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A Life Less Ordinary: 6 inspiring new films to stream in November

With a focus on tales of overcoming adversity, these stirring movies are guaranteed to uplift

One of the best things about watching a film is the complete escapism it can offer, giving you the chance to step into another person’s life and see a different perspective on the world for a few hours at a time. This month sees six new films perfect for doing just that, from Paul Bettany’s depiction of closeted 70s homosexuality in Uncle Frank on Amazon Prime Video, to Amy Adams and Glenn Close’s exploration of drug addiction in HillyBilly Elergy on Netflix. And there are some excellent foreign language offerings to transport you too, from Sophia Loren’s latest movie The Life Ahead to French romance Summer of 85

Uncle Frank

Paul Bettany gives a stand-out performance in this story of Frank, a gay, alcoholic professor in the 70s, who is forced to finally come out to his niece when she enrols as a student at New York University where he teaches. But when his father dies, the two of them are forced back home to their family home in the South, where together the two of them hide his sexuality.

Over the years, Frank’s family have managed to tacitly convey that they know he is ‘different’ – and that they disapprove. But now that his partner has arrived in town to check in on him, Frank is forced to finally confront his family with the truth…

Available on Amazon Prime Video from 26 November; amazon.co.uk

The Life Ahead

A 12-year-old Senegalese boy is left orphaned in an Italian seaside town, and turns to crime. But little does he know that the woman who he robs in the street will soon be the one to take him in, win his trust and finally turn his life around.

86-year-old Sophia Loren makes her return to the silver screen as Madame Rosa – a tough Holocaust survivor who looks after the children of local prostitutes. Critics are tipping Loren for her third Oscar nomination for the role in this Italian language film directed by her son, Eduardo Ponti. Whether it receives any accolades or not, it’s a gritty, heartfelt story well worth watching.

Available on Netflix from 13 November; netflix.com

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Hillybilly Elegy

Amy Adams and Glenn Close star in this hotly tipped film based on J.D.Vance’s best-selling memoir. After receiving an unexpected phone call, Yale Law graduate Adam is reluctantly drawn back to his working-class family home in the Appalachia Mountains of Ohio, classed as ‘hillbilly country’. As he returns, we relive his traumatic childhood, and his eventual escape from his hillbilly roots.

Directed by Oscar-winner Ron Howard and written by Vanessa Taylor, who received an Academy Award nomination for her Shape of Water screenplay, there’s a good chance we’ll see this film also earning a place in 2021’s award season line up.

Available on Netflix from 24 November; netflix.com

I Am Greta

After gaining fame at 15 by campaigning on climate change and sparking similar protests around the world, Greta Thunberg went on to become the youngest ever climate activist to address world leaders on their failings regarding environmental policy. 

Documentary film I Am Greta offers a fly-on-the-wall look at how she captured the political zeitgeist of a generation and galvanized a global movement to address climate crisis. But it also offers an interesting insight into Greta’s back story too – director Nathan Grossman began filming as soon as Greta hit the headlines two years ago, so it’s intriguing to see how she has evolved as both a person and a public figure.

In cinemas now and available on Hulu from 13 November; hulu.com

Summer of 85

Expect a nostalgic coming of age tale from director François Ozon, in this bittersweet love story based on the 1982 novel Dance of My Grave by Aidan Chambers. Told through a series of flashbacks, we see the story of how, after David rescues Alex when his boat capsizes, the two boys fall intensely and passionately in love.

But as we snap back to the present day, Alex is seen facing questions about a tragic event for which he is held accountable, and the story slowly unfolds. Set in a French seaside resort that’s gorgeously shot with a retro textured filter and peppered with 80s musical hits, this French language film is one to watch if you’re looking for a feast for all the senses.

Available now on Curzon Home Cinema; curzonhomecinema.com

Small Axe

Not just one film, but five. Small Axe is a series of five stand-alone films centring around London’s West Indian community between the 1960s and 1980s, created by Oscar-winning writer and director Steve McQueen. The name comes from the Jamaican phrase “if you are the big tree, we are the small axe” – an expression illustrating that small voices of dissent can still successfully challenge powerful, established ones.

It’s this idea which runs thematically through each of the five films, confronting the injustice faced by the West Indian community in Britain. With an impressive cast including Star Wars’s John Boyega and Black Panther’s Letitia Wright, expect this to be a timely and important slice of TV this season.

Available on BBC One from 15 November; bbc.co.uk

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