The Devil All The Time (2020, dir. Antonio Campos)

An Ohio family is linked in different ways with a series of tragedies and crimes. Splendid adaptation of the Donald Ray Pollock novel; a brooding back country gothic noir meditating on faith and violence. Not for everyone, but there’s strong work from all concerned here. Recommended.

Here’s the trailer.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015, dir. John Madden)

Sonny and Sunaina are to be married, but complications arise when an expansion plan is threatened. With the hotel residents’ stories pretty much told in the first movie, this sequel struggles to justify itself, lifting instead the plot of a Fawlty Towers episode. Still, fans won’t complain, plus Richard Gere twinkles in support.

Being Human (1994, dir. Bill Forsyth)

Five iterations of the same man – from prehistoric to contemporary times – lose then attempt to regain themselves. The studio-imposed release cut disowned by its director, this is an awkward though fitfully fascinating film; ambitious though meandering, occasionally beautiful, and with a great cast in depth.

Arkansas (2020, dir. Clark Duke)

Two low-level drug dealers find themselves in a new state, working for a new boss. Low-key, novelistic drama (adapted from the John Brandon book) with thriller elements. Its gentle pace and lack of narrative drive may infuriate some, but there’s plenty to appreciate if you go with it.

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.

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.

Hammer (2019, dir. Christian Sparkes)

An estranged father and son are forced to work together when a drug deal goes wrong. Smart, lean all-in-one-day indie thriller with as keen a focus on character and relationships as on the narrative’s spiralling complications. Lots to appreciate and enjoy; recommended. Great to see Will Patton in a leading role too.

Dark Places (2015, dir. Gilles Paquet-Brenner)

Now an adult, the survivor of a family massacre investigates their past. Low-key drama with thriller elements that can’t work out if it’s a reflective or a genre piece; the result is a mixed bag. Good-looking and well-cast and acted, but patchy. Intercutting between then and now dilutes rather than heightens tension.

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.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011, dir. Sean Durkin)

A young woman struggles with memories of her recent cult commune experience. Excellent austere thriller with horror elements, with a storming cental performance and lots of interesting detail. It’s left to the viewer how much is real, which makes for tense and sometimes unsettling viewing. Recommended.