Top Film Releases in November: The Month Before Christmas

Daniel Pateman

It was the month of Last Christmas, and in Stratford Picture House, not a feature caused snoring, especially not Knives OutLittle Monsters involved hilarious zombie warfare, with Lupita Nyong’o sending heads through the air. The Nightingale, though, instilled a sense of real dread, as a brutalised woman ensured her attackers were dead. While in Luce Octavia Spencer – three-time Oscar nominee – calls in Tim Roth for a tense Parents’ Evening. You’ll cling to your seats; you’ll cheer and you’ll whistle. A line-up this good is a pre-Christmas miracle.

Yes, the presents are being dished out early in the form of highly entertaining flicks with killer casts. In Luce Octavia Spencer is Harriet, the titular student’s history teacher. Having spent his formative years in war-torn Eritrea, she expresses concerns to his adoptive parents – played by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth – when he writes a paper that seems to advocate violence. In cinemas on the 8 November, this psychological drama provides a gripping face-off between Spencer and Kelvin Harrison Jr., with Luce described as “one of the best ensemble performances of Sundance 2019” by Brian Tallerico.

We’re gifted another jaw-dropping ensemble in Knives Out, this time with a heavy dose of black comedy. The Thrombey family find themselves suspects in a murder case after Patriarch Harlan Thrombey invites them to his 85th birthday celebration and winds up dead. They’re an obnoxious bunch who, as Detective Benoit Blanc notes, “love twisting the knife into one another”. It’s a giddily acerbic film with an eclectic cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette and Daniel Craig, that David Rooney praised as “ingeniously plotted”, “deviously irreverent” and “a treat from start to finish”. The sleuthing commences on the 27 November.

Two very different films transport us to the Antipodes this month. Lupita Nyong’o plays the upbeat kindergarten teacher Miss Caroline in Little Monsters, who fearlessly defends her pupils when they’re trapped by zombies on an outing to the petting zoo. She’s joined by the loveably hopeless Dave (Alexander England) and the hilariously reprehensible children’s entertainer Teddy McGiggles (Josh Gad). It’s like Life is Beautiful (1997) meets Day of the Dead (1985), with a serious case of potty-mouth. Little Monsters lurches into screening rooms on the 15 November.

Meanwhile, the latest film from The Babadook (2014) director Jennifer Kent reaches UK cinemas on the 29 November. The Nightingale takes place in 1825 in Van Diemen’s Land, where Irish convict Clare (Aisling Franciosi) employs the help of an Aboriginal tracker (Baykali Ganambarr) to help her seek vengeance on the soldiers who brutalised her family. Its graphic violence alienated viewers at The Sydney Film Festival, where roughly thirty people walked out, but Variety have hailed it as “a historical revenge tale full of shattering beauty”, while writer-producer-director Kent won the Special Jury Prize at Venice. 

On the 15 November, give yourself over to some early festive cheer with Last Christmas. Written by Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings, and directed by comedy maestro Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, 2011), the film looks to be a heart-warming hoot. Emilia Clarke is the misanthropic Kate, whose life careens from one mishap to another after a life-threatening illness. Working as a store Elf in Covent Garden under the disapproving tutelage of Santa (Michelle Yeoh), Kate crosses paths with the ever-optimistic Tom (Henry Golding). His cheery attitude initially jars with her cynicism – she asks “is this where you murder me?” as they walk through a beautifully lit park – but, like the cantankerous Scrooge, she eventually opens her heart. Featuring the songs of George Michael, a wealth of talent, and a magical London backdrop, Last Christmas should become a modern festive favourite.

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