There are two new series and eight new films to discuss this week. These come from Argentina, France, the Philippines, South Korea, the U.S., and Wales. Many have intriguing backgrounds and all that combined gives us a lot of exciting information to cover. Let’s dive straight in:
Physical (Apple TV)
showrunner Annie Weisman
Rose Byrne plays Sheila, a housewife in the 80s. Seeking an outlet, she gets swept up in the era’s aerobics craze. It’s not long before she builds a successful business out of it.
Showrunner Annie Weisman wrote and produced on “Desperate Housewives”, “Suburgatory”, and “The Path”. She got her start as a writer and story editor on “Dead Like Me”.
I’m unclear how many episodes they’re involved in, but directors include Liza Johnson and Stephanie Laing. Johnson directed feature films “Hateship, Loveship” and “Elvis & Nixon”. Laing directed 6 of the 8 episodes of my series of the year (so far), the conceptually terrifying “Made for Love”.
You can watch “Physical” on Apple TV.
Beyond Evil (Netflix)
directed by Shim Na Yeon
Two men turn their lives inside out pursuing a serial killer. Multiple candidates turn up as to the killers secret identity. The series aired earlier this year in South Korea to very favorable reviews.
This is the second series from Shim Na Yeon after the well received coming-of-age drama “Moment at Eighteen”. This isn’t simulcast; “Beyond Evil” is debuting all its episodes at once in the U.S.
You can watch “Beyond Evil” on Netflix.
directed by Prano Bailey-Bond
Enid is a film censor. She’s strict, with a specialty for censoring moments of violence. When she’s tasked with reviewing a particular film, she becomes convinced its actress is her sister. Details in the movie spur childhood memories about her sister’s unsolved disappearance. Enid sets to work investigating the film’s origins, even as fiction and reality increasingly blur.
This is the first feature from director and co-writer Prano Bailey-Bond. It also marks another well-reviewed Welsh horror entry centered on family bringing to light generations-old wrongs. Welsh horror is carving an extremely unique voice with independent-styled films that focus on themes of characters who convey different realities based on privilege. These horror metaphors tend to center on gaslighting, often of women and often in relation to long-disappeared or dead family members.
I can’t help but notice the popularity of this theme, and wonder how much it might connect to a history of English abuses and cover-ups such as the culturally defining Aberfan disaster.
Fan Girl (Netflix)
directed by Antoinette Jadaone
A girl stows away in the back of her idol’s pickup truck. He discovers her, and at first she’s taken with him. The more she sees, however, the more he doesn’t fit with his PR-polished image.
Writer-director Antoinette Jadaone is a noted director in the Philippines.
You can watch “Fan Girl” on Netflix.
Alice (OVID TV)
directed by Josephine Mackerras
Alice discovers her family’s bank accounts are drained. Her husband has gone broke hiring escorts, and has abandoned her and her son. She soon decides that escorting might be her own path back to controlling her life.
The French film is the first feature from writer-director Josephine Mackerras.
You can watch “Alice” on OVID TV.
A Call to Spy (Showtime)
directed by Lydia Dean Pilcher
“A Call to Spy” focuses on spy recruiter Vera Atkins and two of the most important Allied spies of World War 2: Virginia Hall and Noor Inayat Khan. They are each monumental historical figures who are often overlooked.
Virginia Hall had previously tried to become a diplomat, but the U.S. Department of State held a rule against hiring people with disabilities. You see, Hall had a wooden leg from a hunting accident years prior. Britain’s Special Operations Executive would hire her instead. Hall would go on to work in Nazi-occupied France, orchestrate a prison break, and escape as Nazis closed in by walking 50 miles in two days over the Pyrenees mountain range. Nazi Germany considered her the Allies’ single most dangerous spy.
Noor Inayat Khan was a Muslim woman who became an operator in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. She would become the first woman sent to Nazi-occupied territory as a radio operator. This was considered the most dangerous job for a spy, since it was fairly easy for Germans to detect and quickly zero in on a radio operator. After initial success, she would be captured and executed at the Dachau concentration camp.
Lydia Dean Pilcher is an experienced producer, and her first two narrative features as director have told epic stories about overlooked women in history. She also helmed “Radium Girls”, and it’s apparent her skill as a producer also informs her directing. She’s conveyed historical movies more accurately than most, with a bare fraction of the budget and without losing their sense of scope or drama.
Sarah Megan Thomas writes the screenplay and stars as Virginia Hall. Lillie Rebecca McDonough composes the music for “A Call to Spy”.
This was previously featured when it came to VOD, but as it lands on a subscription service is no longer rentable.
You can watch “A Call to Spy” on Showtime.
Phobias (Hoopla, Hulu)
co-directed by Camilla Belle, Maritte Lee Go, Jess Varley
The horror anthology is one of the most difficult but fun genres to pull off. Here, five patients who suffer from extreme phobias are tested by a sadistic doctor.
Four of the six segments are directed by women: one each by Camilla Belle and Maritte Lee Go, and two by Jess Varley. Belle and Varley are both best known as actresses; this makes Belle’s directorial debut.
A Family Submerged (Kanopy, OVID TV)
directed by Maria Alche
Marcela becomes disconnected after the death of her sister. She’s isolated from family, and has to form new bonds in an attempt to deal with the sudden change in her life.
The Argentinean film is the first feature from writer-director Maria Alche, who’s better known as an actress in series and films from across South America.
No Ordinary Love (VOD)
directed by Chyna Robinson
A woman discovers a secret about her husband, a police officer. She goes to her pastor’s wife for help, but the pastor is controlling in his own way. Both women seek to leave their marriages, but face risking their lives to do so.
I do not know how elements like these play out. The trailer reminds me of evangelical nonsense like the despicable “War Room”, a film that suggested victims of domestic violence could simply stay and pray their way to a solution. I lost a job when I refused to give that one a favorable review. It can be hard to tell what direction some smaller films go when they haven’t been reviewed yet, but user reviews and the trailer itself give me the idea that “No Ordinary Love” is more likely to be a criticism of those types of films. At least, I hope it is.
This is the first feature from writer-director Chyna Robinson.
One in a Thousand (MUBI)
directed by Clarisa Navas
(I can’t locate an embeddable trailer with English subtitles, but MUBI should have the translated version.)
Iris is expelled from school. She ends up meeting Renata, who’s surrounded by rumors. Nonetheless, Iris pursues spending time with her, and the two develop feelings for each other.
The Argentinean film is writer-director Clarisa Navas’s second feature. She’s also written and directed documentary mini-series, and got her start as a production manager.
You can watch “One in a Thousand” on MUBI.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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