MM’s top five… ‘dump month’ February 2019 film releases

February, along with January, is normally regarded as a ‘dump month’ in cinema.

The two months when audiences are expected to be smaller due to external factors (less disposable income after Christmas and Academy Awards eligibility rules being the main two), so film studios release movies that they think will be less successful regardless.

February 2019 may be breaking this cycle in the UK however, with a slew of major studio releases and certain future classics. Here’s MM’s top five films releasing this month.

5) Jellyfish

Liv Hill stars as 15-year-old Sarah Taylor, the young carer who channels her teenage angst and volatile nature through stand-up comedy in this heartbreaking drama from director and co-writer James Gardner.

As her success grows, she has to hold together her job at a local arcade, her strained relationship with manic-depressive mother (played by Sinead Matthews in a fantastic turn) and the care of her younger siblings.

It paints a picture so bleak that even Morrissey might scoff at it, but through a terrific performance by Liv Hill it looks sure to be a British hit.

It’s fantastic to see British working class stories like this being shown on the big screen, which with the release of Richard Billingham’s Ray & Liz in March looks set to be a trend going through 2019.

It’s remarkable how much Cyril Nri sounds like Paterson Joseph as Johnson in Peep Show in the trailer, I was almost waiting for him to start bragging about getting a document up on his 32” plasma.

You can see Jellyfish in select cinemas from February 15.

4) Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? tells the true story of cat-loving writer Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), who upon falling out of favour with her publishers in the 90s begins forging letters from deceased authors and playwrights for cash.

She enlists the help of her friend Jack Hock (Richard E Grant), but the plot soon turns sour as suspicions arise, putting pressure on not only Lee, but also her friendship with Jack.

With this Melissa McCarthy seems to have been offered a career changing role, having previously only been known for her work in comedies, this role could define the next steps in her career.

Swaziland-born luvvie Richard E Grant has earned his first Oscar nomination for his part in the film aged 61, uploading a heartwarming celebration video outside his old London flat to Twitter.

The film has been a critical hit, with three nominations at the Oscars – Melissa McCarthy for Best Actress, Richard E Grant for Best Actor and Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is screening from February 1.

3) Capernaum

A truly remarkable film following the life of Zain (Zain Al Rafeea), a streetwise 12-year-old living hand-to-mouth, who flees his inattentive parents to embark on a journey helping others, before being arrested and suing his parents for bringing him into the world.

Written and directed by Nadine Labaki, who was inspired to make the film after seeing a young boy sleeping on a traffic island whilst driving home one night, it’s a sort of Lebanese Mike Leigh film.

There’s heavy influence on the script from the cast of non-professional actors, who’s characters all closely follow their own lives. After their improvisation, the screenplay was adapted to follow their lead.

This Lebanese production has been another awards season hit, having already won the Jury Prize at Cannes after receiving a 15-minute standing ovation, alongside this it’s bagged a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.

Capernaum will be in selected cinemas from February 22.

2) Burning

Lee Chang-dong’s adaptation of best selling author Haruki Murakami short story Barn Burning is finally coming to UK cinemas having premiered in the USA in October.

The slow-burning (ba-dum-tss) psychological drama follows Jong-su (Ah-in Yoo), who bumps into Shin Hae-mi (Jong-seo Jun), who he once went to school with, she asks him to cat-sit whilst she is in Africa.

Upon returning, he is introduced to her new friend Ben (Steven Yeun), who reveals his dark secret interests to Jong-su.

What comes over the next two-and-a-half hours is a love triangle soaked in class resentment, envy and paranoia.

Since premiering last year critics have swooned over the film, with Los Angeles Times’ Justin Chang calling it a “a masterpiece of psychological unease— the most lucid and absorbing new movie I’ve seen this year, as well as the most layered and enigmatic.”

This critical acclaim has been backed up by a string of awards and nominations, most notably competing alongside Capernaum in the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars, becoming the first Korean film to be put forward for the award.

Burning hits UK screens from February 1.

1) If Beale Street Could Talk

Barry Jenkins rose to international prominence, even outside the film world, when his 2016 film Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture, partly because Faye Dunaway and Warren Beaty incorrectly announced La La Land as the winner. He’s back now with his third feature film, If Beale Street Could Talk, and it’s proving to be just as much of a hit.

The story, which is an adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel of the same name, charts the journey a young African-American woman Tish Rivers (KiKi Layne) as she attempts to prove the innocence of her wrongly incarcerated fiancé (Stephan James) before the birth of their child.

Critics have heaped praise on the film for its visual storytelling and stunning cinematography, which are becoming the hallmarks of a Barry Jenkins film.

It’s already been nominated for three Oscars – Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score – cementing Barry Jenkins place as one of the most important filmmakers of the 21st century.

If Beale Street Could Talk is in limited theatres from February 8, before a general release on February 14, Valentines Day.

Image courtesy of Jellyfish Film via YouTube, with thanks.

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