Tag Archives: cinema

School killings: We Need To Talk About Kevin

We-Need-to-Talk-about-Kev-007No-one could have missed the news reports on the stabbing of teacher Ann Maguire as she taught a class, with a 15-year-old pupil charged for her murder. Such a horrifying and devastating thing to have happened, but in a world that is becoming more and more violent we can hardly be surprised that this would happen eventually. Throughout my time as a student a high school, I saw a pupil lose it with a teacher and hurl a table across the room at her, I saw teachers lose it with pupils and throw things at them. When at university I even heard about stabbings and twice was unable to get on or leave my campus because police were having a stand-off. I’m sure this is no different to many other schools and universities, in fact in many places I know it is far worse. What concerns me is why so many are turning immediately to violence to deal with their frustrations.

All this press brought a book and film back into my mind, one I read a few years ago but which still haunts me now. We Need To Talk About Kevin is a chilling tale of murder and love entwined, striking at the heart of parenthood by offering up the greatest test of unconditional love. It raises questions that no parent should ever have to ask themselves – such as whether the age of a child prevents them from blame over the seriousness of their crime, and whether in fact the parents are to blame. Lionel Shriver’s prizewinning 2003 novel is written in a series of letters from Eva, to her estranged husband, Franklin, in the wake of their son, Kevin’s disgusting crime. She looks at her son and writes about his childhood and her memories of him, trying desperately to see if there were things she should have noticed. If she could have prevented his later actions.

I watched the film after reading the book, and I was so glad to have done both. The film too is brilliant, but completely different to the book. It has been completely reworked by British director Lynne Ramsey who focuses on the question of what happens if bad children are born to good parents? And does this mean that the parents themselves are inherently bad and they just fail to realise it? Ramsey too follows Kevin’s short life up to the climax, showing some scenes of a disturbing nature but actually it is the acting and portrayal of Kevin by Ezra Miller that really haunts you. Tilda Swinton does an amazing job of exploring the internal and external struggles experienced by a parent whose child has committed murder as she comes to terms with what her own life, and Kevin’s has become. You see her struggles to realise that actually the son she had unconditional love for was an extremely rose-tinted view of reality, and her shock and fear as she realises that Kevin was not injured by the shooter, that he was the shooter.

It is also interesting to see her connection throughout both the book and the film with her baby – the relationship between her and Kevin is tested and difficult throughout with the clear understanding that she does not like her baby. It suggests she was suffering from post-natal depression and makes you wonder if this, which clearly sets the tone for their life-long relationship, was in fact the effect of her treatment and resentment for her baby in the first instance. Could she have influenced his behaviour by rejecting him so early? It does make you wonder if her understanding of his goading her and playing up as a child is in fact her own depression painting the way she views it. Could it be that in fact Kevin was just an innocent baby at birth and that his mother’s hatred of him caused him to turn into a monster? If not, does that mean he was a monster from birth?


Such an interesting story because it raises all those big questions about good and evil, nature vs nurture. The questions we squirm over answering because we don’t want to believe that someone could be born evil, but at the same time, society doesn’t ever want to believe in people reaching breaking point or parents being unable to cope. Although the telling of a fictional event, some have said it was based on real events such as the Columbine High School killings which makes it ever more terrifying, to know that this has really happened, and now just a few hours from where we all live in the UK.

The vicious nature of the crime is scary enough, but actually what scares me more in the film and book is the fact that Kevin is so calculating and clever. He is not that kid that is just pushed a bit too far by the bullies or doesn’t get on with his teacher, he is a cold-blooded psycho killer who plans the whole thing. I have a slight admission that I have always found the psychology of killers absolutely fascinating and love programmes like CSI and Luthor and films like Seven that delve into the killer psyche. I’m just so curious to know how some people can be wired so differently, or whether in fact this lurks in all of us, it just takes the right circumstance and experiences to bring it out and let it loose. I would really recommend this book because it is one of the best I have read of its type and despite reading it years ago, it has stayed with me ever since. The film is also worth a watch, but after reading the book because it does change the way you view the story significantly and actually I think there are parts of the film that didn’t quite make sense without the book to explain them.

 What did you think of We Need To Talk About Kevin and have you got any others like this you could recommend? Where do you stand on the nature vs nurture debate when it comes to evil acts like this?

