After a particularly taxing year, there is no doubt that many of us are looking forward to some downtime this December, cosying up on our sofas and relaxing into a good film or two. As you would expect from the run up to the holidays, there are plenty of new releases coming to both cinemas and digital streaming channels this month. From David Fincher’s exploration in the tussle behind the making of Citizen Kane to a radical new interpretation of Charles Dickens’ festive favourite, A Christmas Carol, there is something for everyone in your household.
Director David Fincher takes us back to 1930s Hollywood to follow the story of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (known to his friends at Mank) as he struggles to claim authorship for Orson Welles’s seminal Golden Age film, Citizen Kane. Featuring a brilliant cast including Gary Oldman as Mank, Amanda Seyfried and Charles Dance, the black and white drama is the first film from Fincher in six years. It holds a special place in his heart as the script written by his late father, Jack, and he has been pushing to have the film made for 20 years.
Available now on netflix.com
A post-apocalyptic drama starring — and directed by — George Clooney, Midnight Sky is based on Lily Brooks-Dalton’s much lauded novel Good Morning, Midnight. It centres around Augustine, a lonely scientist who is racing to contact a team of astronauts to stop them returning to Earth, and a mysterious global disaster. Clooney is joined in the cast by Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) as astronaut Sully, in addition to David Oyelowu and Kyle Chandler. Clooney himself has described the movie as a cross between Gravity and The Remnant, so don’t expect a light-hearted watch.
Available on 11 December on netflix.com
His eleven years spent as a youth worker at a pupil referral unit in east London are what drove writer and director Henry Blake to make his gritty British drama, County Lines. In this hard-hitting film, he tackles the grim reality of the £1 billion-a-year drug trade, whose networks groom and recruit vulnerable young boys in the capital to transport their drugs around the country. It follows the story of 14-year-old Tyler Hughes, played brilliantly by newcomer Conrad Khan, who is targeted by a drug dealer. As the pandemic pushes more young people in economic insecurity, County Lines could not be more timely.
In cinemas now
Is it really Christmas without watching at least one rendition, on the stage or on the screen, of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? This new cinematic adaptation takes on the festive favourite in a very unpredictable way through the medium of dance. Brother-sister duo Jacqui and David Morris hold the directing reins, focusing on a Victorian family as they get set to showcase their annual performance of A Christmas Carol, which takes place in a toy theatre and comes alive. Magnificent voice overs are provided by the likes of Carey Mulligan, Martin Freeman, Simon Russell Beale and Andy Serkis. A great option for any inter-generational gatherings.
In cinemas now
Writer and director Ekwa Msangi scooped a Sundance award back in January for Farewell Amor, which also screened at the London Film Festival this autumn. Exploring the themes of migration, memory and home, this film centres on the experience of an Angolan immigrant, Walter, living in New York. He is joined by his wife, Sylvie, and teenage daughter, Esther, in Brooklyn, 17 years after he himself left his war-torn homeland. This thought-provoking drama follows the struggles of each of the three characters as they try to reconnect and rebuild their lives in a strange new city.
Available on Mubi from 18 December; mubi.com
Oscar-winning actress and producer Viola Davis takes on the role of the fiery and fierce ‘Mother of the Blues’ in this adaptation of Pulitzer winner August Wilson’s 1984 play. Playing opposite Davis is Chadwick Boseman, starring as Levee, an ambitious trumpeter who believes he is destined to be more than just a backing musician for the likes of Ma. Expect flared tensions and tempers in this biopic, which is also Boseman’s last screen role; and the actor gives the one of the most exciting performances of his career.
Available on Netflix from 18 December; netflix.com
Prolific South Korean filmmaker Hong Sang Soo, back after an uncharacteristic two year hiatus, gets it right again with The Woman Who Ran. A comedic drama about a young married woman, it weaves the story around her experience of three encounters with three long-lost female friends in a rare period of time away from her husband. This triplicate won rave reviews at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year for its sardonic focus on the female experience. It stars Kim Minhee as the young woman Gamhee, who is Hong’s off-screen partner as well as long-term on-screen muse.
In cinemas from 20 December
Girl from Mogadishu tells the real-life story of a Somalian teenager who escaped her fatherland during the war in 2006 to become an activist against FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) in Ireland where she is granted asylum. Mary McGuickan directs this bold drama which is based on the testimony of Ifrah Ahmed, played by Malaika Herrador as a youngster and by Aja Naomi King as an adult. It’s a remarkable story that plumbs the depths of tragedy but also rises to inspiration and joy, all bound together by a redeeming sense of community.
Available now on Amazon Prime; amazon.com