Despite most attention having been diverted to the Oscars in March—not entirely for all the right reasons—it was still a relatively lean month in terms of new films. Most of the top contenders at the Academy Awards had already been released, and movie theatres were dominated by big-ticket releases vying for your cash. But as always, there were more than a handful of films that slipped under the radar.
March’s picks include a holdover gem featuring a trio of fine performances, a sweeping family saga on the year’s most successful streaming platform, a lowkey documentary short about a bygone era and playful social satire that every millennial will relate to.
Without any further ado, here’s the list, in no specific order:
Love Hostel — ZEE5
Yes, director Shanker Raman’s latest tailspin into the depths of deranged human minds was released in February, but because it arrived right at the end of the month, there wasn’t enough time to gauge whether or not it could qualify as ‘underrated’. As those who’ve seen the gruesome social thriller would know, it was a toss-up. Love Hostel could’ve attracted a new wave of rage against producer Shah Rukh Khan, or it could’ve gone completely unnoticed, like so many other gems that have been dropped directly on streaming. Fortunately or unfortunately, the second scenario panned out. That being said, if you’re a fan of genre cinema, be sure to give it a shot.
Pachinko — Apple TV+
As always, anything that releases on Apple TV+ automatically qualifies as underrated, simply because nobody subscribes to the service. But perhaps things will change this year, after back-to-back brilliant shows, and a record-setting Oscar win. Co-directed by Kogonada and Justin Chon—and based on the epic novel by Min Jin Lee—Pachinko is a lush drama about four generations of a single Korean immigrant family, and their struggles to find their identity in an ever-changing socio-political landscape.
After Yang — Showtime in the US
It’s Kogonada’s time. The enigmatic filmmaker brought his signature emotional stillness to Pachinko, but to experience it in full effect, you must watch his lowkey science-fiction drama After Yang. It’s perhaps as humanistic a story about the future as Mark Romanek’s genre classic Never Let Me Go. About a family coming to terms with the ‘death’ of their house robot, the film asks all the big questions, but never loses sight of its characters in its attempts to answer them.
Fresh — Hulu in the US
But there’s nothing understated about Fresh, the wild directorial debut of Mimi Cave. Like Ready or Not meets Aamis, Fresh is a gory satire about sexual assault and toxic masculinity that may or may not work for everybody. But stars Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones certainly help some of the more unsavoury elements of the story go down.
The Last Music Store — MUBI
Directed by Megha Ramaswamy, this 30-minute documentary short chronicles the final days of an iconic Mumbai music store, through the lens of its long-serving staff and charming old owners. The film not only functions as a snapshot of a very particular time, but also serves as a wistfully romantic ode to the days gone by, and a stirring tribute to the power of the human spirit.
Writing with Fire — Available to rent and buy in the US, and to stream on BBC iPlayer in the UK
Nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category at this year’s Oscars—yep, the one which was announced seconds after ‘Slapgate’—directors Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh’s brilliant documentary is deceptively sweeping in the range of issues that it addresses. Yes, it chronicles the rise of thrice-oppressed Dalit women running a newspaper in Uttar Pradesh, but rather mischievously, it also documents the rise and rise of the Hindu right wing.