With movie theatres reopening and then closing and then who-knows-what, 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 digital releases, which will help you fill the blurry time between now and the new year.
Sylvie’s Love, Amazon Prime Video One of the most defiantly old-fashioned films to debut on streaming this year, Sylvie’s Love is a wonderful holiday diversion, if you’re in no rush. Writer-director Eugene Ashe’s romance starts off in 1950s Harlem, where the restless Sylvie (Tessa Thompson) spends her days working in her father’s record store. In walks handsome saxophonist Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha), and that is that. Well, not quite. Spanning a decade-plus and revelling in both the fashion and music of the eras, Ashe’s film is a slow-moving but sumptuous affair, conceived with a patient, layered sensibility that lovingly roots its visuals in the predigital past. While some side-characters could have been dropped without a worry – what exactly is Eva Longoria doing here anyway? – and one flashback montage easily excised, Sylvie’s Love is as comforting as a roaring fire.
Yes, God, Yes, VOD Ultra-repressed teens discovering the power of their sexuality is not exactly a new topic for indie American filmmakers (see: Saved, But I’m a Cheerleader, etc.). But writer-director Karen Maine delivers some sweet and sharp wrinkles in the formula with her feature debut. Maine, who wrote the screenplay for the equally charming 2014 Jenny Slate-starring comedy Obvious Child, sets her story in the early aughts, when even the most devout of American teenagers could be turned on by the power of AOL chat rooms. As good Catholic girl Alice (Natalia Dyer) finds herself wrestling with matters of faith, family and desire, Maine crafts a memorable, winning feature that will make any audience glad they came. To the iTunes/Apple TV landing page, I mean.
Valley Girl, Crave This month, audiences can watch the bam-pow-kazam musical dazzle of Netflix’s The Prom. And/or they can watch the 1980s-set shenanigans of Wonder Woman 1984. But deep in the recesses of the streaming world, there is one film that combines the two to form something very silly but much more easily digestible. Director Rachel Lee Goldenberg’s jukebox musical remake of Martha Coolidge’s Romeo and Juliet riff is as feather-light as they come, which is a compliment. Energetic, poppy and as neon-coloured as your most gonzo neighbour’s Christmas lights, Valley Girl will leave you in a better mood than most of this month’s new releases. And for those who haven’t yet watched the Happy Death Day franchise, this is a great opportunity to acquaint yourself with the bright talents of actress Jessica Rothe (just ignore the fact that obnoxious YouTuber Logan Paul is also here).
Wild Mountain Thyme, VOD A disclaimer: I haven’t yet watched Wild Mountain Thyme, an Ireland-set rom-com that John Patrick Shanley adapted from his own play that now stars Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan and Christopher Walken. But I have heard so very much about Wild Mountain Thyme since it was released in the U.S. two weeks ago. And what I hear – manic, frothing-at-the-mouth screams about its ridiculous accents, its all-over-the-map pacing and its too-crazy-to-be-true ending – make this movie a can’t-miss. I won’t say that it is one of this weekend’s best new releases, but I will say that it is this weekend’s most interesting new release. Let’s all watch it Christmas Morning and report back.
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