11 films to watch this February

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

(Credit: Warner Bros)

Including the third Ant-Man and Magic Mike films, Cocaine Bear and a Pamela Anderson documentary in which she tells her own story – Nicholas Barber lists this month’s unmissable releases.

(Credit: Alamy)

(Credit: Alamy)

1. Saint Omer

Why would anyone kill their own baby? Alice Diop asked herself that question in 2016, when she was watching the trial of a French-Senegalese woman who had left her child on a beach to drown. Having made a name for herself as a documentary filmmaker, Diop has turned her memories of the trial into a gripping drama, Saint Omer. Kayije Kagame plays Rama, a pregnant, Diop-like novelist who plans to use the case in her book on the Greek myth of the child-killing Medea. Guslagie Malanda plays Laurence Coly, the complex woman on trial. “Diop consciously uses the many tropes of true crime documentaries,” says Sheila O’Malley at RogerEbert.com, “while at the same time up-ending them. In doing so, Saint Omer becomes a much larger reflection on contemporary French life, the experience of immigrants, and the shadows we drag along with us as we move into a different space.”

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Released on 3 February in the UK and Ireland and 9 February in the Netherlands

Women Talking is another high-profile new film exploring male sexual violence from the perspective of victims (Credit: Alamy)

Women Talking is another high-profile new film exploring male sexual violence from the perspective of victims (Credit: Alamy)

2. Women Talking

Women Talking has just been nominated for best picture and best adapted screenplay at this year’s Oscars. Written and directed by Sarah Polley, and drawing from Miriam Toew’s 2018 fact-based novel, the film features Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara and a cameo-ing Frances McDormand as the residents of a remote religious community where the men have been drugging and raping the women for years. When the crimes finally come to light, the women have to decide what to do: forgive their attackers, fight for justice, or leave the community, even if that means, according to what they’ve been taught, that they will lose their chance of going to heaven. Lindsey Bahr at Associated Press says that Polley’s “extraordinary” film “is expressionistic and lyrical, biting and poetic. The conversations are messy, the feminism contradictory and the trauma complicated… It is astute and urgent and may just help those previously unable to find words or even coherent feelings for their own traumatic experiences.”

Released on 9 February in Germany, 10 February in the UK and Ireland, 16 February in Australia and the Netherlands and 17 February in Spain and Sweden

(Credit: ZIP CINEMA & CJ ENM Co)

(Credit: ZIP CINEMA & CJ ENM Co)

3. Broker

Hirokazu Kore-Eda has written and directed a huge number of beautifully humane films, including 2018’s award-winning Shoplifters, but Broker could be his most delightful. Set in South Korea, its unlikely hero (Song Kang-ho, the star of Parasite) is a launderette owner with a shocking sideline: he takes infants from a church’s “baby box”, a hatch where people can leave unwanted children, and then sells those infants to would-be adoptive parents. However, police detectives are watching him, and so is the young mother of the latest child he is selling. As dark as this premise may sound, Broker becomes a funny, big-hearted road movie about a group of loners becoming a family. “There’s an astonishing sympathy for the unforgivable decisions we make, a patience for all the strange journeys you have to take in order to shake off the resentment passed down by generations,” says Ella Kemp at IndieWire. “And, somehow, the filmmaker always finds a way to see light in it all.”

Released on 3 February in the UK

(Credit: Netflix)

(Credit: Netflix)

4. Pamela, A Love Story

Last year’s Disney+ drama series, Pam & Tommy, recounted how Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s honeymoon sex tape was stolen, copied, and distributed around the world. The series seemed to support Anderson, but it was made without her cooperation, and so on one level the producers were perpetuating the very exploitation they claimed to be condemning. As Laura Martin put it in her BBC Culture review: “It feels like grubby stuff that, sadly, has facilitated the real-life victim being unwantedly pushed back into the headlines for an episode she’d likely rather forget.” Now, an intimate documentary from Ryan White, the director of Serena and Good Night Oppy, allows Anderson to present her life the way she wants to – as well as allowing Netflix to take the moral high ground from Disney+. “I blocked that stolen tape out of my life in order to survive, and now that it’s all coming back again, I feel sick,” says Anderson in the trailer for Pamela, A Love Story. “I want to take control of the narrative for the first time.”

Released on Netflix on 31 January

(Credit: Alamy)

(Credit: Alamy)

5. Blue Jean

In 1988, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government introduced Clause 28 in the UK, a law banning local authorities from “promoting homosexuality” and schools from “teaching homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. It’s a nerve-racking time for Jean (Rosy McEwan), the heroine of Georgia Oakley’s Bafta-nominated drama. A PE teacher in a happy same-sex relationship, Jean prefers to keep her sexuality secret at school. But when a new pupil, Lois (Lucy Halliday), spots her in a lesbian bar, she fears that the secret will come out. “This superb debut from writer and director Georgia Oakley uses an intimate character study as a lens through which to view a period of profound crisis and upheaval for the gay community,” writes Wendy Ide in Screen Daily. “It’s a remarkably accomplished picture on every level, not least the keenly felt and fiercely authentic performances.”

