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Home   /   Lockdown Streamtown: things you might have missed this autumn on Netflix and Amazon Prime

As the UK enters its first full week of Lockdown II (or Lockdown 2: Election Boogaloo), some of us will be scrolling through our streaming services of an evening wondering how we could have exhausted all the meaty, jaunty or otherwise worthwhile titles over the past few months. Autoplay is no innocent party in this offence.

So, here are a handful of streaming gems worth watching that you may have missed this autumn.

The Personal History of David Copperfield (2020)

A charming and whimsical adaptation of Dickens’ sempiternal tale of abuse, hardship, triumph and generosity of spirit; Dev Patel is an inspired choice for fully-grown incarnation of the story’s eponymous hero, David Copperfield. 

His David is bright-eyed and energetic, bold and intelligent, sweet and talented; all the admirable human qualities that continuously seem to land David/Davy/Daisy in hot water. But he proves time and again to be quite capable of assimilation, adaptation – survival.

Because David’s life and work both revolve around the vivid characters he encounters throughout his eras of fortune and misfortune, director Armando Iannucci treats us to a most satisfying display of eccentricity and poetry. 

The essence of the people David grows to know is woven into the spaces around them. There is a musicality in the way that people and their environments blend together, and flow into each other, that creates an effortless sense of movement in the film’s trajectory.

This is a showcase of British film industry brilliance, from the titanic casting to the wry wit in scripting, and the story remains as fresh today as it ever has been. Its lessons on the precariousness of our place in society—how close we all are to adversity at any given time—will be relevant as long as our divisions stay the same.

Available now to stream on Amazon Prime Video

The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)

Winner of a 30 under 30 award for dramatic writing and a dedicated—fairly underappreciated—teacher, Radha Blank (name shared with the film’s writer-director) still has it all ahead of her, but seems to have lost her footing on a path to greatness.

In the film’s first act, Radha is fighting for a small piece of prestige for her laboured efforts in the dramatic arts. She tries—unsuccessfully—to ingratiate herself on a pretentious Afrocentric theatre owner, who thinks she won’t write truth in her plays. She then settles on having her play backed by a manipulative middle-class producer who fetishises Poverty Porn, and who employs Black writers to showboat his own pseudo-politics while brutalising their work.

Simultaneously, Radha is struggling through her own crisis of identity as she has discovered, almost by accident, that she is a fierce rapper with a unique perspective on life. She invents a moniker (RadhaMUSprime) and seeks out a producer to work with, nervously anticipating discrimination in the rap scene due to her age and her gender. 

When she meets D, a young DJ who is complex and thoughtful, he embodies the openness and innovative qualities of the rap community; he makes it clear that there is a place for Radha’s voice and politics in Hip Hop, because it is—at its core—honest, modern poetry.

D helps Radha understand that her natural talents are worth more than success in a cultural sphere that doesn’t respect her individuality. Their creative flow together plainly becomes the most important thing in either one’s life. 

Ultimately the movie is just as powerful, just as funny and only half as messy as its principal character who is as real and ebullient as her real-life counterpart, writer Radha Blank.

Available now to stream on Netflix

Truth Seekers (2020)

Would Elton John make a good exorcist? Can I please see Malcolm McDowell’s eyeballs in even more detail? Is Prawn Cocktail really a socially acceptable flavour of crisps? Should these all be questions that keep you up at night, and you find yourself in want of answers, tune into Truth Seekers.

If there is anything the 21st century has proven, it is that Frost/Pegg will go down in history as a more formidable pairing than Frost/Nixon. 

This silly, sweet, tongue-in-cheek series dishes out equal shares of scares and giggles in a structure that has been well-tested throughout the Cornetto Canon. The homeliness and simplicity of Truth Seekers is a brilliant antidote to the chaos of the unknown in our outside world which we grapple with daily. 

The series takes the very real and valid fears about every part of our lives being increasingly saturated with advanced telecommunications (from cables to clouds) and uses fanciful supernatural scenarios to prove that our tech could simultaneously be one of the greatest threats we face, but also the most effective path to our salvation.

Unfortunately, this series will only eat up about 4 hours of lockdown time. But this issue can be resolved by watching the entire thing three times in a day. Therefore, you can avoid Monday entirely and skip straight to Tuesday. No, you do not get to collect £200 as you pass through.

Available now to stream on Amazon Prime Video

Challenger: The Final Flight (2020)

This four-parter is an elegant documentary series about a true American horror story: a flight that ended the lives of seven people as a result of a catastrophic failure to make correct decisions at levels that seemed apparently insignificant. 

The harrowing story of the Challenger Space Shuttle’s failed 1986 mission (STS-51-L) is explored in detail through impeccable historical archive footage of the event and its surrounding context. This is combined with interview material capturing a cross-section of the parties who were most critically involved in the Challenger disaster. 

The series’ primary focus is on the very human element of the tragedy: the losses of six accomplished NASA astronauts onboard, and their first civilian space passenger—New Hampshire teacher, Christa McAuliffe. 

Episode three, ‘A Major Malfunction’, is directed as though it were a doomsday thriller; you are made to watch the days and weeks preceding the mission unfold in their innocent mundanity while anticipating the approach of the final blow, wishing you could reach out and stop what has is already been set in motion.

Recollections from the families of the Challenger crew in their respective interviews do much to bring the story even closer to home, honouring the memory of those lost in the disaster by reminding us that they were all ordinary people; family people, whose fates were determined by a system of bureaucracy which failed to place the value of human life over inhuman interests.

Available now to stream on Netflix

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June 2024