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

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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.

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.