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7 Day Film Diet #33

7 Day Film Diet #33

QUAD Cinema Programmer Adam Marsh returns with another batch of suggestions of films to stream at home during lockdown.

It’s a slow week on the free streaming platforms so we’ve stretched out again to see what the platforms with free trials have to offer. This week, in addition to BBC iPlayer, ALL4 and Rakuten TV, we see what Arrow Player and BFI Player have to offer attentive viewers. 

Day One – BBC iPlayer 

The Hunt For Gaddafis’ Billions 

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In life, the Libyan leader ruled with an iron fist for 42 years and treated Libya’s wealth as his own. He died the richest man on the planet with a fortune of $150 billion. A dictatorial leader in life, the spell of Gaddafi’s money remained in place after his death, triggering a ruthless race to find his missing billions.  Two journalists pick up the trail of a mysterious $12.5 billion in cash, flown out of Libya in the dead of night just months before Gaddafi’s demise.  As they gather more evidence, the two journalists realise that by delving into the African National Congress’s recent history, they may find a crucial lead to Gaddafi’s money. Will anyone get their hands on the cash and will it ever be returned to its rightful owners – the Libyan people? Or will they all destroy each other and themselves along the way? 

The Company You Keep 

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Robert Redford stars in this tense political thriller as a former militant whose past finally catches up with him. Now a successful upstate New York attorney, single father Jim Grant (Redford) was once a member of the Weather Underground, a radical left wing group in the 1970s. Wanted for a Michigan bank robbery and the murder of the bank's security guard, he's successfully managed to avoid detection by the FBI for over 30 years. But when Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon), another one of the group's former members, is arrested the resulting investigations by ambitious young reporter Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) into Jim's past forces him to go back on the run in a last ditch effort to clear his name. 

A Monster Calls 

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Based on the bestselling novel, this fantasy drama adaptation is directed by J.A. Bayona and written by Patrick Ness. Young Conor (Lewis MacDougall) struggles to deal with his mother (Felicity Jones)'s terminal illness, the heartless grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) he must stay with, and the bullying he receives at school from Harry (James Melville). Gripped by guilt, anger and fear, Conor is given support from a quite unlikely source: a drawing of a great, ancient tree monster (voice of Liam Neeson) that comes to life. The monster visits Conor at night to tell him stories and help him come to terms with his difficult situation. With the monster at his back, Conor faces his problems directly with courage and conviction. 

Mindhorn 

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The film follows Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt), a washed-up actor who enjoyed fleeting success in the 1980s playing a TV detective named Mindhorn. Now living in poverty in London after throwing his career away trying to make it in Hollywood, Thorncroft has been left to watch on helplessly as his glamorous ex-girlfriend and former co-star Patricia Deville (Essie Davis) continues to find success as a news reporter and is now happily married to his former stunt double Clive Parnevik (Simon Farnaby). However, despite his desperate situation, Thorncroft is suddenly given another shot at stardom when a crazed fugitive obsessed with his old TV show contacts police and demands to negotiate with Mindhorn in a bid to prove his innocence.  

Day Two – ALL4 

Secrets And Lies 

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Hortense Cumberbatch (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) is a young and successful black Londoner who, after the death of her adoptive parents, is surprised to discover that her birth mother is in fact white single mum Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn). After an uncomfortable first meeting, Cynthia strikes up a rapport with Hortense and invites her to the 21st birthday party of her youngest daughter Roxanne (Claire Rushbrook) where she meets Cynthia's brother Maurice (Timothy Spall) and his wife Monica (Phyllis Logan) and attempts to learn more about her family. 

Charlotte Gray 

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Charlotte Gray (Cate Blanchett) agrees to go on a special mission to France when her RAF boyfriend, originally scheduled to carry out the mission himself, goes missing. Based in a remote French farm run by M. Levade (Michael Gambon), her job is to liaise with local Resistance fighters, including Levade's son Julien (Billy Crudup). She then finds that she has to help harbour two Jewish children, hiding them from the Nazis who have recently deported their parents; but the presence of the children on the farm brings unwanted attention from the collaborationist school teacher Renech (Anton Lesser) and risks exposing the Resistance operations. 

