New and Noteworthy 12/18/20

Sharlene Whyte as Agnes Smith in "Education." Photo Credit: Will Robson- Scott / Amazon Prime Video.

The below are brief reviews of new release I feel are worthy of recommendation. These film were reviewed from digital screeners. Screen and Stage encourages its readers to follow safety precautions outlined by health authorities.

Education (Dir. Steve McQueen, 2020, Streaming on Amazon Prime Video now) - A triumphant conclusion to his SMALL AXE anthology, Steve McQueen's semi-autobiographical EDUCATION, about a young Black boy who is put in a special education school in 1980s England, is a potent and passionate examination of the power of community and its ability to educate those who the system works against. EDUCATION is most moving when McQueen focuses not on the boy at its center but rather his mother, Agnes, brought to life with subtlety and grace by Sharlene Whyte. It's not hard to imagine that Agnes is McQueen's way of paying loving homage to his own mother, and it is through her that the film finds its heart. The failing system that EDUCATION exposes may provide enough subject matter for a whole miniseries, but by focusing on one child's story, it makes the system's failings personal, and thus, all the more impactful.

Greenland (Dir. Ric Roman Waugh, 2020, On PVOD now) - Watching a film like GREENLAND, about a Gerard Butler-led family who must make it to safety after a massive comet begins to wreak havoc on Earth, in the middle of a pandemic is a bit eerie given the similarities between its scenes of chaos and those that actually happened this year. What's almost eerier is that, unlike the dime-a-dozen disaster films that usually crash onto screens, this one is unusually entertaining and engaging. With a modest budget that doesn't allow for CGI overload, director Ric Roman Waugh instead focuses on the story and characters to ground the film, working wonders. In one of the weirdest years in cinematic history, GREENLAND is a major surprise that proves 2020's plot twists haven't ended yet.