Film review – Frozen

fwb_frozen_20131127As a huge and lifelong Disney fan, there was a lot of pressure on to like their latest offering of Frozen after hearing all the hype about it. It’s all I’ve heard about on TV and in adverts at the cinema, on blogs and over the radio for weeks, and with Let It Go becoming an anthem, nobody has been safe from that famous chorus. The world of Disney on film seems to have become split over the years into two main types of story – there are the love stories, the tales of princesses and princes, of rescues from lonely towers from scary dragons or witches in Aladdin and Sleeping Beauty. Then there are those beloved stories that tell tales of friendship, loyalty, family and love but in the form of animals or creatures – The Lion King or The Fox and the Hound. I was expecting Frozen to fall in the former category, not knowing much about the story but knowing there was a princess involved along the way, but was surprised to see that it actually seems to fall into a new class that is forming within the collection and following on from the release of Brave.

brave_disneyBoth films focus on familial relationships and the importance of the mother-daughter relationship or sisterhood and how these bonds are so much more important and powerful than any magic, whether good or evil. Possibly the beginning or a trend, this could be the dawn of a new era of Disney film which will take characters to new levels as different themes and stories are explored. It’s quite exciting when you think about it like this – we’ve gone from helpless princesses who need princes to rescue them to stories about strong female characters who have big attitudes and personalities, and who go on a journey to save another rather than just to find the man of their dreams. I know that there are still certain characters who are desperate to find love and that there are obvious gender stereotypes, but this shift in focus might be a step towards the future of Disney. Tangled is another great example of this trend.

I loved the soundtrack for the film, it really impressed me by being really easy to sing along with and remember, while in some of the more recent Disney films, like The Princess and the Frog, the tunes are funny, lively and catchy, but certainly less memorable. The story itself was very simple and predictable, which is just what you want with a Disney story but felt a little unfinished – there was never any explanation for why Elsa had this power but Anna had none. I think they could have gone into this a little bit more and cut back on some of the action, but the snow scenes and the section at Elsa’s Ice Palace are absolutely beautiful. It is such a novelty to watch a Disney film that is set in a snowy land after all of those set in lush woodland, the Arabian desert or under the sea.

Frozen_Olaf_EW_A.JPGAnother big love of mine in the film had to be the character of Olaf – he is just so sweet and loveable, you can’t help but laugh. It’s so nice to see that Disney have managed to live up to the other great supporting characters from over the years – often more memorable than the main characters. Think Timon & Pumba, Sebastian the crab of Mushu! But he keeps to the quirky, funny and cute requirements and plays a vital part in the story – you have to smile when his wish finally comes true thanks to Elsa. Between the sisters, I have to be honest and say I don’t hold much feeling for Anna – despite being a bit of a hero towards the end, her motivations early on in the film of being desperate to find love that she jumps into the arms of the first man who comes along make me rather sceptical of her character – I think perhaps she was a rather lazy characterisation and I don’t like that she is used to represent one half of the female characters. Elsa on the other hand is a strong character, stubborn and determined, she gives up her life to save her sister and family from her powers. She is likeable because she has experienced a real life, pain and struggle while Anna appears to flit around with no real clue about the world around her. After writing this, I came across a blog that the sisters, from a Freudian perspective, could be viewed as two fundamental aspects of the human psyche – such a interesting concept and well worth a read. Overall, Frozen is another cracker from Disney and I’m looking forward to the next one!

Film review – Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas-Buyers-Club-FeatureOne of the many reasons I love going on holiday is flying – I love aeroplanes and the feeling of powering through the air, I find the whole experience so exciting despite having travelled all my life. A big part of this is the in-flight movies and on my trip to New York, I was in for a treat as I finally had the opportunity to see two films I have wanted to watch for ages! I dived straight in, with my organised little tray of food in front of me and a glass of wine in my hand, I settled down to watch the powerful and incredible film – Dallas Buyers Club.

Now I’m not usually a huge fan of Matthew McConaughey films because I will always remember rubbish films like How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days or Magic Mike and think of him as a bit of a joke when it comes to acting. Well this film has completely transformed my view of him – his commitment to the role and was obvious after he put his own body through so much to achieve the finished product and that is something I really admire. I also felt his portrayal of a straight man coming to terms with the reality of an illness and condition that was at this time still predominantly thought of as a ‘gay disease’ by the wider community was just astonishing. This tortured soul sucked us into the story and became so likeable despite his failings and as he forges a friendship with Jared Leto’s character and starts to see the importance of helping to supply AIDS victims with medication as more important than earning money, we really become quite attached to both characters.


