The Senator [AKA Chappaquiddick] (2017, dir. John Curran)

Edward Kennedy’s presidential ambitions are destroyed because of his involvement in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. Sober political drama focusing on ambition, hubris, legacy, and arrogance. Decent performances and production values help, though there’s awkwardness in the focus on the politician over the deceased.

Here’s the trailer.

Behind The Candelabra (2013, dir. Steven Soderbergh)

The last decade of Vegas performer Liberace’s life, from the perspective of his lover Scott Thorsen. A well-played and effective biopic, made with Soderbergh’s customary deftness, getting beyond the camp and rhinestones to explore the frailties of two people drawn to each other out of lack.

Dark Waters (2019, dir. Todd Haynes)

A lawyer investigates an environmental conspiracy linked to chemical company Dupont. Based on a true story, this sober drama is deliberate and effective. Oddly, the weak link is producer/star Ruffalo, who’s simply 20 years too old to be playing the lead, despite his sterling efforts. A sturdy cast of character actors helps things along.

Seberg (2019, dir. Benedict Andrews)

Actor Jean Seberg struggles with her personal life, civil rights activism, and the pressures of fearing FBI surveillance. Decent biopic focusing on 1968-1970; a very solid cast and subtle direction help, even if the script doesn’t get us close to the protagonist. Lots to appreciate, not least the production design and performances.

Bad Education (2020, dir. Cory Finlay)

A school superintendent and their deputy are revealed, in part by a student investigation, to be embezzling from the school system. Smart black comedy-drama, based on a true story. Underplayed throughout, with fine performances from seasoned hands, and a sense that maybe the right lessons are still to be learned by some.

Wrinkles the Clown (2019, dir. Michael Beach Nichols)

The story of an online sensation: a clown you can pay to scare your children. Solid documentary (which flirts with the extent to which it might be fictional, an art project, or something else) that explores memes, contemporary media folk devils, coulrophobia, parenting, “behavioural services”, and more.

True History of the Kelly Gang (2019, dir. Justin Kurzel)

The life of an Australian outlaw, as narrated to his child. An excellent adaptation of the Peter Carey novel, with vivid performances and a distinctive visual approach. The best movie version of the Ned Kelly story to date, and a strong arty outback Western in its own right. Recommended.

New Town Utopia (2018, dir. Christopher Ian Smith)

A documentary about the new town of Basildon in Essex, focusing on its modernist post-war architecture, the utopian ideas underpinning new towns, and social issues generated via unintended consequences. Hopeful in the ways it seeks positives, finding value in art, expression, and subcultures; there’s lots to appreciate here.

Filmworker (2017, dir. Tony Zierra)

A documentary about Leon Vitali, who turned from acting in Barry Lyndon – abandoning an established career – to become director Stanley Kubrick’s amanuensis from the mid-70s on. Fascinating case study of fan-worship and obsessions, of the tolls that they can take, and of the centrality of lived experience to cinematic legacy. Recommended.

Il Divo (2008, dir. Paolo Sorrentino)

Three years in the life of Italian politician Giulio Andreotti as his career collapses. A dazzling, swaggering, operatic approach to its unpromising-sounding subject matter pays dividends, as Sorrentino finds ways to unlock a private man. A touch impenetrable without knowledge of the actual events, but remarkable nevertheless.