Drishyam Movie Review/ Comparison

FotoJetIt was tempting to begin this post stating that I was putting off reviewing Drishyam until I watched both Malayalam and Hindi versions of this film; but that would be lying. The truth is, I actually didn’t think to review them until I watched the hindi version and realized I ended up comparing them throughout the movie watching experience. I figured that since I already mentally compared them, it would be interesting to do a review that compared the same movie but in different regional versions.

Basically, the main plot-line of Drishyam is this: a film-obsessed man uses the knowledge gained from watching various movies to plot and ensure that his family does not go to jail for a crime. Georgekutty/Vijay is a cinema owner who lives in his own little happy world. He sells movies for a living (watching movies is his hobby as well) and resides with his wife Rani/Nandani and two daughters: high school student Anju and the younger Anu. The four exist in a happy medium. Georgekutty/Vijay is well liked by his town as he’s very easy-going and nice. One day, Anju goes on a class fieldtrip and a boy films her changing her clothes. The boy attempts to blackmail her — by promising to release the tape of her undressing if she didn’t sleep with him. During this attempt, Rani/Nandani also comes across him and the trio get into a fight, with the women attempting to take the boy’s cellphone in which the video resides. In the resulting fight, the boy accidentally dies. Anju and Rani/Nandani are shocked and attempt to hide his body, which is seen by Anu. When Georgekutty/Vijay comes home, the women confess and he gets to work. First he takes the boy’s cellphone, breaks the battery, buys a replacement and throws the phone on a random truck. Secondly, he takes the boy’s car and drives it into a large body of water. Then he takes his family on a trip where they listen to a religious talk, eat in a restaurant, watch a movie, and stay overnight in a hotel. The next morning, they head back.

Meanwhile, it becomes apparent that the dead boy was actually the son of the police commissioner, Geeta/Meera. Geeta/Meera becomes concerned when her spoiled son doesn’t return home and launches an investigation. Unfortunately, when Georgekutty/Vijay was disposing of the car, he was seen by a policeman, Sahadevan/Gaitonde, with whom he already shared bad blood. Sahadevan/Gaitonde tells Geeta/Meera about what he saw and Georgekutty/Vijay and his family are brought in for questioning. It’s shown through flashbacks how Georgekutty/Vijay had already prepared his family for the police questioning. At the end of the movie, Georgekutty/Vijay and his family are released as there is no other evidence linking them to the murder. However, throughout the questioning period and even later, the movie flashbacks to showing how Georgekutty/Vijay used his movie knowledge to escape the police.

If it’s not readily apparent, this is a fantastic movie. It has an incredibly unique storyline and keeps the viewer guessing until the last moment. Definitely one of the more unique films I’ve seen.

That said, let’s get into the comparison. To be honest, I far preferred the Malayalam version, as it felt for more realistic. I think it has to do with the actors casted and the general feeling of the story-line.

In the Malayalam version, Georgekutty is played by Mohanlal and Rani by Meena. Not only did the two look age appropriate (i.e. old enough to be parents to two girls), but they also felt more cohesive. You could imagine the two as a couple.

Whereas in the hindi version, Vijay was played by Ajay Devgan and Nandani was played by Shriya Saran. While you could imagine the two as a couple, it was very difficult to imagine Nandani as the mother of a teenager. She just looked far too young! The hindi movie tried justifying this by adding in the plot-line of Anju being Vijay’s adopted daughter. However, to be honest, I didn’t really understand or like that plot. It didn’t seem to anything to the movie and I felt it was useless. As nice and good Shriya was to look at and in her acting, I think an age-appropriate-looking actress would’ve fit the bill better than the adoption storyline.

The original version doesn’t have this adoption story. The original version just focuses on Georgekutty and his happy world consisting of his family. Hence, there’s a seeming aura of realism throughout the Malayalam movie that makes the movie more enjoyable. It doesn’t feel like we’re watching a stylized film. It just feels like we’re watching some days within this man’s life. And I think a lot of this is due to Mohanlal’s acting. His acting adds in nuances that elevate the movie. Whether its the little teasing to his wife and daughters or his joking around, Mohanlal makes Georgekutty feel real. Which also translates really well for the movie, as in my opinion, part of the movie’s appeal came from the whole common man aspect.

Everyone loves a good underdog story and by having a common man, who isn’t particularly smart or good-looking, be the hero through his knowledge, gleaned from movies no less, it lends the movie an element of personal connection. And this personal connection is furthered through Mohanlal’s acting and makes the climax of the film even more satisfying when you watch. (It’s actually even more remarkable when you realize that Mohanlal is a gigantic star in the South Indian movie industry and yet manages to perfectly embody a character the opposite of his star status and ensure that his star status doesn’t overtake the character).

Whereas the hindi version wasn’t as successful in this. While Ajay Devgan’s acting was convincing, it just felt lacking at some points because of his looks. He read and felt too fancy. In other words, he didn’t necessarily feel like the common man. It sort of felt like the audience was watching a stylized movie rather than a slice of a man’s life. Hence, the common man element was missing. However, the others actors are decent as well — particularly Tabu and Asha Sarath who played inspector Geeta/ Meera.

That said, I will say that both films are excellent films — just because of the story-line. However, when the two versions are compared, I find the Malayalam version to be better than the Hindi version.

My rating: Watch this movie to enjoy an almost meta, incredibly unique, suspense movie about movie cliches


Black Korean Drama Review


This past month, I’ve sort of been on a K-drama kick. Not only did I manage to find one I enjoyed on Netflix, I managed to find two! And this drama, Black, was definitely something else! It’s actually so unique from what I’ve seen thus far! Which, admittedly, isn’t much, but at least is something!

Basically, Black is about a girl named Ha-Ram Kang (played by Go A-Ra) who can see when people will die and a grim reaper named 444. According to the mythology of the show, when people die, their souls are collected by grim reapers. However, these grim reapers don’t just show up once the person dies — they actually shadow the person before their death (can be a few minutes or few hours). Although the reapers appear to have some sort of human form, normal humans can’t see them, or the souls of the people who died. However, Ha-Ram can. Ha-Ram has the ability to see these grim reapers — but she doesn’t see their human forms. Instead, Ha-Ram sees the grim reapers as black shadows. Hence, whenever a person is about to die and the grim reapers come to shadow that person, Ha-Ram is able to see a black shadow behind the person — which signifies to her that death is imminent for the person. On top of that, if she touches the shadow/ grim reaper, she can actually see the exact moment and way the person destined to die will die.

As Ha-Ram has had this ability since childhood, she’s always been very afraid of the shadows (no one else can see them except for her). Hence, whenever she saw them and pointed them out, others would laugh at her and think of her as crazy. In fact, some even called her misfortunate – saying that death followed her. As a result, to protect herself (as she fears the shadows), she tends to wear sunglasses everywhere. The dark lens of the sunglasses prevent her from being able to see the shadows. However, even this remedy is not enough as she isn’t always able to wear the glasses — i.e. at her job they tell her to take it off or she falls and they fall off. She thinks of her ability as bad luck, until a chance meeting with Detective Han Moo-Gang (played by Song Seung-Heon). Moo-Gang makes Ha-Ram realize that she could use her gift for good — she could prevent deaths before they occurred (i.e. touching the shadow, seeing how the person died, and then preventing that version of events from happening).

However, it turns out that Moo-Gang has some mysteries of his own. A former successful accountant in the States, Moo-Gang abruptly quit his job a few years ago, took the Korean police exam and passed to become a detective. However, the strange part is that Moo-Gang cannot even stand to look at dead bodies! In fact, he’s known for his weak stomach — as he ends up vomiting over the corpses whenever his team is called! Hence, he’s also looked down upon by his teammates and other police officers. Yet, despite this, he remains incredibly polite to them. However, we’re also given hints as to how everything is not alright with him. He has a secret basement room on his property that is locked shut and only opens with a scan of his eyeballs. He also mentions some work he must complete. In fact, his girlfriend, Soo- Wan (played by Lee El), is also low-key suspicious and worried because it doesn’t make sense how someone who is unable to look at dead bodies would try to become a detective.

While all of this is happening in the upperworld, we also go down to the underworld. I mentioned earlier that grim reapers shadowed people who were about to die. When the person died, the grim reaper would grab the soul of the dead person and lead them to the underworld — whether it be to heaven, hell, or to become a grim reaper. There are two types of grim reapers: those who are elite and born as reapers (aka their bodies have never been found) and those who committed suicide and are grim reapers due to punishment (who are also looked down upon). Each reaper is often given a partner with whom they go to collect souls. Once a partner learns enough of collecting souls, or when the partner’s body is finally found (if they are an elite reaper), or when a soul is finally able to pass, the partner’s change. Here, we’re introduced to one of the most cold hearted grim reapers, 444 (played by Kim Tae-Woo). 444 is known for his ruthlessness in collecting souls and his efficiency. He begins the series with one partner and changes to another one early on — as his previous partner’s soul moves on. The second partner (played by Park Doo-Sik) referred to as ‘loser,’ is an extremely inept grim reaper who feels sympathy for the recently deceased. Annoyed by him, 444 attempts to get rid of his partner by sabotaging him — that’s another thing: grim reapers can be sentenced to become dogs if they break rules, like run away or let souls run away. Knowing that his partner is not trained enough, 444 sends him on a soul retrieving mission on his own — banking on his partner losing the soul and thus becoming a dog, allowing 444 to get a new parter. However, the new partner takes advantage of his newfound freedom to enter into the dead body of another person — aka running away from his duties. It turns out that the older grim reapers are also responsible for mistakes rookies make, so when the loser runs away, 444 realizes its his head on the chopping table. Hence, he also escapes to the upperworld (he actually also has a valid reason as he’s been assigned a soul to collect) to catch the loser and bring him back for his punishment.

