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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Nick Howells

The Cine Files: everything you need to see at the cinema in January

Awards season is upon us, which means a raft of Oscars-bait movies are arriving in cinemas, some great and others not so fantastic. Lucky for us, January features three or four truly astonishing movies. And we start with the film that might well clean up at the Baftas...

Film of the month: All of Us Strangers

Andrew Haigh’s All of Us Strangers is, and I mean it quite literally, unbearably devastating. Halfway through this spellbinding tangle of loneliness, love and gayshame, I gave up the battle to suppress the out-of-control sobbing. It deserves to be seen again and again, so long as you can bear the emotional carnage.

Andrew Scott plays Adam, a screenwriter and seemingly the only person living in a newly built, Ballardian London tower block. Until the sole other occupant Harry (Paul Mescal), also gay and offering booze and maybe more, knocks at his door. Both are lonely (as their residence in the building and every single camera shot in this evokes), but Adam’s isolation is compounded by the death of his parents three decades earlier when he was 12.

Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal in All of Us Strangers (Parisa Taghizadeh)

A tentatively tender relationship between two lost souls emerges, but then… events take a wild, uncanny turn when Adam starts visiting his mother and father (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell), who are somehow “alive” again. To explain exactly how isn’t necessary, but what follows is a crushingly moving series of encounters as Adam has to face coming out to his parents and the far more terrifying reality of his desolation without them.

Foy, Bell and particularly Mescal are all superb, but the emotional depths Scott manages to plumb as a grown man returning to the vulnerability of his childhood is truly unforgettable. And while the eventual fate of the characters might not be the happiest of destinations, it’s the emotional journey here that counts.

There wasn’t a movie released in the entirety of 2023 as good as this. Devastated you may be, but the tears are worth it.

In cinemas January 26

The movies you should see this month

One Life

Anthony Hopkins in One Life (Warner Brothers)

The true story told in James Hawes’ One Life doesn’t need cinematic bells and whistles – and it doesn’t get them either – because come the end,there’s something seriously amiss if you’re not weeping your eyes out. Sir Nicholas Winton was responsible for bringing 669 Jewish children from Czechoslovakiato Britain on Kindertransport trains as the Second World War broke out. Johnny Flynn plays the wartime Winton, but it’s Anthony Hopkins (still proving he's a total master) as the older Sir Nicholas who brings the house down. The extraordinary scene in which the self-effacing hero’s deeds are revealed to the nation is asmoving as life will ever get.

January 1

Poor Things

Yorgos Lanthimos’s insanely eye-popping Venice Film Festival winner Poor Things would, in any other month, trounce all-comers. Emma Stone is prim Bella, who takes her own life only to be reanimated à la Frankenstein by Willem Dafoe’s mad, mangle-jawed Victorian scientist. Unfettered by the mores of the era (slapping people and throwing food at dinner is her new MO), Bella’s second life is an unbridled, carnal romp, but it’s the endlessly OTT visual overload that’s the real feast here. It’s a bit like if Wes Anderson did actual good movies. 

January 12

The Holdovers

In any other month, The Holdovers would also hands down be the best thing in the cinemas. Alexander Payne reunites with his Sideways star Paul Giamatti, who plays a crotchety history teacher forced to remain at a New England boarding school over Christmas 1970 to look after the kids who can’t go home. Dominic Sessa and Da’Vine Joy Randoph (both as wonderful as Giamatti) are the boy and housekeeper who complete a mismatched threesome. The unlikely milk of human kindness pours like cinematic nectar from their dysfunctional misadventures, while the script oozes with great lines; including the best penis joke you’ll hear all year.

January 19

The films you might want to see this month


Jacob Elordi and Cailee Spaeny as Elvis and Priscilla (Philippe Le Sourd)

As you would expect from Sofia Coppola, Priscilla is impeccably, dreamily styled and soundtracked. Tracing Priscilla Beaulieu’s relationship with Elvis from her schoolgirl days through to the eventual break-up of their marriage, it’s a mood-heavy affair. It’s also pretty icky (she was only 14 when she met the 24-year-old singer) watching Elvis’s grooming ways. Cailee Spaeny is fantastic as Priscilla, while Jacob Elordi (aka, that bloke from Saltburn who looks nothing like the King) does a decent job, but ultimately this doesn't quite penetrate the deepest recesses of heartbreak hotel.

January 1

The End We Start From

As a mother who gives birth just as a catastrophic flood deluges London, the never less than remarkable Jodie Comer lifts The End We Start From. However, this survival thriller never really reaches a high water mark itself.

January 19


You might like Jackdaw, a kind of Lock Stock/Shane Meadows/Grand Theft Auto mash-up crime thriller set in the North-East. I definitely didn’t. 

January 26

Top of the docs

January's hottest documentaries

Running from 1978 to 1993, the Scala cinema in King’s Cross was beloved by misfits, freaks or anyone simply in need of a cheap, rickety chair to sleep in during one of its infamous all-nighters. Jane Giles and Ali Catterall’s labour of love documentary Scala!!! (January 5) tells the picture house’s weird and wild history through interviews with regulars such as Princess Julia, Stewart Lee and Adam Buxton. With tales of random dead bodies and the resident cats putting the jump on punters during screenings, this is a hilarious blast back to a London we’ve only recently said goodbye to.

Die-hard fans will enjoy Werner Herzog: Radical Dreamer (January 19), a by-the-numbers-doc on the film-maker with the most recognisable voice in the universe (an accent Herzog invented, says Wim Wenders in this). I found it slightly wanting in the documentary-making genius of the great master himself.

Scala!!! (BFI Distribution)

Also out this month

What are the chances of two musicals based on stage musicals, that were in turn based on films/books, coming along at once? Tina Fey and Jon Hamm in Mean Girls (January 17) and Fantasia Barrino and Taraji P Henson in The Colour Purple (January 26) should both be big, bold and life-affirming in their own very different ways.

The malevolent pool in horror flick Night Swim (out January 5) looks like the last place Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin) should send her children, but shiver and scream they surely will. LaKeith Stanfield as a dope-dealing rival to Jesus in The Book of Clarence (January 19) sounds like an unholy adventure. However, although it’s not gospel, I hear it might not be miraculous.

I might well give a wide berth to The Boys in the Boat (January 12), in which George Clooney directs the tale of an underdog US rowing team’s journey to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I am just. Not. Interested. Maybe strictly for the Pinsents and Redgraves of this world. However, paddle back up this page and you’ll find some of the best films you’re likely to see in 2024. Happy New Year!

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