Onscreen Offscreen: Streaming from my Sickbed

Good news: I’ve finally cracked it. Ever since streaming became more than just Netflix, I’ve been worried about keeping up with all the new releases. It was manageable when Amazon came on board, and then Apple TV+ with their limited catalogue of original-only content. But that library expanded, and more streaming services launched: Disney+ arrived on our shores, Quibi came and died almost immediately (much like a honeybee drone, for all you apiarists out there), Disney+ expanded with adult-oriented content on Star (effectively European Hulu), Mubi became even sexier with all their award-winning content. 

How the hell are we meant to keep up? Each of these platforms has new releases, or multiple, each week. It’s not like they’re free either, with subscriptions to streaming services becoming a normalised (and increasingly chunky) part of the monthly expenditure, but to what end? If I cancel my subscription to Apple TV+, I lose out on the new episodes of Servant, Ted Lasso and The Afterparty. If I cancel Disney+, I lose Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and Bob’s Burgers. As a screen culture fanatic, I’m sure you can see the dilemma here. 

Yet, last week, I finally managed to find a way to watch one piece of new content from each platform. How did I do it? I got a chest infection and had to take a week off work. As I lay on my sick sofa fighting off a fever, I spent my (admittedly few) hours of consciousness last week working my way through one of each platform, truly making the most of my existing subscriptions. So there you are, friends, you finally have a way to watch something weekly on Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV+, NOW (which also includes Peacock, a separate streaming service in the US, with Paramount also arriving later this year, so there’s three-in-one), Sky Cinema, Mubi, and still have time for a couple of DVDs that have been lying around gathering dust too. You just won’t have time for anything else. You also won’t have time for a second episode, series or film on the same platform, and you’ll be absolutely clueless about new cinema releases. Unless you read this column, of course. 

What’s Onscreen

Riddle me this: what’s too long, but not long enough? That’s right, The Batman (Matt Reeves), one of the most hotly-anticipated films of the year, is finally out on the big screen. For what it’s worth, I was one of the people who was very excited about seeing an emo Robert Pattinson put on the cowl and snarl at criminal scumbags, but I was disappointed when I actually came around to watching it. It is very, very long, and it felt like it, with multiple points of potential closure being snatched away by something plot-related. Performances are good, the action gripping, and it’s great to see Batman as a detective archetype on the big screen that plays more to the character’s roots than other recent iterations. That’s not to say it’s a bad film—I enjoyed it and would recommend it, but I was expecting something outstanding. This is perhaps a fault of my expectations, but how could you not expect so much with Pattinson and Matt Reeves? They’ve earned it.

Phantom of the Open (Craig Roberts) is a lovely film that does for golf what Ted Lasso does for football. It tells the story of Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance) and his sudden impulse to play in the British Open Golf Championship Qualifying in 1976, resulting in the worst round in the history of the Open. Ultimately, the film’s plot centres on a figary, but its evocation of the power of dreaming, kindness and perseverance is truly resonant and profound. Don’t be put off if you don’t care about golf (I certainly don’t), this’ll still charm you to your core. 

Fresh from the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival, Wolf (Nathalie Biancheri) is a curious piece about a young man who believes he is a wolf (George MacKay). I’m not sure it entirely works, but the cinematography, atmosphere, soundscape, and the striking performances are all so accomplished and committed that they more than make up for any leaks in the plot. You won’t see anything else like it. 

Hive (Blerta Basholli) is another release where the plot feels a little lacking, but much like Wolf, the sensitivity of the performances keeps you engaged. The film follows Fahrije (Yllka Gashi) whose husband has been missing since the war in Kosovo as she attempts to set up a business to support her family, but she encounters resistance from the patriarchal society that surrounds her. The film is at its most moving when it shows the solidarity between the women left behind by the war, and the further obstacles they must face to keep their homes functioning. 

Nightride (Stephen Fingleton), the real-time, one-take Northern Irish thriller is now on Netflix, and is well worthy of being your pick of the week on that platform. The plot is gripping, but the tension is mostly driven by Moe Dunford as Budge, a dealer trying to finish one last job before leaving his criminality behind. So convincing is Dunford, he even manages to hold it together when the one-shot is nearly broken by a real officer from PSNI pulling them over. If not for the blurred-out face, you would have thought it was scripted for how aptly the moment  is absorbed by the plot. This is incredibly bold and visionary filmmaking, shot on a micro-budget, but with huge impact. 

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