Through a series of events, Moo-Gang ends up getting shot and dying, with 444 taking over his body. 444 (now played by Song Seung-Heon) plans to use the human body to track down the body the loser is hiding in to bring him back. However, the problem is that 444 is unable to see if a human body is possessed by a grim reaper or not. Similarly, 444’s friends, grim reapers 007 (played by Jo Jae-Yoon) and 416 (played by Lee Kyu-Bok and Jung Jun-Won), tell him that for taking over a human’s body, the grim reaper leaders (Death Note) are also after him now. Finally, 444 also has to deal with Moo-Gang’s life. Although he is helped out a bit by the latter problem by claiming memory loss. Through a meeting with Ha-Ram, who he realizes can see shadows inside people too (i.e. grim reapers inside human bodies), he decides to utilize her eyes to find the loser and bring him back to the underworld to clear his name. However, to prevent Ha-Ram from seeing the shadow inside Moo-Gang’s body, 444 dresses in all black. Just like how the black sunglasses lens prevented Ha-Ram from seeing shadows, the black clothing did the same. Hence, the two join forces. However, Ha-Ram is still under the illusion that she’s working with Moo-Gang to save peoples lives, while 444 uses her for his own reasons.

Among this, we’re also introduced to Oh Man-Soo (played by Kim Dong-Jun). Man-Soo is the second son of a rich businessman. However, he is treated horribly by the family, especially his older half-brother Oh Man-Ho (played by Choi Min-Chul) who verbally and physically abuses him. Oh Chun-So, Man-Soo and Man-Ho’s father is bedridden and owns a number of companies under the name of “Royeol Group.” Among them, is an insurance company, Royeol Insurance, that is about to go bankrupt. In order to save himself and his family name, Man-Ho makes Man-Soo the chairman of the insurance company. Man-Ho intends to have Man-Soo run the failing company while he attempts to sell it to some Chinese investors. However, Man-Soo is unaware of this — at first. When he finds out, he tries his hardest to ensure that the company does not go down. To do so, he hired Ha-Ram. He too had witnessed Ha-Ram’s shadow seeing ability and unlike others, believed her completely. So he hires her to spy on his top clients to ensure that they will not die and get money from the insurance company — i.e. she stalks them to ensure that they have no black shadow. Ha-Ram isn’t happy to do this, but does so because she needs the money and because Man-Soo’s company holds some information pertinent to her father’s murder.

Are you still with me? Because the plot actually gets even more complicated and has more elements. There are various mysteries embedded in each episode and the show actually deals with a lot of dark themes. It touches upon issues like child sexual abuse, rape, abuse, prostitution, etc. On that note, it’s also quite a violent drama — with heavy focus given to murderers and quite a few scenes of people getting murdered. However, personally, I still quite enjoyed it. At its core, the show is a thriller. And as for the thrill, there is tons of suspense in each episode. Like I said earlier, new mysteries are always popping up and revealing themselves. In fact, there’s also a lot of red herrings to throw viewers off track, even though they seem connected. Speaking of that, I think the best thing about this show, aside from the acting, was the writing. Aside from the last episode, which I’ll talk about more later, the writing for this show was fantastic. Every scene and dialogue had a purpose. The writers did a fantastic job keeping the suspense and creating an interesting mystery, but also keeping a close reign on the mystery (at least until the end). Everything was seemingly connected and pleasantly enough, we were shown that too. What I mean by that, is that we got to see the two sides of scenes happening: those from the view of the past/ who actually experienced the scene and those from the view of the present/ Ha-Ram seeing the death or the brief flashbacks we’d get when the characters would be trying to solve a mystery. It was honestly fantastic and amazing.

However, it wasn’t just the story that was good, I’d have to give props to the acting and characters too. Major props go to Song Seung-Heon who played 444/Black/adult Moo-Gang. Seung-Heon was FANTASTIC and just so believable. If anything, I think he, at times, overshadowed Go A-Ra’s performance, who also put in a decent performance, but not to Seung-Heon’s level. I think props also need to be given to Lee El and Kim Dong-Jun, who played Yoon Soo-Wan and Oh Man-Soo respectively. In fact, the latter kind of felt like the dark house — the hero who wouldn’t get the girl or be the most respected person, but you would still root for him. I actually think his character and role was done the most dirty as we got no mentions of what he did after. It was disappointing.

Which brings me to my next points: the finale episode and the last 10 minutes. I heard somewhere that this show was only supposed to air for 16 episodes but ended up getting extended to 18 due to its popularity. I don’t know how true it is, but I’m inclined to think that it might be true, just because of the last minutes of the 18th episode which basically ruined the entire buildup of the show. Not only did it go contrary to the entire story we had been shown, but it also contradicted the mythology of the show and just didn’t make sense. To spoil you, basically 444 decides to get the ultimate punishment and remove himself from ever existing. Which okay fine — a sad ending would be sad but okay. But then Ha-Ram also decides to commit suicide because she finds out the truth of her shooting Joon. Which again, okay fine — a sad ending. But strangely enough, she asks to be reborn and commits suicide, but doesn’t end up as a grim reaper?!? The show took pains to establish that those who committed suicide become grim reapers — so why didn’t she? On top of that, 444 narrates that because he removed his existence, he was able to prevent her dad from dying and being the other 444, thereby resulting in Ha-Ram being born a normal girl with normal eyes that couldn’t see the grim reapers. Which — what?!? How?! Erasing his existence meant that 444 could go back in time? And what about Kim Sun-young? What happened to the entire tape dilemma? Did the criminals get their comeuppance? Does this mean that Crazy Dog never died? What about all those moments where Joon played an important role? On top of that, we see Ha-Ram live a normal life, becoming a paramedic and saving people and receiving awards from the President. And then we see her as an old woman, friends with Leo (played by Kim Jae-Young — sidenote, his acting was decent too). However, this scene is also marred by the fact that the makeup used to make the actors look older is ATROCIOUS. Seriously, it’s pretty bad. But anyways, in their old age, Leo tells the story of 444 falling in love with a human woman (aka to Ha-Ram) who ends up forgetting about him as he erases his existence. But then when Ha-Ram dies, it’s 444 who comes to pick up her soul and the two walk together into the afterlife or whatever. Like what?!?! The last 10 minutes literally go against everything we’re told?

I honestly think that had those last 10 minutes never been shown, this show would firmly be cemented as being one of the best K-drama’s I’ve ever seen. In fact, my whole family get low-key interested in the drama because it was that amazing. That said, it’s also worth pointing out that there were definitely a few continuity issues present as well. One that comes to mind is the Leo reveal. We’re shown that Leo died much earlier and that the current Leo in the show is actually the loser 444’s been looking for. Which is fine and makes sense. However, as this means that Leo is effectively a grim reaper within a human body, Ha-Ram should’ve seen a shadow inside his body whenever he was near. And there’s actually quite a few instances where the two interact and Leo’s even wearing non-black clothing; yet Ha-Ram never notices.  Similarly, I didn’t like the characters of 007 and 416. They were supposed to be the comic relief I guess, but I just found them so annoying. And of course, there’s no point in mentioning the horrible ending.

My rating: Go watch this show for a thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the end and be prepared to have every one of your guesses fail (well maybe not all, but at least some)!

It’s Kind of a Funny Story Movie Review

47980728Movies about depression are always iffy for me. A lot of the time, I either find them too optimistic or I find them too dramatic. Maybe I haven’t seen enough of them. That’s why I was a little hesitant to begin It’s Kind of a Funny Story, as I didn’t want to be disappointed.

Basically, It’s Kind of a Funny Story (IKoaFS), is about high school teenager Craig (played by Keir Gilchrist) who checks himself into the psych ward due to his fear of him committing suicide. However, the teen ward is closed for renovations, so he is instead admitted to the adult psych ward. In the adult psych ward, he meets with a number of people and forms bonds with them. There’s his mentor, dealing with his own problems, Bobby (played by Zach Galifianakis), the nice and pretty Noelle who struggles with self-harm (played by Emma Roberts), his bed-ridden roommate Muqtata (played by Bernard White), and his psychiatrist Dr. Minerva (played by Viola Davis). Craig stays in the ward for about a week and the film deals with his life. Although, the supporting characters do get some great work to do, particularly Bobby.

What I liked about the film, was how relatable Craig was. Craig was an incredibly anxious, stressed out, depressed and suicidal teenager. He felt like an outsider among his peers, his friends, and even with his family. The pressure of performing well in school, of thinking of about his future in terms of academics, or even asking out a girl, all seemed to mount on him, until he had difficulty coping. Although I’m not a teenager anymore, I could definitely relate to Craig. In fact, a couple of times, I had to do a double take because some of the things he said/ thought actually reminded me of when I was still in school. He feels like an incredibly realistic character.

I also really enjoyed the take on depression this movie had. Although Craig’s story-line left a lot to be desired, I liked how it was contrasted with others. Craig’s storyline actually slightly related to one of my annoyances about movies about depression. Craig stayed in the psychiatric ward for a total of five days and left the facility feeling happier and less depressed than before. According to his final voiceover, it taught him a lot about his life, about the things he had that he could look forward too. While it’s a good message, I also felt that it was a tad too optimistic. I wish the movie had maybe pointed out how his meds were also a reason why he felt better (it was implied slightly), rather than him just learning to be appreciative for the things he had in life.

That said, the other takes on depression in this film were fantastic. One of them was Craig’s roommate Muqtata. Although we weren’t ever given a backstory for Muqtata, he spent most of his time at the facility in bed. He was too depressed to even get out of bed. He did attempt to walk out of his room, once or twice. However, he’d always lose his nerve and go back to bed. It was only through Craig’s interference (he brought music that Muqtata liked), that Muqtata finally found something to get him out of his bed/ room. I thought it was nice of the writers to show how depression effects people differently. In Craig’s case, it manifested as anxiety and eventually evolved to fuel his suicidal tendencies. With Muqtata, on the other hand, it manifested as a debilitating melancholy that made it difficult for him to even get out of bed.

