New movies to check out for a new year

A trio of new films starring actors and actresses from the U.K. are now available in wide release to U.S. audiences.

Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal in ALL OF US STRANGERS. Photo by Parisa Taghizadeh, Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.
Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal in ALL OF US STRANGERS. Photo by Parisa Taghizadeh, Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved. /
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We’ve made it to 2024 and as we hit the weekend, you might be looking for a new movie to check out. Below are three new films, two streaming and one expanding in theaters this weekend, that provide new options for the new year.

All of Us Strangers (Theaters)

About: This new film from writer/director Andrew Haigh based on the novel from Taichi Yamada. It got a limited release at the end of 2023 to qualify for awards and is expanding nationwide this weekend. It features Andrew Scott as a man who is something of a loner, looking for connection and to overcome grief and loss from the past.

The film co-stars Paul Mescal, Claire Foy and Jamie Bell. It follows a journey for Scott’s Adam as he connects with a new resident in his building (Mescal) and comes to better understand his parents (Foy and Bell). It’s a deeply emotional and ethereal tale.

The Bottom Line: It is hard to describe this film without giving away the plot, so I’ll keep it vague. This is a film that will probably split audiences when you get to the final act. Either the reveal will work for you at a deeper emotional level, or it will leave you a bit puzzled. It depends on your perspective and what you want in a film.

What works universally is the performance of Scott. We’ve seen him deliver some great and powerful performances in the past in things like Sherlock and Fleabag. Here he is in the lead and given a chance to shine. He’s great in the role and plays off the supporting cast beautifully. There’s also an artful look to the project, which is a credit to Haigh. That’s led to the film receiving a number of awards and nominations, including being nominated for Best Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Foe (Prime Video)

About: This drama comes from director Garth Davis, who co-wrote the screenplay with Iain Reid based on his book. It’s set in the near future where the ravages of climate change are destroying the planet while, at the same time, improvements in artificial intelligence give humanity the ability to have the most life-like artificial creatures possible.

A couple, Junior (Paul Mescal) and Hen (Saoirse Ronan), live together on a farm in the middle of land that’s falling apart. It’s his family land and he’s determined to remain and make it work. She’s not as happy there. Soon, a man from the government (Aaron Pierre) arrives with an offer that throws their lives into turmoil. Will they find a way through as a couple?

The Bottom Line: This is another deeply personal drama, and another film that got a limited release in late 2023. It made its wide debut on Prime Video on January 5. What works is the leads. Mescal and Ronan are great, and they hold your attention with the depth of their performance. Pierce also does well in the scenes where he appears, but this is primarily up to Ronan and Mescal to carry the narrative.

This is another film with a twist in the third act that will likely impact the way it sits with the viewer. It goes in an unexpected direction and that may or may not work for some viewers. But it’s another film with strong performances and a quiet intensity that will draw you in.

Role Play (Prime Video)

About: Emma (Kaley Cuoco) and David (David Oyelowo) are having trouble connecting as a couple, especially with Emma’s crazy work schedule. When she misses their anniversary, she’s determined to make things right. She plans a fun night out at a hotel.

While there waiting for David to arrive, Emma connects with a hotel bar patron (Bill Nighy) who seems highly interested in her. Turns out there is a reason, and his presence opens up her secret life, putting her family and relationship in jeopardy.

The Bottom Line: We’ve seen these kinds of stories before about a spouse hiding the fact, they are a spy or an assassin until it comes out. Here, that role is played by Cuoco, who bring some fun, while Oyelowo plays the straight man in this comedy set up. This type of narrative isn’t as much about the mystery of the plot as the appeal and execution of the characters.

In this case, the story falls a bit flat. I had hoped to see a bit more comedy and a bit more spark between the leads. The film plays out fine, and it hits all the beats you’d expect, but it’s lacking some spark despite a good cast.

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