From the fields of Victorian Manchester to Whoville, it doesn’t feel like a coincidence that November is full of politically minded movies, especially as the US midterms approach and a No Deal Brexit is seemingly looming. Most of these movies teach tolerance as standard, and sing the praises of democracy.
First up, Mike Leigh returns with Peterloo (Out Now), his film about the Peterloo massacre in 1819 when the British cavalry charged into a crowd who were demanding parliamentary reform. One of the unknown blood stains in British history, Leigh isn’t interested in sanding down this story, offering a simple and severe approach that makes the political relevancy starker.
Another British director with politics on his mind is Steve McQueen, who returns with Widows (6th Nov), a bruising and masculine movie about a group of widows — played by Viola Davies, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Erivo — who finish the heist that killed their husbands. Scripted by Gillian Flynn, McQueen runs his film at a wicked pace and he delights in fulfilling his pulpy tendencies. Yet, with Colin Farrell as a corrupt politician, McQueen gives his caper substance and asks probing questions about our role in polite society.
Overlord (7th Nov) is more concerned with delivering popcorn fun with its story about a group of Allied paratroopers discovering zombies in Nazi-occupied France. Slick and gory fun with a diverse cast of soldiers including Wyatt Russell, Jovan Adepo and Pilou Asbæk, director Julius Avery and producer JJ Abrams aren’t afraid to creep you out.
Can you believe it’s been 18 years since Jim Carrey stole Christmas? Universal and Illumination Entertainment have decided that is too long and are releasing another version of The Grinch (9th Nov). Voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, this Grinch updates the classic story for a new generation. Illumination have a spotty track record but their Dr Seuss releases, Horton Hears a Who! and The Lorax, are two of their best. Hopefully, this grump can join them.
Paul Dano turns director with Wildlife (9th Nov), a story he co-wrote with Zoe Kazan about a couple in the midst of a divorce. Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal are as reliably amazing as they always are, and you shouldn’t be surprised if she wins Best Actress at the upcoming Academy Awards.
Turning towards documentaries, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (9th Nov) grabbed America’s attention when it was released in the summer. Even though children’s presenter Fred Rogers is not a household name in the UK, his teachings of tolerance, respect and kindness are a shining light in our current times of darkness.
JK Rowling, always teaching tolerance, brings the wizarding world back with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (16th Nov), the sequel to the delightful Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This time, the story has closer ties to the Harry Potter saga as Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) recruits Newt (Eddie Redmayne) to find the evil Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). It will be interesting to see how this story develops and how beloved characters fit into this new saga. Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler return to help Newt, while Ezra Miller’s sympathetic Credence somehow finds himself in Paris.
Also bewitching audiences is Suspiria (16th Nov), a very different type of magic movie. Luca Guadagnino updates Dario Argento’s freaky Gaillo classic, offering up a pale aesthetic as dancer Dakota Johnson discovers her dance academy is actually a witches coven. Tilda Swinton does triple duty as the leaders of the coven and as psychiatrist Dr Josef Klemperer. Twisty, freaky and clinical, Guadagnino has made an arthouse horror film that perfectly encapsulates 2018.
With Creed, Ryan Coogler injected new life into the Rocky franchise so colour Creed 2 (30th Nov) as one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Leaning heavily onto legacy, this time Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan) faces Viktor Drago, the son of Rocky 4 bad boxer, Ivan Drago, the man who killed Adonis’ father. The trailer packs an emotional jab and the film looks set to deliver a knock out.
Finishing the month is Ralph Breaks the Internet (30th Nov), a sequel to Wreck It Ralph where Ralph (John C Reilly) and Vanelope (Sarah Silverman) jack into the arcade WiFi and venture into the internet. Disney’s storied animation studio has been on a role recently, and if that’s not enough to convince you, then this should do the trick: this sequel features the Disney Princesses in lounge wear.