The SheerLuxe Culture List: May

Whether you fancy a trip to the cinema or want a series or novel to get stuck into, SheerLuxe’s monthly edit of the best new books, films and TV will see you through this month.

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A Small Light, Disney+

Based on a true story, A Small Light follows Miep Gies (Bel Powley), a young, carefree secretary who hid Otto Frank (Liev Schreiber) and his family from the Nazis in WWII. For nearly two years, Miep and her husband Jan (Joe Cole) protected the Franks and others while she held down a day job, kept her marriage intact and shouldered more responsibility than anyone could imagine. While millions are familiar with Anne Frank’s diary and her family’s life in the Secret Annex, A Small Light is the lesser-known story of how an ordinary secretary showed extraordinary courage during one of the darkest moments in history.



Platonic, Apple TV+

This ten-episode comedy series starring Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen will land on Apple TV+ on 24th May. The series follows a platonic pair of former best friends approaching midlife who reconnect after a long rift. Soon the duo’s friendship becomes all consuming – and destabilises their lives in a hilarious way. In addition to Rogen and Byrne, the ensemble cast includes Luke Macfarlane, Tre Hale, Andrew Lopez and Carla Gallo.


Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me, Netflix

From director Ursula Macfarlane (Untouchable) and producer Alexandra Lacey comes an unflinching and humanising examination of the life, death and secrets of Vickie Lynn Hogan – better known as model and actress Anna Nicole Smith. From her first appearance in Playboy in 1992, Anna Nicole’s dizzying ascent was the very essence of the American dream, brought to a tragic halt with her untimely passing in 2007. With access to never-before-seen footage, home movies and interviews with key figures who have not spoken out until now, this documentary reveals new insights into the story of the quintessential blonde bombshell hardly anyone really knew.


Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret

For over 50 years, Judy Blume’s classic and ground-breaking novel Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret has impacted generations with its timeless coming-of age-story, insightful humour and candid exploration of life’s biggest questions. In this big-screen adaptation, 11-year-old Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) is uprooted from her life in New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey, going through the messy and tumultuous throes of puberty with new friends in a new school. She relies on her mother Barbara (Rachel McAdams), who is also struggling to adjust to life outside the big city, and her adoring grandmother Sylvia (Kathy Bates), who isn’t happy they moved away and likes to remind them of this every chance she gets. The film also stars Benny Safdie (Licorice Pizza) and was written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig (The Edge of Seventeen).


Queen Cleopatra, Netflix

From Jada Pinkett Smith comes a documentary series exploring the lives of prominent and iconic African queens. This season focuses on Queen Cleopatra, the world’s most famous, powerful and misunderstood woman – a daring queen whose beauty and romances came to overshadow her real asset, her intellect. Cleopatra’s heritage has been the subject of much academic debate, which has often been ignored by Hollywood. Now is your chance to reassess her fascinating story.


Queen Charlotte, Netflix

If you were hooked on Bridgerton, the Netflix show’s prequel hits the small screen this week. Centred on Queen Charlotte's rise to prominence and power, this series tells the story of how the young Queen's marriage to King George sparked both a great love story and a societal shift, creating the world of the Ton inherited by the characters in Bridgerton. There was scandal, gossip and debutante balls long before the elusive Lady Whistledown but, when there’s a kingdom on the line, everything is at stake. The series features Bridgerton’s Golda Rosheuvel, Adjoa Andoh and Ruth Gemmell alongside a string of new characters. 


Queen Charlotte

Rye Lane, Disney+

This great film hit cinemas in March and is now available to watch on Disney+. From director Raine Allen-Miller, Rye Lane is a romantic comedy that stars David Jonsson (Industry, Deep State) and Vivian Oparah (Class, The Rebel) as Dom and Yas, two 20-somethings reeling from bad break-ups, who connect over the course of an eventful day in south London – helping each other deal with their nightmare exes, and potentially restoring their faith in romance.



Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson

Pineapple Street in Brooklyn Heights is one of New York City's most desirable residences, and home to the glamorous and well-connected Stockton family. Darley, the eldest daughter, has never had to worry about money. She followed her heart, trading her job and her inheritance for motherhood – but ended up sacrificing more of herself than she ever intended. Sasha is marrying into the wealthy Stockton family, who are worlds apart from her own. She feels like the outsider, trying to navigate their impenetrable traditions and please her new mother-in-law – plus her hesitancy to sign a pre-nup has everyone questioning her true intentions. Georgiana, the youngest, is falling in love with someone she can't (and really shouldn't) have – and is forced to confront the kind of person she wants to be. Witty, escapist and full of heart, with a cast of loveable flawed characters, Pineapple Street is a beautifully observed novel about the complexities of family dynamics, while also asking the age-old question: can money really buy you happiness?


The Guest by Emma Cline

Emma Cline is the Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of The Girls. Her newest novel is The Guest. Summer is coming to a close on Long Island, and Alex is no longer welcome. One misstep at a dinner party and the older man she's been staying with dismisses her with a ride to the train station and a ticket back to the city. With few resources, but a gift for navigating the desires of others, Alex stays on the island. She drifts through the gated driveways and sun-blasted dunes of a rarefied world, trailing destruction in her wake. The Guest captures the heat and potential danger of a summer that could go either way for a young woman teetering on the edge.


Yellowface by RF Kuang

RF Kuang’s latest is a literary thriller exploring ambition, greed and white privilege. Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars. But Athena’s a literary darling and June Hayward is a nobody. Who wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks. When June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese labourers during World War I. So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree. But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.


