Summer of Cinema: Cruella and A Quiet Place Part II

The use of sound in this film elevates it from your usual gore fest filled with horrific creatures and gruesome deaths. One of the characters is deaf and in the sequel she takes over the role of the patriarch and becomes the one to find a safe haven for her family. We get to experience sound the way she does, when the film shifts to her point of view. It was a great technique that helped the viewer relate to a deaf character when this can be tricky do to if you do not know anyone who is deaf in the real world.

Hello Readers,

Welcome to my new series Summer of Cinema. The cinemas have reopened and I together with thousands of others have been going to watch the films that we have been waiting for in the last year. I have made the trip twice this month and I am planning to enjoy the experience many times this summer. I will be continuing my series with a review of every film I see in the cinema this summer, of which I hope there will be many. Time to once again sit back, relax and enjoy the magic of the big screen.

Cruella (2021)

I chose this film for my return to the cinema as I was interested in the concept. A 101 Dalmatians prequel of Cruella in 1970s London and in the fashion world. What’s not to love? The film starts with how Cruella ended up in London as a young child in the 60s and jumps to her life as a common thief with her two friends and their dogs. Cruella who is first known as Estella, gets a simple job at Liberty’s and after an avant-garde unprompted window display, she goes to work for the House of Baroness, a notorious fashion house. Estella then decides to become an even bigger presence in the fashion world than the Baroness and to do this she must unleash her bad side – Cruella.

The film was a bold move for Disney as even though the film is a 12, it is pitched towards a younger audience as well. I think the film bridges the divide between a film for younger audiences and older ones. Many people in the screening were adults. This was a fresh take on a villain’s back story and it created a world that had not been associated with Cruella De Vil in other iterations. Whilst we know Cruella as the dog-napping rich old woman with little joy and a grudge against spotty dogs; Estella in this version is fun, kind-hearted and poor. Later in the film when she takes on her Cruella persona, we see some of the Cruella we have known in other films appear. She is a more toned down version than the original and no dogs are harmed in the film.

One of the best parts of the film for me was the fashion. There were so many wonderful and striking designs made by both the Baroness and Cruella. While the Baroness took measured risks and presented as prim and proper; Cruella smashed the expectations and matched rock’n’roll and feminist angst with a runway show. Seeing Cruella’s ideas to outshine the Baroness get even more outrageous and punk was a fun highlight.

Emma Stone was wonderful in the role and her accents were on point both as Estella and the slightly posher Cruella. She played all facets of Cruella seamlessly. I was initially sceptical of Emma Stone’s casting as Glenn Close gave such an iconic performance as Cruella. My fears definitely were vanquished after seeing the iconic performance that Emma gave. It was like she was born to play the role.

I thought that the other actors were all amazing in their roles, especially Emma Thompson as the villain and the children who played the younger versions of Estella and the gang. My only issue with the whole film was that Estella and her friends were around 11/12 years old then it jumps to 10 years later but the actors playing them in the 1970s look at least 30 and not in their early 20s. Emma Stone could just about pull this off but the other two were pushing it. Once I let this go, I enjoyed the story and let go of realism.

The music for was another iconic part of the film with some great classic 70s tracks that paired with Cruella’s bold fashion pieces created a punk rock London scene that I would love to experience.

Overall I give this film 10/10. Every element was on point and my expectations were lowered as it is a Disney film but I feel like the film was suitable for all audiences especially with the period setting and witty dialogue. If ever there was a prequel or continuation of a well-loved classic to live up to or even surpass the original, it would be Cruella. A warm welcome back to the cinema and a great start to a Summer of Cinema.

A Quiet Place Part II (2021)

In contrast to Cruella, I have been waiting for this film since it was announced that there would be a sequel. I do not normally enjoy ‘horror’ films such as these with monsters and jump scares but A Quiet Place bridges the gap between ingenious filmmaking and scaring for scaring’s sake. At the heart of the films is a family that represents everyone. Their struggle to survive in the post-apocalyptic world, especially after the death of a child and the man of the house touches a nerve with many, especially after the past year.

The use of sound in this film elevates it from your usual gore fest filled with horrific creatures and gruesome deaths. One of the characters is deaf and in the sequel she takes over the role of the patriarch and becomes the one to find a safe haven for her family. We get to experience sound the way she does, when the film shifts to her point of view. It was a great technique that helped the viewer relate to a deaf character when this can be tricky to do if you do not know anyone who is deaf in the real world.

I am especially attached to the characters because of the actors. John Krasinski and his wife, Emily Blunt play husband and wife as well as John directing both films. This is rare in the film world and of course their on-screen chemistry is reflected by their real life bond. They already know how to move around the other and as they have children of their own, acting as parents is second nature to them. The actors who play the kids, Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds are two of the best young actors in Hollywood today and both do excellent jobs reprising their roles in the sequel and picking up where the first film ended.

While a direct sequel, this film also has a flashback to the first day of the apocalypse and we get to see a glimpse of who the family were before they became survivalists. We get to see John Krasinski and their other son again amongst other members of their small town. The town is actually a replica of the one we see in the first film. I personally did not notice any difference but then again three years have passed in between the two films.

We also have a new character introduced, Emmett who takes over John’s role as the adult male. While Emmett does help the family out when they are being pursued by monsters, it is Millicent’s character who assumes his role as the protector and forward thinker. She becomes the one in charge of saving the family after she hears a clue on the radio and goes to search for an island that she believes will be a new home for her family. In the other storyline, we see Emily Blunt step up to protect her new baby and her son, Marcus who gets badly injured at the start of the film.

The family flee their burning house to find somewhere new to hide when they come across a disused flour mill, or so they think. After being pursued by a creature who we get to see up close for the first time, Marcus gets caught in an animal trap and they seek shelter. By coincidence, the mill is being occupied by Emmett, a friend from before the meteor struck. He offers them shelter and after Regan (Simmonds) leaves to find the island, he goes to get her back and the two form a father-daughter bond.

Marcus then steps up as the man of the mill and looks after his baby sibling while his mum ventures to the nearest pharmacy for medical supplies. What follows are tense encounters with the monsters all set to a backdrop of a genius soundscape that helps the audience immerse themselves in the characters’ world.

There were a few jump scares and seeing the monsters close up wasn’t pleasant but again this film centred around family and human survival. There were twists and unexpected moments that had me holding my breath, not daring to make the slightest noise. Leave your popcorn at home again for this one.