Jared Leto is one of those actors I have always loved – he takes his work so seriously and that is obvious from his scary weight-loss for the role, McConaughey too lost a lot of weight for the role and when those pictures of the pair emerged and the story of the film was first revealed – I knew instantly that I really wanted to watch this film. The story itself was fascinating – just the fact that this man managed to prolong his life for over seven years after being given just 30 days to live is simply amazing when he was using untested or unapproved medication. The final moments on screen where the future of each character and the medicines were explained almost had me in tears to see quite how long Ron Woodroof survived and the difference he made to people’s lives. Getting caught up in the story, it is easy to forget that this really happened, until these final moments bring it all home to you.

jaredletoindragdallasbuyersclubI also found it very interesting to see the mentions of the bribery and favouritism shown  by the Food and Drug Administration – the fact that they had been giving preferential treatment to certain products or treatments because of money is not surprising. But the fact that they might have actively been denying medicines that could have helped save the lives of AIDS sufferers seems beyond heartless – but I guess this is just the way the world works. It was just another very interesting dimension to the film, particularly when you saw the American hospital compared to the Mexican pop-up that Ron visited for the medication.

All in all, a great film that will see you fall in love with the characters and left heartbroken by their demise. It tackles an important subject and an important history by telling a story that I was completely unaware of. Despite treatments having advanced over the years, AIDS and HIV still seem to be such a taboo and aren’t often discussed so this film has done a great deal to bring the disease into the spotlight and highlight the intense differences between both treatment and the attitudes surrounding it in the years between the real story and the film. I would seriously recommend you see this film, whether it sounds like your cup of tea or not – it is an important watch and an example of truly great acting. Well deserving of the awards and accolades.

Have you seen Dallas Buyers Club? What did you think?

Still haunted by those Strange Fruits

tyas8Ever since finally watching 12 Years A Slave at the weekend, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Such an incredible powerful film that completely deserved the Oscar for Best Film, and I have to be honest, it left me in tears – the first film to do that in a very long time! I purposely had avoided reading anything about the film/book before watching because I had already heard everyone raving about the film, and I wanted to make sure the story was new to me when I saw it. Wow. I had been told that the torture and the punishment scenes were graphic and disturbing, but I didn’t realise quite how much they would affect me. The film served as such a stark reminder that this world was as real as the one we live in now and it really brought home the disgusting violence and suffering that was forced upon people merely for the colour of their skin and regardless of the freedom they supposedly had. It highlighted the danger that individuals faced at all times despite being ‘free’ and showed how essentially you were never truly free and safe unless you were white.

Every since watching, this song has been ringing in my ears. Billie Holiday recorded this poem, Strange Fruit, as a song in 1939. It was written to expose American racism, particularly referring to the African-American lynchings that had occurred in the South and across the US. As part of my English Literature studies at university, I looked at the poem, the song and various other texts that refer to this treatment and racism within the US. I remember reading about one case (far more recent) when Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith were lynched by a crowd led by police in Indiana in 1930, after being arrested for robbing and murdering a white factory worker then raping his girlfriend. The pair were beaten and hanged, and a 16-year-old only escaped the same because someone vouched for him. Emmett Till was another shocking example and I seriously suggest you look up what happened to him – it is just horrific.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit, Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south, The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth, Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh, Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck, For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop, Here is a strange and bitter crop.

The lyrics are just as poignant and haunting today as they were nearly 100 years ago, and have particular relevance when you have just watched a film that so explicitly shows the reality of life as a slave and the treatment they suffered. The moment when Solomon was strung up by the neck in the tree just brought the lyrics back to me, the idea of these bodies swinging in the breeze as life continues around them is just an image that has stayed with me. I think this is why it is so important for schools to give children the opportunity to study these subjects and to learn what has really happened in the past. Awareness and knowledge creates a better future because people make informed decisions. Ignorance is a danger and leads to decisions made based on fear and misinformation. This is when people end up swinging from the branches of the trees because of the colour of their skin and crazy ‘scientific’ ideas of white supremacy.

12-years-a-slave-2341180I don’t know if it is the colour of my skin that has left me so affected by the film, but it certainly made me think about the racism I have experienced in my lifetime. Thankfully it has been minimal and I know that I am very lucky, but there have been times when words like ‘Paki’ or ‘nigger’ have been thrown around by uneducated individuals who believe they sound cool to insult me in this way. It is upsetting when this happens – not because of the word itself, but because of the fact that someone would want to insult me just because of the colour of my skin. I find it sad that there are people out there in this day and age who genuinely believe it is acceptable to brandish these words like weapons – often completely unprovoked and unjustified. However, it has also given me great joy to slap back an immediate retort to certain individuals when they throw ‘Paki’ at me, that they are in need of a geography lesson because not only am I Norfolk born and bred, and have probably lived here longer than them, but Mauritius is a long way away from Pakistan!

