sat 07/12/2019

Film reviews, news & interviews

So Long, My Son review - an intimate Chinese epic

Nick Hasted

Two young boys play by the water. Soon, one is dead. This enigmatic tragedy is the core of a four-decade Chinese saga of grief, guilt and love, at once intimately personal and scarred by the state’s grinding turns.

Honey Boy review - coming to terms with dad

Tom Baily

Blue periods can lead to golden streaks. Such is almost the case with Honey Boy, which Shia LaBeouf wrote during a court-ordered stay in a rehab clinic for the treatment of PTSD symptoms.

Ordinary Love review - small but (almost)...

Matt Wolf

Amidst the deluge of high-profile year-end releases, it would be a shame if the collective Oscar-bait noise drowned out Ordinary Love, as...

Motherless Brooklyn review – tic tec

Demetrios Matheou

Edward Norton has wanted to adapt Motherless Brooklyn since Jonathan Lethem’s acclaimed novel was first published 20 years ago. His film (as producer...

Blu-ray: Moonrise Kingdom

Graham Rickson

Moonrise Kingdom is stuffed with director Wes Anderson’s familiar tropes. Elaborate sets, artfully designed props and Bill Murray all feature, the...

The Nightingale review – revenge without redemption

Tom Baily

Colonial tragedy set in 19th-century Tasmania misses the mark

The Party's Just Beginning review - a formidable debut

Owen Richards

Karen Gillan reveals hidden talents as she pulls triple duty

Charlie's Angels review - feminism-lite action comedy

Graham Fuller

Non-stop rollercoaster is more fun than the US box office suggests

Knives Out review - marvellous murder mystery

Demetrios Matheou

Daniel Craig heads a classy ensemble as a Southern sleuth on the hunt for a country house killer

Blu-ray: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort

Graham Rickson

Pure joy: this iconic French film musical has never looked or sounded better

The Amber Light review - tales, songs and drams

Tom Baily

Warm-hearted documentary explores the social history of whisky

DVD/Blu-ray: Moby Dick

Graham Fuller

John Huston's maritime epic is impressive but lacks metaphorical heft

Harriet review - potentially stirring biopic proves a slog

Matt Wolf

Cynthia Erivo leaps to stardom in a too-stolid film

Ophelia review - tragic no more

Owen Richards

Retelling of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' puts the doomed maiden centre stage

Greener Grass review - American suburbia goes haywire in surreal dark comedy

Markie Robson-Scott

Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe's first feature has an SNL vibe

Frozen II review - the allure cools off

Demetrios Matheou

Disney returns to one of its biggest successes, with middling results

Permission review - suspenseful melodrama of a true-life event

Negar Esfandiary

A chilling and poignant 88 minutes in the boots of futsal player Afrooz

21 Bridges review - police corruption thriller sets a cracking pace

Adam Sweeting

Chadwick Boseman heads strong cast as he leads a manhunt in Manhattan

'Shakespeare is mistakenly considered something for the elite': director Claire McCarthy on 'Ophelia'

Owen Richards

Upcoming adaptation shines a new light on Shakespeare's famous tragic maiden

Blu-ray: The Golem

Graham Fuller

1920 film featuring the Jewish folktale monster delivers an ambiguous message

The Best Films Out Now


theartsdesk recommends the top movies of the moment

The Report review - searing political drama

Joseph Walsh

Adam Driver leads a vital takedown on 9/11's aftermath

Marriage Story review - superior weepie

Demetrios Matheou

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver prove a perfect match as an imperfect couple

Last Christmas review - for the stocking, not the tree

Demetrios Matheou

No longer mothering dragons, Emilia Clarke comes back down to Earth as an elf

Le Mans '66 review - nicely revved up

Demetrios Matheou

Matt Damon and Christian Bale are an entertaining double act at the centre of a real-life motor-racing drama

DVD/Blu-ray: Journey to the Beginning of Time

Graham Rickson

Enchanting dino-flick from a pioneering Czech director

Meeting Gorbachev review - Werner Herzog offers a swansong tribute

Tom Birchenough

Engaging documentary portrait becomes a moving meditation on history

The Good Liar review - the grey pound dipped in acid

Nick Hasted

McKellen and Mirren play dark conman games in an uncompromising thriller

Midway review - gung-ho heroes battle moribund script

Adam Sweeting

Roland Emmerich spent decades getting this film made, but why?