Overall I give this film 9/10. I think some elements could have been expanded slightly and it was missing something that makes a film 10/10 for me but it was a worthy sequel and the acting was on point. Another great venture for John Krasinski and co.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Queer as Folk: Review Part 4

Vic’s death as a whole not only affected Debbie but also Brian and Hunter. Brian finds out upsetting health news just before Vic’s funeral and as he is wont to do, takes out his own emotions, especially anger on those closest to him, in this case Debbie. Brian struggles with dreams of joining Vic in heaven or hell but eventually comes to terms with his illness. Vic’s death served to remind Brian that even an apparently healthy man can be taken by an illness. Hunter was affected by Vic’s death because it is the first HIV-related death that he has been exposed to directly. Luckily, Ben realises this and helps Hunter realise that HIV does not automatically mean death and that he can live with the disease if he looks after himself. It was important to show that HIV was still very much a killer for gay men as up to this point in the show, HIV was not a death sentence and the characters with the illness appeared to be managing it well.

Hello Readers,

This is the fourth post of my Queer as Folk collection and I will be focusing on some of the hardships and struggles that the characters faced over the series. I have touched on a couple of these in my last post but this time instead of being bigger issues for the whole community, I am focusing on individual problems. All the problems I will be focusing on were in Series 4, not by design but because in Series 4, the characters have more struggles than the previous series. The writers really put the characters through it and I will be analysing what happened.

Once again, the post will be going over adult issues and more explicit content to fit along with the show so don’t read if you’re under 18 or do not want to read about mature content.

Despite the success of the election at the end of Series 3, the characters do not bask in the glow of the win for long. Brian is hit hard this series which was interesting to see as he has so far been a character with few worries or personal problems. Seeing such a dominating, powerful, unemotional character go through what he did humanised Brian and made him a little more vulnerable than he has been in past series. There are also a lot of relationship issues this series both romantic and familial. Melanie and Lindsay who have been solid since Melanie’s affair in the first series face big relationship issues along with Michael and Ben who up to this point had been steady since Series 2.

The first episode is framed by a performance from Shanda Leer, a local drag queen. It was an interesting narrative technique that led up to an attack on Darren after his performance as Shanda. This was the second homophobic attack of the show and this time on a character we have not seen previously. The attack triggers a response from Justin who was also attacked at the end of the first series. He wants to make things right and when he finds the Pink Posse, Justin thinks he has found a way to respond to Darren’s attack. Justin and Cody patrol Liberty Avenue looking for potential homophobes to apprehend. What starts as a vigilante group quickly descends into solving violence with violence. Cody becomes too hateful and starts attacking people for the slightest comment or even before they say anything. After a confrontation with Chris Hobbs, Justin’s attacker; Justin realises that injuring or killing someone won’t take away pain or hatred he feels towards them. It was a very emotional scene but Justin gained closure and understanding that love is better than hate.

Brian’s money troubles are present from the beginning of the series as a consequence from his actions at the end of Series 3. He was fired from Vanguard for trying to take down Stockwell and now has 100,000 dollars in debt to pay. Brian refuses to accept help initially as a matter of principle and pride. Since leaving home and becoming financially independent, Brian has never asked for money from anyone. He sees being in control as a way of proving himself to the world that he was not affected by his emotionally abusive childhood. When Brian loses his financial security, he tries to hide the struggle from his friends but they soon realise that Brian needs help. After raising money to help Brian with his debts, Brian accepts help for the first time in the show and it seems his life. This is a turning point for him and it shows the personal growth that Brian finally starts to exhibit. His pride takes a hit but he finally learns that people all need help sometimes.

One of the most heart-breaking moments of the series was when Debbie and Vic had an argument but before they could make up, Vic passed away. The two siblings were always very close and Debbie nursed Vic back to health when he was on the edge of death a few years before. Vic’s death was very sudden as he seemed to be getting better and had just moved in with his partner, Rodney. His death served to show that unexpected things happen all the time and just because someone may look physically fine, they still have HIV which can be deadly. Debbie does not take Vic’s death well as she would not be expected to but there is an added layer of self-blame and anger for how their last conversation ended. Gradually with help from Michael and a letter from Vic, Debbie manages to realise that Vic loved her and his last words were not his true feelings at all.

Vic’s death as a whole not only affected Debbie but also Brian and Hunter. Brian finds out upsetting health news just before Vic’s funeral and as he is wont to do, takes out his own emotions, especially anger on those closest to him, in this case Debbie. Brian struggles with dreams of joining Vic in heaven or hell but eventually comes to terms with his illness. Vic’s death served to remind Brian that even an apparently healthy man can be taken by an illness. Hunter was affected by Vic’s death because it is the first HIV-related death that he has been exposed to directly. Luckily, Ben realises this and helps Hunter realise that HIV does not automatically mean death and that he can live with the disease if he looks after himself. It was important to show that HIV was still very much a killer for gay men as up to this point in the show, HIV was not a death sentence and the characters with the illness appeared to be managing it well.

Series 4 brings one of the biggest hardships for any of the characters but especially Brian when he goes through being diagnosed with and then receiving treatment for testicular cancer. The cancer showed Brian that he wasn’t invincible but also brought him shame and caused him to pull away from his friends, especially Justin. Brian’s initial diagnosis by a doctor he met in the backroom of Babylon was humorous but also a plus for his lifestyle as he was obviously not checking for lumps himself. Brian is portrayed as untouchable, almost god-like especially in the sex department so to have testicular cancer which affected his ability to have sex was an extra twist of the knife. This storyline also served as a reminder for men to check for testicular cancer as even young and healthy men can be diagnosed. Lucky for Brian, his cancer had a high survival rate, especially after surgery and his sexual performance was not affected for very long. It was interesting to see how far Brian went to conceal his illness from Justin and his other friends, including telling them all that he was going to Ibiza when he was really going to hospital for surgery and recovery. He could not keep up the charade for long and eventually told Ted and Debbie. Justin found out from a voicemail and told Michael and the two became extremely worried which only aggravated Brian more. Michael explained it well to Justin that Brian sees himself as his sex appeal and was afraid that if he was not beautiful, untouchable Brian Kinney that Justin would leave him. Justin quickly put those fears to bed and made Brian accept help with his recovery. Brian receives the all clear in Series 5 and gets back to his usual sleeping around not too long after his treatment.

