Four new films to stream this weekend

The Life Ahead, Martin Eden, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, Two of Us

Ibrahima Gueye and Sophia Loren in The Life Ahead

Ibrahima Gueye and Sophia Loren in The Life Ahead

 

THE LIFE AHEAD/LA VITA DAVANTI A SÉ ★★★★☆
Directed by Edoardo Ponti. Starring Sophia Loren, Ibrahima Gueye, Renato Carpentieri, Iosif Diego Pirvu. Netflix, 94 min
Sophia Loren (you read that right) plays an ageing former sex worker taking care of a young tearaway (Gueye, excellent) in an effective sentimental film by the great woman’s son Edoardo Ponti. The plot progresses along a familiar arc, but Loren and Gueye keep it aloft with beautifully complementary performances. He is all fire and fuss and ferment. She is as steady and unshakable as a tower of beautifully aged stone. If the Academy doesn’t give her that much-rumoured best actress nomination they deserve to be collectively horse-whipped. DC

MARTIN EDEN ★★★★★
Directed by Pietro Marcello. Starring Luca Marinelli, Carlo Cecchi, Jessica Cressy, Vincenzo Nemolato, Marco Leonardi. IFI Player/BFI Player, 129 min

Luca Marinelli and Jessica Cressy in Martin Eden
Luca Marinelli and Jessica Cressy in Martin Eden

Wildly ambitious adaptation of Jack London’s autobiographical novel concerning a young autodidact’s efforts to succeed as a writer. The tragic romance of the source material is amplified by the gorgeous, textured 16mm photography. In theme and appearance, Martin Eden straddles such Italian cornerstones as DeSica’s Bicycle Thieves and Bertolucci’s The Conformist. It’s a sweep of cinematic history earned by the film’s aspirations. No film could replicate the tragic weight of London’s work, but this comes close. TB

JINGLE JANGLE: A CHRISTMAS JOURNEY ★★★☆☆
Directed by David E Talbert. Starring Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Bonneville, Anika Noni Rose, Madalen Mills, Phylicia Rashad, Ricky Martin. Netflix, 122 min 

Madalen Mills and Forest Whitaker in Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Madalen Mills and Forest Whitaker in Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

If you were hoping for a Christmas movie based around The Auld Triangle – perhaps a Dubliners jukebox musical – then you will have to hope a little longer. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey turns out to be the chaotic, over-stuffed, exhausting consequence of Netflix throwing every seasonal trope at their house-bound audience and seeing which survive immersion in a closing shower of warm eggnog. The plot involving an impoverished toy maker is pretty threadbare, but the fine songs, strong African-American cast and top-notch choreography keep the seasonal spirits merry. DC

TWO OF US/DEUX ★★★★☆
Directed by Filippo Meneghetti. Starring Barbara Sukowa, Martine Chevallier, Léa Drucker, Jérôme Varanfrain. VOD, 95 min 

Martine Chevallier and Barbara Sukowa in Two of Us
Martine Chevallier and Barbara Sukowa in Two of Us

There’s an extraordinary two-step at the heart of Meneghetti’s heart-breaking debut feature as veteran actors Sukowa and Chevallier step into the plum roles of their respective careers. Following on from last year’s The Heiresses, Two of Us concerns two retired lesbians. For decades, Nina and Madeleine have been passionately and secretly in love. As neighbours, they roam between each other’s apartments. The love between these characters – a bond framed with elegance and due care by Aurélien Marra – resonates powerfully. TB 

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