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This year’s belated Oscars ceremony draws closer, and this week brings a couple of its frontrunners to streaming services such as director Darius Marder’s Best Picture-nominated, sensitively-realised, Riz Ahmed-starring Sound of Metal. Emerald Fennell’s Bafta-winning Promising Young Woman, also up for top prize, also premieres on Sky/Now.
For some alternative programming, Netflix surprises with some extremely fun mid-budget adventure with Love and Monsters.
Please note that a subscription may be required to watch.
Promising Young Woman - NOW with a Sky Cinema membership
BAFTA-winning film Promising Young Woman is not strictly a rape revenge thriller in the sense that the trailers give off. The film follows Cassandra (Carey Mulligan) a young woman haunted by the rape and murder of her closest friend during her time in med school, and now consumed with tracking down predatory men who would do the same to vulnerable girls and women. The film sidesteps the genre conventions of rape revenge in its prioritisation of dealing with grief instead, but with frequently puzzling results.
The problem then, isn’t that Promising Young Woman doesn’t stick to a template in that regard (many might be disappointed that the predatory men mostly just get a telling-off) but it sends mixed messages in its engagement with predatory systems and the deeply Catholic lens (watch out for all the compositions literally painting Cassandra as a saintly, tragic figure) through which its story is realised.
Watch a trailer for Promising Young Woman
Where it holds its focus, on who needs salvation on the horrible act and its subsequent cover up, can feel somewhat arbitrary in places, highlighted in a particularly baffling scene with Mulligan and a corrupt lawyer played by Alfred Molina. Worse still, is after a whole film exploring facades of respectability and how they intersect with systemic abuse and abuses of power, is its seeming faith in law enforcement.
It feels both ill-considered and observed from a position of privilege. Especially in the ongoing cases of police complicity in violence against women and ethnic minorities, as well as the frequent failures or plain refusal of said establishment to take such cases seriously. Up to this point writer-director Emerald Fennell had proved frequently canny about the threat of the “nice guy” and the veiled threats from those who would supposedly help, with smart casting of comedy types known for their boyish charm here playing misogynistic predators.
But that only makes it more disappointing that the film ultimately preaches faith in the system while treating the victim of the inciting action as an abstract, it feel quite literally like a cop-out.
Also new on NOW: An American Pickle
Sound of Metal - Amazon Prime Video
New Amazon release Sound of Metal, plays like a companion piece to Riz Ahmed's 2020 film Mogul Mowgli. Both see the actor as musicians stubbornly refusing to adjust to the sudden onset of a new medical condition. Where Mogul Mowgli has its protagonist find salvation in his family and their history of resilience, Sound of Metal finds it in a broader community as well as it its intricate aesthetic construction.
Ruben has the added complication of a former heroin addiction, and is checked into a rehab facility for deaf people, where he is talked through his progressive hearing loss by Joe (Paul Raci), who urges Ruben to learn to embrace stillness and abandon his restlessness.
On paper it could sound like just another Oscar-destined weepie, but Sound of Metal takes care in exploring the nuances of deaf identity, both through the people that Ruben interacts with at the and in its astonishing and deeply attentive sound design that, honestly, begs to be heard in cinemas, which it will be — when they reopen, that is.
Also new on Prime Video: The Other Boleyn Girl
Time - YouTube (limited time)
Garrett Bradley’s astonishing documentary Time is free on YouTube for a week. Run, don’t walk to watch it (you can watch it above). A film told through the perspective of Fox Rich and her sons, waiting for her husband to be released from a long prison sentence, the editing makes Rich and her children’s love appear as though it transcends the boundaries of linear time itself. The past and the future become one in a way that it only can in film, and the result is absolutely unmissable.
Love and Monsters - Netflix
After a while some might have the realisation that Love and Monsters, despite its humility, is the kind of film that is being made less and less often now: an original with no ties to existing IP or even a movie star in the lead, just a solid mid-budget film intended for cinemas. Of course things didn’t quite pan out in terms of a theatrical release due to the ongoing pandemic and closure of cinemas, but regardless it’s a fun and kinetic genre-mashup.
Shot pre-pandemic, it’s another film that turns out accidentally prescient — humans separated by disaster, forced to live in isolation — but the film still strikes a hopeful, often winningly sincere tone. The adventure opens with breezy, wonderfully lackadaisical and droll narration from Joel (Dylan O’Brien), a teenager stuck inside a bunker as the surface world has been ravaged by a plague of monsters, seven years prior. He’s mostly fine with it but he’s the only single one there amongst a group of tough and happy couples (on the bunker he resides in: “it’s kind of what I imagine college would have been like”). On top of that he’s a little less suited to monster killing than the rest of his group, all comfortably battle-hardened while he still freezes in fear when faced with one of the impressively disgusting killer creatures, the designers having fun with the pure, simple design prompt of “everyday bugs, reptiles and amphibians, but big”.
Watch a trailer for Love and Monsters
After one of the giant bugs breaks into the shelter and kills one of the people there, Joel foolhardily decides to work on undoing one of his major regrets and reuniting with his ex-girlfriend (to be clear: the apocalypse broke them up rather than anything else), sheltering across the country on the coast. After setting off, the things that follow and the tone it strikes will sound familiar, the film purposefully riffing on other smart-aleck post-apocalypse movies like Zombieland and its found family dynamic - with Michael Rooker here playing a delightful stand-in for Woody Harrelson. That familiarity with the different genres feels knowing rather than cloying, using the audience’s awareness of genre convention to its advantage and streamlining the way it presents its own story, as well as taking a few unexpected narrative swerves.
Also new on Netflix: Dark City: Beneath the Beat