For a Hollywood film they are surprisingly realistic about addition. Ben is back for the holidays, but not every family member is supportive of this development.
Probably the nicest is that the few Life Lessons aren’t supported by a swelling soundtrack and slow-motion close ups: they just slip past.
That makes this film frustrating, nerve-wrecking and probably more genuine than many other stories about an addicted family member asking for an umpteenth chance and having to deal with being mistrusted.
I challenged myself to watch a film every day in November. Expect a lot of film posts.
A warning beforehand, this film shows animal abuse and let’s you listen to rape. In case you felt like the title would give you a happy story.
Joy leaves you with questions, although you know the answers to most of them. It’s a surprise that nothing sentimental is added for once: no room for sentimentality with illegal Nigerian sex workers in Austria. Especially not when there’s debt involved. Joy’s one nice decision (taking a younger woman under her wing) backfires, showing there’s no room for niceties.
It’s near the ending where the questions are left unanswered: what do these actions stand for? What is she doing? With this, Joy ends (not completes!) an all too familiar story (immigration for the people back home) on an eerie, unfamiliar note.
One of those films you miss the theater-run of, slightly forget about until they pop up somewhere and trigger the “Didn’t I want to see this?”-thought. Maybe I should start a To Be Watched list.
The shoplifters don’t just shoplift goods. This is a mild spoiler that won’t make sense until the end of the film. In the beginning of it, it’s just a poor family adopting a neglected toddler. Like in 10 Minutes it is shown that you can create your own family – this one is just built on much less sturdy foundations.
The funny thing is that for a long time little seems wrong with those foundations. Yes, some dodgy things happen and what are the exact relationships between everyone but by golly: at least they try t stay upright in a society that doesn’t even notice that it keeps kicking them down.
I’m also impressed by the acting and the thin balance between sharing and silence – it never gets annoying that we don’t know everything (yet). Except for that one story line; I must have missed the clues here. Or it was simply shoplifted from the story: everything and -one can clearly be.
Rose-Lyn, fresh out of lock-up, has to pick between parenthood or carrying on purchasing her dream of becoming a country singer. Two kids and a record might be an inspiration for that, or an anchor. Especially if you’re in Glasgow opposed to Nashville, and no-one there supports your dream.
What’s really good here is how genuine the struggle looks and feels. Yes, she’s being selfish in this endeavour, but there’s no other option and only because she can’t have both. Can someone help Rose-Lyn, because she can’t.
It’s a fictional story, but it feels like you’re following someone’s real story. Combine that with the fun soundtrack (again!) and you have a lovely film.
Angelica was hurrying toward the crowded crosswalk, determined to get back to her elderly client Sayoko-san before the deliveryman arrived, when the view of buildings and business suits in front of her dissolved.
Plum Rains, Andromeda Romano-Lax, Soho Press 2018
Probably already this year’s winner for coolest author name, no matter if it’s her own or a pen name.
I judged this book by its cover, its title and its author name and it — didn’t necessary end badly. I don’t know if I’d recommend this, though.
At first, the story seems original. The blurb says it’s about a Philippine caretaker in Japan in the nearby future, she worries about being replaced by robots and we’re promised different moves through time across the globe.
But the women suffer. Not just regularly day to day suffering, but – without wanting to spoil – in the way women do. There’s a tiny bit of room for creating a world in which we’ll all be replaced by AI, but the rest of it is about suffering.
And I know that those stories need to be shared as well, especially with the Western audience, but I would have loved a science fiction story in which the (Asian) women aren’t just victim, caretaker, responsible and tired.
So, if you want to read it (because Japanese history, insight in life on the Philippines), you might still enjoy it if you focus on that. If you’re looking for science fiction, expect a dystopian one.
The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin, G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2018
I was ready to write this one off until the last couple of pages still got me. Which makes me grumpy, because a book shouldn’t score on just a couple of pages.
In The Immortalists four siblings learn their death date. All four lives are followed, as is the impact of this knowledge on them. Around the second sibling it starts to feel a bit cookie-cutter: character aggressively denies this reality, gets destructive, wants to outrun it and [spoiler] doesn’t manage to; one way or the other. But were they running towards what they feared while thinking they were doing everything to escape it? Chloe Benjamin doesn’t give you any hint in that direction, nor room to interpret the characters’ actions like that.
Any thoughts about fate, goals in life, final destination you have to come up with on your own because the novel only provides character sketches of the people suffering.
As said before: except for the last pages, they delivered an emotional sucker punch. Could have done so a tad sooner, to turn this into a recommendation.
