Want to hunker down in front of a screen but stuck for something to watch?
Here are the films, TV shows and special streaming events on our cultural radar right now, plus some of our favourites from recent weeks that you can catch up on…
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a-ha: The Movie
If you can only name one a-ha song, you’re not alone — but in addition to that most indelible of Eighties hits, Take On Me, the Norwegian band has sold more than 50 million records. This strange, somewhat solemn documentary tells the story of a band who, despite all that success, still seem to live beneath a cloud of intra-group tensions and regret.
In cinemas now
If you adore stories of unlikely sports teams clawing their way out of adversity to triumph, this film based on a true story, now available on Lionsgate Play, of a group of Indian orphans who were coached from nothing into a team that won the U14 rugby world cup will be for you, despite the fact that the players all look about 25. A minor quibble.
The Time Traveller’s Wife
Yes, this adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s novel suffers from About Time Syndrome ie. the fact that there’s something inherently a bit dodgy about time travelling romances. But Sherlock screenwriter Steven Moffat and stars Rose Leslie and Theo James do their utmost to make this a glossily enjoyable watch.
Sky Atlantic and Now
This powerful, harrowing one-off drama is based on the story of Andy Woodward, the former professional footballer who bravely spoke out about the coach who sexually abused him and other players as teenagers. His testimony was instrumental in encouraging other victims to come forward.
The Essex Serpent
Clio Barnard’s atmospheric AppleTV+ adaptation of Sarah Perry’s bestselling novel, which stars Claire Danes as young widow Cora, who comes to Essex to investigate rumours of a dangerous serpent that she believes may be a living example of an ancient creature. She finds more than she bargained for, not least sexy vicar Will Ransome (Tom Hiddleston).
Conversations With Friends
Even if the translation from page to screen has somewhat diminished the spark of Sally Rooney’s writing, this adaptation of her debut novel about two young women entangled in a tricky relationship with an older couple is worth watching for Jemima Kirke as Melissa Conway alone. Joe Alwyn less so, sadly, stretching a bit too far along the spectrum of strong and silent.
The Drover’s Wife
Leah Purcell’s reimagining of a 19th century short story about a woman protecting her family in the outback while her husband is away droving is both wonderful and flawed, but it looks incredible and the acting elevates what can veer into melodrama. It’s also the first Australian film to be written, directed and starred in by an indigenous woman - and she’s spectacular.
Mother Teresa: For the Love of God?
Great title, and a damning indictment of what appears to have amounted more or less to a cult that wasn’t backed up by sufficient practical assistance (and sometimes was actively dangerous), despite all the trumpeting of ‘helping the needy’. A salutary lesson in the danger of idolising humans.
Sky Documentaries and Now
Here We Go
This sitcom from Tom Basden (who also stars as vaping, Jamiroquai-loving uncle Robin) is a delight, charting family life with the Jessops (Katherine Parkinson’s over-it mum Rachel, Jim Howick’s former Olympic archer dad Paul and Alison Steadman on top form as grandma Sue) through the lens of their teenage son’s handheld camera. It’s a familiar set-up, but the jokes are relentlessly sharp and the characters never feel like clichés.
This comedy-drama from the producers of Normal People, streaming on Britbox, has shades of Fleabag and This Way Up. Thirty-something Shiv (Roisin Gallagher) returns home to Dublin after years of trying to make it as an artist (and partying hard) in London. Now she’s sober - but being back in the family fold will stretch her good intentions to the limit.
Everyone’s talking about this heartwarming Netflix adaptation of Alice Oseman’s graphic novel series - and it’s notched up a rare 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a sweet coming-of-age romance (more Grange Hill than Euphoria in tone) about teenager Charlie (Joe Locke) falling for Nick, the star of the school’s rugby team. Plus there’s an Olivia Colman cameo.
Parminder Nagra leads this four-part police thriller written by Maya Sondhi and exec produced by Jed ‘Line of Duty’ Mercurio (LoD fans will remember Sondhi as an AC-12 ally in earlier seasons). DI Rachita Ray’s colleagues are convinced that a murder case is a ‘culturally specific homicide’ - but she thinks they are jumping to conclusions, and the truth is more complicated.
