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Audrey Tautou in "Amélie"
Audrey Tautou in "Amélie" | © Miramax Films
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21 Spring Joys From Netflix in May 2018

Picture of Graham Fuller
Film Editor
Updated: 12 May 2018
Coco, Michelle Wolf’s talk show, and Riverdale Season 2 are among this month’s delights on Netflix. Not forgetting an apocalypse or two…

May 1

Amélie

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 vehicle for Audrey Tautou in her winsome star-making role is arguably the most internationally celebrated French movie of the century so far. How does one explain Amélies popularity? The answer lies in Tautou’s gamine-esque charm, the film’s pictorial pleasures, and the enduring need for a cinematic equivalent of a comfort blanket. It’s a little twee, but a joy nonetheless.

Shrek

Upon discovering his swamp is overrun by refugees from Disney cartoons, ogre Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) makes a deal to secure the deed by finding a bride (Cameron Diaz) for a wicked king (John Lithgow), but true love interferes with his mission. Eddie Murphy voiced Shrek’s talking donkey companion. Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jensen’s computer-animated Shrek (2001) is the funniest entry in a franchise that wore out its welcome, but—truth be told—its jokes are a little too smug. That doesn’t mean kids shouldn’t enjoy the fairy tale at face value.

“Shrek”
“Shrek” | © DreamWorks Pictures

God’s Own Country

Francis Lee’s semi-autobiographical British drama, his debut as writer-director, has understandably been compared with Brokeback Mountain (2005). Josh O’Connor plays a young sheep farmer who, on his ailing father’s farm in the Yorkshire Dales, becomes involved with a Romanian migrant worker (Alec Secareanu). There’s no faulting the film’s earthy tang. Ian Hart and Gemma Jones co-star.

May 4

A Little Help with Carol Burnett

The trailer for this 12-part series suggests the redoubtable 85-year-old comedienne will be tackling the new-fangled world of selfies and Instagram with the help of some tech-savvy tykes. Burnett is a spiky wonder, so let’s hope the show gets renewed.

Anon

Clive Owen stars as a cop seeking a murderous femme fatale-cum-hacker (Amanda Seyfried) who has managed to go anonymous in a future in which technology has made anonymity obsolete. To break the case, Owen’s character may have to blow the whistle on the government. Director Andrew Niccol has described his stylish thriller as “Cambridge Analytica on crack.”

End Game

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s documentary examines the compassionate work of doctors and carers committed to helping terminally ill patients end their lives with maximum grace and minimal suffering.

“End Game”
“End Game” | © Netflix

Manhunt

Manhunt rigorously details the search of FBI profiler Jim Fitzgerald (Sam Worthington) for Ted Kaczynski (Paul Bettany), the US domestic terrorist known as the Unabomber. A Harvard-educated math prodigy, Kaczynski was a nature-loving, anti-technology anarchist whose 17-year reign of terror left three dead and 23 injured. He was finally apprehended in 1996. This gripping eight-parter, thematically reminiscent of David Fincher’s movie Zodiac (2007), focuses on Fitzgerald’s use of linguistic analysis and psychological evaluation to snare his prey.

Paul Bettany as the Unabomber in “Manhunt”
Paul Bettany as the Unabomber in “Manhunt” | © Discovery Channel

The Rain

Netflix’s first Danish series is set mostly in a post-apocalyptic Scandinavia where most of the populations has been wiped out by a deadly virus: a single drop of rain on the skin is enough to kill another victim. Alba August, the daughter of actress Pernilla August and director Bille August, has an evolving role as a former high-schooler, Simone, who must protect her younger brother Rasmus (Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen). Mikkel Følsgaard plays the leader of a group of scavengers who leaves the siblings locked up.

May 5

Faces Places

New Wave veteran Agnès Varda and photo-muralist JR make wonderfully engaging company as they traverse France taking large-format portraits of locals—the photos spat from a slot in JR’s van—and post them in situ to be eaten by the elements. Here is our review of this sublime documentary.

May 10

Safe

Michael C. Hall plays a widowed English pediatric surgeon whose teenaged daughter goes missing in this eight-part thriller written by suspense novelist Harlan Coben. Secrets known to adults and millennials alike flow thick and fast from the posh gated community where the family lives. Amanda Abbington co-stars.

Amanda Abbington and Michael C. Hall in “Safe”
Amanda Abbington and Michael C. Hall in “Safe” | © Netflix

May 11

Evil Genius

Subtitled “The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist,” Evil Genius is a four-part documentary that investigates a bizarre series of crimes that unfolded in Erie, Pennsylvania in August 2003. Pizza delivery man Brian Wells died after robbing a bank when the explosive collar locked around his neck detonated while he was in police custody. Wells, who was implicated in the plot, had been set up by its mastermind, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, and a co-conspirator, Kenneth Barnes, both of whom were indicted.

