The Literary Film and TV You Need to Stream in April
It's a Gritty Month on the Small Screen
Every month, all the major streaming services add a host of newly acquired (or just plain new) shows, movies, and documentaries into their ever-rotating libraries. So what’s a dedicated reader to watch? Well, whatever you want, of course, but the name of this website is Literary Hub, so we sort of have an angle. To that end, here’s a selection of the best (and most enjoyably bad) literary film and TV coming to streaming services this month. Have fun.
Stream it on: Apple TV+, 4/1
Literary Bonafides: Based on Mick Herron’s Slow Horses (2010)
Starring: Gary Oldman, Chris Reilly, and Rosalind Eleazar
This six-episode series is giving me Killing Eve meets Veep vibes. In an outpost headed by cranky Cold War hero Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), disgraced British spies are given busy work to pass the time. But when a hostage situation requires their attention, they find out that their rusty skills might be good for something after all.
Stream it on: HBO Max, 4/7
Literary Bonafides: Based on Jake Adelstein’s Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan (2009)
Starring: Ken Watanbe and Ansel Elgort
Michael Mann, the writer-director of Heat and Miami Vice, returns with the true story of an American reporter who embeds himself with the Tokyo Police Department in the 1990s and runs up against a notorious crime boss.
All the Old Knives
Stream it on: Amazon Prime, 4/8
Literary Bonafides: Based on Olen Steinhauer’s All the Old Knives (2015)
Starring: Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne
A modern-day spy thriller meets steamy romance in All the Old Knives, in which one old flame investigates another, under suspicion of being a double agent. If nothing else, Thandiwe Newton and Chris Pine are very pleasant to look at.
Stream it on: Apple TV+, 4/15
Literary Bonafides: Cecelia Ahern’s Roar (2018)
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Betty Gilpin, Merritt Wever, Issa Rae, and Alison Brie
An anthology series based on a short story collection(!), the specifics on Apple TV+’s Roar are trickling out bit by bit, but suffice it to say I’m excited for this surreal, dark take on womanhood. In the trailer alone, Nicole Kidman eats a photograph, Betty Gilpin is literally kept on a shelf, Issa Rae has an unsettling meeting with a bunch of white men who allegedly want to adapt her book into a movie, and Merritt Weaver goes on a date with a duck. Sold!
Anatomy of a Scandal
Stream it on: Netlix, 4/15
Literary Bonafides: Based on Sarah Vaughan’s Anatomy of a Scandal (2018)
Starring: Sienna Miller, Michelle Dockery, Naomi Scott, and Rupert Friend
If you enjoy watching the downfall of the elite (and who doesn’t?), this one might be your ticket. Based on Sarah Vaughan’s bestselling novel, described by some as a #MeToo marriage story, it follows a British politician accused of rape and the wife who takes his side.
The Flight Attendant
Stream it on: HBO Max, 4/21
Literary Bonafides: Based on Chris Bohjalian’s The Flight Attendant (2018)
Starring: Kaley Cuoco, Zosia Mamet, T.R. Knight, and Rosie Perez
I found the first season of The Flight Attendant to be thoroughly enjoyable, so while I’m generally skeptical when a series goes off book (looking at you, Handmaid’s Tale) I’ll be tuning in to season 2 to see what Kaley Cuoco and her crew are up to.
The Man Who Fell to Earth
Stream it on: Showtime, 4/24
Literary Bonafides: Based on Walter Tevis’s The Man Who Fell to Earth (1963)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Naomie Harris, Clarke Peters, and Bill Nighy
Everyone I’ve mentioned this show to has responded in all caps, so you can say excitement is high. Not a remake but a continuation of the original story: a new alien has fallen to Earth, played by the incredibly talented Chiwetel Ejiofor—only this time, both of our planets are dying (ahem, climate change).
We Own This City
Stream it on: HBO Max, 4/25
Literary Bonafides: Based on Justin Fenton’s We Own This City (2021)
Starring: Rob Brown, Jon Bernthal, Robert Harley, and Ham Mukasa
Have I mentioned that April TV is very crime-heavy? We Own This City is based on Justin Fenton’s investigation of police corruption (to put it mildly) in Baltimore, created for HBO by the folks who brought us The Wire.
Under the Banner of Heaven
Stream it on: Hulu, 4/28
Literary Bonafides: Based on Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven (2003)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Rohan Meed, and Daisy Edgar-Jones
Andrew Garfield is perhaps hoping for his Mare of Easttown moment with this Krakauer adaptation of a horrific, cult-based murder in Salt Lake City. If he really wants to compete, though, he’ll have to take up vaping.
Stream it on: Paramount+, 4/28
Literary Bonafides: Based on the making of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather (1969)
Starring: Miles Teller, Matthew Goode, Juno Temple, Dan Fogler, and Colin Hanks
My “Never Have I Ever” entry is that I’ve never seen The Godfather (sorry!), but I can appreciate a good meta project (and also Ted Lasso’s Juno Temple). Anyway, here’s a movie about the making of the movie The Godfather.
Stream it on: Apple TV+, 4/29
Literary Bonafides: Based on Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls (2013)
Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Phillipa Soo, Amy Brenneman, and Jamie Bell
An aspiring reporter (Elisabeth Moss) tries to break the case of her own assault, which seems to be tied to a series of murders. It looks to be trippy, gritty, and helmed by strong performances from Moss and Hamilton’s Phillipa Soo. (Elizaaaaa!)
Stream it on: Hulu, 4/1
Literary Bonafides: It’s all in the title, baby
Starring: Keri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge, and JJ Feild
A Pride and Prejudice-obsessed single lady (Keri Russell) spends all her savings to go to a Jane Austen theme park (because of course she does). Unlike the great Jennifer Coolidge’s character, she’s booked the economy package, which is more downstairs than upstairs Downton Abbey—but she’s living her best life anyway, and in the mood for love.
We the Animals (2018)
Stream it on: Netflix, 4/1
Literary Bonafides: Based on Justin Torres’s We the Animals (2011)
Starring: Evan Rosado, Raul Castillo, Sheila Vand, Isaiah Kristian, and Josiah Gabriel
Lit Hub’s Emily Temple called this one “the ideal literary adaptation” (agreed), so if you haven’t seen it—or haven’t seen it since 2018—you must, you must, you must.
The Joy Luck Club (1993)
Stream it on: Amazon Prime, 4/1
Literary Bonafides: Based on Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club (1989)
Starring: Kieu Chinh, Ming-Na Wen, Tamlyn Tomita, Tsai Chin, France Nuyen, Lauren Tom, Lisa Lu, and Rosalind Chao