Wondering what to watch? This weeks new streaming releases include some smaller scale dramas — two set in Ireland at different points in time – interested in long broken systems and the consequences on the interior lives of their characters.
One is the Letitia Wright-led film Aisha, which sees the Black Panthe actor star alongside Josh O’ Connor as she plays a Nigerian immigrant struggling with the pressures and disfunction of the Irish immigration system.
Read more: Everything new on Paramount+ in November
Meanwhile Florence Pugh, another great star pulled into Marvel’s orbit, does fine work in elevating the story of The Wonder, an 1862-set adaptation of the novel by Emma Donoghue. On the more high profile side of things is Disenchanted, a Disney Original follow-up to the Amy Adams-starring Enchanted.
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Disenchanted (2022) - Disney+ (pick of the week)
Enchanted was a rare gem: A fun live-action Disney film that felt like it had real filmmaking behind it, with an incredibly charming performance from Amy Adams as Princess Giselle. It found hysterical farce in her predicament as a Disney-style princess displaced into modern New York, where she found love with a gruff divorce lawyer, Robert, played by Patrick Dempsey.
Read more: Everything new on Disney+ in November
Disenchanted sees Giselle now disillusioned with life in suburbia, frustrated that things haven’t been spun into a simple happy-ever-after. The series feels like one of the only live action Disney properties that has any kind of reverence for the studio’s history with animation — its many references to old stories backed up by an interest in their visual roots. The sequel opens with a sequence harkening back to classic princess tales through evocation of multiplane cameras and other signifiers.
Watch a trailer for Disenchanted
Disenchanted has more fun with upsetting and playing with the narrative conventions as its predecessor did, following The Princess Bride in how it mixes the earnest pleasures of fairy tale storytelling with a healthy skepticism about things turning out perfectly.
In this follow-up, Giselle reckons with the idea of 'happily ever after' as an unattainable concept, while the rest of her new family struggles with the pressures of adapting to life in suburbia. All of these stresses coalesce in Giselle making a wish to make her suburban home more like the fairytale world she came from, which of course only makes new — and very funny — problems.
Even if the element of surprise has worn off at this point, Adams is still a delightful fish out of water as Giselle, whose chirpy earnestness contrasts with the more hardened world she’s emerged in. This time she essentially gets to play two characters, as the new world she accidentally creates also turns her into the cliché of the wicked stepmother.
Read more: Everything new on Prime Video in November
James Marsden’s character is even more clueless, channelling the prince’s goofy sincerity through ridiculous physical articulations and over-pronounced, archaic turns of phrase. It’s a shame that, despite playful production and costume design, a lot of Disenchanted’s camerawork lacks the same energy, often appearing a little too plain and lethargic during the film’s more large scale song and dance sequences.
It’s perhaps a little overlong too, but is a breezily funny viewing experience anyway.
Also new on Disney+: Mickey: The Story of a Mouse (2022), Fire of Love (2022)
Aisha (2022) - NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership
As the massive Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, explodes into multiplexes Letitia Wright — the new lead of that Afrofuturist Marvel franchise — takes on a quieter, more intimate role in the simple kitchen sink drama Aisha, which follows the plight of a Nigerian refugee stuck in Ireland’s immigration system.
Short for “Aishatu”, Wright’s character’s full name, already Anglicised, it’s a small story about the pains and perhaps the impossibility of assimilation in both the UK and Ireland. Things look a little more positive as Conor, played by Josh O’ Connor, develops a close friendship with Aisha, develops a friendship with a security employee who she meets at one of the accommodation centres, himself a former prisoner.
It’s a small balm to the continual denial of any ability for Aisha to feel at home begins with small humiliation. A class for traditional dance is cut off disrespectfully early, then Aishatu is patronised for “speaking English very well”. It’s not long before cruel and violent aggression shows itself through a (mostly) unsympathetic immigration authority, enforcing arbitrary regulations, even suddenly moved to an unfamiliar and remote area mercilessly and seemingly out of spite.
Read more: Everything new on Sky & NOW in November
The film is stylistically unremarkable, given some realistic roughness by its handheld camerawork and the dingy interiors of the immigration accommodation, but Wright and O’ Connor do tender and empathetic work, and the story itself is an interesting, heartbreaking expansion on the struggles of African immigrants and the casual cruelty and dehumanisation of immigration systems as well as white locals all too willing to alienate those in need of help.
Also new on NOW: The Phantom of the Open (2022), The Ghost of Richard Harris (19 November)
Spirited - Apple TV+
Spirited is a fresh spin on A Christmas Carol. You've probably sighed heavily and flicked over to (what's left of) Twitter in boredom already. But this festive musical from director Sean Anders takes the Dickens classic and does something interesting.
It imagines the famous ghosts as high-ranking staff at a company responsible for helping one scumbag each year to see the error of their ways. Present (Will Ferrell) is nearing retirement and wants this Christmas's target to be marketing sleazebag Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds), despite the fact he has been labelled as “unredeemable” – too evil for them to even touch.
Watch a trailer for Spirited
Anders keeps the film light on its feet, helped along by musical numbers from La La Land and Greatest Showman songwriting duo Pasek and Paul. Reynolds and Ferrell have rapid-fire chemistry and there's an eye-catching supporting turn from Octavia Spencer as Clint's morally conflicted right-hand woman.
It sags in the middle and it's as treacle-filled as a mountain of Christmas puds, but for anyone who loves the festive season, the undeniable charm shines through.
The Wonder (2022) - Netflix
Also set in Ireland, this time in a rural area in 1862, Sebastian Lelio’s latest story is one concerned with saint-making and and a grim colonial history. The ‘wonder’ of the title is Anna O’Donnell (Kíla Lord Cassidy), an 11-year-old girl who has miraculously remained healthy after a 4 month fast in the wake of Ireland’s Great Famine.
Adapted from the book by Emma Donoghue, its sense of imperialist guilt as well as thorny exploration of faith is foregrounded in a strong, forceful leading performance from Florence Pugh as Lib, an English nurse who is brought over as a witness to the supposed miracle.
Read more: Everything new on Netflix in November
Lib’s own traumatic history seems to slowly compel her to shed her initial skepticism, she needs to believe in Anna’s providence, perhaps to better get into a mindset to solve the mystery of her or perhaps to simply save herself.
Some wild flourishes aside – including a genuinely startling, fourth-wall breaking opening, Lelio’s direction is calm and appropriately mysterious in its unpacking of the dangers of unchecked religious fervour.
Also new on Netflix: Slumberland (2022)
Watch a trailer for The Wonder