11 Movies to See in November: From 'Small Axe' To 'Happiest Season'

Well, at least we still have movies – even if theaters are still relatively no-go zones. For all its ensuing stress, November has a strong list of films on its slate, some of which have already built significant buzz following rounds on the film festival circuit this year (some of which even premiered in 2019, approximately 20 years ago.) In the line-up, there’s a return of David Fincher, some of the finest animation in recent years, leading performances from perennial favorite Carrie Coon, and Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan as lovers. It is simply beyond us that we’re already at the end of the year where, in any other timeline, we’d be fully immersed in the Oscar race at this point. That said, there’s still plenty to look forward to film-wise, which is something we all could use right now as a means of escapism. 

READ MORE: The Best Films Of 2020… So Far

Cast: Jack O’Connell, Charlie Hunnam, Jessica Barden 
Synopsis: A bare-knuckle boxer reluctantly travels across the country with his brother for one last fight.
What You Need to Know: For a while there, it seemed like Jack O’Connell was poised to be the next big thing. From star-making performances in “Starred Up” and “‘71” to a lead role in the Angelina Jolie directed film “Unbroken,” O’Connell is both a terrific, versatile actor as well as someone capable of leading man status. That said, O’Connell has seemingly preferred under the radar roles since, such as the case with his upcoming project, “Jungleland.” Starring alongside Charlie Hunnam, the film is directed by Max Winkler, whose last film was the 2017 “Flower,” starring Zoey Deutch. Our critic who saw it at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival praised the acting but called it “monotonous” and “frustrating,” writing, “Viewers more interested in performance and mood likely won’t mind. But it’s a pretty big ask for everyone else.”
Release Date: November 10.

Cast: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Fiona Shaw
Synopsis: Mary, a paleontologist, works alone selling common fossils to tourists. A chance job offer changes Mary’s life when a visitor hires her to care for his wife.
What You Need to Know: Each piece of “Ammonite” should make for a prestige, awards-worthy film experience. Director Frances Lee directed the criminally underappreciated “God’s Own Country” in 2017, a tender, isolated love story that perfectly sets up his latest. Along with a great vision behind the camera, “Ammonite” stars powerhouse performances by Kate Winslet and Saorise Ronan as the women at the heart of the film’s romance. Despite all the components that should make for an all-around stunner, the film so far has left critics split, with some finding the film too cold. Our critic who saw it at TIFF wrote “Ammonite” is no biopic. But thanks to Winslet’s intricate and impressively physical performance, one leaves it almost wishing that it was one, feeling even more curious about the real Anning who gets buried here under a well-intentioned fictional love story and the film’s undeniable overall chill.”
Release Date: November 13.

Cast: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Dance, Lily Collins 
Synopsis: 1930s Hollywood is reevaluated through the eyes of scathing wit and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish “Citizen Kane.”
What You Need to Know: Due to his short-lived time as the creator of the Netflix series “Mindhunter” it’s surprising to remember that the last film he directed was six years ago with the pulpy “Gone Girl.” He’s returning this year in a big way with “Mank,” a film that details the screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he wrote “Citizen Kane” and the troubles that arose between him and Orson Welles, as well as problems he faced in his own personal life. The first reactions have been positive so far, especially for the look of the film and sound design along with a surprise standout performance by Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies.
Release Date: The film will make a limited theatrical run in November (Nov 13 to be precise) before hitting Netflix on December 4. 

Come Away”  
Cast: Angelina Jolie, David Oyelowo, Anna Chancellor
Synopsis: Peter Pan and his sister, Alice, embark on adventures to Neverland and Wonderland.
What You Need to Know: There’s a never-ending wealth of storytelling possibilities for the classic tales “Peter Pan” and “Alice in Wonderland,” it would seem, especially when you figure in the stories that can be made/have been made about the stories creators troubled lives. “Come Away” is yet another adaptation of these famous characters as the two work together to help their parents, played by Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo, as they face the grief of losing their eldest son. Brenda Chapman directed the film with Marissa Kate Goodhill behind the script. Chapman is best known for her work directing Pixar’s Brave” and co-directing “The Prince of Egypt.” Both films display a confident eye for complex familial relationships and beauty within fantastical stories. 
Release Date: November 13.

Cast: Honor Kneafsey, Sean Bean, Eva Whittaker
Synopsis: In a time of superstition and magic, a 17th-century hunter has a change of heart when she travels to Ireland to help her father wipe out the last pack of wolves.
What You Need to Know: Director Tomm Moore has produced some of the finest examples of modern animation. With films “The Secret of Kells” and “Song of the Sea” already under his belt, he, along with co-director Ross Stewart returns with some of his most gorgeous animation to date with the film “Wolfwalkers.” The film offers both tremendous performances by the entire cast and detailed, world-building animation that is lush and vibrant in a way that demonstrates why 2D animation is something to be fought for. Our critic wrote, “Not only is “Wolfwalkers” easily the best-animated film of the year, but a stirring masterwork, as stunningly gorgeous as it’s philosophically profound.”
Release Date: November 13.

The Climb
Cast: Michael Angelo Covino, Kyle Marvin, Gayle Rankin
Synopsis: Two lifelong pals test the boundaries of their friendship when a woman comes between them.
What You Need to Know: Directed by Michael Angelo Covino as his first feature-length film, “The Climb” is a confident debut that won raves at its world premiere at Cannes 2019. Along with Kyle Marvin, Covino also co-wrote and co-starred in the film, which reconfigures the relationship drama as the characters at the center deal with the fallout caused by infidelity by adding much-needed humor. The film may have made its debut way before COVID-19 social distancing, but its message about social bonding will feel all the more timely because of it. Our critic, who saw the film at the festival, wrote, “Covino’s attentiveness to the intensely human factor, to the strangely magnetic pull between these two buddies, keeps a recursive narrative from ever going stale.”
Release Date: November 13.