Footnote: a brief history of British film

England was movie-mad long before the US. Contrary to appearances in a Hollywood-dominated world, the celluloid film process was patented in London in 1890 and by 1905 minute-long films of news and horse-racing were being made and shown widely in purpose-built cinemas, with added sound. The race to set up a film industry, though, was swiftly won by the entrepreneurial Americans, attracting eager new UK talents like Charlie Chaplin. However, it was a British film that in 1925 was the world's first in-flight movie, and soon the arrival of young suspense genius Alfred Hitchcock and a new legal requirement for a "quota" of British film in cinemas assisted a golden age for UK film. Under the leadership of Alexander Korda's London Films, Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929) is considered the first true sound movie, documentary techniques developed and the first Technicolor movies were made.

Brief_EncounterWhen war intervened, British filmmakers turned effectively to lean, effective propaganda documentaries and heroic, studio-based war-films. After Hitchcock too left for Hollywood, David Lean launched into an epic career with Brief Encounter (pictured), Powell and Pressburger took up the fantasy mantle with The Red Shoes, while Carol Reed created Anglo films noirs such as The Third Man. Fifties tastes were more domestic, with Ealing comedies succeeded by Hammer horror and Carry-Ons; and more challenging in the Sixties, with New Wave films about sex and class by Lindsay Anderson, Joseph Losey and Tony Richardson. But it was Sixties British escapism which finally went global: the Bond films, Lean's Dr Zhivago, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music made Sean Connery, Julie Christie and Julie Andrews Hollywood's top stars.

In the 1970s, recession and the TV boom undermined cinema-going and censorship changes brought controversy: a British porn boom and scandals over The Devils, Straw Dogs and A Clockwork Orange. While Hollywood fielded Spielberg, Coppola and Scorsese epics, Britain riposted with The Killing Fields, Chariots of Fire and Gandhi, but 1980s recession dealt a sharp blow to British cinema, and the Rank Organisation closed, after more than half a century. However more recently social comedies such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Full Monty, and royal dramas such as The Queen and The King's Speech have enhanced British reputation for wit, social observation and character acting.

As more films are globally co-produced, the success of British individual talents has come to outweigh the modest showing of the industry itself. Every week The Arts Desk reviews latest releases as well as leading international film festivals, and features in-depth career interviews with leading stars. Its writers include Jasper Rees, Graham Fuller, Anne Billson, Nick Hasted, Alexandra Coghlan, Veronica Lee, Emma Simmonds, Adam Sweeting and Matt Wolf

Close Footnote

Advertising feature


Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?

latest in Today

So Long, My Son review - an intimate Chinese epic

Two young boys play by the water. Soon, one is dead. This enigmatic tragedy is the core of a four-decade...

Rick Wakeman’s Grumpy Old Christmas Show, Cadogan Hall revie...

The cape, the banked-up synths and the glam have gone. Rick Wakeman’s Grumpy Old...

Rufus and Martha Wainwright, A Not So Silent Night, RFH revi...

It’s 10 years this month since Kate McGarrigle gave her last concert, the annual...

Classical CDs Weekly: Josquin, Tchaikovsky, Janet Sung


Josquin: Missa Mater Patris, Bauldeweyn: Missa Da pacem The Tallis Scholars/Peter Philips (Gimmell)


My Baby, Concorde 2, Brighton review - Dutch three-piece del...

“Trance boogie,” states My Baby frontwoman Cato van Dijck before submersing herself in the rising tribal rhythm of “Sunflower Sutra". Trance...

CD: Rob Halford - Celestial

If there’s one man who has got the chutzpah to sing songs about the Baby Jesus while flashing the Devil’s horns, it’s Judas Priest frontman Rob...

Giri/Haji, Series Finale, BBC Two review - a thriller, but m...

Happily, Joe Barton’s tinglingly original thriller (BBC Two)...

Honey Boy review - coming to terms with dad

Blue periods can lead to golden streaks. Such is almost the case with Honey Boy, which Shia LaBeouf wrote during a court-ordered stay in...

Ravens: Spassky vs. Fischer, Hampstead Theatre review - it...

We’ve had Chess the musical; now, here’s Chess the play...


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters