New feature starting with my weekend TV top 3, In no particular order…
Cast: Keisha Castle-Hughes as Paikea, Rawiri Paratene as Koro, and Vicky Haughton as Nanny Flowers
Summary: On the east coast of New Zealand, the Whangara people believe their presence there dates back a thousand years or more to a single ancestor, Paikea, who escaped death when his canoe capsized by riding to shore on the back of a whale. From then on, Whangara chiefs, always the first-born, always male, have been considered Paikea’s direct descendants. Pai, an 11-year-old girl in a patriarchal New Zealand Maori tribe, believes she is destined to be the new chief. But her grandfather Koro believes he is bound by tradition to pick a male leader, and refuses to see his grandaughter as an option and he continues to search and for a new male leader amongst her friends. Pai loves Koro more than anyone in the world, but she must fight him and a thousand years of tradition to fulfill her destiny.
Why you should watch: This is a film that is timeless and will make you laugh and cry. There are times when your heart will break for Pai, while you want to scream at her grandfather for his damned obstinacy and treatment of her.
Trivia: Keisha Castle-Hughes is in fact scared of water and not a strong swimmer, some of her scenes had to be done by a stand-in.
Cast: Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Wraysford, Clemence Poesy is Isabelle Azaire, Joseph Mawle is Jack Firebrace, Richard Madden is Weir, Laurent Lafitte is Rene Azaire, Matthew Goode is Captain Gray, Anthony Andrews is Colonel Barclay and Marie Josee Croze is Jeanne Fourmentier.
Summary: BBC One’s adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’s modern classic, Birdsong, is adapted by Bafta award-winning Abi Morgan (The Hour, Iron Lady), the two parter spans the decade of the First World War, telling the story of Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman who, in 1910, arrives in Amiens, Northern France, to stay with the Azaire family and falls desperately in love with Isabelle Azaire.
They begin an illicit and all-consuming affair, with huge consequences for them both. Years later in 1916, Stephen finds himself serving on the Western Front in the very area where he experienced his great love. As he battles amidst the horror of the trenches he meets Jack Firebrace, a tunneller who unexpectedly helps him endure the ravages of war and enables him to make peace with his feelings for Isabelle, who he is destined to meet again.
Why you should watch: Visually stunning, it’s the first ever adaption of the book for TV, and although changes the narrative of the book it interweaves the story of love and war surprisingly well.
(You might want to record this one if it’s too late for you)
Cast: James McAvoy is Rory O’Shea, Romola Garai is Siobhan, Steven Robertson plays Michael Connolly and Brenda Fricker is Eileen.
Summary: Michael is a 24-year-old who has cerebral palsy and long-term resident of the Carrigmore Residential Home for the Disabled, run by the formidable Eileen. His life is transformed when the maverick Rory O’Shea moves in. Michael is stunned to discover that fast talking Rory, who can move only his right hand, can understand his almost unintelligible speech. Rory’s dynamic and rebellious nature soon sparks a flame in Michael, introducing him to a whole new world outside of Carrigmore, with the help of carer Siobhan.
Why you should watch: Just like Whale Rider it will have you laughing and crying, and you see James McAvoy as you’ve never seen him before. Stunning performances by all too.
Trivia: Originally, James McAvoy wanted to audition for the part of Michael until he auditioned with Steven Robertson and realized Robertson would be better at the part.