Ted has one of the hardest journey’s of the main characters in this series as he recovers from his crystal meth addiction. He is helped through rehab by Blake, Ted’s ex-boyfriend from Series 1. Ted took Blake to rehab for drug addiction at the end of Series 1 but Blake took off and Ted had not heard of him until they were reunited in rehab. Only this time, Ted is the patient and Blake is the sober one. Ted leans on Blake who is now a counsellor to get him through his dark time and when he leaves the programme, the two pick up where they left off. Ted becomes dependent on Blake during his recovery and the lines blur between counsellor and boyfriend. Blake makes the decision that it is best for both of them to part ways until Ted is in a better place with his recovery. Ted takes this hard but ultimately understands and he wants them to be together without drugs getting in the way. This was a mature decision for the couple and one that is not always taken by the characters but it appears that even when recovering from the worst place of his life, Ted still knows how to act emotionally mature.

Lindsay and Melanie have their relationship status challenged in Series 4 and 5 after Lindsay has an emotional and physical affair with a man. Lindsay and Melanie have been stable since Melanie’s one night affair in Series 1 and it was a surprise to see their relationship fall apart. Lindsay meets an artist, Sam who has a show in her gallery and he flirts with her even though he knows she is married and a lesbian. Lindsay initially is not interested but she starts to fall for Sam as he makes her excited about her own artwork and inspires her to draw again for the first time since college. Out of both Lindsay and Melanie, Lindsay is the one with more attraction towards men. In the past, she mentioned fancying Brian and even having relations with him when figuring out her sexuality. Lindsay even said she thought she would marry him. Lindsay is drawn towards Sam because he makes her feel talented and special and not like the married mother of one and another on the way with responsibilities and a mortgage. Lindsay sleeps with Sam and after confessing to Melanie, their marital problems begin that leads to a separation and custody battle for the baby.

Melanie and Lindsay decide to separate after being unable to get over their differences. Due to Melanie being pregnant, Lindsay stays in the house with her but they are not in a relationship anymore. Lindsay then moves to another apartment with Gus after Jenny Rebecca or JR is born. Her mother finds out and convinces her to move in with her parents but after being set up with a man, Lindsay leaves and lives with Melanie again but on a different floor of the house. They decide it is better for the children and makes it easier with the three way custody of JR. Melanie and Lindsay’s separation causes problems between Michael and Melanie and Brian and Lindsay as both donated their sperm and became JR and Gus’ fathers with the notion that they would be raised by a committed couple. Michael takes it especially hard as JR is only a baby and needs more attention.

Melanie is committed to bed rest in the final stages of her pregnancy which she struggles with, having always been very active in her work and social lives. She does try to follow the doctors advice but without Lindsay’s love and support she breaks the rules a couple of times. Once was to wave off the participants of the Liberty Ride and in full view of everyone. She insists she is fine and then has the baby a few days later, after the riders return. Luckily, JR is a healthy baby but it showed how stubborn Melanie can be and how she struggles to not work.

Ben and Michael who are the other stable couple in the show have problems after Ben is approached by a student looking to sleep with him. Ben is initially flattered by the attention and believes the student to simply be seeking knowledge on being a writer. Their conversation turns to the subject of Ben’s book, living with HIV and the student asks Ben to sleep with him and give him HIV. He is part of a group that see HIV as inevitable so seek to be infected as soon as they can. Ben is horrified by the man’s wishes and confesses them to Michael. Ben was tempted to sleep with the student as he hung out with him alone and accepted an invitation to a talk but he realises that he belongs with Michael and Hunter and he stays away after the student’s confession.

One hardship faced from Series 5 is the bullying that Hunter receives at school when his classmates find out his HIV status. When he had a girlfriend, he tells her that he is positive and her parents also find out. In Series 5, Hunter is in the swim team and when competing he hits his head on the side of the pool and starts bleeding in the water. His former girlfriend’s father then yells out that he has Aids which leads to everyone panicking. Afterwards, everyone at Hunter’s school avoids him or bullies him which leads to Hunter being ostracised and skipping school. Hunter then leaves Pittsburgh as he does not feel like he fits in anymore and cannot have a normal life. The reaction from Hunter’s classmates to HIV show how uneducated high schoolers were at the time to the causes and how HIV was transmitted. In the gay culture of Queer as Folk, the disease is something everyone understands and is aware of at all times but for children without any gay relatives/friends/people in their lives, they had little to no awareness of the disease.

One of the most visceral and heart-felt struggles was Brian trying to finish the Liberty Ride. He was told not to do it by his friends but as he does not like being told what to do, he trains in secret and insists on doing the race. He manages quite well until he shows off cycling with no hands to Michael and crashes into the road bank. He has broken collar bone and is advised to go to hospital but undeterred Brian carries on and manages to cycle one handed. This proves difficult and the effects of cancer on his body catch up with him. Michael hangs back with Brian at the end of the race and the two of them are the last to cross the line hours after everyone else. Ben, Hunter, Debbie and Justin wait for the pair into the night and after it has snowed. They eventually show up and Brian is obviously struggling, going very slowly and stopping frequently. Michael is by his side as he understands Brian’s need to show everyone that he is undefeatable and still the same Brian Kinney he was before he had cancer. Justin wants to go to Brian as soon as he sees him but Debbie tells him not to. Having practically raised Brian through his teenage years and into adulthood she understands how he has to complete the race himself and prove to himself also that his childhood did not affect him and he can be a strong, tough, gay man and not weak.

Analysis of Events

At the beginning of the Series, Brian is in serious credit card debt – $100,000 and has no job. He starts getting rid of his possessions to pay off some of the money but does not want to accept help from Justin or his other friends. After Justin tells everyone that Brian paid for the advert himself to defeat Stockwell, they throw a fundraiser for the ‘Concerned Citizens for the Truth’ and convince Brian to accept a cheque for around $80,000 on their behalf. While Brian keeps up the pretence of not being the one to defeat Stockwell, he accepts help. This is the first time we see Brian accept any form of help and he does so after almost selling the loft. This also helps bring Brian and Justin closer together as Brian is able to show Justin a vulnerable side that is not always all knowing and all powerful. Brian has been the richer of the two with a great job up until this point and when he becomes less powerful than Justin, he is able to see that they are more equal than he wanted to believe. They refer to themselves as partners and Brian tells Justin that he only wants him which is a big step for Brian in their relationship. Justin also refers to the first time they had sex as making love and Brian does not disagree or argue which shows another level of acceptance from Brian.

Earlier in the post I mentioned how Debbie, Brian and Hunter were affected by Vic’s death. They all had very different initial reactions which shows how grief can affect people in different ways. Debbie initially was in shock over his death and could not grieve properly. She went back to work at the diner to save up money to get Vic a massive angel statue as his headstone. After finding a letter from Vic that he had written a few years previously when he was on his death bed, Debbie decides to throw another Christmas. Her guilt over her argument with Vic and her interpretation of his letter lead to a big Christmas party in February. All the characters play along with Debbie as they understand that this is her way of coping. Debbie eventually breaks when the angel from the top of the tree falls off and smashes. With help from Rodney, Carl and the others Debbie makes peace with her guilt and begins to grieve in a healthier way.

