As the year starts to draw to a close, talk of the impending Awards Season ramps up, with Oscar buzz firmly attaching itself to some of the splashier new films. From a touching coming-of-age tale to a sports movie with a twist and 2021’s most stylish cinematic offering, there’s plenty to keep the critics talking this month. Here we’re rounded up the best new films to see this November.
The Best New Films To See This November
While it may seem ill-advised to tackle yet another film chronicling the tragic life of Diana, Princess of Wales, this latest iteration received rave reviews when it aired at the Venice Film Festival earlier in the year. Directed by Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín, whose brilliant Jackie Kennedy biopic, Jackie, was nominated for an Academy Award, and starring Kristen Stewart as Diana, it reveals the world’s most famous woman on the verge of a breakdown.
Set over three days in the midst of the collapse of Charles and Diana’s marriage, the film offers up an intimate portrait of a woman going to pieces, depicted in a way that only a dispassionate outsider could pull off. Larraín clearly has a fascination with the lives of complex women, and is able to translate them into film with masterful aplomb. Stewart is compelling as the People’s Princess, displaying the mental health issues she suffered from as a key focus of the film, while offering up a moving portrayal of a woman simply trying to save herself.
Out 5 November
This moving coming-of-age story from Kenneth Branagh, based around his own working-class upbringing in Northern Ireland, has already been tipped for Oscar glory thanks to its emotionally wrenching portrayal of a city coming apart at the seams, and the ordinary people swept up in that heartache.
Told through the eyes of nine-year-old Buddy (played by newcomer Jude Hill), the film follows a close-knit family – with Jamie Dornan playing Buddy’s father, Caitríona Balfe his mother and Judi Dench his grandmother – as they try to carry on with normal life in the midst of the Northern Irish troubles of 1969, torn between staying in the home they know and fleeing for the sake of their children. The film bursts with life even while tackling difficult and upsetting subject matters – the kids continue to play football in the streets, even with barbed wire and barricades at the end of the block, and there are plenty of jokes and genuinely funny moments punctuating the script. With a touching score by Van Morrison and sumptuous black and white cinematography, it’s no wonder this is set to sweep the boards come Awards Season.
Out 12 November
Following on from his Oscar-winning turn as the Joker, Joaquin Phoenix has chosen a wholly different sort of film for his return to the big screen. He shines in this beautifully-observed family drama – directed by renowned indie filmmaker Mike Mills – which explores how children see the world, and just how much they have to teach experience-weary adults.
Phoenix plays single, childless middle-aged radio journalist Johnny, who travels America interviewing kids about what their futures might hold. The film revolves around the quasi-parental friendship that forms between Johnny and his nephew Jesse (Woody Norman), after he agrees to look after him while his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann) deals with her bipolar ex-husband (Scoot McNairy). Though they’ve never spent a great deal of time together before, their relationship quickly blossoms, with Johnny learning just what it means to become a stand-in dad overnight and Jesse discovering new freedoms that he never had at home. Tenderly investigating the mistakes we all make – and how there may not, in fact, be a right way to do anything – it’s a poignant exploration of human connections.
Out 19 November
For almost three decades, Serena and Venus Williams have dominated the world of tennis, smashing records and breaking down barriers. But did you ever stop to think where they came from, and just how they got to where they are today? This film examines their roots, the price it took to become the world’s most famous sporting siblings, and the role their demanding father – the title’s Richard – played in their success.
Starting with their humble origins in South California’s downtrodden neighbourhood of Compton, the film follows Richard Williams (a brilliantly nuanced performance by Will Smith) as he trains his young daughters Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) to become elite tennis players. The film doesn’t shy away from exploring the racial and economic factors that held the sisters back; at tennis matches, Richard and his daughters are usually the only non-white faces, and director Reinaldo Marcus Green highlights how that sense of alienation affects the family. The film is as much about Richard – specifically his motives behind pushing his daughters as hard as he does – as it is about Venus and Serena, exploring just what it takes to turn your children into global superstars.
Out 19 November
This lush period drama provides a sensitive adaptation of Graham Swift’s popular novella of the same name, which is set in Britain’s Home Counties between the wars. It follows the story of orphaned maid Jane (played by Australian actor Odessa Young) as she embarks on a rare day off, the Mothering Sunday featured in the film’s title.
Young is joined by some of British cinema’s finest acting talents, including Josh O’Connor as her beguiling well-born lover, Paul – the only one of his close peers to have returned from the French battlefields – and Colin Firth and Olivia Colman as the owners of the grand house Jane works in, Mr and Mrs Niven, who are grieving the loss of their own son. The film moves between time and place, jumping to later periods in Jane’s life where we see her as a celebrated author, as she tries to make sense of their ill-fated romance and commit its story to paper. Dreamy, melancholic and tender, this is a visually appealing slow-burner of a film that examines the life of a writer – and all of the experiences, both tragic and joyful, that go into their work.
Out 12 November
While Jacques Cousteau may no longer be a household name, the famed adventurer and filmmaker once dominated television screens around the world with his ground-breaking 60s series, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, at a time when underwater photography was very little used. Through archival video and audio footage, as well as excerpts from diary entries read by actor Vincent Cassel, this documentary explores the life of the revolutionary figure.
Chronicling his move into free diving and spearfishing after his dreams of becoming a French Navy pilot were cut short by a terrible car accident, the film explores how Cousteau became an inventor “by necessity”, creating a special waterproof housing for cameras so he could film underwater and co-inventing the Aqua Lung to enable him to dive deeper and for longer. The film also shows his gradual evolution into an environmental activist, highlighting the fragility of the world’s underwater ecosystems decades before anyone else was talking about it, and leading efforts to protect Antarctica. It’s a fitting tribute to a man who introduced so many to the wonders that live beneath the sea.
Out 12 November
It’s the most-hyped fashion movie of the year, as famous for its viral images of Lady Gaga and Adam Driver clad in fabulous Eighties knitwear as it is for its stellar cast and plot. Directed by Ridley Scott, it tells the shocking true story of Patrizia Reggiani (played by Lady Gaga), the glamorous socialite who was charged with arranging the murder of her husband Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) in 1997.
Based on Sara Gay Forden’s book The House Of Gucci: A Sensational Story Of Murder, Madness, Glamour, And Greed, the film features some of Hollywood’s biggest names, with Al Pacino drafted in to play Maurizio’s uncle Aldo Gucci, the Italian fashion house’s real-life muse Jared Leto cast as his son Paulo and Oscar-winning British actor Jeremy Irons portraying Maurizio’s father Rodolfo. With spellbinding performances, stunning Italian locations, plot twists aplenty and breath-taking outfits, it’s set to be the most stylish cinematic event of 2021.
Out 26 November