Brian and Charles to Top Gun: Maverick – the seven best films to watch on TV this week
Pick of the week
Brian and Charles
Nominated for an outstanding British film Bafta, Brian and Charles is a gorgeous, joyful gutpunch. David Earl (also co-writer) plays a scientist who, wounded by a long period of isolation, builds a robot companion out of bits of washing machine and a mannequin head. If that sounds like the saddest film of all time, you’re right. But if it also sounds like a high-concept laugh-out-loud comedy, the sort of ridiculous handmade hodgepodge that looks like it was flung together in an attempt to be the most stupid thing ever made, you’re also right. That Brian and Charles can marry both tones at all is a miracle, but it manages to do so seamlessly. Just a perfect film.
Tuesday 7 February, Prime Video
Top Gun: Maverick
The film that either saved cinema or managed to artificially extend cinema’s lifespan, depending on how you’re feeling. The plot isn’t really important – Tom Cruise trains some young pilots to bomb a thing that’s quite hard to bomb, and that’s about it – because this is all about spectacle. Famously, the flying scenes here are real, with actors vibrating on the edge of nausea as they’re slung around the cockpit of a corkscrewing fighter jet. Top Gun: Maverick was giddy and visceral on the big screen. Hopefully the effect won’t be lessened in your living room.
Sunday 5 February, Sky Cinema Premiere
A Matter of Life and Death
The 78th greatest film ever made, according to last year’s Sight and Sound list, Powell and Pressburger’s 1946 masterpiece A Matter of Life and Death is a wondrous feelgood hug of a thing. Second world war fighter pilot David Niven goes down in flames over the English Channel but, due to an administrative quirk, he fails to be escorted to the afterlife as planned. There are many ways to interpret this movie – a lush romance, a high-concept fantasy, an act of mourning for the soldiers who never returned from the war. All of them work.
Sunday 5 February, 2.45pm, BBC Two
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
As a genre, “abortion drama” can be something you really need to gear up for, but that absolutely is not the case with Eliza Hittman’s tremendous indie about a pregnant teenager forced to travel from rural Pennsylvania to New York to have a termination. In lesser hands, a premise like this would simply be a vehicle for histrionic point-scoring. Hittman, however, treats the subject with sensitivity and grace, which only adds to its power. And then there’s the lead actor Sidney Flanigan, a first-timer who is destined to be a megastar. You saw her here first.
Monday 6 February, 11:15pm, BBC Two
The Old Man & the Gun
Look over the highlights of David Lowery’s career and, sandwiched between the high experimentation of A Ghost Story and the medieval psychedelia of The Green Knight, you’ll find this charming little oddity. A lean, brief, easygoing caper about a charming 74-year-old bankrobber, The Old Man & the Gun demands almost nothing from its audience. This is a good thing. The film is so breezy that it will brighten your day. This was Robert Redford’s final starring role before he retired. What a way to go out.
Wednesday 8 February, 7pm, Film4
All That Breathes
The only film ever to win the best documentary prize at both Sundance and Cannes, All That Breathes is the story of two brothers, Nadeem and Saud, as they spend their lives caring for sick birds in their New Delhi basement. Their patients are all black kites, birds of prey essential for the city’s ecosystem, but whose numbers are dwindling fast in the face of staggering air pollution. Part Kes, part An Inconvenient Truth, part Jiro Dreams of Sushi, All That Breathes is mesmerising and urgent. Expect it to win an Oscar next month.
Wednesday 8 February, 9pm, Sky Documentaries
Your Place or Mine
Two years ago, Reese Witherspoon signed a two-film deal with Netflix. Judging by Your Place or Mine, the first fruits of the deal, she has used it as an attempt to resuscitate the long-slumbering romcom. For better or worse, this is a film determined to pretend that the last 20 years didn’t happen. Witherspoon is in it. Ashton Kutcher is in it. Aline Brosh McKenna of 27 Dresses wrote and directed it. Its plot – a man and a woman swap houses for some reason – is the platonic ideal of a romcom premise. People are going to watch this in droves.
Friday 10 February, Netflix