Film of the week

Parasite, Channel 4, 10pm

Bong Joon-ho’s pitch black comedy became the first non-English language film to win the Best Picture Oscar at the Academy Awards, picking up the accolade in early 2020, just ahead of the first lockdown. A year and a half later everyone is talking about another South Korean export, Netflix smash Squid Game. Parasite, here receiving its terrestrial UK premiere from Channel 4, is comparable. Like Squid Game, it satirises both the inequalities within society and the consumerist impulses driving even those on the lowest socio-economic rung. There just isn’t any gunfire.

The story centres on the Kims and the Parks, two families from different sides of the metaphorical tracks. The Kims live in a basement apartment, have to huddle in the corner of their sole bathroom to try to find mobile phone reception and make money by folding pizza boxes together. They’re headed by feckless dad Kim Ki-taek (Joon-ho regular and Snowpiercer star, Song Kang-ho).

The Parks – Dong-ik (Lee Sun-kyun), wife Choi Yeon-gyo (Cho Yeo-jeong), teenage daughter Da-hye (Jung Ji-so) and young son Da-song (Jung Hyeon-jun) – live in a large, architect-designed house in a wealthy suburb, and employ a chauffeur and a housekeeper. When a friend of Kim Ki-taek’s son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) leaves to study abroad, he suggests Ki-woo pretend to be a university student and take over his gig tutoring Da-hye. It works like a dream, and when the Parks need a new chauffeur, in steps dad Ki-taek. Ditto Kim matriarch Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin) and Ki-woo’s sister, Ki-jung (Park So-dam), when a housekeeper and an art therapist are needed, though by this time the Kims are resorting to underhand tactics to clear away their predecessors. The only problem is, they have to pretend not to know each other. And how long can they keep that up?

Joon-ho piles on the tension and the humour, then throws in a typically weird twist which few if any viewers will see coming. South Korean cinema is an absolute goldmine – you couldn’t find a better introduction to it than Parasite.


To Die For, Talking Pictures TV, 11.05pm

After a string of Hollywood roles that failed to make the most of her talents, Nicole Kidman made the critics sit up and take notice with her terrific performance in director Gus Van Sant’s dark, satirical comedy. She plays Suzanne Stone, who plans to escape her small town and become a famous TV presenter. A job as a weather girl on a local station is her first step to world domination, but when her husband (Matt Dillon) announces he wants them to start a family, it seems like her dreams are going to be put on hold. So, she sets about persuading her teenage lover (another rising star, Joaquin Phoenix) and his friends (Casey Affleck and Alison Folland) to murder him.


Gifted, Film 4, 6.55pm

Penned in broad strokes by screenwriter Tom Flynn, Gifted is a deeply moving drama which overcomes a formulaic structure to deliver hefty emotional wallops - and provides buff leading man Chris Evans with a meaty dramatic role to test his acting mettle rather than his bulging biceps. Florida boat repairman Frank Adler (Evans) home-schools his cherubic six-year-old niece Mary (Mckenna Grace), who inherited her passion for algebra from her late mother. Mary's maternal grandmother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) materialises in Florida to stake a claim to the child in the court of Judge Edward Nichols (John M Jackson). While Frank and Evelyn trade verbal blows through their lawyers, Mary makes clear her unerring devotion to Frank: "He wanted me before he knew I was smart."


The Man Who Knew Too Much, Film 4, 4.30pm

Alfred Hitchcock directs this 1956 remake of his own 1934 thriller, with James Stewart and Doris Day taking on the roles previously played by Leslie Banks and Edna Best. American couple Ben and Jo are holidaying in Morocco when they witness the murder of a Frenchman. With his dying breath, the victim tells Ben about an assassination due to take place in London - but before the couple can pass on the warning to the authorities, their young son is kidnapped... The film manages to improve on the gripping original movie and, as an added bonus, throws in Day's spirited performance of the Oscar-winning Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).


Vivarium, Film 4, 11.15pm

Terrestrial premiere for Lorcan Finnegan’s blackly humorous thriller, penned by Garret Shanley, which twists the American Dream into a modern-day nightmare. Door-to-door gardener Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and his partner Gemma (Imogen Poots), a nursery school teacher, are cosily settled in white picket fence suburbia. They meet a real estate agent called Martin (Jonathan Aris), who shepherds them into a mysterious neighbourhood named Yonder. Tom and Gemma attempt to escape from the labyrinth of identikit residences but they appear to be trapped. On the pavement outside house number 9, the couple discovers a baby and stark instructions: “Raise the child and be released”. The future, it appears, has been decided for them.


Greta, BBC One, 11.55pm

New York waitress Frances McCullen (Kick-Ass star Chloe Grace Moretz) finds a swanky handbag on a subway train. When she discovers it contains the NYC Identification Card of Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert), she’s determined to return the bag and its contents. Greta is delighted to be reunited with her missing property and she strikes up a touching friendship with Frances. The relationship sours when Frances discovers that Greta intentionally leaves handbags on subway trains to engineer relationships with strangers. Co-written by director Neil Jordan and Ray Wright, Greta is a campy psychological thriller which harks back to the violent power struggles of 1990s potboilers such as The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and Single White Female.

And one to stream …

Doctor Sleep, Amazon Prime

Ewan McGregor and Mission Impossible’s Rebecca Ferguson star in this 2019 adaptation of Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining, published in 2013. It being even more famous as a film than as a novel, the movie also functions as a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s iconic 1980 big screen version, which starred Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance and Shelley Duvall as his wife, Wendy. It’s quite a balancing act, but on the whole director Mike Flanagan handles it well. It helps that he’s no novice, having spent the last decade helming films such as Gerald’s Game (another King adaptation) and acting as creator and show-runner on the Netflix series Midnight Mass and The Haunting Of Hill House.

McGregor is Dan Torrance, son of Jack and he of Shining tricycle fame but now grown into a troubled man who drinks to forget his past. In flashback scenes we see him in a perfectly recreated Overlook Hotel, bombing along that iconic orange and red hexagon-design carpet, and later in Florida with Wendy (Alex Essoe, the spit of Duvall). We then fast forward to 2011 and are introduced to five-year-old Abra Stone, who tells a magician at a kids’ party that she can do better than him and then proves it by hanging her parents’ cutlery from the kitchen ceiling.

Eight years on again and Abra (Kyliegh Curran) is now 13 and coming to terms with her powers. Meanwhile Dan is dry and living in a small New Hampshire town. What brings them together to unite their ‘shining’ – Dan’s name for his psychic abilities – are the activities of The True Knot, a group of not-quite-vampires who live off ‘steam’, an essential life force they collect from the people they kill. They’re led by Rose the Hat (Ferguson) and her partner Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon). When they sense Abra and her power, they realise they could live off her steam for decades and set out to capture and kill her. Standing in their way are Abra and Dan.

As with most King adaptations, it’s over-long and doesn’t always keep in step with its own logic. But McGregor is his usual watchable self and Rose and her band of travelling weirdos are worth the two-and-a half hour running time.