Netflix: 10 of the best new shows and films to watch in October
Highlights include Rebecca, Emily in Paris, The Trial of the Chicago 7, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter and Lily James as Mrs de Winter in Rebecca. Photograph: Kerry Brown/Netflix
This powerful coming of age story about the indestructible bond of teenage girls is as exhilarating as it is emotional. Bukky Bakray plays Shola (AKA Rocks), a tough, fun-loving 15-year-old with aspirations to become a make-up artist. Abandoned by her mentally unstable mother, she must take care of her younger brother Emmanuel (D’angelou Osei Kissiedu). With the fear of ending up in care looming over her, she moves from friends’ couches to cheap hotels trying to keep her head above water and maintain some kind of semblance of normality.
Shutting her friends out of her life and craving stability, Rocks turns in on herself but those who know her best try to break her down and offer help. It’s an empowering look at contemporary teen life and the social struggles that many try to keep secret. It bursts full of life and chatter as the girls dance, sing and joke their way into a kind of kinship, an intimacy that comes with hard-worn truths hidden behind smiles. Rocks is as immediate and natural as a documentary but with the warmth and bittersweet charm of films such as Girlhood or Mustang. Director Sarah Gavron and writer Theresa Ikoko have created a cherishable gem.
Hrishikesh Hirway’s smash hit podcast gets the Netflix treatment as the show about the capricious magic of songwriting is transformed into a TV series. Featuring interviews with artists such as Alicia Keys, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Michael Stipe. it offers insight into how hits like Losing My Religion and the Hamilton musical were created. The show analyses these familiar songs and breaks down the formula of the song itself, revealing the inspiration behind it as the stars disclose wisdom about the artistic process. Made up of interviews and documentary footage as well as live performances, it’s an intimate, close-up look at the creative mind.
Emily in Paris
Sex and The City creator Darren Star has returned to his fairytale vision of France in the frothy Emily in Paris. Starring the ever-perky Lily Collins, the show follows an ambitious young marketing executive as she moves from Chicago to work with a luxury lifestyle company. Wearing a selection of covetable outfits she twirls through the French capital meeting an alarming amount of modelesque men and arrogant rouges straight from central casting. When she is not fending off suitors she is attempting to stamp her American work ethic on to her more relaxed wine-swilling, chain smoking colleagues.
The series is an amusing amalgamation of the idea of Paris forged through American pop culture from The Devil Wears Prada and The Hills to series finale of Sex and the City and even Ratatouille; it’s more a cartoonish romantic version of the French capital ripped from the pages of Teen Vogue. Silly, sweet and diverting, Emily in Paris is a soufflé of a series that will delight those in need of a light treat.
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
Part retrospective, part impassioned plea, A Life on Our Planet is 93-year-old David Attenborough’s “witness statement” about the destruction of Earth. The broadcaster and natural historian takes a trip through his 60-year career but this is no cosy highlight reel – this is a manifesto about the real horror of climate change. It’s a warning about the emptying seas and the disappearing forests, how the landscape has utterly changed since he began reporting from the rainforests. This emotional journey sees Attenborough as determined as ever to impart his knowledge and wisdom to his audience before it’s too late.
The Haunting of Bly Manor
The latest spooky offering from Netflix is not a sequel to 2018’s Haunting of Hill House but rather an accompanying piece. Based on the Henry James novel The Turn of the Screw and using some of James’s other works as inspiration, it moves the story to the 1980s where American nanny Dani (Victoria Pedretti) travels to England to take care of two orphaned children in the isolated Bly Estate.
Whereas The Haunting of Hill House focused on the horror of family and the ties that bind, The Haunting of Bly Manor is about the terror of the unknown, the acceptance of strangers who entangle themselves in the lives of others. With a whiff of Gothic romance, it plays upon the idea of the ghosts of the past that live within our hearts and change our worlds.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network) this worthy courtroom drama has already been tipped for awards glory. Based on the story of the trial of a disparate group of anti-Vietnam war protesters who were charged with inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, it sees Sorkin back in full bombastic rhetoric mode.
The diverse group that included Yippies Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), members of the Students for a Democratic Society and Blank Panther leader Bobby Searle (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) were lumped together in the trial, giving Sorkin ample opportunity to showcase his fast-paced intricate dialogue as he highlights the various tensions within the collective. The film plays out in a series of flashbacks intertwined with intense courtroom scenes which sees the cast doling out earnest speeches in their selection of 1960s wigs. Mark Rylance plays exasperated Civil Rights lawyer William Kunstler going up against the formidable, reactionary Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella)
Ostensibly this was a trial of liberal ideals and a vast chunk of the story philosophises about an America that is still an illusion. The Trial of the Chicago 7 acts as a balm to soothe those frazzled by a world where democracy doesn’t play to a perfect script.
Back for a second season, this revival show has proved to be a hit for the streaming service with its tales of the supernatural as well as inexplicable crimes and strange phenomenon.
Director Ben Wheatley is facing his own Rebeccaesque dilemma as he walks in the footsteps of the 1940 Oscar winning classic. Although Wheatley has insisted that his version of Rebecca is not a remake of the celebrated Hitchcock film but is another reimagining of Du Maurier’s beguiling novel.
This time around Lily James stars as the second Mrs de Winter falling for the lantern jawed Max (Armie Hammer) during a whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo. As they move to the oppressive environs of Manderlay, Kristin Scott-Thomas’s embittered Mrs Danvers spills secrets about the irreplaceable first wife to the paranoid new bride that threatens to eat away at her sanity. Some of Wheatley’s best films, such as High Rise and A Field in England, have a menacing, lysergic quality to them that hopefully he will inject into this well-worn tale.
The Queen’s Gambit
A drama about a chess prodigy might not sound thrilling but The Queen’s Gambit is an intriguing oddity that reveals itself to be much more compelling. Set in the 1950s, the magnetic Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) plays Beth Harmon, an anomaly in the male dominated chess world who is struggling to find her place in society and struggling to understand her gifted abilities. She falls prey to drug addiction and alcoholism as an intelligence burns through her that she cannot keep a hold of and this unwieldy side of her personality pushes her further away from the conventional life of her contemporaries and sees her battling herself.
Written and directed by Scott Frank (Out of Sight), it’s a sophisticated historical drama with the kind of lush stylings that will dazzle audiences.
Sarah Cooper – Everything’s Fine
Everyone’s favourite TikToking lip-syncer now has her own comedy special. Sarah Cooper hit huge viral fame with her deliciously absurd videos miming Donald Trump’s more memorable media slip-ups (including the unforgettable interview he gave about his cognitive test) but this will be her first show that features her own material. She has already broken her “silence” with her stint as a guest host on Jimmy Kimmel earlier this year and has worked as a comedy writer and stand-up comedian before her social media success. This show, directed by Natasha Lyonne and produced by Maya Rudolph, will include interviews and sketches on race, gender, politics and class.
With Cooper finding fame without having a distinctive comic voice, Everything’s Fine will be her chance to prove to sceptics that she’s not a one-trick pony, although there is no doubt that a certain stable genius will be tuning in just in case he gets a mention.