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The 8 most underrated films of January, and where to watch them

Here's a list of the best films to watch this January, ranging from a restored hidden gem and a groundbreaking animated short to a Malayalam horror film and a stunning debut feature.

The top 8 films to watch this January, and where you can find them.

January may be the ‘dumping ground month’ for American studios, but for the rest of us, it’s when we get to watch some of the most acclaimed releases of the past year. Films that are at the centre of awards season conversation are unveiled to audiences around the world in the days and weeks leading up to the nominations, which means that for movie fans, January is always packed with options.

But while you probably need no help in finding your way to the biggest Oscar favourites this year, here’s a list of some of the more underrated releases that you can watch this month, ranging from a restored hidden gem to a ground-breaking animated short.

Bhoothakaalam – SonyLIV

The title card for Bhoothakaalam.

Director Rahul Sadasivan’s chillingly effective, zero-frills thriller is a masterclass in horror filmmaking. Narrative lean but thematically dense, Bhoothakaalam builds towards one of the most memorable horror climaxes in recent memory—it’s a real clutter-breaker in a genre that is in near-constant need of retooling.

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Boiling Point – Available to rent and purchase in the US, UK

The title card for Boiling Point.

We’ve seen several ‘one-shot’ movies, but few are able to escape the gimmicky nature of the endeavour. Directed by Philip Barantini and starring a phenomenal Stephen Graham in the lead role as a gifted head chef, the recently BAFTA nominated Boiling Point unfolds in real time over the course of a particularly harrowing dinner service at one of London’s poshest restaurants. Overwhelmed from all sides by nosy health inspectors, lackadaisical staff, rowdy guests and unknown personal demons, Graham’s Andy Jones is such a compelling character to watch that you almost forget the technological magic trick of the single-take being performed before your eyes.

The Fallout – Amazon Prime Video

The title card for The Fallout.

Morgan Clark seamlessly combines two genres that you normally wouldn’t expect to go together in her searing directorial debut. Part high school movie and part socially conscious drama, The Fallout is a quiet little film about a uniquely American issue that needs to be spoken about loudly. When a shooter targets her school, a teenage girl forms an unlikely bond with a fellow survivor who happened to be with her when the incident happened. Aided by a dreamy score by Finneas O’Connell (the very same), The Fallout makes for a deeply affecting double-bill with the next film on this list.

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Mass – Available to rent and purchase in the US, streaming on Sky Go in the UK

The title card for Mass.

Another feature debut, Mass couldn’t be more stylistically different from The Fallout, despite the obvious thematic overlap. Written and directed by Fran Kranz, the film is essentially a chamber piece featuring four actors—Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton play the parents of a teenager who was killed in a high school shooting, and Reed Birney and Ann Dowd play the parents of the perpetrator. With unresolved grief and simmering anger, they sit across a table and hash out their differences. Mass isn’t an easy watch, but it’s tremendously cathartic. Kranz has a bright future ahead of him, not just as a filmmaker with a very unique style, but also as a writer with a fresh voice.

The Windshield Wiper – IGTV

The title card for The Windshield Wiper.

The jaw-droppingly gorgeous short by animation maverick Alberto Mielgo has ambition that defies its 15 minute length. Unafraid to tackle the big questions—“What is love?” a man asks in its opening moments—the film captures the length and breadth of the human experience in less time than it would take for your Dominos order to arrive. Having toiled on it for six years, Mielgo has made a slightly censored cut available on his IGTV, with the uncut version available to watch on the Short of the Week YouTube channel.

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The Novice – Available to rent and purchase in the US

The title card for The Novice.

Yet another blistering debut, championed by none other than Zack Snyder himself, The Novice can essentially be described as Whiplash set in the world of competitive college rowing. Lauren Hadaway (who worked on Whiplash and Justice League, by the way) directs the entire thing like some sort of dark fantasy, and star Isabelle Fuhrman makes good on the promise she made with Orphan all those years ago. Had the Academy been more respectful of genre films, she’d easily be a part of awards season discourse.

Munich — The Edge of War – Netflix

The title card for Munich – The Edge of War.

The almost unbearably tense historical spy film, directed by Christian Schwochow, is the definition of a dad movie. No wonder, then, that it is based on a Robert Harris novel. As the title suggests, the film is set in the days leading up to World War II, but don’t expect high-stakes action or James Bond-style spectacle here. Munich — The Edge of War subverts the genre by putting the future of the world not in the hands of leaders—which it also does—but two idealistic youngsters trapped in the bureaucracy of middle-management. It’s terrifyingly relevant and thrillingly staged, mostly because you know exactly what is at stake. And what we stand to collectively lose.

The Hand – MUBI

The title card for The Hand.

MUBI’s terrific retrospective of newly restored versions of Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai’s films has been so engaging to watch over the last few weeks. But while it’s perfectly understandable of you to gravitate towards classics such as Chungking Express or In the Mood for Love, I urge you to watch The Hand—which has settled into a largely ignored corner of Wong’s filmography, mostly because it was a part of a larger anthology titled Eros, which also featured segments by Steven Soderbergh and Michelangelo Antonioni. A story about unrequited love set in 1960s Hong Kong, The Hand marked Wong’s return to the lyrical visual style of In the Mood for Love; its availability on MUBI—the extended version, no less—presents Wong completists with the perfect opportunity to check it off their watch-lists.

First published on: 05-02-2022 at 08:15:05 am
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