With about 90 per cent of Canadian movie theatres currently shuttered, there is comfort in knowing that, thanks to streaming and video-on-demand, we can all program our own double (or triple, or quadruple) bills at home. Here are this week’s best new under-the-radar digital releases
The Disciple, Netflix
One of the best surprises of last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival, Chaitanya Tamhane’s Mumbai-set film about the life of a classical music violinist living in the shadow of his father very quietly made its way to Netflix last week. I’m not sure why the streamer wasn’t throwing more promotional attention to the film, given how the decade-spanning drama instantly boosts the giant’s international prestige-cinema credibility, but I can’t pretend to know the ways of the algorithm-driven service. Either way, if you are looking for a cure to your endless scrolling this weekend, Tamhane’s meditation on tradition, focus, fame and the sometimes devastating folly of commitment is a wonderful way to spend a quiet evening at home.
The Killing of Two Lovers, VOD (including Apple TV/iTunes, Google Play)
The first minutes of Robert Machoian’s intense, stirring feature seem to give the events of the title away. But then the director unexpectedly pivots, and his story about a ne’er-do-well father (Clayne Crawford, excellent), his frustrated wife (Sepideh Moafi), their four young kids and the man (Chris Coy) who threatens to undo the entire family becomes something else entirely. Working with a low budget in the wide-open and often haunting spaces of Western Utah, Machoian creates a nervy, stripped down domestic drama that puts character first. Watch it with someone you love and trust – if they can get past the title.
Director Alexandre Aja has spent the past few years finding horror in the water (Crawl, Piranha 3D), the woods (High Tension), the desert (The Hills Have Eyes), and in, um, mirrors (Mirrors). Now, with the French-language thriller Oxygen, the high-low French genre maestro goes all pandemic-era on us by focusing on one single, easy-to-film setting: the inside of a cryogenic chamber. It’s there where Liz (Melanie Laurent) awakens one day, completely unaware of how she got there and how long she’s been asleep. From there, Aja throws at least a half-dozen twists at Liz (and the audience), eventually turning the film into a “oh, c’mon!” kind of tease into an “okay, sure!” roller-coaster. Bonus: the always charming Mathieu Amalric voices MILO, the robot controlling Liz’s chamber and her only hope of escaping it.
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