Sometimes a film goes in exactly the direction you’re expecting and hits every predictable beat, but in spite of all that it still manages to entertain and move you.
CODA (AppleTV+) is precisely that kind of movie, but does it all of those things so well and with such confidence, you’re powerless to resist its charms.
British actress Emilia Jones plays Ruby Rossi, the only hearing person in her deaf family (CODA stands for ‘child of deaf adults’).
She’s a hugely talented singer and dreams of going to music school but finds her ambitions always taking a backseat to helping her family, whose fishing business is struggling and on the brink of collapse.
If you have an ounce of sense, that premise should be setting off alarm bells of cheese. A girl from a deaf family who just wants to sing? And her parents are unable to hear her incredible talents? Cue the violins and pass me a sick bucket …
I’m the most cynical (read: cold-hearted) viewer when it comes to films like this but CODA completely won me over.
Emilia Jones is the star of CODA
Emilia Jones – who I was surprised to discover is actually Aled Jones’ daughter – feels like a star in the making and she’s so endearing as Ruby that it’s hard not to instantly root for her and feel for everything she’s up against.
The Massachusetts harbour setting is nicely portrayed too, in particular a sub-plot involving the fishermen’s constant battles with quotas and red tape, which will surely resonate for folk in this neck of the woods.
Maybe I’m just getting old and sentimental, or maybe the film caught me at just the right time, but I was shocked – SHOCKED I tell you – just how much I enjoyed it.
Yes, the heartwarming ending seems predetermined from almost the first frame, but with CODA it’s best to worry less about the destination and just enjoy its delightful journey.
Powerful end to one of TV’s best dramas
The last of Dominic Savage’s I Am… trilogy was broadcast on Channel 4 this week and what a treat I Am Maria was.
There was a touch of the Alan Bennetts about this week’s instalment, which starred Lesley Manville as a 65-year-old woman questioning the value of her seemingly happy life.
Touching upon themes that should resonate with everyone – not just women in their 60s – it really felt like they’d saved the best for last.
Savage has now made six of these standalone female-led semi-improvised dramas and I see no reason why the I Am… format couldn’t be a regular strand on television for years to come.
The White Lotus will make you squirm
Although I’ve only seen the first episode, I can tell already that The White Lotus (Sky Atlantic) is going to grip in the same way Big Little Lies did.
Like that series, The White Lotus is a satire of the privileged and pampered – in this case the guests of a luxury Hawaiian hotel.
And just as Big Little Lies announced from the outset that one of the main characters was going to die, this show does the same – the question for viewers is who is going to bite the dust.
How much time you are willing to spend in the company of such self-obsessed rich folk is down to personal choice but I have faith in writer/director Mike White – one of the best in the business, and whose work is as likely to make you squirm as it is smile.
If The White Lotus doesn’t land for you, then maybe Nicole Kidman’s new Amazon Prime series Nine Perfect Strangers will be more to your taste.
Rather than the guests of a luxury hotel this one involves the super-rich seeking enlightenment at a high-end wellness retreat (run by Kidman’s new-age guru).
It’s all a bit camp and a bit silly but for pure escapism it’s hard to beat.
Film of the week: Wolfgang (Disney+)
Just because there isn’t a great deal of depth in the new documentary profiling chef Wolfgang Puck, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time.
If you’re a fan of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, this profile of the Austrian-born superchef will more than satisfy your hunger for an interesting origin story and loads of mouthwatering food photography.
Puck never really became a big name on these shores, but he revolutionised food culture in America thanks to his famed Hollywood hangout Spago’s.
If there’s a weakness in David Gelb’s film it’s that he somewhat glosses over the negative side effects of Puck’s ascendance on his family.
There are hints at it, but I think that would probably darken the tone of what’s a very celebratory film about a man who literally came from nothing and built a food empire.
Read our other TV reviews below: