This strange year is now winding down, and while for much of the month all eyes will be turned towards the U.S. election and its aftermath, as we take a glance at the film offerings, there’s no shortage of worthwhile releases.
From the first batch of five new Steve McQueen films to David Fincher’s first feature in six years to new work by Werner Herzog, Clea DuVall, Gabriel Mascaro, Francis Lee, and more, it’s a stellar line-up as we enter into the final stretch of 2020.
We should also note that some theatrical-only releases earlier this fall are making their digital debuts, such as The Nest and Possessor, so be sure to follow our streaming column for weekly updates.
15. The Giant (David Raboy; Nov. 13)
A highlight at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, David Raboy’s directorial debut The Giant––which follows a young woman who has to deal with a traumatic past––is now arriving this month. Jared Mobarak said in our review, “Places, objects, sounds, and smells each retain shimmers of memory we long to hold and struggle to forget. This is what’s happened to Charlotte’s (Odessa Young) childhood home—the place where her mother took her own life. Whether she hasn’t thought of it in a long time or it’s all she ever thinks about, this moment right now sees it taking control of her senses and refusing to let go.”
Where to Watch: VOD (Nov. 13)
14. The Dark and the Wicked (Bryan Bertino)
Halloween is over, but there are still a few horror films set to arrive before the end of the year. One of the most notable is The Dark and the Wicked, coming from The Strangers director Bryan Bertino and starring Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., and Xander Berkeley. The story follows siblings in an isolated farmhouse who sense something sinister is taking over. Jared Mobarak said in his review, “The Dark and the Wicked is Satan entertaining himself with the dread of those he could kill in an instant if he wanted. But he doesn’t. He wants them to endure an agony they never thought possible and for us to question the veracity of what we see.”
Where to Watch: Theaters and VOD (Nov. 6)
13. Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds (Werner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer)
After going Into the Inferno with Clive Oppenheimer, the duo will look to the skies for their next cinematic exploration. Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds finds them exploring sites that may yield insight into comets and meteorites, helping them understand what they can tell us about the origins of life on Earth. Following a premiere at Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year, the documentary will arrive on Apple TV+ this month. The first preview, guided by Herzog’s ever-curious voice, shows how meteorites have greatly influenced cultures and religions, with no shortage of epic, globe-spanning footage.
Where to Watch: Apple TV+ (Nov. 13)
12. Monsoon (Hong Khaou)
One of our favorites on the festival circuit last year, Monsoon, a new drama from Lilting director Hong Khaou, is led by Henry Golding, whose character returns to Ho Chi Minh City for the first time since he was six. Logan Kenny said in our review, “Monsoon stands out for how it slowly immerses audiences into the idiosyncrasies of its subject, the nuances of the beautiful city it journeys through. By the halfway point, conflict is faded and one is left with a grieving man finding some consolation in making tea and being in spaces he thought he’d never see again.”
Where to Watch: Theaters, Virtual Cinemas, and VOD (Nov. 13)
11. The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin)
One of the highlights of last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, where it debuted in the Midnight Madness section and won the festival’s Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film, Matthew Rankin’s debut will now be arriving next month, courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories. Inspired by German expressionist cinema, 1940s melodrama, and wartime propaganda films, the film takes a delirious, fantastical trip through Canadian history. Ethan Vestby said in our TIFF review, “Set mostly in Toronto circa 1899 and making sly references to multiple neighborhoods, Century‘s sleek glass look in its own way perfectly represents the chilly neoliberal city par excellence as it stands.”
Where to Watch: Virtual Cinemas (Nov. 20)
10. The Climb (Michael Angelo Covino)
While many distributors have adapted to the pandemic times, Sony Pictures Classics have been holding their releases to maximize on potential theatrical revenue. Now with a scheduled eight new releases to qualify in time for the Oscars, the first out of the gate will be Michael Angelo Covino’s The Climb which humorously follows the ups and downs of a friendship over many years but only a few scenes. Rory O’Connor said in his Cannes review, “In The Climb–as occasionally in life–friendship can be an uphill struggle at the best of times. So how about the worst? Michael Angelo Covino’s auspicious feature debut confronts that topic as a barometer might an oncoming storm. It’s essentially a buddy comedy, although one of the caustic variety, and built to make you squirm just a little, like Judd Apatow put through a filter of something like Festen or Force Majeure.”
Where to Watch: Theaters (Nov. 13)
9. Happiest Season (Clea DuVall)
After working in the film industry for nearly 25 years, Clea DuVall recently made her directorial debut with the thoughtful dramedy The Intervention and now she’s back for what looks to be the most promising holiday film on the calendar. Happiest Season stars Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis as a couple who head to back home to Davis’ character’s family for a holiday party. While there, Stewart’s character plans to propose, but then realizes that her significant other’s parents do not know her daughter is gay. Also starring Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Dan Levy, Victor Garber, and Mary Steenburgen, Sony was set to give the film a wide theatrical release, but due to the pandemic, they sold the film to Hulu, where it will debut during Thanksgiving week.
Where to Watch: Hulu (Nov. 25)
8. Proxima (Alice Winocour)
After her impressive last drama Disorder, we’ve been anticipating Alice Winocour’s follow-up for some time and Proxima, a drama which finds Eva Green playing an astronaut preparing for space travel, will finally get a release this week. Jared Mobarak said in his TIFF review, “Writer-director Alice Winocour intentionally leaves an open-ended question hanging throughout Proxima so we can wrap our heads around the complexity of what it means to do something so profound and yet still wonder if you’re being selfish for pursuing the accomplishment.”