Wuthering Heights 

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Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank) directs this gritty, pared-down version of Emily Bronte's classic Gothic novel. Heathcliff (Solomon Glave/James Howson), a runaway slave boy, is brought back to the Earnshaws' isolated, wind-blown moorland farm from the streets of Liverpool. Brought up together in this unforgiving landscape, Heathcliff and his adoptive sister, Cathy (Shannon Beer/Kaya Scoledario), become attached to one another on a primitive and instinctual level that transcends the bond of sibling or lover. When Cathy is reluctantly married off to insipid local landowner Edgar Linton (James Northcote), Heathcliff is cruelly abused and later thrown out by his brutish adoptive brother, Hindley (Lee Shaw). He eventually returns rich, embittered and still craving his beloved Cathy. 

Nico, 1988 

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Although her stint with The Velvet Underground in the late 1960s was relatively fleeting, the subsequent recording career of Christa Päffgen (better known as Nico) was often eclipsed by her iconic collaboration with the revered band. Desperate to liberate herself from the shadows of her former glories, Nico continued producing music right up until her untimely death in 1988, and in this powerful and authentic biopic, director Susanna Nicchiarelli documents the final two years in the often tragic life of the frustrated artist. Eschewing nostalgic navel gazing in favour of gritty, and often uncomfortable honesty, the film explores the destructive sides of Nico’s personality – her heroin addiction, her combative nature, her swollen ego – all brought vividly to life by Trine Dyrholm (who also recorded her own vocals for the film). The result is an absorbing, poignant, and most importantly, deeply empathetic portrait of a flawed icon. 

Day Three – BFI Player  

Bait 

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Modern-day Cornish fisherman Martin (Edward Rowe) is struggling to buy a boat while coping with family rivalry and the influx of London money, Airbnb and stag parties to his harbour village. The summer season brings simmering tensions between the locals and newcomers to boiling point, with tragic consequences. Stunningly shot on a vintage 16mm camera using monochrome Kodak stock, Mark Jenkin’s Bait is a timely and funny, yet poignant new film that gets to the heart of a community facing up to unwelcome change. 

Lucky Grandma 

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Widowed Grandma Wong doesn’t seem so lucky when she gambles away her entire savings. But her fortunes appear to change when, on the bus home, the man sat beside her suddenly expires and she absconds with his bag stuffed with US dollar bills. However, the money belongs to New York’s Chinese mob and she now finds herself at the centre of a gang war. Still, never underestimate an unflappable pensioner. First-time writer-director Sasie Sealy’s spiky US indie explores Chinatown’s Mahjong parlours and steam rooms with an authenticity American movies often lack. Veteran actress Tsai Chin (The Joy Luck Club) has a blast as our wily, chain-smoking, Mandarin-speaking heroine, who forms a terrific odd-couple partnership with affable giant bodyguard Big Pong (Hsiao-yuan Ha). 

Mogul Mowgli 

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Although his cutting lyrics speak provocatively about identity politics, it is not until Zed (Ahmed) returns home after two years on tour that he is called by his real name: Zaheer. But it is the vulnerability of illness and his decreasing mobility that brings both focus and fragmentation – memories and hallucinations merge to the beat of Qawwali music and are haunted by fervent apparitions of a masked figure – conjuring the unspoken spectre of Partition, which looms large in his father’s unspoken words. Further bruising Zed’s ego is his nemesis – RPG, a young rapper whose face tattoos and crass lyrics bewilder him. Both a paean to the importance of cultural heritage and a sharply observed reflection on muscle memory, the richness of Tariq’s achievement lies in the details of this heady mosaic. 

A White, White Day 

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As time passes and seasons change in a remote Icelandic town, off-duty police chief Ingimundur (Ingvar Sigurðsson) doggedly works at renovating a new home and starting over, following his wife’s death in a car accident. Debilitated by grief, Ingimundur still has a warm and devoted relationship with his granddaughter, but is increasingly alienated from other people. An accidental discovery about his wife sees Ingimundur’s detective instincts click back into gear. But this is no standard police procedural. Director Hlynur Pálmason’s highly original and emotionally complex drama is also an exploration of the ravages of loss. Hypnotic images highlight the beauty and strangeness of Iceland’s breathtaking landscape, while Sigurðsson’s towering performance reveals the interior devastation of a man consumed by loss. 