Brian reacts with anger at Vic’s funeral and lashes out at Debbie saying that at least Vic had four more years. Brian does not usually let his emotions overcome him but his recent cancer diagnosis clouds his emotions and he unloads on Vic, fearing that he will be next. His outburst causes a rift between himself and Debbie but she forgives him after he tells her why he reacted with such anger. Ben and Hunter reacted with anxiety over Vic’s death. Hunter was affected more because as Ben put it to Michael, it is the first HIV related death he has seen. Hunter worries that his own life can be cut short but Ben reassures him that if he remains healthy then he will be fine for a while. Ben gets the chance to act as an authority figure to Hunter and we see why Hunter is in the right place with Ben and Michael. He has someone who has been though the same emotions and fears as he has and is still alive. Emmett reacted less with sadness and more annoyance over the loss of Vic in their party planning business. This is meant to alleviate the heavy grief from the others but it does present a real problem for Emmett and after finding a replacement in Shanda Leer/Darren, he does move on to other things.

Brian’s cancer affects Michael, Justin and Debbie in different ways. They are all used to seeing him as the immortal Brian Kinney with power and money. After Brian’s set back at the beginning of the Series with the loss of his job and debts, he appeared to have come out on top with the start of his own ad agency, Kinnetic. Michael reacts with emotion and worry for Brian’s life as he cannot imagine his life without Brian in it. After Justin tells Michael in confidence, Michael goes to Brian and after smoking pot together, Michael tearfully confesses that he knows. Justin accidentally hears a voicemail message from the hospital and calls them to find out more. He does not want to tell Brian that he knows and he understands how Brian is very private when it comes to his vulnerabilities. He questions Brian about Ibiza but does not push him. He then tries to help Brian by making him soup and being generally kind and loving. Brian initially does not want to accept help but after his discomfort gets worse, he lets Justin look after him. He thinks that Justin will leave him if his is not the perfect man he showed himself to be when they first met. Michael later explains this to Justin who makes sure Brian knows he’s loved not just for being a perfect sex god. Brian hates being ill or weak in any form and sees it as a failure. This comes from his own parents who never valued him. When letting Justin know that he knows, Brian refers to Justin as his boyfriend to his face for the first time ever which shows that Brian let down his walls enough to let his true feelings show. Debbie reacts as any mother would with sadness but also love. Brian’s own mother blames Brian’s sexuality for his cancer and reacts horribly so Brian seeks affection from Debbie who he thinks of as his surrogate mother.

The Liberty Ride was an interesting way to end the Series and it brought out different emotions and reactions in each of the characters. Ben decided that as he and Michael were in Canada, that they should get legally married. The two have an impromptu ceremony and even Brian who claims to hate marriage, finds them a cake. The wedding symbolises the commitment that Ben and Michael have to each other and sets up the plot for Series 5 where they start settling down along with Justin, Debbie and Carl and Emmett. Ted worries about how he will cope on the Liberty Ride without his NA meetings. Emmett promises to help him through it and they set off to find a meeting on the way back. The two end up lost for the night and Emmett creates a meeting for Ted in a field. This shows that Emmett has forgiven Ted for how their relationship ended and it brings Emmett more understanding of addiction and Ted’s struggle. Emmett was hurt terribly by Ted’s treatment of him and this is the first time we see the two get back to their old friendship.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Queer as Folk: Review Part 3

One storyline that I think many LGBT viewers would have related to especially at the time when there were no laws protecting them was being outed at work or school. Michael was the most afraid of this at his job at the Big Q. He had witnessed his colleagues making fun of gay people and as an assistant manager, he did not want to be ridiculed or bullied for being gay. He even pretended to date a fellow co-worker at an event because he couldn’t bring his boyfriend. When Michael starts his own business, he no longer has this fear and even creates a provocative gay comic that he sells out of his shop. Brian is someone who also keeps his sexuality a discreet part of himself at work but not in the same way as Michael. Brian is happy to hook up with potential clients to seal the deal and his assistant, Cynthia knows the truth but he does not throw it around and particularly to his boss. He often says if he is not having sex with someone then they don’t need to know.

Hello Readers,

This is the third instalment of my Queer as Folk collection. This post will delve into some of the themes that the show depicted and how they used their platform to bring awareness to sexuality-specific problems. Many audience members will have seen the characters going through these struggles and felt seen and heard. They could have related to the themes and taken advice and comfort from how the storylines worked out. Of course, many of the themes are still present in society today and while they do not affect me directly, it is great to see that they were being spoken about when being gay on television was a rarity in itself.

As always and specifically in this post, adult content will be discussed so only read if you are over 18.

Series 3 – Introduction of Themes, the character of Hunter and Analysis of Events

Introduction of Themes

Throughout the five series, many controversial and difficult issues are faced by the gang at Liberty Avenue and it was amazing to see these being discussed on a television show from 20 years ago. America did not have a great attitude towards LGBT people especially from the government and many religious groups. It was ground-breaking to see such themes discussed so broadly and seriously but still in a way that made the programme enjoyable.

One of the main themes discussed particularly from Series 2 when Ben joins the main cast is HIV. This was an epidemic that affected gay men for many years. In the programme, Ben is HIV positive and this initially causes a big rift between Ben and Michael when Michael’s friends and his mother are concerned for his safety. Ben reassures Michael that he is not seriously ill and with medicine and healthy practices, he keeps in reasonably good health. This is not always the case for Ben or for Vic who has been living with HIV for years at the beginning of the series. He is older than Ben and is in worse health. Despite almost dying just before the timeline of the pilot, Vic is relatively well until his death in Series 4. It showed that despite advances in HIV medication, people could still die even in 2004. The issue becomes more serious when Hunter learns he has HIV at such a young age. Emmett goes through a major scare with a HIV test and after learning he is negative, he tries to become heterosexual. This shows how afraid men were to catch the disease.

Another of the major themes is the homophobia that most of the characters face from relatives, co-workers, strangers and others. Justin is a victim of homophobia from his father when he is told to become heterosexual or leave his house for good. We do not see his father again apart from one incident in Series 4 when he has Justin arrested for protesting. Justin is also the victim of a homophobic attack by a student at his school at the end of Series 1. The student was a closeted gay man as was evidenced by a moment he shared with Justin. He has internalised homophobia about his own feelings and when he saw Justin with Brian at the prom, he was provoked into violence. Gay bashing was something that many people were victims of and still are today by others who are jealous or simply hate them for being themselves.

