Vera Drake to Ex Machina: the seven best movies to watch on TV this week | Films

pick of the week

True Draco

Imelda Staunton in Vera Drake.
Imelda Staunton in Vera Drake. Photograph: Film Council/Allstar

In light of the Roe v Wade threat in the US, this screening of Mike Leigh’s harrowing film 2004 drama It is nothing if it is not opportune. Imelda Staunton breaks out as Vera, a community-minded working-class mother in 1950s London, who cleans the houses of the wealthy, babysits her neighbors and performs illegal abortions on Fridays. She does the latter for free to help women in trouble, but it is a dangerous procedure and she keeps it a secret from her family. Amid copious cups of tea and cameos from Leigh’s many regulars, the film is both a condemnation of criminalizing women’s choices and a reminder that the law is not the same for all strata of society.
Thursday, June 2, 9 p.m., AMC

former machine

Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina.
Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina. Photography: MOVIE 4/Allstar

in your smart 2015 science fiction thriller, Alex Garland pushes the extremes of modern technology and sees what’s wrong, Black Mirror style. Domhnall Gleeson stars as young programmer Caleb, invited by his big-tech billionaire boss Nathan (an arrogant Oscar Isaac) to his remote mountain estate. He is there to test Nathan’s artificial intelligence creation, Ava (Alicia Vikander), to see if she can pass for human. Intellect wrestles with emotion as Caleb finds himself drawn to the beautiful and seemingly vulnerable robot, while the ethos of creating (and destroying) sentient life comes to the fore in visceral ways.
Saturday, May 28, 11:20 p.m., Cine4

jeremiah johnson

Robert Redford in Jeremiah Johnson.
Robert Redford in Jeremiah Johnson. Photograph: TCD/Alamy

This beautifully staged 1972 western may remind you more than a little of Alejandro Iñárritu’s. the reborn. Robert Redford’s would-be trapper/hunter struggles to survive in the Rocky Mountains while learning the trade from him, encountering eccentric mountain men and Native American tribes (friendly and unfriendly) while dealing with death in its many guises. Sidney PollackThe riveting film has moments of comedy (Johnson accidentally runs into an indigenous girlfriend), but also acknowledges the harshness and loneliness of the life he has chosen.
Sunday, May 29, 12:45 p.m., TCM Movies


Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar.
Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar. Photography: Legendary Images/Allstar

Ambition is always a commendable quality in a film, and the science fiction astrophysics he has it in spades. Matthew McConaughey stars as an American astronaut turned farmer on a doomed Earth in the near future, selected for a dangerous mission through an unexplained wormhole to a galaxy where a habitable home for humanity may be found. It’s brain-frying existential material, particularly in the ending, but through a series of stupendous and well-timed set pieces, the simple but cosmic power of love prevails.
Wednesday, 9pm, Sky Cinema Greats

cat people

Simone Simon in Cat People.
Simone Simon in Cat People. Photograph: TCD/Alamy

This seductive 1942 RKO horror is from the director/producer team of Jacques Tourneur and Val Lewton, shown here with another one of their collaborations, I Walked With a Zombie. Oliver de Kent Smith marries Serbian Irena (the feline Simone Simon), but she refuses to consummate the marriage, believing the myth that she will turn into a panther when she is aroused. More suggestive than graphic, the film earns the chills of what our minds create from its interplay of light and dark.
Thursday June 2, 9:05 p.m., BBC Four


Domhnall Gleeson and Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn.
Domhnall Gleeson and Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn. Photograph: Lionsgate/Allstar

Adaptation of John Crowley from Colm Tóibín’s novel centers on Saoirse Ronan’s relatable performance as Eilis, a young woman in 1951 Ireland who emigrates to New York. She has left the small town of her stultifying for the opportunities the US can offer, from work and studies to romance with Italian-American plumber Tony (Emory Cohen). But the lure of the old country lingers, and when tragedy drives her back home, she finds herself emotionally compelled to stay longer. The differences between the US and Ireland are clear, but never cliché, as we see Eilis strive to live life on her own terms.
Thursday June 2, 11.40pm, BBC One

The Matrix Resurrections

Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix Resurrections.
Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix Resurrections. Photograph: PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy

Yes this continuation to the classic trilogy it is necessary it is debatable. But the return of Lana Wachowksi offers a nostalgic reboot of the philosophies, characters, and even scenes from earlier influential films, like Thomas (Keanu Reeves) and Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss), or is it really Neo and Trinity? – resolve what is virtually real and what is real real. It’s all relentlessly meta, with Reeves, following his aging Ted in the recent Bill & Ted update, enjoying playing another former hero who ponders his own mortality.
Friday June 3, 10am, 8pm, Sky Cinema Premiere

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