What’s new to VOD and streaming this weekend: May 14-16

Including reviews of The Underground Railroad, The Killing Of Two Lovers, In The Earth and more


OW critics pick what’s new to streaming and VOD for the weekend of May 14. Plus: Everything new to VOD and streaming platforms.

The Killing Of Two Lovers

(Robert Machoian)

Machoian’s solo debut as a writer/director after more than a decade of collaborations and documentaries is a spare, aching and almost unbearably sad drama about thirtysomething David (Clayne Crawford), a husband and father in rural Utah mired in a domestic crisis. He’s separated from his wife Nikki (Sepideh Moafi) and their children. Nikki appears to be moving on. David has a gun. He badly wants to use it. But The Killing Of Two Lovers isn’t that simple. Machoian immediately complicates his story by showing us who David is when he’s not blinded by rage, and then complicates things further by demonstrating that everyone else is just as layered and complex, striving to find their way through an impossible situation. Crawford and Moafi are both tremendously affecting, showing us an entire history between David and Nikki through their physicality and their shared concern for their kids, and Machoian presents their performances in deliberately paced, unbroken takes that let the characters dig through their complex feelings for each other. The filmmaker also makes sure his movie can’t be read as an apology for toxic masculinity; rather, it understands how it runs through the totality of American culture, offering weak men an excuse to be their worst selves. 84 min. Available on digital and on demand Friday (May 14). NNNNN (Norman Wilner)

In The Earth

(Ben Wheatley)

Shot last summer and rather amazingly finished in time for Sundance, Wheatley’s psychedelic pandemic thriller marks the English director’s return to the creepy, disquieting horror of Kill List and A Field In England – stories of people who stumble into unsettling, ancient darkness. (Much of In The Earth also takes place in a field in England, as it happens.) In the present day, a researcher (Joel Fry) and a park scout (Ellora Torchia) walk into the deep, dark forest in search of a scientist who’s gone mysteriously silent. Instead, they find another researcher (Reece Shearsmith), who’s developed some very specific theories about communing with nature. If you were worried that Wheatley’s move to big-budget projects like Rebecca meant he was blunting his darker instincts… well, it’s more like he’s been saving them up. In The Earth occasionally plays like a greatest-hits album, with scenes of grotty body horror and flashes of grotesque comedy – occasionally in the same shot – packaged in an audio-visual aesthetic that borders on the assaultive. The COVID commentary isn’t exactly deep, but it’s interesting to watch Wheatley add a distressing new element to the older, stranger mythology he loves so much. 107 min. Available on digital and on demand Friday (May 14). NNN (NW)

Together Together

(Nikole Beckwith)

There’s a radical energy hiding inside writer/director Beckwith’s gentle two-hander about the friendship that blossoms between Matt (Ed Helms), a single man in his 40s, and Anna (Patti Harrison), the 26-year-old woman he hires as his gestational surrogate. Casting comic performers in a straight dramatic narrative gives every scene an unpredictable charge. It also helps that Beckwith’s offering both of her leads the chance to tweak their established screen personas. For her first leading role, Harrison – a reliable scene-stealer in Search Party, High Maintenance and Shrill – gets a part that makes full use of her spiky, hyper-alert energy, with an added layer of melancholy that meshes nicely with Helms’s well-meaning doofus vibe. Tig Notaro, Nora Dunn, Julio Torres and Fred Melamed turn up in equally well-suited supporting roles, but the focus is on Matt and Anna, and how they drift into a supportive, moving friendship without ever becoming a couple. Beckwith is acutely aware of how different these people are, and lets them confront those differences organically over the course of the story. Come to think of it, Together Together’s graceful refusal to turn into a romantic comedy might be its most radical element of all. 90 min. Now available on digital and on demand. NNNN (NW)

An image of Thuso Mbedu in The Underground Railroad, which we call beautiful in our review
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

The Underground Railroad

(Barry Jenkins)

As breathtakingly beautiful as it is, The Underground Railroad can also be a traumatizing watch. The limited series is directed by Barry Jenkins, who brings a romantic aesthetic and focus on Black love from Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk to this adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a girl named Cora (Thusu Mbedu) on an odyssey across multiple state lines to escape slavery. The series shows in harsh and vivid details the upsetting violence in Whitehead’s text. But it soars when Jenkins and his regular cinematographer James Laxton find moments of joy, affection and community and bathe them in golden lights or autumnal colours. The show conjures up so much immense feeling in small but sweeping romantic moments: slow dances, averted glances, long embraces or the warm and silent space between two Black characters who find comfort in each other’s eyes. All 10 episodes available to stream Friday (May 14) on Amazon Prime Video Canada. NNNN (Radheyan Simonpillai)

Drifting Snow

(Ryan Noth)

Prince Edward County filmmaker Noth mostly works in documentary; he was part of the teams that made The National Parks Project and the CBC Gem series Farm Crime, among other things. Drifting Snow is his second dramatic feature, after 2010’s scruffy millennial drama No Heart Feelings, and it feels like something he’s been thinking about for at least as long. Both recovering from devastating losses, Joanne (Sonja Smits) and Chris (Jonas Bonetta) meet when she sideswipes his car on a winter night. Down to one vehicle between them and both needing to get to Ottawa the next day, they decide to drive together. The story slips back and forth in time, filling in certain blanks about how each of these people ended up in their respective emotional place, but as Drifting Snow rolls on, it becomes clear that where they’ve been isn’t nearly as important as where they are, and the support they might be able to offer one another. It’s a small, delicate movie about the value of every connection we’re lucky enough to make, for as long as that connection might last. 75 min. Now available on digital and on demand. NNNN (NW)