Day Four – BBC iPlayer 

Paddington 2 

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The Godfather Part 2 of family films as a sequel that is arguably better than the original. Now settled in London and living with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens, Peruvian bear Paddington (voice of Ben Whishaw) has begun building a reputation as an upstanding member of his new community. After spotting a unique pop-up book which he thinks will be a perfect present for his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton)'s 100th birthday, Paddington sets out to complete a number of odd jobs in an attempt to raise enough money to buy it. However, when the book is suddenly stolen, Paddington and the rest of the Brown family must work together in order to catch the thief and recover the book before Aunt Lucy's big day comes around.  

Source Code 

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The director of the acclaimed Moon (2009), Duncan Jones, helms this sci-fi action thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Soldier Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers that he is part of a government mission to identify the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. The experiment, known as the 'Source Code', enables its subjects to take on a person's identity for the last eight minutes of their lives. Colter has been programmed to relive the incident over and over again, piecing together clues until he can figure out who the suspect is and prevent another large-scale terrorist attack. 

Witness 

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When a young Amish boy (Lukas Haas) witnesses a murder in a big city train station, detective Jon Book (Harrison Ford) is given the job of protecting him. Suspecting that the murder was part of a police conspiracy, Book retreats to the small farming community where the boy lives. As time passes, and despite massive cultural difference, the detective falls in love with the boy's widowed mother (Kelly McGillis). Witness, the first Hollywood film from Australian director Peter Weir, was nominated for eight Oscars and won two (editing and original screenplay). 

A United Kingdom 

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From director Amma Asante (Belle), starring David Oyelowo (Selma) and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) and set against the breath-taking backdrops of the African savannah and period London, A United Kingdom celebrates the inspiring real-life romance of Seretse Khama, King of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana), and Ruth Williams, the London office worker he married in 1948 in the face of fierce opposition from their families and the British and South African governments. One of the greatest love stories ever told. 

Day Five – Rakuten TV

Lost In London 

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The hilarious Lost In London is a first-of-its-kind film event which was shot and screened live simultaneously in select cinemas around the world.The film is loosely based on Woody Harrelson’s tabloid-worthy crazy London night-out resulting in him getting in trouble with the law. Directed and starring Woody Harrelson alongside cameos from Owen Wilson, Willie Nelson and Daniel Radcliffe, Lost In London is a crazy trip, set in the streets of London that will make you gasp and laugh in equal measures. 

The Prophecy 

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Christopher Walken leads an extraordinary cast including Eric Stoltz, Virginia Madsen, Elias Koteas, Amanda Plummer and Viggo Mortensen in a supernatural thriller of heavenly war waged on Earth by renegade angels from the creator of Highlander. When Thomas Daggett (Elias Koteas) falls victim to confusing and horrific dreams, he abandons the church at his ordination into the priesthood. Years later as a homicide detective assigned to a grisly murder case, he discovers a series of clues with dark religious overtones. Then begins a race against time to prevent the dead man's soul from falling into the hands of Gabriel (a scenery chewing Christopher Walken) who seeks to take control of Heaven from God and destroy humanity itself. 

Once Upon A Time In America 

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Epic, episodic, tale of the lives of a small group of New York City Jewish gangsters spanning over 40 years. Told mostly in flashbacks and flash-forwards, the movie centres on small-time hood David 'Noodles' Aaronson and his lifelong partners in crime; Max, Cockeye and Patsy and their friends. Once Upon A Time In America journeys from their time growing up in the rough Jewish neighbourhood of New York's Lower East Side in the 1920s, to the last years of Prohibition in the early 1930s, and then to the late 1960s where an elderly Noodles returns to New York, after many years in hiding, to look into the past. 

Birdman 

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Michael Keaton stars in this award-winning black comedy written, directed and produced by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Struggling actor Riggan Thomson (Keaton) is still remembered today for his portrayal of superhero Birdman from his early career. Fed up with only being recognised for one thing, Riggan stages a comeback with a difference. He aims to broaden his fanbase and win back some of his credibility through a performance on Broadway, but his biggest problem has always been his ego and taking orders from people is not on his to-do list. Can Riggan put aside his feelings of self-importance in order to rekindle his career? The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won four including Best Director and Best Picture and also picked up Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical Or Comedy (Keaton) and Best Screenplay - Motion Picture. 