ITV, Monday at 9pm
The Handmaid’s Tale’s Elisabeth Moss gets her teeth into yet another gritty role in this genre-bending, time-twisting mystery, streaming on Apple TV+ from today. She plays a former journalist who is trying to piece her life back together after experiencing a horrific assault. When reports emerge of a murder case that might be linked to her attacker, she is determined to discover the truth.
The British version of Call My Agent!, the chic hit French comedy about a Parisian talent agency, has been one of the most eagerly anticipated shows of the year. It finally arrives on Prime Video this week, with Jack Davenport, Lydia Leonard and Prasanna Puwanarajah among the cast, and a whole host of celeb cameos. Perfect gentle viewing for the three day weekend.
A comedy about #MeToo? Noooo, I hear you cry. Fortunately, however, this is a smart, subtle show on Channel 4 from Steve Coogan and Sarah Solemani, which makes hypocrisy the butt of the joke. Terrified of being cancelled, producer Cameron brings feminist filmmaker Bobby in to do reshoots of a movie that’s turned out a bit sexist. Sienna Miller and Lolly Adefope also star.
This utterly bonkers anthology series comes from the makers of GLOW and is based on short stories by Irish author Cecelia Ahern. It’s no P.S. I Love You, though. Nicole Kidman plays a woman who eats photographs and Merritt Wever goes on a date with a duck. All episodes are on Apple TV+.
Life After Life
Kate Atkinson’s bestselling 2013 novel has had the prestige BBC drama treatment, and it’s making everyone sob. Thomasin McKenzie plays Ursula Todd who, from 1910 onwards, dies and comes back to life repeatedly throughout both of the world wars. Directed by John Crowley, the brilliant cast also includes Sian Clifford and Jessica Hynes, plus silky narration from Lesley Manville. All episodes are on iPlayer.
Netflix’s comedy about a woman who gets stuck in a time loop is back, and the second series is even better than the first. Co-created by Amy Poehler, Leslye Headland and its star Natasha Lyonne, inset, the show is one of two good reasons to keep your Netflix subscription going this week. The other? Series five of Selling Sunset (out today), obvs.
The most audacious, ridiculous and possibly most important deception of the Second World War is the subject of this highly enjoyable back-room boys story starring Colin Firth, Matthew McFadyen, Kelly Macdonald and Penelope Wilton as the team who tricked the Germans using a floating dead body and a briefcase of ingenious fake documents in 1943. It’s a hoot.
La Voix Humaine
A single, suspenseful, much-interrupted phone call to a former lover is the basis of this short, one-woman film, based on the play by Jean Cocteau and set to music by Francois Poulenc. James Kent’s innovative, genre-crossing new version premieres on BBC Two at 10pm on Good Friday and stars superstar soprano Danielle de Niese as Elle, a woman at the end of her tether.
The Thief, his Wife and the Canoe
The saga of ‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin, who faked his own death in 2002 to claim an insurance payout, captivated the public with its staggering mix of the banal and the bizarre. Now it has inspired a four-part drama, written by Unforgotten’s Chris Lang. Eddie Marsan plays John, with Monica Dolan co-starring as his wife Anne.
Easter Sunday, 9pm on ITV
Paul Verhoeven’s latest attracted church protests in the US, perhaps unsurprisingly since it’s the story of a visionary nun who becomes embroiled in a lesbian affair with another young woman at her convent. Powered by some fantastic performances (Charlotte Rampling as a frosty Abbess? Yes please) it has something of the Ken Russell about it, inevitably, and is none the worse for that.
6 Music Festival 2022 Highlights
The annual 6 Music festival landed in Cardiff earlier this month, but if you didn’t make the trip to Wales for the weekend, you can catch up on all the best bits on BBC Four from 10.40pm tonight. The highlights show features backstage interviews and a special intimate performance from Manic Street Preachers, with snippets from performances by Wet Leg, IDLES, Little Simz and more.
Suranne Jones returns as Anne Lister, the trailblazing Victorian lesbian who wrote about her relationships in coded diaries, for the second series of Sally Wainwright’s lively, fourth wall-breaking period drama. After their marriage ceremony, Anne and Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) are preparing to move in together at Shibden Hall - but their families are increasingly suspicious.