May 15

Only God Forgives

Ryan Gosling plays Julian, an expat American underworld figure in Bangkok, whose older brother Billy (Tom Burke) rapes and murders an underage prostitute and is himself executed by a lordly police lieutenant (Vithaya Pansringarm). “Perverted” and “ferocious” inadequately describes Julian and Billy’s Lady Macbeth-like mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), who demands Julian avenge his sibling’s demise. Director Nicholas Winding Refn’s twisted and luridly neon-lit neo-noir reinforced his reputation for favoring style over substance.

Ryan Gosling in “Only God Forgives”
Ryan Gosling in “Only God Forgives” | © RADIUS-TWC

May 16

Mamma Mia!

The news that Abba has recorded two new songs after a hiatus of 35 years should boost viewing figures for Phyllida Lloyd’s 2008 movie of the 1999 stage musical. It’s about a bride (Amanda Seyfried) who hasn’t told mom (Meryl Streep) that she’s invited to her Greek island wedding three candidates (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård) for her paternity. The songs, at least, are good.

Meryl Streep in “Mamma Mia!”
Meryl Streep in “Mamma Mia!” | © Universal Pictures

May 18

Cargo

A pandemic has struck Australia, zombies are on the loose, and a father (Martin Freeman) adrift in the Outback must seek protection for his baby daughter. Yet another post-apocalyptic drama from Netflix, this one is a single movie that features the veteran Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil.

May 24

Riverdale: Season 2

The CW’s teen drama series, based on the Archie Comics characters, draws on the likes of River’s Edge (1986), The Sweet Hereafter (1997), and especially Twin Peaks; chapters are named for films or shows that influenced them. At its heart is the love triangle involving red-headed high-school football player Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), the smart girl next door Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), and newcomer socialite Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes); Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), Archie’s bohemian-outcast best friend, makes four. At the end of season 1, Archie witnessed his dad Fred (Luke Perry) being shot by a masked gunman. Season 2 starts with him rushing Fred to hospital and the gang assembling to solve the crime.

May 25

Ibiza

Harper (Gillian Jacobs) takes her two best friends (Vanessa Bayer, Phoebe Robinson) on a business trip to Barcelona, falls for a hot DJ (Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden), and then hauls the girls off to Ibiza as she pursues him. Amid jokes about semen and bird excrement, expect SNL alum Bayer to get most off the laughs.

Phoebe Robinson, Gillian Jacobs, and Vanessa Bayer in “Ibiza”
Phoebe Robinson, Gillian Jacobs, and Vanessa Bayer in “Ibiza” | © Netflix

May 26

Sara’s Notebook

Belén Rueda (who won a Goya for her performance in The Sea Inside (2004)) stars as a Madrid lawyer who must travel through war-torn Congo in search of her missing sister. There’s more than a touch of Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness about this spectacular Spanish adventure-drama directed by Norberto López Amado.

Belén Rueda in “Sara’s Notebook”
Belén Rueda in “Sara’s Notebook” | © The Walt Disney Company Iberia

May 27

The Break With Michelle Wolf

A mixture of hilarious and cringe-inducing, Wolf’s speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner was treasurable for its audacity. It should up the ante for the former Daily Show writer’s new talk show. Don’t expect Sarah Huckabee or Kellyanne Conway to be among the guests.

May 29

Coco

In Santa Cecilia, Mexico, 12-year-old Miguel is transported to the Land of the Dead, where he meets his deceased great-great grandfather. Deserved winner of this year’s Academy Award for Best Animated Picture, Coco is Pixar’s best film for years. Told with visual aplomb and sensitivity to the Mexican Day of the Dead, it has an especially moving story and features excellent songs, including Kristin Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez’s Oscar-winning “Remember Me.”

May 30

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season 4

Eternally optimistic cult survivor Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) continues to negotiate New York in the latest six episodes of the streaming service’s most beloved sitcom. (We’ll have to wait until later in the year for the next half of the season.) Carol Kane, Tituss Burgess, and Jane Krakowski co-star and Instagram sensation Busy Philips makes a guest appearance. Tina Fey, who is the subject of a David Letterman interview on Netflix on May 4, created Kimmy with Robert Carlock.

Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” | © Netflix

May 31

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

This movie star documentary with a difference recounts how, during World War II, the glamorous Lamarr invented and patented a torpedo anti-tracking and anti-jamming system with her avant-garde composer friend George Antheil. Read our review here.