The other take on depression, was Craig’s mentor, Bobby. Like Muqtata, we weren’t given a backstory for Bobby. However, we did see the effect Bobby’s depression had on his family, the depth of his depression, and his struggle to get better. In fact, I think Bobby’s story was actually the most emotional of them all (it probably also helps that Zach Galifianakis acted really well). Despite Bobby’s easygoing demeanour and his attempts to help Craig with his depression, Bobby himself suffered keenly from depression; having attempted to commit suicide six times before. We were also shown the struggles Bobby went through, with finding housing after his release from the facility, with finding a job to support himself, and with his wife’s constant belittling of him and attempts at eliminating his daughter’s relationship with him. It’s an incredibly depressing, but also realistic look at the way depression can really seem to take over your life. It’s not just about dealing with it in facilities, it also affects your everyday life. Plus, it doesn’t always end with a happy ending. In one of my favourite moments, during Craig’s last night at the facility, he throws a pizza party for everyone. Bobby refrains from participating, despite the fact that he is also being released the next day. The audience is shown that Bobby was unsuccessful in landing a job and securing housing. Although it isn’t necessarily spelled out or even explicit, the next morning, when Craig asks for Bobby (just to see him one last time), it’s implied that Bobby killed himself. Although it’s incredibly sad, the movie handles it really well, just hinting at it and showing how depression isn’t just a simple issue; its complex.

On that note, the movie does have some unlikeable elements. There’s this semi-love-triangle thing that happens between Craig, Noelle, and Craig’s former crush, Nia. Although thankfully this story-line isn’t stretched too far, I also felt it was sort of unnecessary? I just wasn’t a fan and didn’t see its need. I’e already mentioned how I didn’t like how the movie was seemingly so optimistic towards depression recovery. It only hints at struggles (through Bobby for example) rather than providing an in depth look at them. I also thought it was a little odd how Craig seemed to be so incredibly talented at drawing and singing when he claimed to not be. It wasn’t bad per se, but just odd. Actually, while talking about that, I liked the animations in the movie when depicting Craig’s maps. I thought they were cool.

Anyways, moving onto the acting. If it’s not clear, the acting was pretty good across the board. All the actors were believable. I’d say a special mention probably goes to Zach Galifianakis, just because of how great his Bobby was. But then again, he is a good actor; it just gets hard to remember that because of how many comedies he chooses to do. Also, I think props also go to Keir Gilchrist who makes Craig so relatable. I haven’t really seen him in other things before, but he was really good in the movie and managed to carry most of it on his shoulders. Similarly, directing was great as well. Also, this is probably not the best place to mention it (my bad in not planning out this review better), but this movie was actually based upon the book of the same name, written by Ned Vizzini, who actually spent a few days in a psychiatric facility. So it’s actually semi-autobiographical I believe. Unfortunately, Ned died in 2013 after his own intense battle with depression.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a light but good look at the way depression can manifest itself differently in people, but don’t expect to be blown away.

Comet Movie Review

comet-movie-poster-2014-1020771449I first heard of the movie Comet in 2015 and I was immediately hooked. The trailer, music, mood, cinematography all seemed so intriguing. Unfortunately, it was not playing at any theatres near me, and nor could I find it online. Hence I assumed that it would fall into the ‘movies I might watch years later’ category, like Proof did. My assumption was right, but I was off by the number of years, as I was able to watch it just three years after it was first released.

Comet is about two individuals, pessimistic, anxious, super-smart Dell (played by Justin Long) and his girlfriend Kimberly (played by Emmy Rossum). The opening scene alleges that this movie takes place over six years in parallel universes. As such, we’re treated to five different scenes of Dell and Kimberly. Among them, are when they first met, which was during a comet shower where Kimberly saved Dell’s life and Dell managed to talk/ distract Kimberly from her date and convince her into going out with him. We also get their “reunion” scene on a train where they presumably get back together after breaking things off, preventing Kimberly from getting with a new guy. There’s also a scene of them breaking up in Paris, where Dell is attempting to propose while Kimberly talks about her dissatisfaction with their relationship and breaks up with him. Similarly, there’s another break-up scene where Dell is in Los Angeles and Kimberly is in New York and the two are on a phone call where it is revealed that Kimberly’s been texting an old flame (the guy she was seeing during the train sequence) and Dell decides that they should break up. Finally, there’s a scene where Dell comes to meet Kimberly after they’ve been presumably broken up for years, but Kimberly’s in a relationship with the old flame this time.

These events don’t take place in chronological order and the movie flashes back and forth between them. So for example, we’d get one scene of Dell and Kimberly talking during the comet shower and then abruptly flash to Dell following Kimberly to a train. Once on the train, we’d flashback to the two of them in the Paris apartment before flashing back to the comet shower scene. Although the events seem to take place in one universe, the movie alleges that they took place in parallel universes. Building on this feeling (I guess), is the fact that the outside scenery sometimes changes during scenes. For example, while Dell and Kimberly are sitting together on the train, the train window appears to be showing a spot of space vs. the actual route of the train. Furthermore, the scenes sometimes break up weirdly. There’s static during some transition scenes, and even during some scenes in general.

On that topic, it’s also revealed that Dell’s been having dreams of the scenes we’ve been shown. This fact is actually revealed near the middle/end when Dell is in Kimberly’s apartment, where she lives with her boyfriend. Therefore, Kimberly posits the idea that maybe Dell is still dreaming (and dreamed all those scenes we witnessed as well) and kissing her will wake him up (because his dream ended before they kissed). This is supported by the fact that when Dell picks up Kimberly’s thesis book, all the words are gibberish, which is commonly assumed to happen in dreams (can’t read stuff in dreams). She also postulates that perhaps Dell died during the first scene (where he and Kimberly met, during the comet shower), and all the scenes Dell’s been dreaming of/ that we’ve been shown, are in fact those “life flashes right before you die” things. In fact, the ending scene seems to sort of echo this, as when Kimberly and Dell are talking on the roof of her apartment, there are two suns rising and the two suns could perhaps be the lights of the car hitting Dell? Or maybe the two suns are signs of the parallel universes that the movie implies?

Furthermore, the end scene itself presents a number of confusing interpretations. I’ve already mentioned the two suns rising theory (car vs. parallel universe). However, the scene itself also presents vague implications for their love story. On the roof, Dell confesses his love for her and asks her to come back to him, but she reveals that she’s pregnant with her boyfriend’s child. However, in the beginning of the movie, Dell told Kimberly that all relationships have a lie. He already confessed his lie to her in the beginning of the movie and told her to tell him a lie that he would believe when he was vulnerable. So maybe Kimberly’s pregnancy announcement was her lie to him? This is supported by the fact that while Dell ponders her pregnancy announcement, his hand touches his stomach, he pauses and then looks back at her and then walks toward her determinedly. Thereby, the assumption is that he realized that she lied and that he kissed her. Or maybe, he didn’t kiss her at all and decided to finally let her go? Or maybe, none of this even happened?

If you can’t tell already (LOL), this is a very confusing movie. However, the confusion actually works really well for this movie, at least in my opinion. Earlier in the movie, Kimberly had expressed a desire for time to cease existing and instead viewing life as a painting, with no discernible beginning, middle or end (“it’s just there”). Thus, one can view the entirety of the movie as that of a painting. We’re not really shown the chronological movements of their relationships (hell it’s not even clear if what we’re shown is the truth or not LOL), but we are shown moments. And I think the beauty of the movie lies in just that; the moments in their relationship. They just feel so real, despite the fact that the entire film is just so surreal (with the background scenery and musical score).

On that note, the acting was just absolutely phenomenal in this movie, especially Justin Long. He knocked it out of the park spectacularly. His quick-talking Dell was so great. On paper (Kimberly actually mentions this too LOL), Dell is a pretty horrible character. He’s selfish (he claims that he loves Kimberly because she loves him), cynical, and rude (he actually stalked her on the train). Yet, Justin Long makes him somewhat likeable. You actually feel for Dell and root for him. You want him to get his happy ending with Kimberly. On top of that, the entire movie basically rests on his shoulders. There’s really no other actors besides him and Emmy Rossum. Coming to talk about her, she was fantastic as well! Although Kimberly didn’t have much to do, other than reflecting Dell’s thoughts, Emmy still managed to imbue her with charm.

That’s actually a negative for this film though. It’s not visible immediately, but on reflection, it was quite obvious. Kimberly is really not fleshed out as a person. We don’t know much about her, especially compared to Dell. All we know, is that she used to be superficial when dating guys, wrote her thesis on the “Art of Science,” goes to a gun-range, and wasn’t a fan of MTV. That’s it really. She’s just a collection of random traits and thoughts. Whereas Dell is more of a cohesive character with a more distinctive background. For example, we know that he’s super smart, works in pharmaceuticals, created a wonder drug that “cured” his mother’s cancer, goes to therapy, has a motor mouth that gets him into trouble, is self-destructive, etc. In fact, a lot of the dialogue in the movie is mostly just Dell sprouting his thoughts and Kimberly reacting to it.

Yet, even with this critique (which is actually quite significant if I’m being honest), I still really like this movie. Not only are the performances fantastic, but the entire movie itself is really great, especially some of the quotes. Plus, the surreal feel and soundtrack are a treat to feel and watch too.

My rating: watch to enjoy a surreal drama about relationships and to enjoy Justin Long and Emmy Rossum’s acting prowess.

Udta Punjab Movie Review

album_artI had heard of this Bollywood movie before it had even released, because of how controversial it was. Apparently, there was a scene in the movie where the main character literally peed upon people and the Indian Censor Board made nearly 100 cuts in the film. The latter action led to protests, claiming that the Censor Board was acting arbitrary and employing censorship in a free speech country. As a result, the film was pirated heavily before it was even officially released. So, as you can probably surmise, it created quite a ruckus in its early days, despite still being in production. Hence, when it came out, I was a little hesitant to watch the film for the content and decided that I would rather wait for the movie to be released online rather than watch it in theatres. Luckily, it appeared on NetFlix and I took the plunge and watched it.

Broadly, the movie deals with the theme of drug abuse in the Indian state of Punjab, and it does so through the usage of four distinct characters who also inhabit distinct parallel stories; those directly involved with drugs and those indirectly.

The story begins with rockstar Tommy and his mania. After getting lucky in England, Tommy lands a music record deal and becomes a huge sensation in Punjab, India. Not sure what to sing about, he sings about the only thing he knows: drugs. His songs are full of references to alcohol, drugs, misbehaviour, etc. His usage of drugs affects him adversely, to the point where he accidentally shoots his beloved uncle in the ear. After getting arrested for possession, he finally experiences the adverse effect his songs and persona have had on the youth of Punjab. There’s a chilling scene where two young boys, in the same jail as Tommy, begin singing one of Tommy’s songs, never once missing a beat. They praise him and speak of him as their idol. It’s only afterwards that we learn that the boys were in jail for killing their mother — after she refused to give them money to get their next hit.

