having a full range of genuinely felt emotions too. *****

Monday

Hombre

11.20am More 4

(Martin Ritt, 1967) Paul Newman stars as a man raised by Apaches to think of the white man's civilisation as hell – a prejudice confirmed when he's riding on a stagecoach ambushed by bandits. While it features great performances, impressive Death Valley location shots and thrilling action scenes, what really sets this Western apart is the whip-smart dialogue taken from Elmore Leonard's source novel. ****

Tuesday

Blue Valentine

11.20pm Film4

(Derek Cianfrance, 2010) Cross- cutting between the beginning of a love affair and its bitter end, this grungy, indie take on Scenes from a Marriage is about how, almost without noticing, people can find themselves living lives of a kind they hadn't wanted to. It is so naturalistic and truthful, and the performances by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are so intense, that it almost feels indecent to watch. *****

Wednesday

Thank You for Smoking

1.50am Channel 4

(Jason Reitman, 2005) Aaron Eckhart plays a slick spin doctor who balances his professional life as an apologist for the tobacco industry with a private life in which he tries to be a good role model for his son. Unusually, the first film by the director of Juno and Up in the Air doesn't require the character to have any kind of moral redemption, and remains smartly cynical to the end. ****

Thursday

Broadcast News

10.50pm TCM

(James L Brooks, 1987) Holly Hunter's driven television news producer, William Hurt's telegenic presenter and Albert Brooks's aggrieved reporter form the three sides of a love triangle. Each of them is complicated but rounded; the film is convincing in all its behind-the-scenes detail, and takes a well-aimed swipe at what – now rather quaintly – it perceives as declining journalistic standards. *****

Friday

The Innkeepers

10am & 11.40pm Sky Movies Premiere

(Ti West, 2011) This witty and brilliantly controlled chiller is set in the present day but has an eerie, out-of-time quality. And Ti West's patient approach to storytelling means that you get to know and like its heroes: two bored young clerks overseeing the final week in business of a creaky American hotel with all of the vintage patterned carpets and nameless dread of the hotel in The Shining. Sara Paxton stars. ****

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