I watched this entire film with focused energy and still don’t know why this is the title. It’s not the only thing lacking: the summary says this is about a street kid suing his parents for being born. It really is about Zain and his lack of control over things, plus his attempts to change that.
He tries to save his sister, he tries to save a left-behind toddler, he tries to save himself a bit. The streets of Yemen provide little, but Zain tries to take all of it.
It’s hard to believe that this is fiction, that it’s only actors that were put through this. Especially the boy playing Zain pulls story-lines off that would have been scoffed or laughed at with a lesser actor.
After, you’ll be glad that this time it was fiction. It just won’t make it easier to acknowledge that this way of living is reality for plenty of people.
And the court case? Or the title? Meh, I can do without.
The clouds finally broke into a sullen drizzle after a muggy, overcast day.
Trickster Drift, Eden Robinson, Alfred A. Knopf 2018
I can’t remember the last time I was so consciously waiting for a book. I read Son of a Trickster a long while ago, so why library – why did it take you two years to get me a sequel that was written in the year I read the prequel? Rhetorical question, I don’t need an answer.
With the first novel it took me a while to adjust to the story and appreciate what I took from it. With that knowledge, I expected to struggle again this time, but get a satisfying pay-off. Except – no struggle in sight. The e-book is almost 600 pages and I flew through them. Maybe Robinson found her flow, maybe I did, but I didn’t want to stop reading.
Jared has escaped some of the wild, eerie, lethal shit that was braided through his life and surroundings, but not all of it. And now he’s adding sobriety and study to them. So even though it seems like there’s more love and care around him, we should probably give him a break when he doesn’t immediately (positively) react to it (I tried, boy – did I try).
As it been two years since I’ve read the previous book, I can’t say if this one got scarier or more gory, but gosh – there’s a fine line between things that should only be myths and our reality in Robinson’s world.
It’s deliciously eerie, and can the library please get the completing novel in soon?
I’m standing on the red railway car that sits abandoned next to the barn.
Educated, Tara Westover, HarperCollins 2018
“Holy shit” might simultaneously be very fitting and entirely inappropriate for these memoirs from a woman that grows in Mormon surroundings with a family that seems to be a magnet for mental and physical disaster.
Tara’s father is sure that the End of Days is near, Iluminati are real and that the government is out to get you and brainwash you. The children are home-schooled and are expected to devote their entire lives to the family. Some of them do so easier than others, and not everyone has the mental health to do so.
Straighter put: there’s several not-diagnosed issues walking around and as everything is God’s will or a government-threat, there’s no room to change things. Even in cases of life or death.
Through a combination of circumstances and clear decisions; Tara starts to see things differently, starts to develop differently. Educated is the story of where it started, how it went and where it (for now) ended. It’s also a pamphlet for education, mental health care and a supportive society.
I wrote ‘Hailee Steinfeld surprised me again’ in a review, fully believing that I had already reviewed this film and therefore could connect to it. Reader, I didn’t. Maybe because I was too surprised about liking a Transformers-film? I can hear my brothers sneering that “robots aren’t so dumb after all, eh?”. Anyway, this is a review for the film Bumblebee.
I can still remember the director of this mentioning how this would be an origins-film with heart, similar to The Iron Giant. I can remember because I scoffed at that, loudly. After Michael Bay’s nonsense with endless fight scenes, explosions and jokes about primary and secondary sexual body parts, the bar was below the floor. Try not to have your Transformer sound like a black rapper-cliché first before saying such things, director (they’re two different people, Michael wasn’t involved in this one). Not pestered by nostalgia, I was ready to watch this film with half an eye and still complain the entire way (I’m sure sometimes we pick films/series that can be followed with just half of our interest).
Except for the first couple of minutes, there’s very few robots in this, and because of certain reasons the main one can’t even talk. That’s one point in their favour. Next is – I will absolutely admit it – the fact that Bumblebee is quite adorable and main character Charlie (Steinfeld) really plays well off him. There’s so many charming moments that this could be called a “boy and his dog”-film, instead of it being Actiony Adventure (capitals essential). Bumblebee (not his first name, by the way) is on the run, Charlie is feeling alone and misunderstood, of course they find each other.
Another plus in my book is that there’s room for development of their relationship. Not just a five minute montage to quickly move on to fighting robots and exploding buildings – we get a glimpse at Charlie’s motivations and what’s going on with Bumblebee. Wow.
The run length completes my compliment-trifecta (not going to read back to see if I have three compliments): yes, it’s almost two hours, but you don’t notice because aforementioned room for development. I would have zoned out by number three of six action scenes in a row, but now I didn’t even want to pause for a bathroom break. This film had me.
And yes, just like The Iron Giant, it also made me cry at the end.