However, no matter how much Tommy wants to leave the drugs behind, he has no idea how to as they fulfil such a pivotal role in his life. There’s a scene where after getting arrested for drug possession and his shooting mania, Tommy is convinced to give a concert promoting drug abstention. However, before he goes on stage, Tommy begins freaking out. He’s never performed without drugs, he only ever performs about drugs. Without them, he doesn’t know what to do. His cousin covertly comes to his rescue and gives him a small hit. At first, Tommy is repulsed and throws away the package, after remembering the whole drug-induced shooting fiasco. The uncle he shot at, was the uncle who looked after him after his father died, the uncle who sent him to London, the uncle who funded his sister’s wedding, the uncle who manages his career, the uncle who was willing to go to jail for him, the uncle he himself adores. However, his anxiety gets the best of him and he takes the hit. On stage, he begins to lose it, revealing his anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, and humble origin story. However, his fans revolt, wanting to hear him sing about drugs. Tommy looses fully and urinates on his fans, to their fury. They break through barricades and begin chasing him. This is where he comes into contact with Bauriya.

“Bauriya,” played by Alia Bhatt, was a former rising hockey star. But her father’s early death forces her to move to Punjab and work as a migrant farmer to earn money. While working in the fields, she inadvertently comes across a packet of drugs. Naively, she dreams of selling them and finally living the high life. Through street smarts, she calculates how many kilos she has and how much she can sell them for. She gets into contact with a local drug lord and brokers a meetup. On the way to the meetup, she’s incredibly happy. She dresses up pretty and is thrilled when a local boy notices her. However, the further she gets to her designation, the further she realizes what a stupid position she’s put herself in. She becomes wary of the attention of the men leering at her and gets pursued by the drug lords goons. Finally realizing her folly in getting involved in such a dangerous and dirty situation, she attempts to rectify by throwing all the drugs down a well. However, she’s caught by the goons and taken back to the drug layer. They decide what to do with her, and come to the decision to take her as a sexual play-thing.

In an heart-breaking scene, Bauriya realizes what’s happening and desperately fights to be free. She manages to make it out of the room she’s been held captive but then is pinned down and forcibly injected with heroin. As she fades with the drugs, she’s presumably gang-raped. She’s kept as a play-thing and used by numerous people, all while being given drugs to keep her restrained. She wakes up one night, in a drug haze, and walks through the goons house (the drug lord lives in a normal Punjab house) until she ends up at the entrance. She stands there, unaware, until another goon points at her and snaps her out of her haze, making her realize her opportunity for escape. She runs away and meets Tommy whose also on the run, but from his fans.

Tommy discusses his sad life and asks her if she’d like to join him in suiciding — because he sees no other way out. Bauriya scoffs at him and iterates her intent to live and fight on. After Tommy’s fans find him and beat him up, Bauriya manages to use her hockey skills to save him. Fed up of his talking, Bauriya finally reveals her horrible story — kissing him and telling him that her captors did everything to her but that. Tommy is taken aback and finally realizes that there’s other options. After seeing Bauriya get recaptured by the drug goons, he makes it his priority to rescue her.

Meanwhile, on the other side, police officer Sartaj, played by Diljit Dosanjh, uses his wits to directly benefit from the system. Although he doesn’t explicitly partake in the drug trade by taking them or selling them, he does encourages their illegal sale alongside his other corrupt officers. However, when his younger brother gets involved, Sartaj’s world is taken for a spin as he finally experiences first-hand results of his activities. He forcefully admits his younger brother to a rehabilitation centre. Feeling incredibly guilty, he decides to straighten his world and secretly teams up with Dr. Preet to reveal the main men behind the drug trade to the government, in hopes that things would change.

Dr Preet, played by Kareena Kapoor Khan, is vehemently opposed to drugs and runs a rehabilitation centre alongside publishing several article about the dangers of drugs. It is through Sartaj’s younger brother’s overdose that she meets Sartaj. They both decide to team up and take down the illegal drug trade by outing the men. She generally plays a more outside role in the conflict before Sartaj recruits her to spy with him. Using his police training, Sartaj manages to scope out a fake business through which drugs are illegally obtained. He manages to trace the business to a building and finds out that a local politician, who publicly abhors drugs and argues against them, has been actively taking part in the drug trade. He convinces Preet to come along with him to a stakeout and using her medical acumen and his skills, they manage to get incriminating proof for those behind the illegal drug trade and the main drug lord. Through their time together, they grow close and Sartaj develops a crush on Preet. After they finish their report, she reciprocates and the two make plans to go on a date after submitting their report to the government.

However, during that same night, Sartaj’s younger brother, suffering from withdrawal symptoms, angry at being detained against his will in the rehabilitation facility, and wanting to go back to his old lifestyle, breaks glass and manages to escape the facility. Preet comes and attempts to stop him. In an heart-breaking scene, instead of treating him like any other patient and saving her hide, Preet instead attempts to handle Sartaj’s little brother head-on, thinking of him as more than just any other patient due to the Sartaj connection. In the ensuing struggle, the younger brother ends up fatally stabbing Preet. As Sartaj is a part of the local police, they come to the crime scene and begin attempting to stage the murder as a robbery attempt gone wrong, in an effort to protect the brother as they see Sartaj as one of their own. However, in their attempts, they come across the damning report written by Sartaj and Preet that outs all of them as a part of the drug trade. Furious, they grab him and take him to the house of the local drug lord, the same place where Bauriya is being held.

I’m going to refrain from giving out the ending because I think it’s one of the more interesting scenes. In general, I think this is one of the best movies I’ve seen made in 2016. There were a lot of times where I was taken aback by just how hard-hitting and uncomfortable some scenes where. It didn’t shy away from portraying the grim realities of drug abuse. There’s nothing glorifying about it. As the movie showed, everyone is affected by it and no one wins.

What I also appreciated, was how the story was told. There wasn’t really an overt preachy message being shown. If anything, both good and bad people suffered. Also, while the theme of the movie was serious, there were moments of dark humour that elevated the movie. One really great example, was the one mentioned of the boys singing to Tommy in jail earlier. It starts off funny but then quickly becomes horrifying. And I think it symbolized the attraction and eventual life-cycle of addictions well. Also, even with the extremely dark theme and story-telling, I appreciated how the makers displayed little glimpses of hope. There are two scenes that particularly stand out to me:

1. In an effort to rescue Bauriya, Tommy sneaks into a hospital to meet a drug goon to figure out Bauriya’s location. The goon recognizes Tommy and demands that Tommy sing a song before he reveals the location. Tommy proceeds to sing a song. However, instead of singing about drugs or any of his previous songs, he instead sings a beautiful song (sidenote– the song was actually written by a famous Punjabi poet in the 1900s) about a girl, presumably Bauriya. That scene is so beautiful because it symbolizes the hopeful future, not only for Tommy, but also for Punjab. Tommy finally found something else to focus upon, to become his muse; thereby lessening his reliance on the drugs. Whereas the fact that the song was actually composed by a Punjabi poet and speaks of such beauty is hopeful, symbolizing that the land is capable of producing more than just drug addled youths. Sidenote — Tommy actually sort of symbolized Punjab for me — something caught up in its dependence/ system and seeing no out but then realizing that there is hope and freedom.

2.  When Bauriya is first given the drugs in an attempt to subdue her, she obviously experiences a feeling like no other. In the movie, this feeling is symbolized by her swimming freely in a vast open space; floating and being weightless. At the end of the film, when she’s finally drug-free, she goes and begins swimming in the ocean. And the director filmed the scene exactly like the previous swimming scene, with her floating and being weightless. In order words, implying that it was possible to achieve immeasurable peace and happiness using things other than drugs. Thereby providing a hopeful message that drugs aren’t the only things that will bring you peace/ there’s no reason to take them.

On that note, Alia Bhatt’s acting is fantastic. Her Bihari accent does slip a few times, but the sheer amount of emotion and feeling she brings as Bauriya is outstanding. Her monologue after beating up Tommy’s fans was amazing. Another shining star was Diljit Dosanjh. From what I understand, this was his debut performance and he just knocked it out of the park. He brought so much depth to Sartaj and completely grounded his actions. I was taken aback. Kareena Kapoor Khan and Shahid Kapoor were also fantastic of course. However, I will say that Kareena Kapoor Khan’s acting as Preet reminded me quite a bit of her performance in Jab We Met as Geet. Also, the two mentioned before just blew me away. Stand out, wonderful performances. An absolutely wonderful, hard-hitting film.

That said, I’d also warn people. This movie is incredibly, INCREDIBLY offensive in its language. I don’t think there was a single scene in which swear words were not used. And there is some violence as well.

My rating:  Be prepared to be blown away by the darkness and grimness of this film and marvel at the story-telling abilities of the film and actors.

Beating Again/ Falling for Innocence TV Show Review


As some of you may remember, I recently began my K-drama journey with Descendants of the Sun. As my initial experience was positive and led to such high expectations, I had been on the prowl for another K-drama series to devour. However, my search took longer than expected because a) Netflix’s selection is not that big, or at least I do not know how to navigate it and b) I only looked for k-drama’s on Netflix for convenience’s sake which limited my pool. Enter Beating Again/ Falling for Innocence. The show is referred to on Netflix by the former, but is titled the latter on many other websites. Hence, I’m going with both titles. Anyways, truth be told, I was quite hesitant to begin the drama. I wasn’t a big fan of the general summary plot-line because I felt like the potential for exploitation/ manipulation of characters would be really big. In short, the show was about the male lead undergoing a heart transplant and falling in love with the girlfriend of his donor. In other words, ick. However, since the show was rated so highly and because I had really been craving a K-drama, I just swallowed all my feelings and put on the show. Although it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, it was still pretty good.

