The best movies, autumn 2023: Martin Scorsese, Ken Loach and Joanna Hogg flood the season
From a ménage à trois with Ben Whishaw in Passages to Martin Scorsese's Western Killers of the Flower Moon starring Leonardo DiCaprio, there's a wealth of great movies this autumn
UK release date: Friday 1 September
Luca Guadagnino was meant to release his anticipated ménage-à-trois drama Challengers in September, but the strikes in the US have forced its postponement to next year. No need to fret: Ira Sachs’s new film Passages fills that erotic, triangular gap. And unlike many movies with a similar premise, the one who engages both parties is not a woman but a man.
Whishaw and Franz Rogowski play Parisian couple Martin and Tomas, whose
marriage is thrown into crisis mode. Tomas begins a passionate affair with
schoolteacher Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos), causing a furious blend of jealousy,
love and intimacy – especially as Martin follows suit and embarks on his own affair.
Past Lives, dir. Celine Song
UK release date: Friday 8 September
Time doesn’t kill our former selves, it merely separates them. Depending on their significance, retrospective stages of our lives communicate with the present. You feel that nostalgic reverberation in the premise of Celine Song’s debut Past Lives, which, like Davy Chou’s remarkable Return to Seoul, fixates on different periods of a character’s life in relation to their sense of identity.
film starts with Moon Seung-ah as a kid in South Korea, developing a crush on
her schoolmate Hae Sung. Suddenly, those feelings are ripped apart when
Seung-ah’s family moves to Toronto; her name changing to Nora in the process. Several
years later, Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) reconnect via Skype. And several years after
that – when she becomes a successful playwright in New York – they meet face to face. The eerieness of Nora's shapeshifting life manifests and augments in
this one man, this reminder of her lost lives.
The Old Oak, dir. Ken Loach
UK release date: Friday 29 September
Whenever filmmakers announce their retirement, don’t take them too seriously. Octogenarian director Ken Loach made such a claim after his last film Sorry We Missed You, but four years later he’s back with another politically resonant Northern-based drama.
Set in a former mining village in County Durham, The Old Oak sees the declining community struggling after its old values crumble in favour of anger and resentment. This bubbles to the surface when a group of Syrian refugees arrive to occupy the cheap houses. But when pub owner TJ Ballantyne (Dave Turner) makes friends with refugee and aspiring photographer Yara (Ebla Mari), they hope to assuage the local prejudices.
Dalíland, dir. Mary Harron
UK release date: Friday 13 October
You will probably know Mary Harron best for directing American Psycho, a fascinating adaptation of the gross and controversial novel by Bret Easton Ellis. Harron’s latest film Dalíland tackles another problematic though much less sinister man: Salvador Dalí, the defining surrealist of the 20th century.
Ben Kingsley plays Dalí in this latter stage of his life and career, navigating
the art and social scenes of the 1970s, in particular: his tempestuous but
essential marriage to Gala Dalí (Barbara Sukowa), who’s in charge of the
business side. Viewed from the perspective of young assistant James (Christopher
Briney), the film drops into Dalí’s preparations for a big gallery show in
Foe, dir. Garth Davis
UK release date: Friday 20 October
Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal, together at last. They’re an ideal Irish pairing, a dream cast for Lion director Garth Davis’s latest project. A claustrophobic adaptation of the novel by Iain Reid (I’m Thinking of Ending Things), Foe follows a disrupted marriage in a dystopian future.
In 2065, the mysterious G-man Terrance (Aaron
Pierre) visits a secluded farmland belonging to married couple Junior
(Mescal) and Henrietta (Ronan). He's armed with a divisive proposal: offering Junior the chance to join a new space program, the purpose of which is to ease the
transition away from a dying Earth. The film squeezes into the couple's conversations
around whether Junior should leave behind his family farm with the hope of finding some kind of future.
Killers of the Flower Moon, dir. Martin Scorsese
UK release date: Friday 20 October
Melding the theatrics of Sergio Leone, the oil-drenched capitalism of There Will Be Blood and the Native American antagonism of Hostiles, Martin Scorsese’s first Western looks to provide a scathing, bullet-ridden experience.
Stretching to three-and-a-half hours, Killers of the Flower Moon is based
on the non-fiction book by David Grann – investigating a series of murders in
Osage County, Oklahoma in the 1920s. After the local Native Americans become rich from the oil
they’ve found in the area, white interlopers swarm in to take advantage. The film also reunites Scorsese with his classic leading man Robert De Niro (Taxi
Driver, Goodfellas, The Irishman) as well as his more recent
star Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator, The Wolf of Wall Street).
How to Have Sex, dir. Molly Manning Walker
UK release date: Friday 3 November
Shortly after shooting Charlotte Regan’s brilliant British film Scrapper, cinematographer Molly Manning Walker now upgrades to directing. Blessed with a decent opening at this year's Cannes Film Festival, her feature debut How to Have Sex won the Un Certain Regard award.
dark and vulnerable threshold of virginity and its loss as a young
woman, the film shows a gaggle of teenage girls diving into clubs, parties and
youthful hedonism in the Mediterranean. Tara (Mia
McKenna-Bruce) aims to lose her virginity on this trip, but her complete lack
of experience enhances the pressure. The journey spirals into deep questions
about sexual consent, societal expectations and female friendships.
Anatomy of a Fall, dir. Justine Triet
UK release date: Friday 10 November
In-depth analysis of ambiguous crimes is now a cultural industry, inspiring battalions of armchair detectives to concoct their own theories. Like the HBO true-crime drama The Staircase (and many others of its kind), Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or-winning drama Anatomy of a Fall thoroughly examines a bloody incident in the French Alps. Thankfully, this is a fictional affair, so you can enjoy the story without a guilty conscience.
novelist Sandra (Sandra Hüller), her husband Samuel (Samuel Theis) and their 11-year-old son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner) live in
the snow-swept seclusion of the mountains. But when Samuel topples over the
edge of their chalet, and is killed on impact, Sandra is arrested for suspected
murder – though suicide is also possible. When the visually impaired Daniel is
called to the witness stand, the court is given a complex, psychological view
of his parents’ relationship.
Napoleon, dir. Ridley Scott
UK release date: Wednesday 22 November
This is actually one of two adaptations of the French emperor’s life, the other being an HBO series directed by Steven Spielberg from the infamously unfinished Stanley Kubrick film. But Ridley Scott’s interpretation is coming first, released in cinemas on Wednesday 22 November before coming to Apple TV+ on a date not yet announced.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Napoleon Bonaparte, starring alongside Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman) as the emperor’s great love Josephine. The film traces Napoleon's origins and swift ascension to power via his toxic and passionate relationship with Josephine. All the Money in the World screenwriter David Scarpa tackles the script.
The Eternal Daughter, dir. Joanna Hogg
UK release date: Friday 24 November
It’s safe to assume that a ghost story directed by Joanna Hogg (The Souvenir) won’t be your bog-standard bump in the night. The Eternal Daughter possesses a classic gothic vibe, but maintains the director’s familiar staples like memory, self-reflection and autobiography within a mother-daughter drama.
Tilda Swinton is no stranger to playing multiple characters in one movie – as with Luca Guadagnino’s underrated remake of Suspiria – and The Eternal Daughter sees her playing both parent and child. Filmmaker Julie (Swinton) takes her mother Rosalind (also Swinton) to stay at the Flintshire hotel Moel Famau, intending to talk about her latest project. In their conversations, under the roof of an eerie and foggy residence haunted by its past, buried secrets between mother and daughter rise to the surface.