Now that it’s summer, the cinemas are filled with blockbuster action films and not much else. If you’re looking for a cheap alternative, here’s a list of four films from the last year that you may have missed in theaters but ought to catch on Netflix.
The 2011 British film “Weekend” is similar to the 1995 drama “Before Sunrise,” but with two men falling in love in the U.K. After meeting at a bar, Russell (Tom Cullen) brings Glen (Chris New) home, ostensibly for a one-night stand, but they spend the day after their tryst having one long, engaging and deeply personal conversation about everything from past relationships to their coming out experiences. In some ways, the confessional nature of their discussion is facilitated by their unfamiliarity. The romantic and unabashedly realistic film is a smart and touching story about our universal need for intimacy and the often-rampant fear of commitment.
While Céline Sciamma’s directorial debut, “Water Lilies” (also on Netflix), was a film about the complexities of adolescent sexuality, her sophomore film, “Tomboy,” explores pre-pubescent gender roles. When 10-year-old, pixie-haired Laure (Zoé Héran) and her loving family move into a new neighborhood, she introduces herself to her neighbors as Michael, plays outside with the boys and flirts with the girl next door. Whether she does this because she knows she will be more easily accepted into her new friend group as a boy or because she identifies as one–and should instead be referred to as “he”–remains ambiguous throughout the film. Laure is at an age when gender roles are so firmly established in school and by her parents that any kind of fluidity is feared or downright dismissed. The film grounds the complex treatment of gender roles in a simple but touching story of the burdens and joys of being a child: the idyllic summers, the responsibility of taking care of her little sister, the need for comfort and affection from her parents, their simultaneous love and small-mindedness and the fact that she still often feels terrified because her parents don’t understand what she’s going through–and nor does she. It’s a film that understands that being a kid is hard work and often painful.
“Cave of Forgotten Dreams”
Werner Herzog’s latest documentary, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” takes us inside the Chauvet Cave in Southern France to see the world’s oldest known cave paintings. Access to the area is strictly controlled–it’s closed to the public–but Herzog was able to get limited access for over a week to capture it on film. The movie is one of the best examples of using 3-D technology to its full potential–making you feel like you’re actually in the cave, something 2-D would never be able to really do–but despite its 2-D rendering on Netflix, “Dreams” remains engaging and educational. Herzog is eccentric, always finds a way to humanize his subjects and manages to find interesting characters to interview, including a man who literally sniffs his way around in search of caves.
Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden play fictionalized versions of themselves in Michael Winterbottom’s comedy “The Trip.” When Steve gets a gig touring and reviewing posh restaurants in the English countryside and his girlfriend can’t accompany him, Rob tags along for a weekend of gourmet food and bonding. Steve and Rob, both comedians, amuse themselves over meals by doing hilarious impressions of everyone from Michael Caine to Woody Allen. While on the surface the film is light comedic entertainment, it holds darker undertones on loneliness and growing older. Steve is divorced and struggles in his relationship with his son and his long-distance girlfriend, while Rob is happily married but missing his wife. As they part ways, Winterbottom juxtaposes Steve’s loneliness with Rob’s blissful life, elevating the movie above mere farce.