The show begins with an introduction to Kang Min Ho, played by Jung Kyung-Ho. He’s shown to be this ruthless and rude businessman. He works for an American multinational corporation, Gold Partners, and part of his job requires taking over bankrupt companies and selling them to others. Through his work, he fires people daily without any regard for them, i.e. he doesn’t care how hard they work or how much they need the job. Due to his callous behaviour, he doesn’t have many friends or really care about acquiring friends. His company sees him as a huge asset and his employees are terrified of him, to the point where they nickname him the ‘serial-killer.’ In other words, he fits the archetype of the ruthless businessman with no care for others. He’s willing to do anything and he just doesn’t give a damn about making money as his motive is something else.

At the same time, we’re introduced to Kim Soon-jung, enacted by Kim So-Yeon. She works as a secretary to the Chairman of a huge beauty company called Hermia. She’s an extremely efficient worker, incredibly loyal to her company, and cares for the well-being of all employees, even those working in the warehouse/ factories (her work is mostly within the headquarters). She’s a super nice woman and seems to enjoy her work. She’s engaged to a police detective, Ma Dong-wook (played by Jin Goo from DOTS!). Childhood sweethearts, the two adore each other and share a loving relationship.

The two leads interact when Min-Ho comes to take over Hermia. His goal is to destroy the company. Soon-jung halts his initial entrance to the company and after learning her name, Min-Ho makes it a goal to punish her/ ruin her life. This is also where his backstory comes out. Apparently, Min-Ho’s father had founded Hermia with the noble goal to have a company that would serve its employees and put them before the boss. However, due to a heart disease, Min-Ho’s father died early. Taking advantage of Min-Ho’s dad’s soft nature, his brother, Kang Hyun-Chul (played by Park Yeong-Gyu), forged some papers, making it seem like Min-Ho’s dad committed fraud and put Hyun-Chul in charge. Hyun-Chul, with the help of other headquarter employees, quickly take over, effectively betraying Min-Ho’s dad on his deathbed. Hyun-Chul also cuts off Min-Ho and his mother, making them penniless. Stunned by the events, Min-Ho’s mom commits suicide, leaving the 10 year-old Min-Ho an orphan. Hyun-Chul doesn’t care and just abandons the boy. Min-Ho swears to be a hard and strong businessman (unlike his father) and to destroy his uncle and Hermia, along with the other employees who betrayed his dad. Hence, he grows up, excels and gains employment with Gold Partner’s. However, in a sad twist, Min-Ho inherits his father’s heart disease, giving him only a few years to live. As a result, Min-Ho rises to the top quickly and acts ruthlessly in order to complete his revenge before he dies. By the time the show starts, Min-Ho is around 35 years old and has only a month left to live. Along with Soon-yung blocking his efforts, he also hates her because her father was one of the employees who betrayed his father and helped Hyun-Chul usurp the company.

As the show continues, we’re also introduced to Hermia’s Director of Legal Affairs,  Lee Joon-Hee, played by Yoon Hyun-Min. Joon-hee is friends with Soon-jung and Dong-wook and managed to rise to the position of Director at such a young age, because he was seen as Hyun-Chul’s lapdog. In other words, Joon-Hee did Hyun-Chul’s dirty legal work. For example, he handled felonies committed by judges, or the family members of judges, in order to get the judges favour’s when it came to handling legal conflicts against Hermia (aka biasing the judges and bribing them). Recognizing that his position as Director would be gone as soon as Hyun-Chul stepped down, Joon-Hee teams up with Gold Partners as a double agent, to bring down Hermia and become its next CEO. Having secretly been in love with Soon-Jung since childhood, he believes that once he becomes a rich and powerful man, he’ll be able to gain her love.

Anyways, in the plot-line, one of Hermia’s products is discovered to have unapproved ingredients, causing the company’s stock to fumble. At which point Min-Ho steps in, claiming that Gold Partners had bought most of the stocks and would shut down the company. Hyun-Chul refuses to give up Hermia and claims that they’ll pay back their investors (they’re bankrupt I think, or at least close to it). Min-Ho agrees, while secretly attempting to sway the investors to his side through secret meetings (as he only has one month to live). He enters Hermia as a Director, in order to ensure that they don’t do further illegal stuff to pay back. He also spitefully takes Soon-jung as his secretary and makes her do a crap load of things and stuff that makes it seems like she’s betraying the company (she’s not). Joon-hee helps Gold Partners secretly but pretends like he’s fighting against them in Hermia. Seeing Soon-jung stressed, Dong-wook finds out about the unapproved ingredient case and begins investigating, despite Soon-jung asking him not to. Meanwhile, Hyun-Chul figures out that Min-Ho only has a month to live and is able to take back all the investors Min-Ho had swayed. Angry that his revenge is falling, Min-ho yells at Soon-jung (thinking she ratted him out) and begins throwing things around in his anger. His heart starts acting up and he collapses into a table and is taken to the hospital by Soon-jung. Meanwhile, Dong-wook figures out who was responsible for the unapproved ingredients case and then gets killed in a hit-and-run case. He’s taken to the hospital and his heart is transferred into Min-ho. Min-ho awakes from his surgery and discovers some new habits/ thoughts of his. For example, he gains sudden urges to suck on lollipops (a habit Dong-wook had, to prevent himself from smoking) and tapping people on their noses (something Dong-wook also did). He also finds himself attracted to Soon-jung and having a greater moral compass. However, he’s also incredibly weirded out and worried by these changes.

The rest of the drama is about what happens to Hermia, how Min-ho changes/ his character development, the relationship between Min-ho and Soon-jung, the love triangle between them and Joon-Hee, and various other small side plots.

I had originally thought this drama to be a comedy and put it on. To my dismay, it’s quite melodramatic. There’s a lot of twists and turns and surprising suspense. That said, there is some comedy in the form of Min-Ho and his secretary/ friend, Oh Woo-Sik, played by Lee Si-eon. Min-Ho is HILARIOUS. There’s a scene where Soon-jung is taken captive by a thug and Min-Ho tries negotiating with the thug. He uses the same technique of distracting thugs using expensive watches that Dong-wook did, to the surprise of the police colleagues who are friends with Soon-jung and a part of the kidnapping situation. However, the thug doesn’t fall for the trick and instead the watch breaks. Min-ho, being Min-ho, FREAKS OUT and starts yelling at the thug about how expensive his watch was, etc. Somehow the thug lets Soon-jung go and gets into an altercation with Min-Ho. Dong-wook’s fighting abilities are somehow transferred to Min-Ho and he dodges and defeats the thug, to his own surprise. Min-Ho literally pauses and goes like, “holy shit, I dodged that!” and then once the thug is on the ground, Min-Ho screams again, takes off his shoe, and begins spanking the thug for ruining his watch (lmfaooo). And then while in the police station for questioning, he begins trying out more fighting moves, feeling cool (LOL). It’s seriously hilarious. His comedic moments literally MAKE the drama in my opinion. He’s amazing.

And the growth journey his character goes throughout the show is wonderful. One of my fears about the show was that his character would completely change to be like Dong-wook and that the reason he’d love Soon-jung is because he had Dong-wook’s heart. But he actually doesn’t change all that much. Sure he adapts some of Dong-wook’s habits and sayings, but he also remains Min-Ho. He remains the smart businessman, he remains the easily excited and angry guy and still acts rudely sometimes. But he also changes. He begins to feel empathy and sympathy. He realizes that the way he was living wasn’t sustainable anymore. He lived with the belief that it didn’t matter he didn’t have any friends or a personal life because he was going to die soon anyway. However, now with a new, prolonged life,  his old ways no longer applied and the loneliness got to him. Similarly, he recognized that in his greed for revenge, he was turning out to be the exact same person his despised uncle was. Also, when it came to his love for Soon-jung, once he realized he had Dong-wook’s heart, he tried to rationally sort out his feelings. He tried to figure out if his feelings toward her were from him (mind) or Dong-wook (heart). However, as his ‘experiment’ keeps failing, he realizes that it doesn’t matter because ultimately, both belong to him and that love is irrational itself. I really liked that message because a) I hadn’t expected it and b) it’s quite true. Love doesn’t always have a definite starting point and that there is no rational way to define love. It’s awkward and confusing and ridiculous and even absurd at times.

I also really enjoyed the relationship Min-Ho had with Dong-wook’s father, the Hermia Factory Chief, Ma Tae-Soek. It was kind of like a surrogate father-son relationship. Tae-soek lost his real son, but gained a new sort-of son, same with Min-ho except vice-versa. Tae-soek also shared an incredibly warm relationship with his ex-daughter-in-law-to-be Soon-jung. In one touching scene, he goes to Soon-jung and tells her to let go of Dong-wook and move on. He makes her understand that life goes on and she can’t shut herself off from love. I just, I found that so moving and sweet. He does the same for Min-ho and gives him ideas on how to woo Soon-jung. The trio had all lost people (Soon-jung was also an orphan) and ended up making their own family of sorts.

On that note, the acting was also really good in this show. Kyung-Ho was ridiculously good in this show. He emoted so well and shined in all of his scenes. He was so good as the ruthless businessman. There’s a scene where Woo-sik asks Min-Ho why he sleeps on the sofa despite being so rich and Min-Ho replies that lying down in the bed aggravates his heart and that he’ll only lie down once he’s dead and finished his revenge. It was kind of chilling how softly and resignedly, but determinedly Kyung-Ho enacted that scene. A very layered performance. And his comedy scenes where hilarious! He’s not afraid to make unattractive faces or anything and as a result, his comedy scenes are so funny! He just acts up so much, you cannot help but laugh at his ridiculousness. Here’s a screen-cap of his antics after a breakup (LOL). And his little bromance with Woo-sik was hilarious as well. The two acted really well across each other. So-Yeon also acts really well as Soon-jung. It’s very easy to see how everyone falls in love with her. I liked how So-Yeon kept her reined in and didn’t make Soon-jung too happy or positive. She felt like a real person, as far as K-dramas go LOL. Plus, she was a really great female lead, you really (or at least I did) root for her to get her happy ending because she deserves it so much. And the side actors/ characters were great as well. Woo-sik’s character actually had his own little love story with one of Dong-wook’s detective friend, Na Ok-Hyun, played by Jo Eun-Ji. Although they regrettably didn’t have that many scenes together, I enjoyed their scenes together immensely! Everyone acted very well!

