The elusive Katherine Heigl and Scrubs star Sarah Chalke team up in this Hallmark Channel-style melodrama about female friendship. Based on the novel by Kristin Hannah, Firefly Lane charts the unlikely bond formed between cool girl Tully (Heigl) and introverted, oddball Kate (Chalke) from their difficult school days through to college and adulthood, right up to the present day.
Spanning more than 30 years, the series deals with both major and minor life events: jealousy, terrible boyfriends, terrible haircuts, betrayals, heartbreak and tragedy. The gulf between the pair widens when Kate becomes a reluctant homemaker marvelling at the jet-setting glamour of Tully’s career while Tully battles demons from her past, privately envying her friend’s quiet life. Firefly Lane is Beaches without Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, an odd-couple partnership that is soaked in tears of joy, tears of pain, and dry white wine.
Malcolm & Marie
Euphoria creator Sam Levinson pairs his breakout star Zendaya with man of the moment John David Washington (Tenet) in this arty black-and-white two-hander movie. Malcolm & Marie unfurls over one night after the premiere of Malcolm’s new film, an edgy addiction drama based on Marie’s past struggles. Malcolm, in a swirl of ego, forgets to thank Marie, and this oversight, plus his disgruntlement at the critics’ reaction to the film, sets the couple up for a long, slow night of monologuing about art, relationships, race and sex.
Malcolm & Marie is a shadow of a Cassavetes drama, a slick of Linklater’s Before films, a smudge of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? painted on a self-conscious Instagram face. It’s a worthy, wordy look at the pursuit of love in all its forms, creative and romantic, and how something once so pure can quickly curdle into something sour if it’s overanalysed.
Strip Down, Rise Up
The acclaimed documentary film-maker Michèle Ohayon (Cristina, Colors Straight Up) enters the world of pole dancing as she follows a diverse group of women who are attempting to master the discipline for a variety of reasons. Strip Down, Rise Up is about how some women use pole dancing to reconnect with their femininity and sexuality after being assaulted or having endured abuse. Others are there to work on their relationship with their body and how they see themselves or to release themselves from trauma, whether that be an illness or an emotional upheaval. The act of pole dancing becomes a way for these women to reclaim themselves, to give them strength and to see themselves as viable, powerful, sensual beings.
Little Big Women
Taiwan’s box-office sensation of 2020 comes to Netflix. Joseph Chen-Chieh Hsu’s intergenerational comedy-drama focuses on the way families can live in wilful ignorance and obscure the truth in order to survive. On her 70th birthday, matriarch Shoying (Shu-Fan Chen) learns that her estranged husband, Bochang, has died – and subsequently discovers that he had been in a relationship with another, much younger woman, Tsai. As her birthday celebration transforms into a wake of sorts, the women of the family come together to mourn and finally unburden themselves, revealing secrets that alter their bonds forever.
It’s a film about the roles women assume within the family, as gatekeepers, as secret keepers, as biographers, and what happens when they free themselves from these oppressive traditions and formalities.
News of the World
Directed by Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips, United 93) and starring Tom Hanks, News of the World is a taut, intimate tale about the importance of storytelling and communication. Hanks plays Capt Jefferson Kidd, a veteran of the American civil war who travels through towns delivering the news to locals, as much to distract them as to inform them. On his journey he encounters a young girl named Johanna (Helena Zengel), who was kidnapped and raised by the Kiowa tribe. Kidd makes it his mission to reunite the girl, who speaks no English, with her only living relatives.
The film touches on the haunting aftermath of war and how history must be remembered, but its main message is the need for kindness and humanity in a world where violence and misery continue to make headlines.
Crime Scene : The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel
From housing a blood-soaked Richard Ramirez after a killing spree to being a venue that Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia, frequented, the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles has a macabre history. This documentary series focuses on its most recent tragedy, the disappearance of Elisa Lam, in 2013. When CCTV footage of the young student was released, showing her acting strangely in the hotel’s elevator, it ignited the minds of internet sleuths around the world and became a media talking point, adding to the hotel’s already sinister reputation.
Director Joe Berlinger (The Ted Bundy Tapes) delves into the myths surrounding the low-budget spot sometimes referred to as Hotel Death. The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel is the first season of the Crime Scene series, which will explore the stories behind infamous locations and fabled murder sites.
Buried by the Bernards
Known for their outrageous advertising, featuring corpses jumping up from coffins in shock at the value of their deals, drive-through viewings and economical funeral packages, R Bernard Funeral Services may look and sound like a spoof operation from an Eddie Murphy movie, but it is very real. Buried by the Bernards is a reality show that follows the day-to-day running of the idiosyncratic company and the family’s unorthodox methods of dealing with grieving clientele as well as their famed bluntness in dealing with each other.
From mother and office manager Debbie doling out orders through her red loudhailer to filming ads with the Cussin’ Pastor Thaddeus Matthews, the funeral business is anything but a grave affair for the Bernards.
To All the Boys: Always and Forever
The charming teen-romance film trilogy comes to an end with this final instalment. To All the Boys: Always and Forever sees Lara Jean (Lana Condor) preparing for college and pondering her future after she takes a trip to New York and holidays with her family in Korea. Lara Jean begins to imagine a life for herself outside of her relationship with the ever-adorable Peter (Noah Centineo) and wonders what striking out on her own would be like without the predictability and security of her family and friends.
The film adaptations of Jenny Han’s hugely successful YA novels have become a refuge for young and older viewers alike, with their unabashed enthusiasm and celebration of tenderness, the comfort of family and the rush of first love. These gentle, wistful stories of Lara Jean’s coming of age have smoothed out the cynical, apathetic edges of the modern teen drama, which can often render them glib and bitter. The success of the trio of films is down to Condor’s unstoppable charisma and her ability to create a sweet but never cloying rom-com lead that harks back to the best of Drew Barrymore’s effervescent comic characters.
Behind Her Eyes
Adapted from Sarah Pinborough’s novel by the Hannibal screenwriter Steve Lightfoot, Behind Her Eyes is Netflix’s latest labyrinthine thriller. With the paranoid sensibilities of Doctor Foster and shades of Harlan Coben’s The Stranger, the six-part series tells the story of single mother Louise (Simona Brown), who, after beginning a new job, embarks on an ill-judged affair with her boss, psychiatrist David (Tom Bateman), while simultaneously striking up a friendship with David’s wife, Adele (the Irish actor Eve Hewson).
Louise becomes embroiled in the darkness of David and Adele’s relationship, unsure of who to believe and who to trust. As revelations come to light, their psychological mind games and duplicitous behaviour grow ever more complex and malicious.
Featuring extensive archival footage and exclusive interviews with his former team-mates, sports journalists and his family, as well as artists and musicians who were inspired by him, this documentary tracks the legendary Brazilian footballer’s rise to fame. As well as celebrating Pelé’s phenomenal career, it attempts to unpick the myths surrounding the star.