New to stream or buy on DVD/Blu-ray: 23 Walks, Schemers, Baby Done, Euphoria and Losing Alice
FILM OF THE WEEK
23 WALKS (Cert 12, 101 mins, Parkland Entertainment, Romance/Drama, available from January 25 on Amazon Prime Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, also available from January 25 on DVD £15.99)
Starring: Dave Johns, Alison Steadman, Marsha Millar, Natalie Simpson, Graham Cole.
MENTAL health nurse Dave (Dave Johns) is enjoying a walk with his five-year-old German shepherd rescue dog Tilly when he encounters health centre receptionist Fern (Alison Steadman) and her spirited Yorkshire terrier.
Fern instinctively grabs her pride and joy. "Wouldn't have hurt to have put him on a lead," she snaps as they pass.
Dave and Fern are creatures of habit and repeatedly cross paths. He introduces her to the splendour of King George's Field in north London and suggests they walk together.
"It's a free country," she responds.
Dave slowly dismantles Fern's emotional defences and sows the seeds of friendship.
When Fern mentions that she is due to attend her daughter's wedding in the Canary Islands, enthusiastic linguist Dave suggests he teach her basic Spanish to impress the groom's family.
Filmed on location in London and Hertfordshire, 23 Walks is a gently paced drama, which explores vacillations of the heart for sexagenarian dog owners who have been dealt losing hands in love.
There is a pleasing rhythm to dialogue in writer Paul Morrison's script. He occasionally mines a poetic one-liner during heart-to-hearts, such as when Fern ruminates on dealing with grief: "It's best to invite it in, make it your friend."
Steadman and stand-up comedian Johns, so magnificent in Ken Loach's award-winning film I, Daniel Blake, bring these free-flowing confessionals to life with sincerity and conviction, hinting at the pain that could bind their lonely singletons.
When Morrison eventually discloses the sources of their anguish, his film surrenders some of its easy-going charm and plausibility to contrivance and emotional manipulation.
BABY DONE (Cert 15, 91 mins, Vertigo Releasing, Comedy/Romance, available from January 22 on Amazon Prime Video/BFI Player/BT TV Store/Curzon Home Cinema/iTunes/Microsoft Store/PlayStation Store/Rakuten/Sky Store/Virgin Media and other download and streaming services)
Starring: Rose Matafeo, Matthew Lewis, Emily Barclay, Nic Sampson.
ZOE (Rose Matafeo) and boyfriend Tim (Matthew Lewis) are arborists in New Zealand with their own company Forest Mates – motto "No Tree Too High" – and a rambunctious dog named Bear.
Raising a family isn't high on Zoe's list of priorities. She intends to compete at the forthcoming World Tree Climbing Masters in Vancouver so when a pregnancy test comes back positive, the tree surgeon refuses to accept the verdict.
"Tapeworm can cause false positive results," Zoe coolly informs the nurse.
At first, Zoe conceals her pregnancy from Tim and her sardonic best friend Molly (Emily Barclay), who believes that having a child sounds the death knell for a healthy relationship.
Zoe ploughs ahead with plans to travel to Canada and, when Tim discovers the truth, she dismisses his pleas to focus on their child.
"I want to have a baby," she tells him, "I just don't want to turn into a mum."
Baby Done is an amusing portrait of modern parenthood distinguished by Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning stand-up Matafeo's heartfelt central performance as a dismissive mother-to-be, who intends to spend her final weeks before delivery doing bungee jumps and clambering up trees.
Lewis is a likable comic foil as the voice of reason in the central relationship. Meanwhile, Nic Sampson offers colourful support as a preggophile, who lavishes Zoe with compliments because he considers her "a beautiful single woman with a bonus in the belly".
Director Curtis Vowell delivers Sophie Henderson's messy script with genuine warmth and a couple of memorable set-pieces including the most inappropriate way to celebrate a new arrival in the delivery room.
SCHEMERS (Cert 15, 90 mins, Lightbulb Film Distribution, Drama/Comedy/Romance, available from January 25 on Amazon Prime Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, also available from January 25 on DVD £15.99)
Starring: Conor Berry, Sean Connor, Grant R Keelan, Tara Lee, Alastair Thomson Mills, David Izatt.
DAVIE (Conor Berry) harbours fanciful dreams of playing for Dundee United Football Club. His flirtation with the beautiful game is cut short when he scores off the field and the brutish fiance (David Izatt) of a blonde conquest breaks one of Davie's legs.
Hobbling around town on crutches, Davie spots an opportunity to make money by organising a university disco. He joins forces with drug dealer Scot (Sean Connor) and DJ John (Grant R Keelan) to stage the event and, hopefully, impress sassy student nurse Shona (Tara Lee).
The dance is a roaring success and Davie excitedly expands his horizons – "proper bands, bigger crowds, more money" – to book Simple Minds for the princely sum of £15 and six cans of lager under the banner of Twa Bridges Promotions.
Schemers is a roughly-hewn comedy drama based on the true story of how Dundee-born concert promoter Dave McLean cut his teeth before he moved to London and became manager of rock band Placebo.
McLean could have entrusted his blast from the past to safe film-making hands. Instead, he boldly chooses to direct his own story, drawing heavily on the visual lexicon of Danny Boyle's Trainspotting in an exuberant opening salvo that introduces us to his younger self, "a degenerate gambler with delusions of grandeur" played with cocksure swagger by Berry.
After a promising start, Schemers loses its way and a faltering script fails to endear Davie to us as he becomes embroiled with the Dundee McMafia and mistreats his two-dimensional girlfriend.
Fortune occasionally favours the reckless but, here, McLean's gamble doesn't pay huge dividends.
SERIES / BOX SETS
EUPHORIA SPECIAL – PART TWO: JULES (1 episode, streaming from January 22 exclusively on NOW TV, Drama/Romance)
LAST year, Zendaya became the youngest winner of a Primetime Emmy as Best Actress for her emotionally raw performance as a recovering teenage drug addict in the gritty HBO drama Euphoria, which broadcasts on Sky Atlantic and streams exclusively on NOW TV.
A two-part special set over the Christmas period continues the stories of some of the key characters. In Part 1: Rue, which was broadcast in December, Rue (Zendaya) and her sponsor Ali (Colman Domingo) candidly discuss her relapse and the source of her pain.
He counsels her to learn to forgive herself if she is ever going to defeat the demon of her addiction.
Now in Part Two: Jules, Rue's good friend Jules (Hunter Schafer) reflects on a momentous year of change for everyone including the ongoing pandemic.
LOSING ALICE (8 episodes, streaming from January 22 exclusively on Apple TV+, Thriller/Drama/Romance)
POWER and success come at a heavy price in the eight-part Israeli thriller Losing Alice, which pieces together its central mystery using a mosaic of flashbacks and flash-forwards.
Female film director Alice (Ayelet Zurer) is a 48-year-old mother, who feels irrelevant in the industry since she took some time out to concentrate on raising a family.
Desperate to reclaim her artistic edge, she meets 24-year-old screenwriter Sophie (Lihi Kornowski) on a train and becomes obsessed with the younger woman and her latest script, which blurs the lines between fact and fiction.
Alice compromises her moral core to achieve success against younger rivals. However, sustaining power and relevance requires hard work and more sacrifices, which increasingly separate Alice from the people she loves.