Along with acting, the soundtrack for this show was really great as well! There’s this ringtone/ song by Toy called “Whenever,” that played a large role in the show as it was the song Dong-wook used to propose to Soon-jung and was the song that Min-ho couldn’t stop listening too after his surgery (I’m in the same boat as Min-ho, it’s so catchy and I can’t stop listening to it!). It was super catchy and worked really well with various scenes. There were also other songs, like this guitar song, that were quite pleasing to the ear and helped amplify situations. Really enjoyed it.

Similarly, the cinamatography was top-notch as well. I’m beginning to think that its a constant of all k-dramas. As I’m still a newbie, I cannot say it for sure. But as my k-drama journey continues, I’ll keep this in mind.

What I didn’t like, however, was part of the storyline. It was actually pretty dark with quite a few deaths and dramatic moments. And the whole Hermia plot was extended too much. I mean, the story does move along pretty fast, but problems keep cropping up. For example, Min-Ho eventually takes over Hermia with the goal of restoring it, but then has to face the exact same strategies he used to bankrupt Hermia. I mean, in theory it sounds like a good idea. And I did enjoy the scene where Min-ho breaks down and feels like Hermia being attacked by Gold Partners again is like his karma. But it just stretched on too long. And to be honest, some of the business stuff was kinda confusing and even boring at times. I would’ve much rather had a more concise business battle, rather than a rehash of similar things. I also was a little confused on how Joon-Hee’s character became the main antagonist. He always had a crush on Soon-jung and believed that if he became rich, he could get her love. Actually, no his turn did make sense, but not the extent he went through. He ended up becoming absolutely ruthless in his quest, and after a while, it just didn’t make sense to me. Why was he going to the extent he was? What was his goal? His original goal was to get Soon-jung but she already said no to him. And then his goal was to make Min-ho go down. But in that goal, he was ready to sacrifice everything? In Min-ho’s case, it made sense because he was going to die so he didn’t have anything to lose. But Joon-Hee was still living. He was being promoted when he was with Gold Partners. Was it just a self-esteem issue? Was it because he needed to justify his dad’s death? I guess what I’m saying is, his turn to the antagonist made sense. But his actions, namely his intent and fervour to destroy the company didn’t quite.

Also, I really wasn’t a fan of the way Min-ho behaved around Soon-jung, in terms of physicality. When he hated her, he had the tendency to jerk her around by grabbing her hand or whatever and dragging her to where he wanter her to be. When he fell in love with her, he would often try to hug her forcefully. Soon-jung wasn’t really appreciative of the jerking around and she did get annoyed by it, but she never said anything either. As he was her boss, I guess she thought if she complained, she could get fired. But even after the two get together as a couple, she doesn’t necessarily say anything. And Min-ho is the same. He never apologizes for his forceful handling of her. I just, I really wasn’t a fan of it. It ruined some of their sweeter scenes. For example, when Min-ho realizes that Soon-jung needs to cry and grieve for all that she’s lost, he forcefully hugs her in an effort to get her to release her feelings. She tries pulling back and asserts that she’s fine. But Min-ho just grips her tighter and claims that he needs the reassurance. It’s after that, she finally lets herself go and begins to cry and mourn for everything that went down in her life. I mean, it is a sweet scene. But just the forceful hug sorta ruined some of the sweetness of it.

Similarly, the ending of the show was lukewarm as well. In term of logic, it just sucked horribly. There was no real resolution to the Hermia conflict or Min-ho’s plot. All we got was Min-ho in the hospital, when the screen fading to the sky and then an epilogue where Woo-sick and Ok-Hyun got married with Min-Ho and Soon-jung as the best man and bridesmaid respectively. I wanted a more real resolution. The only reason the ending was somewhat warm (good), was because of the end Min-Ho and Soon-jung scene. It was incredibly cute and saved the ending from being absolutely horrible. But even then, it was an incredibly unsatisfying ending to what was an enjoyable drama.

My rating: watch it for the comicalness that is Min-ho and be prepared to enjoy his character growth, along with witnessing the wonderful acting of Kyung-ho and So-yeon, but remember that this is not a comedy show and so expect a lot of deaths and dark scenes.

The Weird Sisters Book Review

I’m more of a book person than movie person tbh so I’m going back to book reviews for now. I’ve decided that I’ll probably stick mainly to book reviews with the occasional peppering of a movie review or other review. So without further ado, let’s get into this.

When I came across the cover for The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, I was immediately drawn in by the green writing and vines on the cover page (my favourite colour!). And the blurb on the cover pages was interesting as well, explaining that the book was about a family of readers (me!) whose father spoke in Shakespearean quotes (wait wut?) and mother was diagnosed with cancer, causing the three sisters to come back home all at once (uhhhh). To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember too much about this book, aside from a few key things as I read it a few months ago. As a result, this review will not be as detailed and spoiler-filled as all my other reviews. That said, as I mentioned in my About Me page, I love to write about anything and so I figured, why not write about this book I barely remember? So behold, let’s review!

So…I’m not really sure how the book begins. I’m pretty sure it begins with one of the sister’s narrating? But I’m not sure? Well actually, on the question of narrating, it was interesting because the book rapidly switched from character to character and past and present, while remaining the same. And often times, it wouldn’t even be initially explicitly clear that the narrative had switched. There would be no page break or anything, just a switch of story (after a sort of connecting sentence or two). I found the ‘voices’ of the sisters to be quite similar and the narrative used a plural ‘we,’ so I tended to differentiate between narratives by seeing what was going on, as each sister had a different story (well technically, when simplified, their stories were quite similar). If I’m not being clear, this book involves three sisters (all named after Shakespeare characters) and their lives and was narrated as a group (think stuff like, “our father…” “we thought…”).

The oldest sister, Rose, is a math professor at the same college where her father taught (teaches?) and she attended. We aren’t really told what she looks like, but its implied that she’s not really skinny. She tends to wear baggy clothes, with a lot of tunics and wide pant legs. And she isn’t described as being very athletic, as she struggles to hike up a mountain/ hillside but she’s really drawn to tai chi. Unlike her sisters, she actually still lived in her hometown, albeit with her boyfriend turned fiance. He also teaches at the same college (that’s actually where they met). However, he gets an offer to work/ study in England and would like Rose to come with him. She’s initially very unhappy with this and refuses to join him, citing her mother’s illness. As such, she uses her mother’s cancer as a way to escape, by literally going back to live with her parents, despite the fact that the two insist that they can cope on their own (LOL). The biggest issues with Rose seem to stem from her aversion to change and need to be needed. This manifests with her being a controlling, boring, den mother who refuses to give up her ways and obstinately sticks to what she knows, even at the expense of others’s annoyance.

The middle sister, named Bianca but called Bean, worked in HR for a large law firm in New York. All she wanted, as she continually laments, was to escape her small town to live a glamourous cosmopolitan life, but she ends up squandering that opportunity away. Caught up in the world of the elite, being a shopaholic, and bored of her job, she ends up embezzling a lot of money from the law firm. Miraculously, she doesn’t get arrested, just fired. She then takes her sorry-ass home, leaving her roommates with her pending rents and officers (the deal was that the company would compensate by taking her stuff + her paying in return for no jail). She returns home and cribs about the lack of a night life instead of thinking about her huge debt. She goes and attempts to seduce some men in a bar, only to find herself outmaneuvered by younger girls. Frustrated with her life, she meets an old acquaintance and becomes an adulterer. In other words, she sort of hits rock bottom.

But then again, that title could also perhaps go to the youngest sister, Cordelia, called Cordy. Unlike her older sisters, the baby of the family drops out of college to pursue the life of a hippie. She lives on the road, travels daily, barely showers or has enough money to eat proper food, and has many, many lovers. It is through one of her random one-night trysts that she becomes pregnant. Having no idea what to do, she also runs back home. With no money or any sort of degree to help her get a job, she ends up waitressing for a friend’s cafe as a way to ‘secure’ a life for the child she’s determined to have. Where Rose is the dutiful, controlling sister and Bean is the flighty, risk-taking sister, Cordy is the spoiled one, with no real sense of responsibility.

And so with all three sisters home, the story commences. Without revealing the real reason they came home, each sister manages to find the faults in her own sisters but fails to recognize her own faults. Their mother is too sick to really deal with anything. And their father ‘attempts’ to help by quoting Shakespearean verses (*insert face palm*). The sister’s read voraciously and the story flashes from past to present, showing how the once close sisters drifted apart, how each sister came to be where she is now, and how their lives are currently going. Like most Shakespearean stories, things seem to wrap up and get better in the end (which I mean, I always appreciate a happy ending so I was glad).

Rose’s secret (engagement and potential England visit) comes to light and with a little pushing from her sisters, she finally goes. She finds that she really enjoys life there and can totally see herself living there with her fiance. And so she and her fiance return home to get married and then leave to live in England. Basically, Rose finally accepts that she doesn’t need to take care of everyone, doesn’t need to be so controlling all the time, and that change can be good and fun.

Bean’s secret (embezzlement, firing, adultery) comes to light. Through the nudging of a pastor, her sisters encouragement, and the lucky retirement of the current librarian, she gets over her shit and gets a job as the librarian despite no real credentials (networking in a nut shell tbh). Basically, Bean stops victimizing herself and chasing false dreams and instead steps up. She ends the affair, starts getting her finances in order, and begins going to church/ connecting with people on more than just a superficial level.

And finally, Cordy’s secret (accidental pregnancy) comes to light. Although her parents, especially her father, are upset with her, she decides to keep the baby and be more responsible. But luckily for her, her friend, the owner of the cafe where she works, turns out to have a life-long crush on her and and asks to marry her and adopt her to-be-born baby. She supposedly stops being spoiled and becomes responsible and adult-ish.