There was a storyline in Series 4 where Justin joins a gay vigilante group, the Pink Posse who want to patrol the streets protecting gay people from attacks from straight people. Justin believes he is getting revenge for an attack on Darren, a drag queen and revenge for his own attack but after seeing his fellow gang member openly attacking people first for the slightest comment or sometimes unprovoked he knows that violence is not the answer when stopping gay hate crimes. When he is brought face to face with his attacker, Chris Hobbs he understands that killing him would not reverse events or get rid of his anger or pain.

Brian’s family are not supportive of his sexuality and he chose to keep his distance for other reasons but after they find out in Series 1; Brian rarely sees his mother or sister. Brian’s nephew accuses Brian of molesting him which was not true. Fortunately it was disproved but this shows the lengths that some people, even relatives went to when trying to get someone discredited, simply for their sexuality. Brian’s mother blames Brian’s cancer on his sexuality which causes him to call her out for her homophobic beliefs.

The show is always showing safe sex between the characters and any acts taken place without protection are not condoned by any of the main characters. This is an important aspect as while the characters sleep around with many men, they are always careful especially Brian who is the most promiscuous of them all. He makes it a point to always use a condom. Justin brings up safe sex on their first night together and while he won’t have been taught about gay sex, he has heard of the need for protection even between two men. Hunter also brings up the issue of safe sex after Michael and Ben find out he does not use condoms when hustling. Before they convince him to stop, they successfully get him to use condoms.

Many of the characters in the show are parents whether biologically or through marriage/partnership. In the pilot episode we are introduced to the parenting trio of Lindsay, Melanie and Brian. Brian provided a sperm donation so Lindsay could carry a child for herself and Melanie to be parents. Brian initially only wants to be a donor and agrees to give up his parental rights but he then becomes attached to Gus and visits him. Throughout the series, the three of them go through challenges as parents but mostly they all make the right decisions for Gus. When Melanie wants to carry their second child, she chooses Michael as the father which causes many problems and a custody hearing between Lindsay, Melanie and Michael. This is the other side and an issue with three parent adoption. It was interesting to see both sides of same-sex parenting. Debbie is the only parent of the characters who is a main cast member. She acts like a parent to all of the gang and is the perfect supportive mother for a gay man. She can be over the top sometimes but has always been supportive of Michael’s sexuality and has helped him become more comfortable with his identity.

Michael and Ben become foster parents and parents to Melanie and Michael’s baby. They go into fostering unconventionally when they vow to take care of a young hustler when he starts working outside their building. It takes them a few years and a few times to get Hunter to accept himself as their son but with support and care from Ben and Michael, he goes back to school and starts to experience normal teenage life. He even gets a girlfriend and takes part in school activities. This was a positive example of how gay parents can be good foster parents.

During the course of the show, politics is a very important topic, particularly as at the time in the US, the government and many politicians were against gay rights and same-sex marriage. With the Stockwell storyline, the characters go through a cultural change and a repression of their rights in Pittsburgh. It is on a smaller scale than the Presidential Election but as it directly impacts the Liberty Avenue community, it feels very important. Many of the characters protest against Stockwell with Justin creating posters opposing him; Debbie along with Brian, Justin and Hunter tries to find out how Stockwell is covering up the murder of a gay boy. Brian is working on Stockwell’s campaign and initially he is with Stockwell as he doesn’t realise how anti-gay Stockwell is but slowly with the closure of gay clubs and establishments and the presence of police on the streets, Brian realises that Stockwell has to be stopped. He tries to work from the inside but is caught with evidence against him. This plotline showed how even smart men like Brian can be carried along by great politicians and sometimes it takes a while to wake up to how a politician that does not share cultural or societal similarities with you can impact your life.

Another political storyline is Proposition 14. This was not a real bill at the time but rather is based on Proposition 6 that failed to pass in the 1978 election in California. In Queer as Folk, the law is trying to limit the rights of gay people by not allowing them to have joint bank accounts, mortgages, adopt or be together in any legal way. If passed it would affect all of the gay citizens in Pennsylvania. While not all of the gang on Liberty Avenue were living with someone or in a serious relationship, they all felt the impact and the potential directions their lives could take would be diminished. This storyline happens in Series 5 and the bill does pass but we do not see the full effects as it is close to the end of the show. One big change was Lindsay and Melanie moving to Toronto as they had more rights as a same-sex couple and could even marry legally. Throughout Series 5, we see the characters going to different houses and asking people to vote no to Proposition 14, protesting in the streets, fundraising and Justin even got arrested for protesting outside his father’s store. Michael originally does not want to publicly show his support after his shop is vandalised but he soon realises that he has to stand with his partner and community. It is good that the show depicted different points of view as not every gay person like Michael would have been comfortable to publicly condone the initiative for fear of retaliation.

Another big storyline in the show is the issues and consequences of drug use. Initially, it is shown as something that the cool characters do such as Brian getting high in the pilot and Michael and Brian often smoking weed but we also see the dangers of drug abuse. This is an issue particularly in the LGBT community amongst those who like to party. It was interesting to see the changes in drugs as now weed is legal but at the time, it was seen as something more risky to do. Justin has a small storyline in Series 2 where he is invited to a party and drugged. Although this storyline was upsetting, I am pleased that it was included to show the dangers of partying and how even being around drugs and not consciously taking them can be dangerous.

Ted has the most important drug related storyline with his crystal meth addiction. At the start of Series 1, he is drugged by a hook-up and ends up in a coma. This definitely deters him from that lifestyle for a few years but after his arrest and the collapse of his successful business in Series 3, he is lured over to crystal use. It was easy to understand how Ted fell into his depression and couldn’t resist trying to feel better again. When his drug use started to affect his relationship with Emmett and his friends, he started to cut them off as he felt he couldn’t give up the drugs. Eventually he goes to rehab and starts the recovery process but it is not instant and he is still going to meetings at the end of the show. He also reconnects with Blake several times at different stages of their drug use. In Series 1, Blake accidentally put Ted in a coma but Ted meets him again and tries to help him by taking Blake to rehab. When Ted himself is in rehab at the end of Series 3, he meets Blake again who is now clean and a counsellor. They get together again but don’t make it work until reconnecting a final time at the end of Series 5. The difference between Blake in Series 1 and 3/4/5 was a contrast and it shows how seemingly sane people can become addicts.

