Tag Archives: film

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 – 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?

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?


‘When you and I were forever wild’ – The beauty of The Great Gatsby

On Friday I decided to treat myself to a copy of The Great Gatsby on DVD to watch that night. Having seen it at the cinema, I was wholly impressed by the quality of the film, cast, production and soundtrack – all incredible and I would expect nothing less from Baz Luhrmann. Although we saw it in 3D at the cinema, we watched it on our huge TV at home and it still had the same incredible effect. The songs gave me goosebumps and the words, cleverly constructed into the storyline by F Scott Fitzgerald all those years ago, gave me shivers.

After studying the book at school and university, I cannot help but look at the film and book in terms of the class differences and the commentary on society. The line that still gets me every time is said by Daisy, played by Carey Mulligan, when she says:

“I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

The implication of this line in relation to the treatment of women and the objectification of women, by women themselves, is horrifying and the characters resigned to it, preferring to live out the fantasy than face or fight the truth.

This is the first adaptation of a novel to the screen where I believe that justice has been done to a great novel. With others over the years there were always bits missing or parts were not presented in the way I felt they should have been – for example, The Time Traveller’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, was a particular disappointment. However, Gatsby was a magnificent representation of the roaring twenties that are pictured from reading the book, the flamboyance of the characters, the parties, the clothes and the music is perfectly executed on screen. The soundtrack brings the film bang up to date, while enhancing each scene – whoever put together the soundtrack and matched it to the scenes did an amazing job.

The actors chosen for each role were perfect, Carey Mulligan was exactly as I had imagined Daisy to be, Leonardo DiCaprio perfectly embodied the character of Gatsby and I loved Tobey Maguire’s dry and detached commentary of what was happening around him. My favourite scenes of the film had to be the party scenes, the day where Gatsby and Daisy are reunited and finally the scene in the hotel room that sparks the final demise of each character. Finally, my favourite part of the whole film has to be Lana Del Ray’s version of Young and Beautiful, a song that pierces my heart each time I hear it and brings a tear to my eye. Not usually a huge fan of Del Ray, I often find her music a bit heavy going and samey, but this track is stunning and flawless. Her voice is truly beautiful and the song perfectly matches the mood of the film, it shows the shades of darkness of the characters mixed with the light and hope shared by them for the future.

I love the line of the song, towards the end, that goes:

“He’s my sun, he makes me shine like diamonds.”

It just captures the feelings shared between Daisy and Gatsby so beautifully, a feeling I know well, that one look from the one you love can set you alight and bring you to life. Stunning all around. I love this film and I love the fact that this film has made by boyfriend, who has never really like Luhrmann’s films, think again.

Only problem is that I need to win the lottery in order to fulfil my wish of hiring a mansion or stately home to hold a fabulous twenties-themed Gatsby party with everyone I know. I want to have everyone dressed up in gorgeous flapper dresses, feathers and beads. Everyone would be swing dancing all over the place with my friends from Swing Patrol and the music would be big band and lively. Plenty of cocktails and sparkle everywhere. It really would be the party to end all parties, but how on earth I would put this on – why knows without the funds!

Who else has seen The Great Gatsby that has read the novel? What did you think of it?