So if you haven’t been able to glean from my review yet, I’m not the biggest fan of the book. I mean, it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever read. It terms of writing, I actually found that I enjoyed reading it and even though the narrative was confusing, it wasn’t a bad experience. It was an okay book. But at the same time, it’s not my favourite book either. I just, not much happens in the book. The sisters come together after failing and then end up kick starting their lives again. I mean, if only it was that easy. And on a similar note, it was so difficult to place when exactly this story took place. Like, I don’t really remember any mention of any year/date or device or anything, save for like phones and television. There was just such a small, sleepy town sort of feeling throughout the entire book. Everything was really simplistic. Which I guess is great if you love that sort of thing. And I think people who really love Shakespeare might get it more, but most of the Shakespeare quotes just flew over my head. I just did not get it; things could’ve been easily explained in normal english. It didn’t seem all that witty or whimsical to me (which is what I assumed the author was going for). It just seemed tedious.

And the sisters seemed to be really stereotyped as well. As the oldest sister, I could definitely relate to Rose on some things, but on others, it was just like BLAH. I especially hated her aversion to move. She acted like it was the biggest thing in the world. I mean, what could a simple trip do? I don’t understand why she struggled with it so much. And Bean was the pretty, flirty and flighty middle sister who felt the need to act out in order to get noticed. I found myself so incredibly dumbstruck by her inability to grasp that she committed a CRIMINAL act and her constant self-victimizing. How can your sense of preservation be that low and high at the same time? And Cordy was the completely spoiled and coddled baby of the family. I actually found her story to be so unsatisfying. She gets pregnant, comes home, finds a job through a friend, and then gets a partner who can take care of her in the package. How lucky can you be? How little character growth can you go through? It felt like everything was still being handed down for her to take. I felt like she didn’t grow that much or really become that responsible.

I just, I don’t know. I did enjoy reading the strange narrative and the story was okay. I found myself drawn in by the family scenes rather than the sisters personal lives. But the sisters themselves were quite flawed and unlikeable. Not much character growth happened and yet the book contained a significant amount of pages. I guess what I’m trying to say, is that while it was okay in some parts, it definitely could’ve been much better in others.

My rating: read it for the interesting narrative and family dynamics but skip it otherwise as there are more unique dramas out there.

Proof Movie Review

I came across the synopsis for Proof back in 2008, three years after the movie first released. To be completely honest, I’m not exactly sure how I came across it. I’m assuming that it has something to do with Gwyneth Paltrow because of her connection to Coldplay (I was a really big Coldplay fan a few years ago). Anyways, despite the hazy memory of my discovery, I do remember being intrigued by the synopsis and wanting to watch the movie. However, as the movie had come out a few years ago, I wasn’t quite sure where to watch it. I tried youtube, online websites, etc. but I couldn’t find a clear copy of the movie. I gave up and put away the movie into the recesses of my mind. So imagine my surprise when this movie popped up on my Netflix this year. Naturally, I watched the movie and I’ve decided to review it, as I’m currently trying to do movie reviews.

Proof begins with Gwyneth Paltrow’s character, Catherine, watching TV at night and being surprised by her father (played by Anthony Hopkins) with a bottle of champagne. Turns out, it’s Catherine’s birthday and the two talk about her father’s insanity. However, it turns out that this entire scene itself is a dream as Robert, Catherine’s father, died last week. Catherine wakes up after she comes across Hal, one of Robert’s graduate students, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Apparently, Robert was a mathematical genius who had been suffering from a mental illness that caused him to go insane. Hal had been going through Robert’s journals and books in hopes of finding some new mathematical proofs (Hal would be able to get some credit). Hal and Catherine get into an argument that culminates with Catherine calling the cops on him and him leaving.

The next scene introduces us to Claire, Catherine’s older sister, who arrives from New York (the movie is set in Chicago). Unlike messy Catherine, Claire is an incredibly organized, neurotic person and the two sisters do not really get along. Through flashbacks, it is revealed that before Robert got very sick, Catherine had inherited his mathematical genius. Just as Claire went off to work in New York, Catherine also left to study graduate level math at Northwestern. However, as Robert’s condition deteriorated, Catherine left her studies to come live with their father in order to care for him full time, while Claire continued her career in New York. As a result, Catherine remains bitter towards Claire and other people who knew Robert but never showed up to help him. This is especially evidential during Robert’s funeral, held by the University of Chicago as Robert was formerly a math professor there, where Catherine interrupts the orchestra playing and proceeds to berate all the people present, accusing them of not being there for Robert and only coming to pay their respects after his death. She continues her tirade by delving into some of Robert’s insane activities and then ending her speech by stating her happiness at his death and leaving. This scene also serves to illuminate Claire’s worries that Catherine might have inherited more than just her father’s genius, i.e. Catherine might be susceptible to Robert’s insanity.

After the funeral, a wake is held at Robert and Catherine’s house, wherein Hal and Catherine bond, leading the two to sleep together. She ends up giving him a key. In the morning, Hal realizes that the key unlocks a drawer in Robert’s desk that contains a notebook with a new mathematical proof. Understandably, he’s very excited and brings it to the two sisters. However, this happiness does not last long as Catherine claims to have written the proof, rather than it being written by Robert as everyone else assumed. Claire is of course skeptical, believing that Catherine’s remark is the beginning sign of her descent into insanity. Hal is also disbelieving of Catherine as he believes the proof contains math too complex for her, although he attempts to be diplomatic. Catherine is devastated with this betrayal and breaks down. Hal takes the proof to be examined by the mathematics of UChicago while Claire uses the opportunity to convince a vulnerable Catherine to leave Chicago and move to New York with her and get therapy.

As Catherine and Claire get ready to leave behind Chicago, Hal comes running and reveals that evidence seems to suggest that the proof really was written by Catherine, as it employs newer mathematics that Robert could not have known. Unfortunately, Catherine does not want to talk to Hal and Claire is set on taking Catherine to New York, so the sister’s leave without actually talking to Hal, forcing him to run after their car to toss the proof into Catherine’s lap. The movie then delves into flashback, showing how after moving in with her father, Catherine was challenged to do math together with him. The two worked on math all day and night, as math was one of the few things that kept Robert sane. In the midst of this math writing spree, Catherine writes the proof that Hal eventually discovers. Excited by her discovery, Catherine takes her proof to her father. Upon meeting her, Robert too joyfully tells Catherine that he’s discovered his own new proof. Excited, she begins to read his proof, only for it to be gibberish. She realizes that the mental illness has basically taken over Robert. Saddened, she takes her proof and locks it in a drawer in Robert’s desk, with the flashback ending.

At the airport, Catherine begins reflect on herself. She comes to terms with herself. Throughout the movie, its hinted that Catherine struggles with herself a lot. She wants to be a great mathematician, but not at the expense of her father. She wants to remain connected to him, but she doesn’t want to be continually in his shadow. She wants to move forward but she can’t figure out how. In fact, the movie also points to the parallels between genius and insanity (Catherine and Claire worry over this in regards to Catherine). Bolstered by Hal’s confidence in her, Catherine decides that she does not need to go to New York with her sister and can manage well on her own. Hence, she leaves the airport and goes to the UChicago campus to find Hal and explain the mathematical proof to him, ending the movie.

If it’s not evidential right away, this movie had a really great script. In fact, the movie itself was based upon the Pulitzer Prize winning play, written by David Auburn, and then adapted into the movie. Hence, the plot and dialogues within the movie are actually really great and help the actors. I often find that outlandish or simplistic scripts can really take away from the ambiance of a movie and also cause actors to look foolish. Conversely, a really great script can also really elevate movies and actors. And I feel the latter was the case here. Because the script was so solid, the actors were able to connect and put in a solid performance. Of course I’m not an actor so my opinions have no viable proof (lol) or prior history I can base them on, but from my perception, I think its the case.

Hence, onto the performances in the movie. The movie is obviously centered around Catherine’s character and thus the bulk of the movie relied on Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance. She was actually nominated for an award for this movie too. Personally, I believe that while her performance was definitely really, really good, she wasn’t the only actress who could’ve pulled this off. I think other actresses could’ve definitely acted just as well as her in the movie, if not better. In fact, I kind of felt like that while Paltrow did a decent job, she was lacking gravitas in some scenes. It’s difficult to articulate properly, but in terms of math (lol), when rating her acting on a scale from o to 100, wherein 100 represents her completely disappearing into the character and engaging the viewer completely (i.e. Amy Adams as Giselle from Enchanted), I felt like she was around 80. Definitely not bad, pretty good actually, but as I said earlier, another actress could have perhaps done it just as well, if not better. Nonetheless, she did manage to carry the movie on her shoulders.

Coming to the other actors, Jake Gyllenhaal was good as usual. His character actually did not have much to do but he was good in the scenes he was in. I surprisingly kind of liked the chemistry between him and Paltrow, I thought they acted well across each other. And Anthony Hopkins was great as always, as was Hope Davis as Claire. The combination of a solid script with some solid actors yielded good results, as was expected. When talking about directing and cinamatography, the two were decent as well. Nothing ground-breaking per se, but still enjoyable. I kind of enjoyed how the movie was shot in this very somber sort of manner. There were no outlandish, crazy shots (okay maybe some shots of moving scenery but I think those worked really well) and there was this general sort of serious vibe in the movie. I quite enjoyed it and thought was really good because although the script was solid and contained good drama, any director could’ve gone overboard with trying to present drama through shots rather than letting the script take center stage. Luckily though, that didn’t happen and everything combined to make for an enjoyable viewing experience.

My ratingwatch it to witness a wonderfully complex character and enjoy the absolutely wonderful script. Buy it if you’d like to be able to return to the character and script at any time.


Room Movie Review

When I first saw the trailer for the movie Room, my interest was immediately piqued. However, as people who know me understand, immediate interest does not generate into immediate action. As a result, despite my desire to see the movie, I didn’t actually get around to seeing the movie until a month ago, months after it was first released in 2015. For those unfamiliar with it, Room is actually a film based on the book Room, which itself borrows its premise from the real life Fritzl case. In the Fritzl case, Austrian Josef Fritzl kidnapped and confined his daughter Elisabeth in a basement under their house and kept her there, hidden for 24 years. During those years, he repeatedly raped her and fathered around 7 kids. When Elisabeth was found and freed in 2008, one of her children, Felix, was only 5 years old when he was released — he discovered the rest of the world. Room tells that same story, except some of the details are changed. Instead of a father kidnapping his daughter, a stranger kidnaps a young girl. However, the premise of a 5 year old being released from a prison and discovering the world remains the same.