Released on 10 February in the UK and Ireland

(Credit: Warner Bros)

(Credit: Warner Bros)

6. Magic Mike’s Last Dance

Channing Tatum shows off his abs again for the third and final film in his male stripper series, directed, as the first film was, by Steven Soderbergh. Tatum’s character, Mike Lane, has been working as a bartender in Miami since the events of Magic Mike XXL (2015), but after he demonstrates his lap-dancing prowess to a wealthy socialite (Salma Hayek Pinault), she talks him into putting on a burlesque revue in London. Magic Mike’s Last Dance is inspired by a real stage show, Magic Mike Live London, which was created by Tatum in 2018. But it was also prompted by his desire to give Mike a powerful female counterpart. “Really, the first two movies are about men made for women, or people that like men, but none of them had really strong female characters,” he told Jessica Pressler in Vanity Fair, “so it felt like we hoodwinked people on some level. Like we cheated the code.”

Released from 9 February internationally

(Credit: Disney)

(Credit: Disney)

7. Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania

The first two Ant-Man films were small-scale in more ways than one. They were carried by the charm of their leading man, Paul Rudd, but they were trifling and forgettable: can anyone remember who the villain was in 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp? The series’ director, Peyton Reed, promises that the third Ant-Man film will be different. Instead of a light-hearted comedy caper confined to San Francisco, he has made an epic adventure set in a microscopic universe ruled by the time-travelling Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). “People felt like, ‘Oh, these are fun little palate cleansers after a gigantic Avengers movie’,” Reed told Clark Collis of EW. “For this third one, I said, ‘I don’t want to be the palate cleanser anymore. I want to be the big Avengers movie’ … It struck me as interesting to take the tiniest Avengers – in some people’s minds maybe the least powerful Avengers — and put them up against the most powerful force in the multiverse.”

Released from 15 February internationally

(Credit: Universal)

(Credit: Universal)

8. Knock at the Cabin

If US cinema has taught us anything, it’s that going on holiday to a cabin in the woods is always a terrible idea. The latest person to teach us this lesson is M Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs), who has adapted his apocalyptic chiller from Paul Tremblay’s nightmarish horror novel, The Cabin at the End of the World. In this instance, the people foolish enough to stay in a secluded cabin are a girl (Kristen Cui) and her parents (Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge). Four strangers (Dave Bautista, Rupert Grint, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn) come to their door and announce that one member of the family has to be sacrificed, or else the human race will be wiped out. The weird part is that the strangers could well be telling the truth. “It’s a wonderful discussion that we’re all going to have when you watch the movie,” Shyamalan said to Jamie Graham in Total Film. “Is humanity worth saving? Are we good? The human experiment – is this working?”

Released from 1 February internationally

Cocaine Bear (Credit: Universal Pictures)

Cocaine Bear (Credit: Universal Pictures)

9. Cocaine Bear

Very, very loosely based on a true story, Cocaine Bear is a horror comedy set in 1985, when a drug dealer throws a duffel bag of cocaine out of his plane. The plan is that one of his employees will collect the bag, but a black bear swallows its contents first, and rampages through a Georgia forest in a drug-crazed frenzy. Potentially the most fun film about ursine-related chaos since Paddington 2, Cocaine Bear stars Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson, Alden Ehrenreich and the late Ray Liotta as the unlucky hikers and gangsters who are in the forest at the time. It’s directed by Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect 2, Charlie’s Angels), who told Peter Gray at the AU Review: “I love characters who are funny and underdogs. I think when you’re up against a bear high on cocaine it doesn’t matter who you are. You’re an underdog in that scenario. That’s what really excited me about these characters. It felt almost like a Coen Brothers movie wrapped into a Sam Raimi movie wrapped into Jaws!”

Released from 22 February internationally

(Credit: Alamy)

(Credit: Alamy)

10. The Amazing Maurice

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish isn’t this winter’s only fantasy cartoon about a talking cat. The other is The Amazing Maurice, adapted from Terry Pratchett’s award-winning children’s novel, and featuring Hugh Laurie as the voice of the titular feline. Maurice is the brains behind a Pied Piper-related con. Whenever he finds a promising-looking village, he instructs his faithful gang of rats (including one voiced by David Tennant) to run riot, whereupon his mild-mannered human pal, Keith (Himesh Patel), offers to deal with the rodent infestation. The trouble begins when they come to a town that already has its own genuine rat problem, and its own genuine ratcatchers – or so it seems. The Amazing Maurice “is a riot of silliness from start to finish, featuring top dollar actors hamming it up nicely,” says Cath Clarke at The Guardian. “This is a film with a lot of charm, and gives cinema its most lovable rats since Ratatouille.”

Released on 1 February in France, 2 February in Mexico, 3 February in the US and India, and 9 February in Germany

(Credit: Netflix)

(Credit: Netflix)

11. Your Place or Mine

Released just in time for Valentine’s Day, Your Place or Mine stars Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher as two long-term platonic best friends. She lives in New York and he lives in Los Angeles, but when they swap houses for a week, so that she can have a holiday while he babysits her son, they come to realise… well, you can probably guess what they come to realise. Your Place or Mine promises to be an archetypal Hollywood romantic comedy, from its premise to its cast to its writer-director, Aline Brosh McKenna (27 Dresses). But that’s not a criticism. The film industry has shied away from this sort of sugary treat for the last decade, so it’s about time it fell in love with the romcom once again.

Released on 10 February on Netflix

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