One storyline that I think many LGBT viewers would have related to especially at the time when there were no laws protecting them was being outed at work or school. Michael was the most afraid of this at his job at the Big Q. He had witnessed his colleagues making fun of gay people and as an assistant manager, he did not want to be ridiculed or bullied for being gay. He even pretended to date a fellow female co-worker at an event because he couldn’t bring his boyfriend. When Michael starts his own business, he no longer has this fear and even creates a provocative gay comic that he sells out of his shop. Brian is someone who also keeps his sexuality a discreet part of himself at work but not in the same way as Michael. Brian is happy to hook-up with potential clients to seal the deal and his assistant, Cynthia knows the truth but he does not flaunt it, particularly to his boss. He often says if he is not having sex with someone then they don’t need to know.

Ted has a more unfortunate situation where he is found watching gay porn at work and is fired. At first he believes it is because he was gay as all his colleagues watch porn as well but his boss tells him it was for using the Internet and even tells Ted that he is free to explore his passions. Justin is a victim of bullying at school by various fellow students but particularly Chris Hobbs. At the time, there was no education about gay sex or even how to treat LGBT people as equals so many students said mean and derogatory things to Justin pertaining to his sexuality. This caused many issues for Justin and culminated in an almost life-threatening injury from which he thankfully recovered.

Hunter is an important character who we are introduced to this series. He is witty, cheeky and often very straightforward with his desires. With Ben and Michael’s help he stops hustling and goes back to school where he does well apart from an incident during a swim meet. He even gets time to understand his true sexuality and has a girlfriend. Hunter is HIV positive like Ben and he is glad to have Ben as a role model for how to handle the virus. Although he does leave Ben and Michael a couple of times, he finds his way back and is accepted into their family.

Analysis of Events

One incident that happened early on in Series 3 involved Brian’s nephew accusing Brian of molesting him. While paedophilia and child molesting is a prevalent problem especially in religious circles; Brian’s nephew, John was using Brian’s sexuality as a weapon against him. He was only 12 but after being surrounded by his mother and grandparents who were all very homophobic, he thought that he could get Brian arrested. It was a response to Brian catching him stealing his money and dunking his head in the toilet. John did not have any positive experiences with Brian and did not see him as a valued member of his family. While John’s behaviour was wrong and he was able to think for himself, his environment and family beliefs were a big part in his accusation. Luckily, Brian is not arrested and because John also took his bracelet that had his initials on, it was disproven. This event showed how law enforcement was quick to believe John despite Brian being the adult with a good job and no previous record that we know. This crime is one more tailored towards the gay community as many people believe that all gay people are perverts and are quick to jump to any conclusions whereas they would not believe an accusation made from a girl to a man or a boy to a woman.

We are introduced to the more problematic side of gay sex with the character of Hunter. He works the streets as a hustler despite being only 15 and the age of consent at the time in Pennsylvania being 16. Despite this he sleeps with many men usually without protection for money. The men that use hustlers are often not out as gay and have to hide their sexuality or they are perverts that want to sleep with underage boys. Hunter was forced into the lifestyle by his mother and he claims to enjoy it. When he comes out as straight and dates a girl, we know that he was only doing it as he had no other choice. He was sexualised at an early age so he didn’t consider whether he wanted to have sex with men. Hustling is not condoned by any of the gang and seen as a crime to sleep with any of the boys. Hunter puts his skills to use when Brian and Justin start investigating the death of a young hustler in Series 3.

Brian has strong character development in Series 3 after he chooses morality and his friends over money. Before meeting Stockwell, Brian was happy to work with any brands as long as they paid him well. Initially, he does not mind Stockwell as he sees him as a legitimate candidate and a way to make money. After his community starts protesting, his point of view changes and Stockwell fires him. When Stockwell closes the sordid establishments that Brian likes to frequent, it is the last straw for him. He secretly works against Stockwell by helping Justin print his posters and organise a protest at a talk by Stockwell. When Brian fears that Stockwell will win, he uses his advertising expertise and creates an advert about Stockwell’s cover-up of the hustler found dead in a dumpster. He pays for it to be on television himself when Stockwell’s opponent won’t run it. This shows how Brian sacrificed everything – his job, money, possessions and emotionless nature to take down Stockwell and restore harmony on Liberty Avenue.

A main storyline was Ted’s dissent into depression and drugs. Ted is usually a character that takes things in his stride. After he was fired from his job as an accountant, he built his own business and became successful even though it took him some time. I think it was the loss of his new life with Emmett and his arrest being in the newspapers that created shame for Ted. He felt that he was not deserving of living in a nice neighbourhood with Emmett so started to doubt himself. When he found temporary happiness with crystal meth, he clung on it tightly and became addicted. When he had nothing else, he knew he could find joy and feel beautiful when on drugs. Addicts often fall into drug use after a difficult period or with mental health problems, both of which Ted suffered.

Justin and Michael’s comic, Rage often reflects the real events in their lives such as Justin’s gay bashing and the villain based on Stockwell. This time, Brian modelled his actions on Rage, his superhero counterpart. Justin gives Brian the idea to save the city when he says ‘If only there were a real life Rage.’ Brian knows that he is the only one of his friends that has the power, connections and money to pull off the advert. He choses to sacrifice everything like Rage would to create a better life for his friends and community.

The final episode of Series 3 uses some different narrative techniques than we have seen in the show up to this point. The episode opens on a couple we have not seen before walking down the street. They are chatting about this and that but when they pass two policemen, they both look unsettled and afraid and the colour turns to black and white. We then see Brian and Justin walking along. Brian has a different attitude to authority and enjoys riling up the cops by kissing Justin in front of them and miming having sex. Justin also says the phrase, “It’s like the Wizard of Oz in reverse” which is exactly what happens with the colours. This is a rare example of the editing and colours of the show matching a specific line. At the end, after the characters all start partying in the streets, someone waves a pride flag across the screen that turns to colour and the colours come back again from black and white to red and and gradually all the colours. There are only two scenes in black and white but it is nod to Justin’s line and the tone of the episode. Also in the streets, we see the couple from the beginning making out. It is very subtle but a great call back to the beginning. The series ends on Justin and Brian embracing showing that love won that battle.

My next post will be about the hardships the group face as individuals and the events of Series 4.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Queer as Folk: Review Part 2

Brian is the member of the group that does not want to be tied down with a relationship. He is happy to move from man to man without a lasting connection. Michael says that he ‘doesn’t do boyfriends’. While this is our initial impression of Brian, Justin manages to break though this image. From their meeting in the pilot, there is an instant connection. Despite Justin’s age and inexperience, Brian becomes fond of him. He even lets Justin stay in his loft for a few weeks in Series 1. Their relationship progresses in Series 2 after Justin moves in once again but Brian and Justin never stop sleeping with other men. They form a pact to only have meaningless hook-ups with others but Justin craves love from Brian and finds it with Ethan, a violinist his own age with plenty of love and passion to give. Brian and Justin are not together for half of Series 3 but come together again. They stay together in an ‘undefined, non-conventional’ way until in a complete change of character Brian asks Justin to marry him. They do not end up together as Justin recognises that Brian is trying to change himself for Justin.