I had actually heard of the Fritzl case when the story first broke and part of my interest in the movie was actually because of this connection. However, as I had not really read the book, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect from the movie. The trailer seemed really promising and I remember seeing all the hoopla around the film during awards season. In fact, Brie Larson, who plays the young kidnapped girl/ mother in the film actually won an Oscar for her performance. With all this history behind my initial viewing of the movie, I had pretty high expectations and to be surprise, the movie actually delivered pretty highly. So here’s the review (spoiler-filled as always).

The movie begins with an introduction to Joy and her son Jack. The two live in a dirty and tiny little shed. The small shed is lined with a bathtub, toilet, small sink and stove, a single bed and closet. Joy (Ma as Jack calls her) and Jack share everything and are given sustenance by ‘Old Nick,’ Joy’s kidnapper and Jack’s biological dad. Old Nick brings the two food and other supplies and routinely visits Joy at night, while Jack supposedly sleeps in the closet (Joy is very vocal about refusing to let Nick and Jack interact). Despite her own obvious depression and their filthy living conditions, Joy tries her best to keep Jack happy and healthy. She makes him exercise daily and even bakes him a cake — the movie starts with Jack’s 5th birthday. As Jack’s only companions are Joy and their television set, he believes that the only real things in the world, are in the room; the rest are not real. Joy allows him to believe this as a way to keep him content. Hence, he addresses each thing, i.e. the bed, as if it were a real person/ thing with feelings. In fact, when he sees a rat for the first time, he is completely taken aback and wants to keep it as a pet because its the first breathing thing he’s seen, besides himself and Joy.

This world of Joy and Jack is seemingly cracked when Old Nick reveals that he has lost his job and hence supplies will be low. The crack is deepened when, out of curiosity, Jack attempts to interact with Old Nick, only to have Joy get violent and shove him away and Nick beat Joy. As punishment, Nick cuts the heating and electricity in the shed. Fearing the worst, Joy makes the decision to attempt and escape the room with Jack. She attempts to tell Jack about the real world, which he violently rejects. She then tries to have Jack fake a fever, in hopes that Nick will take Jack to the hospital. These scenes are actually so sad and so well enacted. Brie Larson is brilliant as the mother determined to protect her son and escape. And Jacob Tremblay is amazing as Jack. Jack’s revulsion at Joy’s attempts to fake his fever (Joy fake vomits to make it look real) are incredibly realistic and believable. However, the fever ruse fails as Nick decides to buy antibiotics instead of taking Jack to the hospital. Joy then practises faking death with Jack. She rolls him up in a carpet and has him practise rolling out of it, until Jack is in tears with frustration at his situation. Nick returns the next day and Joy pretends that Jack has died — Jack is actually wrapped in the carpet. She convinces Nick to take Jack’s ‘dead body’ away. Nick falls for the ruse and starts driving, with the alive Jack wrapped up in the carpet, in the trunk of a pickup truck.

As Nick drives his pickup, Jack is amazed at seeing the outside world for the first time. However, he gets over this excitement and unrolls himself and jumps out of the truck, into the arms of a passerby. The passerby shields him from Nick and the police arrive and after a trying time, Joy is rescued as well. The two are taken to a hospital and Joy is reunited with her family. However, she discovers that things have changed with her time in captivity — her parents are no longer together and her mother has a new partner. Joy and Jack move in with her mother and her mother’s new partner, Leo, while her father refuses to see Jack. During this time, Jack struggles to adjust to this new world, wanting to go back to the room and only speaking with his mother. However, gradually, he begins to open up and get comfortable with his grandmother and Leo. Joy, on the other hand, begins struggling with anger and depression, lashing out at her mother and getting angry with Jack for his slow progress. Things deteriorate to the point where Joy tries to commit suicide. She is sent away for treatment while Jack stays behind with his grandmother and Leo. Yet, despite their separation, Jack still continues to thrive and adapt and when Joy comes back, the two go and visit the room at Jack’s request. However, when they arrive there, Jack is surprised to discover how small the room is and how he no longer feels any attachment to it. The movie ends with the two saying goodbye to the room and walking away.

Story-wise, the movie is actually pretty great. But honestly, in my opinion, what makes the movie so brilliant and amazing and award-worthy, is the acting. Brie Larson, as mentioned before, is just amazing. You really feel and sympathize for Joy. She comes across as so real. Her depression, her anger, her hopeless, her happiness with Jack, all wonderfully enacted by Larson. But the real shining-star, I have to say, is Jacob Tremblay. He’s honestly a revelation in this film. If it wasn’t for him, I’m completely sure that the movie would not have been so engaging. Tremblay breathes such life into Jack. From his initial happiness and ignorance in the room, to frustration and anger with Joy’s attempts to escape, to fear and confusion in the real world, to his eventual acceptance of his current life, Tremblay shines in each scene. He puts forth such a wonderfully simultaneously delicate and strong performance. Perhaps it’s because he’s a fresh-faced actor or perhaps because he’s just a really strong actor in general, but the entire time I was watching the film, it felt like I was watching Jack onscreen, not Jacob. He dominated each and every scene he appeared in. I’m kind of peeved that he only got nominated for Best Supporting Actor in some awards to be honest. I think he was honestly the Best Actor or Leading Role Actor rather than supporting. If anything, I’d argue that Brie Larson was the supporting actress, rather than Tremblay, because most of the movie was from Jack’s point of view too. But, even then, it doesn’t take away from her achievement because she was also really good in the movie.

My only complaints with the movie, if any, would maybe be the script as I found it a bit too simplistic. I think there could’ve been more dialogue, but that’s a minor issue anyway. All in all, a really good heart-wrenching and heartwarming drama.

My rating: Go and see it for the revelation that is Jacob Tremblay, and be prepared to be blown away.

In the River Sweet Book Review

I’m not sure what really compelled me to pick up In the River Sweet. I hadn’t really heard of the author, Patricia Henley, before and the blurb in the cover pages wasn’t all that captivating to me either. But, somehow I picked up the book anyway and began reading. And I gotta say, this book was actually really nice to read. I’m kind of a sucker for family drama stories. Actually, I just really like drama in general. And this story had plenty of that. That said, despite my like for this book, this review will probably also be very short and shallow like the previous review because I actually read this book months ago and hence am a little vague on the details. However, as with other reviews, this will also be pretty spoiler-filled.

So the story is about a middle aged woman named Ruth. She lives a pretty chill and happy life. She likes her job at the community library, her husband adores her, and she has a wonderful daughter. However, this idyllic world of hers is shattered when she receives a mysterious email and when her daughter comes out to her as a lesbian. She has a bit of trouble adjusting to the latter, due to her religious beliefs, and her fear increases after the appearances of some hate crimes. The former however, troubles her for a long time and very greatly. The email is revealed to be from a man who claims to be her son. And then the story flashes back to Ruth’s youth.

High school sweethearts, Johnny, Ruth’s fiance at the time, goes off to fight in the Vietnam War. Growing concerned about him and fed up of living with her rude-ish aunt, Ruth decides to follow him and lands in Saigon. Unlike Johnny who fights (and actually, I don’t think he even knows at this point in the flashback that she went to Vietnam), she ends up working for French nuns and comes into contact with a blind Vietnamese boy, Vo. Ruth is hired to read to Vo and over time, the two’s friendship grows greatly. It eventually culminates into a relationship, in which a son is bourn. However, despite her happiness with Vo and her son, her presence in Vietnam continues to be dangerous and after the fall of Saigon, it comes very difficult. So with an extremely heavy and sorrow-filled heart, she makes the decision to go back to the USA alone. When she comes back to the USA, she is eventually reunited with Johnny and they marry and have their daughter Laurel.

The single email changes Ruth’s life and she decides to contact her son with Vo. She doesn’t really tell Johnny about this and kinda does this behind his back. It turns out, Vo and her son also eventually made it to America and that the only reason the son is contacting Ruth, is because he’s curious about her genetic background, i.e. he’s getting married and want’s to make sure that he hasn’t inherited any genetic diseases or anything. Ruth herself is kinda at odds about how to behave with him and so is he. Vo got remarried upon entry to America and his new wife really, really, REALLY dislikes Ruth and isn’t happy to have renewed contact with her (she’s never even met her). In fact, the son doesn’t tell his mother that he’s meeting Ruth until they’ve already met a few times. Eventually, as the novel progresses, the son invites Ruth to his wedding and she meets his bride and she meets Vo. Turns out, there’s not any romantic feelings lingering on their part and she eventually returns home to her husband, who himself was feeling super lonely and sad while she was gone (Ruth told Johnny that she went to visit the ailing aunt who raised her, which she did, but she spent most of her time thinking about her son and meeting him).

The story itself is okay. What really caught my attention, was the writing. It’s written in this very soft sort of way with no quotation marks. While I’m usually not a fan of that, I think it worked really well here. And I actually also enjoyed being inside Ruth’s mind and seeing her thought processes. I found her to be an engaging, albeit annoying at times, character. The emotional journey she goes through is really nice. I really found myself connected to her and into her story. However, I didn’t really like the small Johnny POV’s we got. I guess the Ms. Henley thought they were necessary or unique and hence added them. Idk, they just showed how dependant Johnny was on Ruth. I didn’t particularly care for them. I actually wished we had access to Vo’s POV. I really wanted to hear what happened to him after Ruth left and how he and his son immigrated. Speaking of which, I was also pretty let down at the ending. I wanted the book to continue. I mean, the ending emotionally makes sense because Ruth did reach the semi-end of her emotional journey. She learned to accept her daughter’s sexuality, her daughter’s girlfriend, their decision to move away from home to a more accepting state. And she eventually came to terms with the her time in Saigon with Vo and the son she left behind. But I just, I really wanted to read more. What happened later on, at the wedding? What was Johnny’s reaction to Ruth’s past (I don’t think she actually ever told him tbh and I don’t think he was interested in learning either)? I don’t know, I guess I found myself so invested in the story and characters that I was a bit sad and taken off guard when the story ended so soon. I really liked reading it.

My rating: definitely read it if you like reading about compelling emotional journeys.