Saturday 20 January 2018

New on netflix: The horror of war from a female perspective

The Innocents Available from Thursday

Agata Buzek and Lou de Laage in The Innocents
Agata Buzek and Lou de Laage in The Innocents
Chelsea Handler
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

It takes some effort to mine a new seam of drama from such well-worn historical terrain as World War II but this film, which is really a meditation on faith, manages to succeed by looking at events from a female perspective. Set in Warsaw in December 1945, it focuses on a French Red Cross doctor who secretly helps a convent of Benedictine nuns who have been brutally raped by Russian soldiers.

Mathilde (Lou de Laage) is attending to wounded French troops when a distraught nun runs into the makeshift Red Cross infirmary. Mathilde tells the nun to seek help from her native Polish medical workers, as her assignment is to care for her ailing French countrymen. When she spies the nun kneeling and praying in the snowy woods, Mathilde decides to help. From that moment on, her life is changed forever.

Critics raved about this movie and many imagined it would be up for a best foreign language film award at the Oscars, although France has now selected a different film.

Tales by Light, Season 1

Six episodes, available from Friday

In the era of the smartphone everyone is an amateur photographer. And some people really do have a knack for it. However the professionals still have their tricks. In this series, which first aired last year in Australia, Canon and National Geographic join forces to follow five world class photographers from Australia as they venture into "some of the world's most extreme and fascinating environments" in pursuit of beautiful images that tell stories.

The photography, as you would expect, is spectacular, rivalling the BBC's Planet Earth efforts, even if the narrative side lets this series down somewhat. Season 2 premiered last month in Australia.

Chelsea: Season 1

Ten episodes - new episode this week

SN Chelsea Han.jpg
Chelsea Handler

Critics might be divided on Chelsea Handler, but Netflix certainly loves her. In addition to the newer episodes of her chat show, it also has her documentary series Chelsea Does available for streaming. Now we are also able to delve back into Season 1 of her show, which like the newer series, is being doled out in traditional one-show increments.

How you feel about that depends on how you feel about Chelsea. To some she's overly abrasive and cutting, to others she's just the right dollop of droll in an overly jolly chat show landscape. She has dropped most of the gimmicks of her competition. There is no band, there is no announcer, there is no sidekick, although her dog, Chunk, wanders around the set at will. Sometimes there's a monologue, but she's just as likely to open with a taped political discussion she's had with Florida pensioners.

The guests are a hodgepodge, including American politicians we wouldn't care about, comics, musicians and an unfortunate string of Chelsea 'gal pal' Hollywood blondes such as Drew Barrymore, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gwen Stefani and Christina Aguilera. She never lets them get too comfortable.

Under the Sun

Available from Friday

In some ways you have to feel a tiny bit sorry for the North Korean regime led by Kim Jong-un. It tries to be all grim and scary and just ends up the butt of jokes in the West.

How were they naive enough to actually think that veteran Russian documentary maker Vitaly Mansky would toe the designated party line with this film? Instead, the invited Mansky ruthlessly mocks and undermines their intentions by simply revealing the doctored veneer of normality imposed upon this supposed look at average (but carefully scripted) family life in Pyongyang.

The result holds up an awkwardly revealing mirror to a fascinating regime. We are invited to laugh at the communist country's attempts to portray an exemplary family, but you do wonder if there is a huge difference between their efforts to promote this ideal, and a Western version like Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Either way, this film is now fated to be seen everywhere except its subject nation, which has reportedly already tried to suppress its exposure. Clearly Mansky wasn't put off by the political fallout that surrounded the release of the Seth Rogen comedy The Interview, nor the subsequent Sony leaks, and for that he is to be applauded.

Catch up TV

Emily Hourican

Along Home Shores

UTV Player, until November 26, episode 1

Bobby Kerr is a highly-likeable broadcaster and entrepreneur, a devoted sailor and lover of the sea. Along Home Shores is his tribute to the waterways and sea shores of Ireland, an exploration of 3,000km of our coastline, complete with towns, islands and lighthouses on the way.

Beginning with a 6am dip in the Forty Foot, Kerr focuses on industry and enterprise as much as culture and heritage, talking to those who make their living from the water, as well as those who simply love it. Broadcast at 7.30pm on Thursdays, here is a chance to catch up on the first couple of episodes before picking up the remainder.

Follow The Money

TG4 Player, until November 22, Episode 1

Danish financial crime thriller set in the renewable energy business - and proof that even the "good guys" can go spectacularly bad, with plenty of corruption, double-dealing and even a spot of murder here to reel us in.

Created by the co-writer of Borgen, this is based around an offshore windfarm who's CEO is a charming villain, and starts with a body pulled from the water with foul play written all over it.

Enter detective Mads, a man with many problems in his domestic life, and a known tendency to go off on one. "You used to be a nice guy," his boss tells him, "but this is the third or fourth time you've become so obsessed with a case that you're about to drop the ball."

Just the words we all want to hear at the start of a whodunnit series.

Ireland's Fittest Family

RTE Player, until November 29, season 4 episode 1

Everyone's favourite family show is back, with the same simple-but-irresistible premise: who can best survive the extreme challenges, both mental and physical, thrown at them? Who will stay close as a unit, who will crumble under pressure and give into the bickering and blaming that characterises most families?


Emily Hourican


This began as an RTE podcast in 2013, and then launched as a live show the following year.

Each episode, broadcaster Dylan Haskins and sing-songwriter Lisa Hannigan are joined by what they call a "Holy Trinity" of guests - including Sharon Horgan (right), Andrea Oliver (formerly of post-punk band Rip Rig + Panic, now owner of Sugarshack restaurant), Paul Noonan of Bell X1 and Fr Peter McVerry - who share three stories, reflections, songs and adventures, each with the aim of inspiring, amusing and alarming. "A show for the curious, the serious and the hilarious," as the founders would have it.

Soundings now tours the UK and the US also, and this month nine new shows will be released, featuring, among others, David O'Doherty, Maeve Higgins, Theo Dorgan and Little Green Cars.

The Beautiful Writers Podcast

There are heaps of different podcasts promising to help listeners write better and smarter. This one, subtitled "talking shop with creatives", is hosted by Linda Siversten and Martha Beck, and has the benefit of simplicity - in-depth conversations with best-selling writers, creatives and industry experts.

Some is practical advice, along the lines of "get up and get going", some is funny - the greatest mistakes, best short-cuts, best writing hacks - and yet other bits are more metaphysical, including advice from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, who reminds that sometimes "you have to sit with the discomfort that comes with the sacred 'no'". Check out conversations with Arianna Huffington, Terry McMillan and Robert McKee.

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