Diyora Shadijanova shares 12 things to watch on TV to wile away the hours we’re cooped up inside
Though no one expected to be starting 2021 in yet another lockdown, our TVs have been providing us with a semblance of normality we’re desperate to cling onto. So as you settle back into your cozy loungewear and binge on the foods you promised to cut just week ago, make sure not to miss our most anticipated picks of lockdown TV.
Promising Young Woman
Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman is a dark comedy about one woman’s mission to get revenge on men who have sexually assaulted her. Once a medical student, Cassie (played by Carey Mulligan) drops out of university and now spends her nights pretending to be drunk and playing along to men’s predatory behaviours before exposing them. But what pushed her to become this #MeToo vigilante? Already out in the US, it’s coming over to UK cinemas on February 12.
The White Tiger
Directed by Ramin Bahrani, The White Tiger is an adaptation of Aravind Agida’s Booker Prize winning debut novel about a poor Indian village boy named Balram Halwai and his journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Starring Adarsh Gourav and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the film is a commentary on social class in India, touching on themes of caste, corruption, poverty, and the effects of globalisation. The White Tiger is due to be released on Netflix on 22 January.
Premiering at the 2021 Sundance Festival on 30 January, Passing is a historical drama based on Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel about the concept of racial “passing”. Childhood friends Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield are both light-skinned Black women who can “pass” as white, but choose to live completely opposing, carefully constructed lives. The nuanced storyline explores the intersections of racialisation, gender conventions and the performance of femininity and what it means to be Black in 1920s Harlem. The film is Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut, starring Tessa Thompson and Oscar nominee Ruth Negga.
Pieces of a Woman
In Pieces of a Woman, Vanessa Kirby (who you may recognise as Princess Margaret from The Crown), plays the part of Martha, a grief-stricken woman grappling with the loss of her newborn child. The gripping film is the debut feature from Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó, featuring a screenplay written by Kata Wéber. Premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in 2020 and recently released on Netflix, it’s already had great reviews, with the New York Times critics praising Kirby for giving an “intensely physical performance as a woman whose life and marriage are upended by the death of a child”.
Judas and the Black Messiah
Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield star in this powerful historical drama based on the life of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party in the 1960s. The storyline follows FBI informant William O’Neal (Stanfield), who is asked to infiltrate the party and keep tabs on the inside developments. But as he spends more and more time with the revolutionaries, will his loyalties start to falter? Judas and the Black Messiah is directed and produced by Shaka King and is scheduled to be released on 12 February in the US and 26 February in the UK.
It’s a Sin
Russell T Davies’ drama It’s a Sin revisits the 80s AIDS epidemic in the UK by following the lives of young, queer characters over the course of ten years. The series captures the paranoia around the HIV crisis, shame around the illness and the widespread homophobia that occurred due to the lack of understanding how transmission occurred. Starring Olly Alexander from the popular music group Years & Years, the emotional five-parter is set to premiere on the 22 January on All 4 and Channel 4 in the UK.
The first big grisly drama of the year, The Serpent is a co-production between the BBC and Netflix which tells the true story of Charles Sobhraj, a French serial killer who targeted and murdered Western travellers across India, Thailand and Nepal during the 70s and became one of Interpol’s most wanted men. The hour-long episodes are full of tension and expensive foreign shoots with an incredible eye for period detail. The engrossing crime eight-parter stars Tahar Rahim and Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman and is already available on BBC iPlayer.
If you’ve binged The Crown and Bridgerton and need more of your period drama fix, The Great on Channel 4 will satisfy all your cravings. It’s loosely based on the story of Catherine the Great, who once was a Prussian outsider and then became the longest longest-reigning female ruler in Russia’s history. Elle Fanning takes on the role of Catherine and Nicholas Hoult is her mad lover, Emperor Peter. Created by Oscar nominee Tony McNamara (who also co-wrote The Favourite), the ten-part sardonic series is frivolous and fun.
One Night in Miami
Described a “critical knockout”, Regina King’s directorial debut captures an imagined meeting of Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Browne in a Miami hotel room one night in 1964. The feature premiered at the 2020 Venice Film Festival, a first for an African-American female director and has been praised for the deeply moving performances by Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr. It’s available on Amazon Prime from January 15.
The North Water
The four-part BBC Two series is based on Ian McGuire’s novel The North Water about a whaling expedition in the Arctic. Harpooner Henry Drax (Colin Farrell) sets out on the icy journey with a disgraced ex-army surgeon named Patrick Sumner (Jack O’Connell), but the ship’s doctor soon finds out he’s on an expedition with a murderous psychopath. Adapted and directed by multi-award winning Andrew Haigh, the series shows a savage struggle for survival in the freezing Arctic wilderness. The BBC production boasts impressive scenes as the entire crew travelled 81 degrees north (the furthest point north a drama has ever been filmed) to capture some of the sequences in the pack ice. Due to Covid-19 filming delays, the final release date is TBC but the series is expected in early 2021.
Imagine losing everything during the 2008 financial crisis, just after your husband had died. This is what happened to a woman called Fern who, following a series of tragic events, decides to abandon her past life in a small town to start afresh travelling around the American West. Based on the 2017 non-fiction book by Jessica Bruder and directed, written, edited and co-produced by Chloé Zhao, the film is a uniquely contemporary snapshot of America telling the tale of loss and rediscovery. Nomadland is expected to be released on February 19.