Big Swiss by Jen Beagin

This is a novel about a sex therapist’s transcriptionist who falls in love with a client while listening to her sessions. Greta liked knowing people’s secrets. Until she met Big Swiss. Big Swiss – that’s Greta’s nickname for her – is tall and from Switzerland. Greta can see her now: dressed head to toe in white, that adorable gap between her two front teeth, her penetrating blue eyes. Well, that’s how Greta imagines seeing her: they haven’t actually ever met in person. Nor has Greta ever been to Switzerland. Greta and Big Swiss are not in the same room, or even the same building. Greta is miles away, sitting at a desk in her own house, wearing only headphones, fingerless gloves, a kimono, and legwarmers, transcribing this disembodied voice. What Greta doesn’t know is that she’s about to bump into Big Swiss in the local dog park. A new – and not entirely honest – relationship is going to be born – one that will transform both their lives.


Small Worlds; Yellowface

Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson

This is an expansive novel about fathers and sons, faith and friendship from Caleb Azumah Nelson, the bestselling, award-winning author of Open Water. Set over the course of three summers in Stephen's life, from London to Ghana and back again, Small Worlds is an exhilarating and expansive story about the worlds we build for ourselves. The one thing that can solve Stephen's problems is dancing. Dancing at church, with his parents and brother; dancing with his friends, somewhere in a basement with the drums about to drop; dancing with his band, making music which speaks not just to the hardships of their lives, but the joys too; dancing alone, at home, to his father's records, uncovering parts of a man he has never truly known. Stephen has only ever known himself in song. But what becomes of him when the music fades? When his father begins to speak of shame and sacrifice, when his home is no longer his own? How will he find space for himself: a place where he can feel beautiful, a place he might feel free?


The Happy Couple by Naoise Dolan

This is the second novel by Naoise Dolan, author of Exciting Times. Luke and Celine are set to marry in a year’s time. The best man, Archie, is meant to want to move up the corporate ladder and on from his love for Luke; yet he stands where he is, admiring the view. The bridesmaid, Phoebe, Celine’s sister, has no long-term aspirations beyond smoking her millionth cigarette and getting to the bottom of Luke’s frequent unexplained disappearances. Then there’s the guest, Vivian, who with the benefit of some emotional distance, methodically observes her friends like ants. As the wedding approaches and these five lives intersect, each character will find themselves looking for a path to their happily ever after – but does it lie at the end of an aisle?


August Blue by Deborah Levy

August Blue is the new novel from the twice Booker-shortlisted author of Hot Milk and Swimming Home. At the height of her career, concert pianist Elsa M Anderson – former child prodigy, now in her 30s – walks off the stage in Vienna, mid-performance. Now she is in Athens, watching as another young woman, a stranger but uncannily familiar, almost her double, purchases a pair of mechanical dancing horses at a flea market. Elsa wants the horses too, but there are no more for sale. She drifts to the ferry port, on the run from her talent and her history. So begins a journey across Europe, shadowed by the elusive woman who bought the dancing horses. A dazzling portrait of melancholy and metamorphosis, August Blue uncovers the ways in which we seek to lose an old story, find ourselves in others and create ourselves anew.


The Three of Us by Agbaje Williams Ore

A nice house, carefree life, doting husband, best friend who never leaves your side. What more could you ask for? There's just one problem: your husband and best friend love you, but they hate each other. Set over a single day, husband, wife and best friend Temi toe the lines of compromise and betrayal. Told in three parts, three people's lives, and their visions of themselves and one another begin to slowly unravel, until a startling discovery throws everyone's integrity into question. Full of intrigue, wit and a healthy dose of wealth and snobbery, The Three of Us is part-suburban millennial comedy of manners and part-domestic noir that will leave you wondering: whose side are you on?



The Offbeat Sari, Design Museum

This month, a major exhibition celebrating the contemporary sari arrives at the Design Museum. Curated by Priya Khanchandani, this exhibition will bring together dozens of the finest saris of our time from designers, wearers and craftspeople in India. In recent years, the sari has been reinvented. Designers are experimenting with hybrid forms such as sari gowns and dresses, pre-draped saris and innovative materials such as steel. Young people in cities who used to associate the sari with dressing up can now be found wearing saris and sneakers on their commutes to work. Individuals are wearing the sari as an expression of resistance to social norms and activists are embodying it as an object of protest. Today, the sari in urban India manifests as a site for design innovation, an expression of identity, and a crafted object carrying layers of cultural meanings. The exhibition will unravel the sari as a metaphor for the complex definitions of India today.


Groundhog Day
Manuel Harlan

Groundhog Day, Old Vic

Phil Connors is a pretty awful guy. But when the cynical Pittsburgh TV weatherman is sent to cover the kooky annual Groundhog Day event in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, he finds himself caught in a time loop that sends him on a hilarious path to enlightenment and redemption. A comic parable of love, hope and transformation from the creatives behind Matilda The Musical and The Old Vic’s A Christmas Carol, this Olivier award-winning (Best New Musical, Best Actor) musical sensation based on the 1993 hit film returns to the Old Vic this summer. Andy Karl reprises the role that earned him an Olivier as Phil.


Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain, Soho Place

The world premiere of Brokeback Mountain, a new play with music, written by Ashley Robinson with songs by Dan Gillespie Sells and based on Annie Proulx’s short story, is at Soho Place on 10th May. Directed by Jonathan Butterell, it stars Mike Faist (Spielberg’s West Side Story) as Jack and Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom, Manchester By The Sea) as Ennis, both making their West End debuts. The production sees the creators of the hit musical and film Everybody’s Talking About Jamie reunite for the play set in Wyoming in 1963. Among a wild landscape where people live in extreme rural poverty in tight, insular and conservative communities, Ennis and Jack take jobs on the isolated Brokeback Mountain. Soon their lives change forever as they flounder in unexpected emotional waters.


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