Another example that still baffles me, is the craze I discovered among guys who were usually from London and often of Indian or Asian descent and tried to ‘collect’ girls of different races. This was something I came across while at university and often heading to Watford or nearby areas for nights out. Completely uninterested, I often had a lot of fun in winding up these slimy guys with their bad pulling technique. But it was the constantly repeated question of ‘where are you from?’ that intrigued me. Norfolk was never a satisfactory answer, but Mauritius really got them going! Finally I had to insist that they explain what was going on and it turned out that it was a bit of a competition to collect as many girls of different races – ‘all the colours of the rainbow’ while on nights out. There were, of course, extra points for certain countries and apparently Persian girls and Mauritian girls scored quite highly – it seems I was quite the coveted collectible! Disgusting, I know. And I made sure they were all told that.

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVEI’m happy to say I haven’t experienced any real racism for a very long time and I hope that this is a reflection of the times as well as the type of people I choose to associate with, but I am still aware that in other areas it is still experienced in extremes. 12 Years A Slave is an incredible film and works well to highlight what were and are serious issues even today – although not to the extent of the slave trade in America, there are still strong examples of racism in action – just look at the news and you will find them. Happily, we do now live in a world where black freedom is a reality for so many, I can’t even imagine what life would have been like if I had been born into the world a few hundred years ago, or even just a century. The world would have been a very different place. But, there are always two sides to every coin and for every case of freedom, there is another living in fear across the globe just perhaps of a different race or culture.

Check out this news item questioning the numbers of slaves worldwide, and whether they could be hitting 21 million. 

Whatever your colour, I’m interested to know if you have ever experienced racism and what happened? How did you react? And what do you think of 12 Years A Slave?

Lifting the veil on relationships past and present with my favourite film

1178598691_2When rearranging my DVDs the other day, I came across one of my favourite films ever and just couldn’t resist sharing it with you. It might not be one of those classic films that you instantly think of with stars like Audrey Hepburn or Humphrey Bogart, it might not be a massive blockbuster with fast cars and barely clothed women. But The Painted Veil is a story of the journey from indifference to real pain, heartache and suffering, and eventually rediscovering love against the backdrop of a remote village in China that is overrun with cholera.

This is the third film adaptation from a novel written in 1925, with other films made of the story in 1934 and 1957, all on the topic of adultery. This version of the film both starred and was produced by two of my favourite actors – Naomi Watts and Edward Norton. The pair are both incredibly talented and just seem to have a certain way of portraying emotions while seeming to hold everything back – incredibly British despite both learning their craft in America and Australia. They just approach their films in such a different way to other actors I have watched, by playing the character gingerly rather than full-on. This is something that works so well with the story of two people who have both failed each other and are unsure of how to progress.


It’s very much a story about people getting beyond the worst in themselves and figuring out how to look at each other honestly, forgive each other for their failings and get to a better place… When I read it, I was very affected by it because in it I saw my own failings.                                                      Edward Norton

I love the relationship between the couple, which while appearing broken and fragmented, soon grows into more than the pair could have dreamed of when first setting out on their journey. It is far more raw and real than that of all those silly romantic comedies (don’t get me wrong – I love a Rachel McAdams movie, but sometimes we need a dose of real life as well!). The story is an honest tale of a woman who uses a man as her escape but soon realises he is not enough. She looks elsewhere to fill the gaps in their relationship but this forces them further apart. When the world around them, a cholera outbreak, forces them to muck in and to look at each other differently, they start to heal both themselves and each other. It is a story of forgiveness and of rediscovering the beauty in another where previously you only felt despair. Watch here as Edward Norton discusses the characters in the film.


I went on the assumption that if you were willing to allow Walter and Kitty to grow… you had the potential for a love story that was both tragic and meaningful.                                                Edward Norton

This film is always one that brings a tear to my eye, the love story is just such a devastatingly realistic portrayal of so many relationships that it can’t help but touch you, whether you are in a relationship or not. But the part that I love the most has to be the incredibly beautiful scenery. Most of the movie was filmed in an untouched area of Chinese land in Huang Yao and in Guilin, Guangxi, with other sections in Shanghai. The landscape is utterly breathtaking and genuinely makes it look like the actors have gone back in time – combined with the pair’s awkward style of acting it really does feel like the film captures the complex relationships of the time against a powerful backdrop.

I absolutely love this film but I’m not 100% sure why – it might be the scenery or the story, or it might be the acting. But it might just be the fact that I finally found a film in which the characters truly fucked up and lived with the problem, that they fixed the problem and made it out the other side. So refreshing in a world of disposable relationships.

What’s your favourite film and why?