TV films of the week: Keeping body and soul together in consuming drama

 

Thursday

Blue Valentine

11.15pm 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 the exact kinds of lives they hadn't wanted to. It is so naturalistic and truthful, and the performances by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are so intense and unguarded, that it almost feels indecent to witness. *****

Saturday

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

4pm & 8pm Sky Movies Premiere

(John Madden, 2011) A cross-section of retirees played by England's finest over-60 actors, including Judi Dench and Celia Imrie, arrives at an establishment in Jaipur, run by a young man with the idea to outsource retirement care to a country where the elderly are venerated, instead of made to feel obsolescent. Unfortunately, there aren't enough storylines to go around, and this comedy is only interested in India as an exotic backdrop. **

Sunday

Thank You for Smoking

11.10pm Film4

(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. Interestingly, the smartly scripted first film by the director of Juno, Up in the Air and Young Adult doesn't require the character to have any kind of moral redemption, and it stays cynical to the end. ****

Monday

The Man Who Wasn't There

8pm Sky Movies Indie

(Joel & Ethan Coen, 2001) Having paid homage to the pulp fiction of Dashiel Hammett in Miller's Crossing and Raymond Chandler in The Big Lebowski, the Coen brothers looked to James M Cain, a writer of stories in which ordinary, insignificant men get in over their heads in blackmail and murder plots. Billy Bob Thornton plays the titular laconic barber. The stark monochrome cinematography is by Roger Deakins. ****

Tuesday

Poetry

10.55pm Film4

(Lee Chang-dong, 2010) South Korea's favourite actress, Yun Jung-hee, ended a 16-year retirement to star in this rich and moving drama. And she gives a fascinating, complex performance as a 66-year-old woman who finally begins to engage meaningfully with life, but only after she is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, joins a poetry group, and discovers too late that the grandson she's raised has gone off the rails. ****

Wednesday

All About Eve

10.10am & 7pm Sky Movies Classics

(Joseph L Mankiewicz, 1950) The ultimate backstage bitch-fest, in which Ann Baxter is fantastic as the ruthlessly ambitious, manipulative but looks-like-butter-wouldn't-melt understudy to Bette Davis's temperamental, ageing stage actress.  The most remembered of all the script's memorable lines is Davis's "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night". ****

Friday

All That Heaven Allows

3pm Film4

(Douglas Sirk, 1955) Widowed middle-aged socialite Cary Scott (Jane Wyman) has an outwardly enviable life, and barely even notices how stultifying it all is until she begins falling in love with her younger, outdoorsy and independently minded gardener, Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson). Society, of course, does not approve. One of Douglas Sirk's most vivid, lush – and subversive – Technicolor melodramas. *****

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