Hello Readers,

This is the second post in my collection about Queer as Folk US and if you haven’t read the first one go and have a look before starting on this post. Also again to remind you the content of the show is 18 years old and over and this will be reflected in my post so don’t read if you are under 18 or do not want to read about adult content.

Series 2 – Introduction of Ben, Relationships: Romantic and Familial and Analysis of Events.

This series we are introduced to the character of Ben who dates Michael until the end of the show. He is a professor of Gay Studies at the university and also an author. We don’t see any of his family but he becomes part of the main cast and creates a family with Michael and their eventual children. Ben is thoughtful, patient, passionate and accepts Michael for the way he is which is something David could never seem to do. Ben is also HIV positive which is a big story line in the show and initially creates tension between Michael and Ben but eventually Ben is accepted into the group at Liberty Avenue.

Relationships – Familial and Romantic

Romantic

In the first series, Michael dates an older chiropractor, David. They meet when David treats Michael for a sore neck at his surgery. Initially David treats Michael well and is the ‘perfect’ boyfriend. Michael even bonds with David’s son, Hank when he comes to visit. Towards the end of Series 1, David becomes too controlling and insists on paying for everything and doing everything for Michael. Not every ‘perfect’ man is the one for you and this is why Michael does not stay in Portland at the beginning of Series 2. Also in Series 1, Michael pretends to date Tracy to hide his sexuality at work but they only go on one date. In Series 2, Michael meets Ben at his comic book store and the pair hit it off. Ben moves into Michael’s apartment which is a contrast to David asking Michael to live with him. They purchase a house together in the final season.

Brian is the member of the group that does not want to be tied down with a relationship. He is happy to move from man to man without a lasting connection. Michael says that he ‘doesn’t do boyfriends’. While this is our initial impression of Brian, Justin manages to break though this image. From their meeting in the pilot, there is an instant connection. Despite Justin’s age and inexperience, Brian becomes fond of him. He even lets Justin stay in his loft for a few weeks in Series 1. Their relationship progresses in Series 2 after Justin moves in once again but Brian and Justin never stop sleeping with other men. They form a pact to only have meaningless hook-ups with others but Justin craves love from Brian and finds it with Ethan, a violinist his own age with plenty of love and passion to give. Brian and Justin are not together for half of Series 3 but come together again. They stay together in an ‘undefined, non-conventional’ way until in a complete change of character Brian asks Justin to marry him. They do not end up together as Justin recognises that Brian is trying to change himself for Justin.

Ted struggles to make lasting connections with men but he becomes entangled with Blake in Series 1 after he gives Ted drugs and puts him in a coma. They reconnect at the end of Series 1 but Blake is addicted to crystal meth so Ted takes him to rehab. Fast forward to Series 4 and Ted attends rehab where Blake is now a counsellor. The two strike up a relationship once again but Ted realises that he is simply leaning on Blake in his drug abuse recovery. Eventually at the end of Series 5, Blake and Ted run into each other again and it is suggested to be together at last. Ted has a number of brief relationships in between and most notably for Series 3, he dates Emmett but his drug addiction breaks them up. They buy a house in the suburbs but Ted’s arrest and loss of his job leads to his addiction. The pair end the show as friends and Emmett helps Ted to get back on his feet.

Emmett has a series of meaningful relationships that end for various reasons. He dates an older man, George who lives in a mansion. The pair have a sweet connection despite the age difference and Emmett helps George to live as a gay man having only ‘come out’ five years previously. George unfortunately dies just as the two of them embark on a round the world trip. Emmett then dates Ted but is let down by him and his crystal addiction. In Series 4, Emmett starts a hook-up with a closeted American football player, Drew. They gradually become more intimate but break up after Drew cannot handle being publicly gay. In Series 5, Drew goes back to Emmett and comes out as gay on TV. He lives with Emmett and Debbie while hiding from the press but the two part ways after Drew needs time to sow his wild oats as a gay man.

Debbie, Michael’s mother lives with Vic, her brother for most of the show but in Series 3, she strikes up a relationship with Carl, a detective. They part ways over politics but find each other again. Carl proposes at the end of Series 4 but Debbie does not want to get married if Michael legally can’t in the US. Debbie and Carl live together with Emmett and briefly Drew.

The steady couple of the show with a few rocky patches are Melanie and Lindsay. In the pilot episode, Lindsay gives birth to their son, Gus. Brian provided them with the sperm and has a hand in raising him. Lindsay and Melanie have been together for six years and appear to be steady but Brian starts to come between them. Melanie has an affair and Lindsay almost marries a Frenchman for a Green card but Brian brings them together again. In Series 4, they get pregnant again with Melanie carrying the baby and Michael as the father. Lindsay is enticed by a male artist at her gallery and cheats on Melanie. This leads to a long separation between them akin to a divorce and a custody battle but they come together again at the end of the show and move to Toronto with the kids.

Family

Michael was raised by his mother and uncle but never knew his father. Debbie told Michael that his father was killed in Vietnam shortly after he was born and all they have is his surname and the Purple Heart he was awarded. We find out in Series 2 that Michael’s real father became a drag queen after dating Debbie so she picked a random war hero as his father. They both know that Michael knows but chose to keep up the lie.

Brian came from a very troubled home. His father was abusive towards his mother and regretted his existence which he made clear to Brian. Brian doesn’t see them much apart from when his father dies and he finally confesses his sexuality. His sister and nephews make a couple of appearances as does his mother but he chooses to keep them at arm’s length. His mother, sister and nephew, John all hate him for being gay so he does not associate much with them.

Justin’s father disapproves of his sexuality and kicks him out of the house as well as attacking Brian after finding out they are together. Justin’s parents get divorced and in Series 5, Justin’s father has him arrested for protesting in front of his store. Justin’s mother struggles with acceptance at first, especially of his infatuation with Brian but she joins PFLAG and is very supportive of gay rights. His younger sister Molly is not on screen much and is not shown to have an opinion on his sexuality.

Ted’s parents are not shown apart from when his mother visits him in hospital when he is in a coma in Series 1. A sister is also mentioned but as part of a joke and is never mentioned again.