BBC One, April 10 at 9pm
Lisa McGee’s joyous series about navigating adolescence against the backdrop of the Troubles is back for its third and final outing - and we’re fully confident it’ll be a cracker send-off for one of the best-loved sitcoms of the last few years. The gang are nervously awaiting their GCSE results as the new season kicks off - and naturally Sister Michael (Siobhán McSweeney) is doing the absolute bare minimum to reassure them.
Channel 4, Tuesdays
All the Old Knives
Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton shine in this tense, slick, flashback-spattered thriller based around a conversation in a California restaurant between two former lovers (and, ah yes, CIA agents), instigated by the revelation that their department may have had a mole who aided a hostage massacre. Was it her? And what will he do if it was?
Amazon Prime Video
This impressive adaptation of the first novel in Mick Herron’s spy series presents espionage work as distinctly unglam. Jack Lowden is great as River Cartwright, a disgraced MI5 agent who is shoved over to Slough House, a purgatory for demoted spies, after an operation goes wrong. The ensemble cast also features Gary Oldman as his foul-mouthed boss Jackson Lamb and Kristin Scott Thomas as an icy MI5 chief.
This comedy earned rave reviews (and a handful of Emmy nominations) when it debuted in the US last year, but has only just become available to watch on this side of the Atlantic. It stars Jean Smart (so wonderful as Kate Winslet’s on-screen mum in Mare of Easttown) as a veteran stand-up who joins forces with a Gen Z comedy writer (Hannah Einbinder) to bring new life to her stagnant material.
Amazon Prime Video
Yes, Oscar Isaac’s Cockney accent sounds a bit like an unconvincing impression of Stath from Stath Lets Flats, and his character, gift shop employee Steven Grant, has a similarly loose grasp on idioms (why does he keep saying “laters, gators?”). If you’re willing to overlook that, the series is completely bonkers, but enjoyably so - and provides further proof that these Marvel series are best when they deviate from the usual superhero rulebook (see also: WandaVision).
Can Bridgerton recapture the magic for its second series, now that S1 breakout star Regé-Jean Page has left the Ton? It’s a yes from us - Netflix’s all-conquering period drama is still plenty of fun, albeit a little more chaste than the previous season. Simone Ashley and Charithra Chandran join the cast as Kate and Edwina Sharma, the sisters who end up embroiled in a love triangle with eldest Bridgerton brother Anthony (Jonathan Bailey).
Watch Out for the Big Grrrls
Lizzo has ventured into the world of reality TV: in the singer’s first ever TV project, she’s on the hunt for back-up dancers to accompany her on a world tour, looking for “confident, bad-ass women to join the ranks of the Big Grrrls”. In keeping with time-honoured reality telly tradition, the contestants will all move into the same house before undertaking a series of challenges to prove they have what it takes.
Amazon Prime Video
An eight-part adaptation of the best-selling Min Jin Lee novel of the same name, this Apple TV+ series tells the story of a Korean family across more than 70 years of the 20th century. Weaving together tales of sacrifice and success, it’s a real epic, masterfully acted out by a superb cast — Oscar winner Youn Yuh-jung among them. The kind of show that stays with you long after you’re done watching.
New, extremely arty art film now on MUBI from Oscar and Bafta winner Tim Yip looking at East London through the eyes of Stella, a 17 year old girl looking from ‘Grey London’ towards ‘Colourful London,’ a world created by artists. Part-documentary, part-fiction, all extremely strange and a unique look at themes of identity, diversity, creativity and freedom.
The new series of Top Boy, out on Netflix this week, focuses on Dushane (Ashley Walters)’s efforts to secure his empire while bringing multiple plot lines together in a gathering storm of fear and fury, pain and paranoia. It’s essential stuff, with a top cast that includes Bafta winner Micheal Ward, Little Simz and the acting debut from Adwoa Aboah.
This adaptation of Graham Norton’s novel looks like it’s going to play out as a cosy rural murder mystery, but constantly plays with and challenges our expectations with clever shifts of tone and well-observed characters. When human remains are discovered in a sleepy Cork village, decades of secrets are dredged up - and the town’s (only) police officer, played by Conleth Hill, finally has a proper case to solve.
Possibly don’t watch this new offering on Disney+, out now, if you’re down on dating. Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is over the apps, so takes a chance when she meets the charming Steve (Sebastian Stan) in a grocery store. But when he whisks her away on a romantic weekend it seems he might have been shopping for more than she bargained for.