Day Six – Arrow Player 

The Naked City

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In The Naked City, a blonde ex-model is murdered in her bathtub and detectives Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and Halloran (Don Taylor) are assigned to the case. Their investigation leads them all over New York City, from Park Avenue to the Lower East Side, reaching its thrilling climax atop the Williamsburg Bridge. Inspired by the work of infamous tabloid photographer Weegee, The Naked City was the first major Hollywood production to be shot entirely on the streets of New York, making use of more than a hundred authentic locations. 

Brute Force 

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In Brute Force, Burt Lancaster is Joe Collins, one of a number of convicts squeezed into cell R17 and intent on breaking out. Desperate to return to his cancer-ridden wife (Ann Blyth), and to escape the clutches of sadistic warden Captain Munsey (an unforgettable performance from Hume Cronyn) who enjoys a reign of terror over the inmates. 

The Stylist 

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Obsession gets a makeover in The Stylist, a deliciously twisted slice of female-led psychological horror, nominated for the New Visions Award for Best Motion Picture at the 2020 Sitges International Film Festival. We all dream of being someone else… but for Claire (Najarra Townsend), that dream goes from an obsession to a living nightmare. Hairstylist by day, serial killer and collector of scalps by night, Claire’s lonely existence is thrown into turmoil when her regular client, Olivia (Brea Grant), asks her to style her hair for her wedding day. Increasingly fixated on Olivia’s seemingly flawless life, Claire vows to lock up her scalp collection and change her ways for good – only to discover that repressing your deadly desires is easier said than done… Featuring striking visuals and pitch-perfect performances from its talented cast, The Stylist offers viewers “a delicately deranged glimpse into social anxiety and loneliness” (Slashfilm) – a bold and mesmerising debut feature from a filmmaker to watch. 

Holy Motors 

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Leos Carax returned to cinema after a 13-year hiatus with a brilliant, visually striking film that was one of the toasts of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Apparently inspired by the filmmaker's fascination with the after-hours life of stretch limousines, Denis Lavant plays Monsieur Oscar who, over the course of a single day, takes on 10 other guises - ranging from a gangster and ageing millionaire to a troubled parent and anarchic tramp.  With impressive cameos by Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue, Holy Motors is an original and utterly unforgettable piece of cinema. 

Day Seven – Arrow Player 

The Invisible Man Appears 

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In The Invisible Man Appears, written and directed by Nobuo Adachi in 1949, a scientist successfully creates an invisibility serum, only to be kidnapped by a gang of thugs who wish to use the formula to rob a priceless jewel. In addition to being the earliest surviving Japanese science fiction film ever made, the film’s entertaining special effects were an early credit for the legendary Eiji Tsuburaya, five years before he first brought Godzilla to life. 

The Invisible Man Vs. The Human Fly 

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Eight years later, Mitsuo Murayama’s exciting The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly tells the story of a series of mysterious murders where the only clue is strange buzzing noise at the scene of the crime… could this be linked to secret wartime experiments in shrinking humans to the size of insects? And can a scientist who’s just invented an invisibility ray be the one to stop it? 

Cemetery Without Crosses 

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After her husband is lynched by bandits, Michèle Mercier (Black Sabbath) seeks revenge and turns to an old friend, played by Robert Hossein, for help. A solitary figure who lives in a ghost town and dons a single black glove before each gunfight, Hossein is initially reluctant but soon infiltrates the widow's enemies to force a showdown. 

Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key 

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Loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tale The Black CatYour Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, from director Sergio Martino (Torso), weaves the key motifs from Poe’s gothic yarn into one of the most sensual films from the Golden era of giallo. Luigi Pistilli (Milano Calibro 9, A Bay of Blood) plays writer Oliviero, an abrasive drunk who amuses himself by holding drunken orgies at his grand country manor – much to the displeasure of his long-suffering wife (Anita Strindberg). But this decadence is soon rocked by a series of grisly murders, in which Oliviero finds himself implicated. Notable for giving screen starlet Edwige Fenech her first “bad girl” role, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, with its many unexpected twists and turns, is just as bewitching as its title would suggest.