Cast: Sarah Paulson, Kiera Allen
Synopsis: An isolated teen discovers her mother’s sinister secret.
What You Need to Know: In 2018, director Aneesh Chaganty proved with “Searching” that a story told through phone and computer screens could be done well (though some may argue to what level of success.) That said, even if you weren’t on board with Chaganty’s first film, the level of innovativeness was apparent, making his latest film “Run” starring Sarah Paulson one we’ve been keeping an eye on. Paulson is perfect casting to play the overbearing mother with a dark secret she’s keeping, having led many a horror series in the past few years from “American Horror Story” to “Ratched,” and it will be interesting to see her lead another unsettling role outside of the Ryan Murphy universe.  
Release Date: November 20 on Hulu.

Sound of Metal
Cast: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Mathieu Amalric, Paul Raci
Synopsis: A heavy-metal drummer’s life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.
What You Need to Know: Riz Ahmed has been an actor that has been described as “on the rise” for a while now. From his head turning and empathetic performance in “Nightcrawler” that would have been eaten up by Jake Gyllenhaal’s larger than life turn by any lesser actor, to the leading role in the HBO drama “The Night Of,” Ahmed has slowly been making a name for himself in Hollywood as a major talent. “Sound of Metal” allows him to deliver his strongest and most visceral performance yet in one of 2020’s best films to date. Directed by Darius Marder and co-written by Marder and Abraham Marder, “Sound of Metal” is an uncompromising look at loss, as well as an enormously confident debut by a first-time narrative feature-length director, whose other directing credit, goes to a 2008 documentary “Loot.” The film has been gaining buzz as it’s circled the festival circuits. Our critic saw it at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival and wrote, “…Marder believes devoutly in the power of actors and acting, preferring to get out of the way and let them show their stuff. Ahmed returns the favor by delivering career-best work by a wide margin, letting out all his ferocity and vulnerability as if from a freshly lanced boil.”
Release Date: November 20.

Hillbilly Elegy
Cast: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso
Synopsis: A Yale Law student drawn back to his Appalachian hometown reflects on his family’s history and his own future.
What You Need to Know:  Considering the attention J.D. Vance’s novel received when it was released in 2016 and the natural drama his story presented, it was almost a no brainer to assume that it would be adapted into a film. That film, directed by Ron Howard and written by Vanessa Taylor, looks ridiculous, so leaning into the idea of self-parody that it could be an SNL bit. Perhaps it’s unfair to judge a trailer too harshly (or it’s poster), but so far, “Hillbilly Elegy” looks like it was built off of a “how to be an Oscar-bait film” guide. Amy Adams and Glenn Close star in the film in two very attention-grabbing roles, and while Howard has certainly delivered plenty of strong films throughout his career, we’re hesitant to see what he makes of his latest adaptation that will need a miracle to surpass the expectations set by the first melodramatic trailer. Fans of the book might need to settle for a re-read. 
Release Date: November 24 on Netflix.

Happiest Season
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Dan Levy, Aubrey Plaza
Synopsis: A young woman with a plan to propose to her girlfriend while at her family’s annual holiday party discovers her partner hasn’t yet come out to her conservative parents.
What You Need to Know: What better way to ring in the holiday season than with a Kristen Stewart-led romantic comedy that’s directed by Clea Duvall? “Happiest Season” marks the filmmaker’s second film, her first being the 2016 “The Intervention,” and her pairing with Stewart seems like a perfect one. Written by Duvall and Mary Holland, the film doesn’t yet have a trailer despite being released this month but, that said, the cast alone which, along with Stewart, includes Mackenzie Davis, Dan Levy in his first role since ending “Schitt’s Creek,” Aubrey Plaza and Duvall herself, is enough to convince us of watching. 
Release Date: November 25 on Hulu. 

Uncle Frank”
Cast: Sophia Lillis, Paul Bettany, Steve Zahn
Synopsis: Accompanied by his teenage niece, a gay literature professor reluctantly returns home to attend his father’s funeral.
What You Need to Know:  Best known for his work on series such as “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood,” director Alan Ball returns to film for his second feature following the 2007 film “Towelhead.” The film had its premiere at the 2020 Sundance, where it was praised for its set design and how it captured the 70’s. Our critic who saw the film at this year’s AFI Film Festival, however, commended the acting but found the story lacking, writing “Still, “Uncle Frank” is an exhibit-A example of how even a great lead performance can’t save a film that doesn’t know what subtext is.”
Release Date: November 25 on Amazon.

Small Axe
Cast: Letitia Wright, John Boyega, Alex Jennings
Synopsis: An anthology comprised of five original films telling personal stories from London’s West Indian community.
What You Need To Know: Though some sites are considering Steve McQueen‘s “Small Axe” anthology as a TV mini-series, the filmmaker himself has called this a series of films, so we’re counting it as such. A new McQueen film is always worth checking out, but to get five of them all in one package makes this a must-see for November. Reviews for the films have praised McQueen’s intimate storytelling, and particularly the stellar performances by Letitia Wright in “Mangrove,” and John Boyega in “Red, White And Blue,” which our review called unafraid and challenging.
Release Date: November 20 on Amazon.