What Lies West

(Jessica Ellis)

What Lies West has the bright, engaging feel of a beloved YA novel, spinning drama out of two young women – college grad Nicolette (Nicolette Kaye Ellis) and Chloe (Chloe Moore), the cranky teen whose overprotective mother has hired Nicolette to babysit her for the summer – taking a 40-mile hike from their home in California wine country to the Pacific coast. The stakes are low, the narrative simple and direct, and the characters efficiently, vividly drawn. Writer/director Ellis cast her own nieces for her first feature, building a fictional relationship around their existing chemistry and developing scenes around them; it works surprisingly well, to the point that their performances show up some underdeveloped secondary characters, like Chloe’s helicopter mom (Anna Peterson) and Nicolette’s douchey ex (Jack Vincenty). But whenever What Lies West sticks to its leads, watching as they figure each other out and move just a little bit further forward on their way together, it’s a pleasure. 82 min. Now available on digital and on demand. NNN (NW)

Available on VOD

Antidote

Ashlynn Yennie, Louis Mandylor, Scott Alin; directed by Peter Daskaloff

Apple TV, Google Play

Benny Loves You

Claire Cartwright, George Collie, Darren Benedict; directed by Karl Holt

Apple TV, Google Play

The Djinn

Ezra Dewey, Rob Brownstein, Tevy Poe; directed by David Charbonier and Justin Powell

Apple TV

Drifting Snow

Sonja Smits, Jonas Bonnetta, Colin Mochrie; directed by Ryan Noth

Apple TV

Enfant Terrible

Olivier Masucci, Hary Prinz, Katja Riemann; directed by Oskar Roehler

Revue Virtual Cinema

Goodbye Honey

Peyton Michelle Edwards, Paul C. Kelly, Aaron Mitchell; directed by Josh Michaels

Apple TV, Google Play

High Ground

Simon Baker, Jacob Junior Nayinggul, Jack Thompson; directed by Stephen Johnson

Apple TV, Cineplex, Google Play

In The Earth

Joel Fry, Ellora Torchia, Reece Shearsmith; directed by Ben Wheatley

Apple TV, Cineplex, Google Play

The Killing Of Two Lovers

Clayne Crawford, Sepideh Moafi; Chris Coy; directed by Robert Machoian

Apple TV, Google Play

The Long Way Back

Denny Bess, Reyna Kahan, Sayra Player; directed by E.B. Hughes

Apple TV

Long Weekend

Denny Bess, Reyna Kahan, Sayra Player; directed by E.B. Hughes

Apple TV, Google Play

There Is No Evil

Baran Rasoulof, Zhila Shahi, Mahtab Servati; directed by Mohammad Rasoulof

digital TIFF Bell Lightbox

Those Who Wish Me Dead

Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Jon Bernthal; directed by Taylor Sheridan

Apple TV, Cineplex, Google Play

Together Together

Ed Helms, Patti Harrison, Julio Torres; directed by Nikole Beckwith

Apple TV, digital TIFF Bell Lightbox

Unearth

Adrienne Barbeau, Marc Blucas, Booke Swenson; directed by John C. Lyons and Dorotea Swies

Revue Virtual Cinema

What Lies West

Nicolette Kaye Ellis, Chloe Moore; directed by Jessica Ellis

Apple TV, Google Play

Streaming guides

Everything coming to streaming platforms this month:

Netflix Canada

Crave

Amazon Prime Video Canada

Disney+

CBC Gem

An image of the Criterion Blu-ray of Dorothy Arzner's Merrily We Go To Hell.
The Criterion Collection

Disc of the week

Merrily We Go To Hell (Criterion, Blu-ray)

Sure, Criterion is welcoming Amy Heckerling’s Fast Times At Ridgemont High into its storied collection this week, and there’s a conversation to be had about the label devoting so much energy to pandering to Gen Xers with nostalgic editions of movies they already own. But let’s focus on the other, far more significant film that’s being added to the label’s catalogue: Merrily We Go To Hell, Dorothy Arzner’s remarkable 1932 study of a man who marries a woman he doesn’t deserve. Frederic March plays aspiring playwright and accomplished alcoholic Jerry, and Sylvia Sidney is the elegant, intelligent Joan; they meet cute, fall hard and get hitched within a few minutes of screen time, and then they have to actually live with each other, a proposition to which Jerry applies himself with the least effort imaginable, forcing his bride to carry the burden of his misery along with her own compounding disappointment.

It’s shocking to realize this film is almost a century old; the language and wardrobe may read as ancient nowadays, but the emotions flying around are as vividly realized as any of Noah Baumbach’s domestic studies, and Arzner – the only woman directing studio features in the 30s – none-too-subtly sides with Sidney’s Joan in every situation. (That’s partially because the film is one of the first with an inarguably feminist perspective, but it’s also because Jerry is an irredeemable, self-loathing dick.)

Criterion’s special edition offers a new 4K restoration of the feature, polishing the image and sound to a pretty decent shine, and adds the celebratory 1983 documentary Dorothy Arzner: Longing For Women, a half-hour video essay by Cari Beauchamp and a print essay by Judith Mayne. If early 80s teen movies are the price we have to pay for resurrecting genuine cultural treasures like this, I can live with it. And if you have a subscription to the Criterion Channel, check out Arzner’s 1940 comedy Dance, Girl, Dance, which casts Maureen O’Hara and Lucille Ball as dancers who fall for the same man. (NW)

@nowtoronto

Brand Voices

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NOW Magazine