Where to Watch: VOD (Nov. 6)
7. Collective (Alexander Nanau)
One of the most acclaimed films of the past year-plus, Alexander Nanau’s verité documentary Collective was recently named Romania’s contender for Best International Film. The TIFF, Venice, Sundance, New Directors/New Films, and True/False selection dives deep into a political scandal following a deadly nightclub fire, uncovered by a group of investigative journalists. Vikram Murthi said in our review, “Part journalism procedural and part depressing exposé, Alexander Nanau’s verité documentary Collective examines the institutional corruption at the heart of the Romanian health care sector.”
Where to Watch: Theaters, VOD, and Virtual Cinemas (Nov. 20)
6. Ammonite (Francis Lee)
One of the great pairings of 2020, in a romance no less, Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan lead Francis Lee’s follow-up to God’s Own Country. Orla Smith said in our BFI London review, “Calling a Kate Winslet performance career-best is no easy statement, but her turn as 19th-century English paleontologist Mary Anning in Ammonite is certainly in consideration. Few writer-directors trust their actors to do so much with so little dialogue as Francis Lee. Like Josh O’Connor’s Johnny in Lee’s debut, God’s Own Country, Mary is inward and stoic; we learn about her through her work rather than through her words. The opening scenes of Ammonite are Mary on the beaches of Lyme, scratching mud off of stones, then hitching up her skirt to climb a rock face, her face set but warming slightly at the sight of a challenge. “
Where to Watch: Theaters (Nov. 13)
5. Divine Love (Gabriel Mascaro)
One of my favorite films of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival is finally getting a U.S. release. Gabriel Mascaro’s strange, alluring Neon Bull follow-up Divine Love is set in the near-future of 2027 in Brazil, following Joana (Dira Paes), a deeply religious woman who is trying to conceive a child by any means necessary. Through his exquisite vision, Mascaro tells a curious tale of spiritual commitment, marital strife, and the blurred separation of church and state, leading to an ultimately surprising, powerful conclusion. Check out my full review.
Where to Watch: Theaters and Virtual Cinemas (Nov. 13)
4. Sound of Metal (Darius Marder)
After premiering at Toronto International Film Festival last fall, it’s been a long wait to see Sound of Metal. After a few pandemic-related delays, it’s now set for a prime awards season debut. Directed by The Place Beyond the Pines writer Darius Marder, the drama follows Riz Ahmed as a drummer who begins to lose his hearing. Jared Mobarak said in his TIFF review, “Shot with a very intimate handheld style that reminded me a lot of Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine (he’s an executive producer here and an original collaborator before his Place Beyond the Pines writer brought brother Abraham on board), we’re forever witnesses to Ruben’s struggle and desire to get back what‘s gone.”
Where to Watch: Theaters (Nov. 20) and Amazon Prime (Dec. 4)
3. Mangrove (Steve McQueen)
The first of five (!) new Steve McQueen films arriving through December, Mangrove is a fierce, well-directed courtroom drama and a strong kick-off to the director’s Small Axe anthology series. Vikram Murthi said in our NYFF review, “The injustice inflicted against the Mangrove and the Black community will enrage anyone with a working soul, and the solidarity expressed in response to such oppression is genuinely moving. McQueen and co-writer Alastair Siddons characterize the actions of Crichlow, Howe, and the others as the only appropriate response to such state-sanctioned subjugation.”
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime (Nov. 20)
2. Mank (David Fincher; Nov. 13)
The review embargo for David Fincher’s Mank won’t be up until the end of this week, so you’ll have to check back for our thoughts. However, we don’t need to tell you anticipation is immeasurably high for the director’s first film in six years, a black-and-white biopic of Citizen Kane scribe Herman J. Mankiewicz, scripted by the director’s late father, Jack Fincher, and led by Gary Oldman. Its placement on this list may indicate whether I feel it is The Artist redux or if Fincher found a new angle to a well-trodden early Hollywood tale, but rest assured, there will be much discussion to be had over the next many months.
Where to Watch: Theaters (Nov. 13) and Netflix (Dec. 4)
1. Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen)
As previously noted, Steve McQueen will be debuting five new films to close out the year, and he’s set a high bar with Lovers Rock, a joyous party film with a soundtrack that’s been on repeat since my two NYFF viewings. Vikram Murthi said in our NYFF review, “An appropriately buoyant opening-night choice for this year’s New York Film Festival, Lovers Rock chronicles an underground London blues party, a space where Black Brits could cut loose and dance safe from white harassment. Director Steve McQueen presents the house party as a mostly utopic place, one maintained and policed by community committed to the ideals of spiritual liberation. The film’s fluid, handheld camerawork, courtesy of Shabier Kirchner, foregrounds positive vibes, detailing every inch of the tight dance floor and basking in the glow of unencumbered joy. These gatherings represent a release from a socially and politically marginalized group, but that subtext merely pulses underneath Lovers Rock, contextualizing the film without ever overwhelming it. The organic community portrait ebbs and flows to a beat of its own making.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime (Nov. 27)
Kindred (Nov. 6)
Koko-di Koko-da (Nov. 6)
Let Him Go (Nov. 6)
Animals (Nov. 10)
Dreamland (Nov. 13)
The Life Ahead (Nov. 13)
Dirty God (Nov. 13)
Born to Be (Nov. 17)
Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist (Nov. 19)
Run (Nov. 20)
Stardust (Nov. 20)
Uncle Frank (Nov. 25)