Three best films to stream this week – and where to find them

Poor Things, Past Lives and The Worst Person in the World are three critically acclaimed cinematic romances to stream at home now.
Streaming Disney + Poor Things

If you’re tired of serialised drama and looking for a hit of pure cinema, these three critically acclaimed films, all released in the last couple of years, will take you somewhere new. All very different, these films place complex female characters centre stage, giving them unpredictable but satisfying arcs.

Poor Things (Disney+)

Genre: Arthouse/Science Fiction-Fantasy/Romance.

Emma Stone deservedly won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in this 2023 science-fantasy romance, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite, Killing of a Sacred Deer) and written by Australian Tony McNamara (The Great). Stone also produced the film, which is based on the novel of the same name by Scottish writer Alasdair Gray.

The film follows the incredible and fantastical evolution of Bella Baxter (Stone), a young woman brought back to life by the unorthodox and somewhat grotesque scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe). Under Baxter’s protection, Bella is eager to learn and quickly grows from baby steps to sophistication. Hungry for the worldliness she’s lacking, she runs off with Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), a slimy, debonair and debauched lawyer, on a whirlwind adventure across continents. Free from the prejudices of her times (and ours), Bella grows in knowledge and wisdom and pursues equality and liberation.

What the critics said: With a 92% fresh rating on critics’ aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Poor Things was praised for its weird wildness, its wit and audacity, and its ability to comment on the sexual politics of our time from a fantasy vantage point.

ScreenHub reviewer Stephen A Russell gave it five stars and said: ‘It’s a treasure to traverse this fantastic realm, conjured by set designers Shona Heath and James Price, and captured by The Favourite cinematographer Robbie Ryan, favouring fish lenses when Bella is captive and panoramic wonder when set free. Stone once again proves to be more than a match for Lanthimos’ beguilingly odd odyssey through cinema. To borrow from James Whale’s 1935 black and white masterpiece Bride of Frankenstein: ‘She’s alive! Alive!’

Why we love it: The liberation of Frankenstein’s daughter-bride! The hair, the makeup, the puffy sleeves! Poor Things also won Oscars for hair and makeup, costume design and production design. It’s simply gorgeous and otherworldly.

How to stream Poor Things? Find it on Disney+.

Read: Poor Things film review: a fabulous feminist odyssey

The Worst Person in the World (SBS on Demand)

Genre: European Arthouse/Comedy/Drama/Romance.

This 2021 romantic comedy drama is third film in Danish-Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s ‘Oslo trilogy’ (alongside Reprise, 2006; and Oslo, August 31, 2011) but each film stands alone.

In this contemporary coming-of-age tale, a young woman, Julie, battles indecisiveness as she tries out different study paths and romantic options, lurching from one man to the next and discovering herself and her values along the way. The film spans four years of Julie’s life in Oslo, and questions of motherhood and vocation are ever-present as those around her pressure her for clarity.

The film stars Renate Reinsve, who won the award for Best Actress at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival for her vivacious and tender depiction. She appears alongside Anders Danielson Lie as the comic book artist 15 years her senior, and Herbert Nordrum as the younger more relaxed man she meets when she gatecrashes a wedding – which is surely the standout scene in the film.

What the critics said: The Worst Person in the World was nominated for Best International Feature Film and Best Original Screenplay at the 94th Academy Awards, and the consensus on Rotten Tomatoes was 96% fresh. Critics delighted in the way the film subverts the usual romantic comedy tropes.

Why we love it: The seduction scene where Julie almost but doesn’t quite cheat on her partner is romantic tension at its freshest. Also, the characters in Julie’s extended social circle are painted in swift strokes that give a picture of certain types, from the unhappily married older couples to the yoga-posing influencer who discovers her Sami heritage.

How to watch The Worst Person in the World: Stream it for free on SBS on Demand.

Past Lives (Binge/Foxtel/Amazon Prime/Google Play)

Genre: Romantic Drama.

Past Lives is the semi-autobiographical feature debut of Korean-American writer-director Celine Song. It covers 24 years in the lives of two childhood friends who drift apart and come back together over the years and across the divide between North America and Korea.

Nora and Hae Sung are two deeply connected childhood friends, separated after Nora’s family emigrates from South Korea. Two decades later, they are reunited in New York for one week as they confront notions of destiny, love, and the choices and geographical distances that define what’s possible.

The film stars Greta Lee as adult Nora, the sparky, ambitious New York-based writer, and Teo Yoo as the very earnest Korean engineer making his first big overseas trip. Watching their reconnection across languages and cultures is bittersweet, funny and poignant.

What the critics said: Past Lives premiered at Sundance 2023 to critical acclaim and was nominated for Best International Film and Best Original Screenplay at the 94th Academy Awards. On Rotten Tomatoes the film received a 94% fresh rating with critics praising its sensitivity, subtlety and mature depiction of love and relationships.

Why we love it: The subdued colour palette and understated cinematography set off the performances perfectly. This is a melancholy film that some may find too quiet, but it’s not in any way inaccessible. Past Lives is poetic and often serene, and will appeal to all of us who live far away from the people we loved in our formative years.

How to watch Past Lives: Stream it on Binge, Foxtel, Amazon Prime or buy it on Google Play.

Read: Past Lives portrays lost love and identity in the Korean diaspora

Rochelle Siemienowicz is the ArtsHub Group's Education and Career Editor. She is a journalist for Screenhub and is a writer, film critic and cultural commentator with a PhD in Australian cinema. She was the co-host of Australia's longest-running film podcast 'Hell is for Hyphenates' and has written a memoir, Fallen, published by Affirm Press. Her second book, Double Happiness, a novel, will be published by Midnight Sun in 2024. Instagram: @Rochelle_Rochelle Twitter: @Milan2Pinsk