With spring finally here, we’re all hoping to spend more time outdoors, eating al fresco and meeting up in garden and parks with friends. But for those evenings where, in typical London style, the weather takes a crisp turn, streaming services have a wealth of tempting new films for at-home viewing. Ahead of long-awaited titles hitting cinemas when they reopen in May, this April sees the release of star-studded films including Concrete Cowboy with Idris Elba and Things Heard and Seen with Amanda Seyfried. But it’s the foreign language movies that take centre stage, from the French Madame Claude’s tale of Paris’ most infamous brothel keeper to director Christian Petzold’s playful reimagining of a classic German myth in Undine. These are the must-see new films to stream over the coming weeks.
For its first original French language film, Netflix is uncovering the life of Paris’ most infamous pimp. Karole Rocher stars as Madame Claude, the powerful and exclusive purveyor of notoriously beautiful and sophisticated girls for the likes of JFK, Marlon Brando and the Shah of Iran, in this shocking and addictive drama.
Focusing mainly on Claude’s heyday in the Sixties, Sylvie Verheyde’s film is jaw-dropping in its revelations about the brothel keeper, including speculation that she worked with the CIA and the French government’s intelligence services. But central to the plot is the arrival of an affluent young woman, and the threat she poses to unravel all that Madame Claude has so carefully built as the two become increasingly wrapped up in dangerous political games.
Available now on Netflix
A fresh take on the cowboy movie, Ricky Staub’s feature directorial debut takes us inside the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club. Based on the novel Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri, the film follows the group of urban cowboys in Philadelphia, who are upholding the tradition of Black cowboys in their neighbourhood. One of the key members is Harp, played by Idris Elba, who is forced to deal with the arrival of his 15 year old estranged son Cole, and ongoing threats from city officials who want to build on the club’s land.
A modern-day western where the enemy is gentrification, it’s an emotional tale that shines a spotlight on the often unrecognised tradition of Black horsemanship. Although fictional, the film is very much inspired by the real club, with some of the real members even joining the cast, and the message about the importance of the club as a pillar for the community is powerful throughout.
Available now on Netflix
Christian Petzold’s German-French drama offers a beguiling and playful reimaging of a German myth about a water nymph who gains an immortal human soul through her love of a man. Paula Beer stars as Undine, a stylish Berlin-based architect whose life is turned upside down when Johannes (Jacob Matschenz), the man she’s been having an unhappy adulterous affair with, leaves her. A new man quickly enters her life — the charismatic Christoph (Franz Rogowski), a beautiful, sensual underwater diver who had heard her lecture.
As the two begin their own passionate affair, things become increasingly surreal, and when Johannes comes back into the picture, both Undine and Christoph must tackle a terrible destiny. Beautifully shot, the quasi-realist film plays with concepts of the great love story with an eerie ending that will stay with you for days.
Available now on Curzon Home Cinema
Kosovo-born filmmaker Antoneta Kastrati weaves a poignant tale of a mother willing to go to desperate lengths in order to get pregnant. Lume (Adriana Matoshi) and her husband Ilir (Astrit Kabashi) are living with Ilir’s formidable mother after surviving the Kosovo War, during which they tragically lost their young daughter, Zana, who was killed in the crossfire. Although trying to present the perfect wife facade that her society — and her mother-in-law especially — expect, Lume is wracked with grief and is tortured by dreams of her past.
When her mother-in-law begins to pressure her son to take a second wife in order to have more children, Lume panics and agrees to see faith healers to see if she can get pregnant again. Witchy traditions are uncovered through her visits, and Kastrati does an impressive job of depicting the complex layers of Kosovo society and the juxtaposition of tradition and modernity.
Available now on Barbican player
Ahead of the release of the much-anticipated, Oscar-nominated film Nomadland, Mubi is exclusively streaming Chloe Zhao’s directorial debut. Set against the striking landscape of South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation, Songs My Brothers Taught Me is a rich and powerful coming-of-age story of two siblings trapped in a small town.
In many ways, the film seems to lay the groundwork for Nomadland. The tale is focused on subtly and sensitively examining the lives of those living in marginalised and forgotten communities. At the centre are teenage Johnny and his younger sister Jashaun, two Lakota Sioux siblings whose relationship is tested when their often-absent cowboy father suddenly dies. The two are left to navigate the harsh terrain of their small town, where alcoholism, poverty and violence are rife. When Johnny is given an opportunity to move to Los Angeles, he must decide whether he is willing to grab his freedom at the cost of leaving his sister behind.
Available 9 April on Mubi
More than a year since its Sundance premiere, Lawrence Michael Levine’s dramatic thriller is finally coming to home screens. Sustainably produced — the film received the Gold “green-seal” from the Environmental Media Association — the darkly humorous film operates on layers of meta, with the film going back on commenting on itself multiple times.
Aubrey Plaza stars as Allison, who we first meet sat on the edge of a lake. She returns to a remote cabin, and the film sets off on telling the story of her stay in the cabin in two parts. In the first, Allison is an actress turned writer-director who is staying in the cabin to try and cure her writer’s block. The cabin belongs to Gabe (Christopher Abbott) and Blair (Sarah Gadon), who are hosting Allison as a trial run for turning the home into a B&B. Just as the trio’s relationship is reaching a boiling point of mess and complication, we are taken to part two. Roles are switched, and we see the same action through a new lens. It’s a wild ride, but well worth it if you can keep up.
Available 23 April on Amazon Prime
The Hudson Valley has become a popular Hamptons-alternative for New Yorkers in recent years, but this thriller may leave some viewers questioning a visit to the idyllic countryside. Amanda Seyfried and James Norton star in this nail-biting adaptation of All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage as an artist and her husband who decide to move to the upstate area. Alone and isolated in the small town, cracks in their picture-perfect marriage quickly begin to show.
But the unravelling doesn’t stop there, as we realise the house the couple have moved to has its own dark secrets that rival the couple’s. Sinister and spooky, Catherine (Seyfried) uncovers more and more about the house’s horrific past, and in the process unlocks terrifying ghosts that can’t be controlled.
Available 31 April on Netflix
This meta, satirical mockumentary sees director Gillian Horvat play a fictional version of herself who is desperate to up her creative credentials. Her answer to how to make herself stand out? Murder.
A captivating, if deeply disturbing, example of the camera as an excuse for abuse, Horvat’s dark comedy pokes fun at the lengths we will go to make a name for ourselves. Shot in a haphazard, home-movie style, Horvat tracks her journey from initial, innocent concept to terrifying reality as we watch her lose her sense of perspective on what justifies great art. An ambitious follow up to her acclaimed 2015 short Kiss Kiss, I Blame Society is a highly inventive concept that is brilliantly executed.
Coming soon on Mubi