5 to See: This Weekend

ASFF selects five films for release this week available on demand. An engaging mix of documentary, historical drama, music biopic, and farcical comedy, with films arriving from Russia, Britain and America, it’s a week of big themes. Mental health, government corruption and creative inspiration are all topics that give pause for thought.

Blithe Spirit (Sky Cinema)

Noël Coward’s ghostly tale of spouses and spirits gets a sprightly adaptation, with Edward Hall (a veteran of The Durrells and Downton Abbey) directing. Dan Stevens is screenwriter Charles, whose late first wife (Leslie Mann) returns from the dead after a séance led by Dame Judi Dench’s medium. Featuring Isla Fisher as Charles’ (living) wife, some gorgeous locations and a suitably unhinged turn from Stevens, it’s a fine tonic to brighten up a dreary January afternoon.

Dear Comrades! (Curzon)

Russian veteran Andrei Konchalovsky delivers his latest – and maybe greatest – film, Dear Comrades! Winner of the Venice Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize in 2020, this rich black-and-white drama tells the true story of the 1962 massacre of demonstrating workers at the Novocherkassk Electric Locomotive Plant. Leading the line is Konchalovsky’s wife, Julia Vysotskaya, who plays Lyudmila, a staunch communist who witnesses the shooting.

Stardust (Vertigo)

Johnny Flynn, the rising star of Beast and Emma, takes on the daunting task of playing David Bowie, in this snapshot of the musician’s life in 1971. Co-starring Jena Malone, as Bowie’s wife Angie, and Marc Maron as Rob Oberman, the record company A&R man he travels with around America, it shows him before he became a global star. No Bowie music featured, but fans will be relieved to find a respectful portrait of the artist.  

One Night In Miami (Amazon Prime Video)

Kemp Powers’ play gets the big-screen treatment, courtesy of Regina King’s adaptation. Set in 1964, it re-imagines a real-life encounter between Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke, football star-turned-actor Jim Brown and boxer Cassius Clay – newly-crowned heavyweight of the world and soon to become Muhammad Ali. Featuring an excellent cast, including Britain’s Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X, it’s a deeply satisfying drama.

MLK/FBI (Dogwoof)

Award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard, who has a long history with Spike Lee on films like 4 Little Girls and When The Levees Broke, turns to the FBI’s treatment/harassment/surveillance of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1960s. Inspired by David Garrow’s book The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr, as well as newly declassified files, it features a number of telling interviewees, including former FBI director James Comey. A great companion piece to One Night In Miami.

All films released on 15 January.

James Mottram