Emmett’s parents are also not shown as Emmett moved to Pittsburgh from Hazlehurst, Mississippi. They are implied to be homophobes. He does mention his mum, dad, grandma and most frequently an Aunt Lula who was perhaps the only family member Emmett liked.

Debbie mentions her own parents briefly but it is inferred that they passed away a while before the show started. Her family is her brother, Vic. They get along very well and Vic makes regular appearances with the group. He used to live in New York and worked as a pastry chef but he comes back to Pittsburgh after he becomes ill with HIV. He eventually passes away from complications associated with the virus.

Melanie is Jewish and this is an important part of her identity. She tries to circumcise Gus but Brian stops the ceremony. Her family is not seen in the show but mentioned. Melanie carries her and Lindsay’s second baby and asks Michael to be the father.

Lindsay has very traditional wealthy parents who struggle with Lindsay’s sexuality. When Melanie and Lindsay want to get married, they refuse to pay for it, despite paying for her sister’s three weddings. Lindsay’s sister is only shown a couple of times along with her parents. She briefly moves in with them when she and Melanie are separated but they set her up with a man so she leaves.

Analysis of Events

This series shows Pittsburgh’s Gay Pride parade and many attitudes about and areas of the celebration. Michael has never marched with Debbie and the PFLAG group before but he promises to this year. He was always afraid of being seen by his work colleagues as they use homophobic language. However this year, he dresses in drag and even meets his colleagues and kisses one of them without them realising his true identity. Justin does march with his mum and supports her acceptance of him. Their relationship was fractured after Justin’s injury but this brings them closer together. Emmett loves the parade but is upset after his former mentor passes away the day before. Ted is drawn in by a guy who only sleeps with him out of pity but gets revenge a few years later after he has cosmetic surgery. Brian normally uses the parade to get with as many men as possible but this year he picks Justin over a random hook-up which shows personal growth and his growing affections for Justin.

Brian was deeply affected by Justin’s attack and I think that he feels responsible as he danced with Justin at the prom and kissed him which led to his attacker hitting him in the head with a bat. Brian meets up with a therapist to find out treatments for Justin’s PTSD and helps him to walk in crowds and with physical intimacy. They also do a re-creation with his friend Daphne’s assistance, of the dance and they even go to the carpark where the attack happened. Brian visited Justin every day at the hospital without his knowledge because he wasn’t ready to show how deeply he cared. We see Brian cry for the second and final time of the full five years, just after the accident when he is waiting in the hospital with Michael.

Michael finds out who his real father is, a drag queen named Divina Devore who Debbie had a summer romance with after high school. Even though Divina or Danny and Michael both know that he is Michael’s birth father they both pretend that it isn’t true. This struck me as odd at first as Michael has been waiting 30 years for a father and he finally has one but he doesn’t need one anymore and Danny is not going to be the father he always wanted or needed. He accepts that Debbie was the best parent he could have asked for and he had Brian as a strong male influence as well as Uncle Vic so he doesn’t need someone that is never going to be around or act like a father.

A storyline that saddened me was Brian and Justin going their separate ways. They had been through so much and then they are torn apart. Brian struggled to show any real intimacy and affection instead choosing to prove his alpha nature and sleep with any man he could, often with Justin walking in on him. Brian takes great self value over his youth and beauty and the power he has over other men. Settling down into a relationship where he did not have total power and control was not something he could do at the time and as we are shown at the end of Series 5; he should not change himself for anyone. Justin meanwhile craves affection as his own father has abandoned him because of his sexuality and he falls deeply in love with Brian. He thinks he can tame Brian and make him only love him, but when this doesn’t happen he looks around for someone else. What Justin did not see was the way Brian tried to show his love with actions and gestures such as letting Justin live with him, paying his school fees, generally being there for him and often choosing him over a random hook-up. On the other hand, Brian should have told Justin his feelings rather than expecting him to read between the lines. This is something that Justin manages to let go in the later series and when he decides to get back with Brian, he tells Daphne that Brian did love him and showed him every day but he just couldn’t see it at the time.

Another important event in Series 2 is the start of Rage, the comic that Justin and Michael create together. It starts from a doodle at a superhero themed night in Babylon and expands into a multi-series plot line with film deals and success. Justin draws the images and Michael plans the story and helps with the design of the comic. At first, Brian is jealous of the time they spend together, especially when he finds Justin and Michael asleep in bed but when Debbie points out that Rage is based on Brian in looks and personality, he apologises for his awful behaviour. Rage is a superhero that flies around Gayopolis saving gay boys from bashings. Much of the story is based on their shared history and they often use story ideas to talk about their own lives. Rage falls in love with J-T and Justin draws some very explicit sexual scenes between the two of them which mirrors his own feelings for Brian. Rage also has a sidekick Zephyr who is modelled on Michael. During the third series, a new villain is introduced to mirror Stockwell and his hate campaign against Liberty Avenue and its residents.

The next post will about about the issues discussed in the show and the events of Series 3.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Queer as Folk: Review and Breakdown of the American Iteration – Part 1

Brian who has never had a boyfriend or even the same man twice becomes attached to Justin and lets him into his life in ways he has never done before. He sleeps with him multiple times and even lets him stay with him for a few weeks. Brian sees part of himself in Justin after meeting his father. While Brian’s father does not know his is gay, he was emotionally abusive and told Brian that he never wanted children. When Justin is kicked out by his father and told he has a disgusting lifestyle, Brian knows that Justin should not be in that environment or he may turn out emotionally scarred like Brian. One of the reasons that Brian never forms romantic attachments is that he is scared of becoming too reliant on someone and have them leave. He lets Justin in as Justin loves him unconditionally which no other man apart from Michael has ever done.

Yes it’s sex which for the time was ground-breaking but it also showed gay and lesbian people as multi-faceted with complex lives and relationships. The main characters were vastly different and all exhibit different traits and occasionally stereotypes. As the show was first broadcast over 20 years ago in the year 2000, attitudes towards LGBT people have changed but in the show, we see more discrimination and different words used than we have in today’s society. As well as the show being set in America, the world of Queer as Folk US is more gay-central and at times more anti-heterosexual than the UK version.

This is the first post in a collection I am doing about the show. Each post will cover a different aspect of the show and an analysis of some key moments of that series. This first post covers an introduction of the main characters and an analysis of key events from Series 1.

As a warning, the show contains a lot of adult content and nudity and I will be writing about that so please do not read if you are under 18 or do not want to read about more explicit content.

Series 1 – Introduction of the Characters and Analysis of Events

This is the first series of Queer as Folk and the storylines closely follow the British series but expand and add narrative arcs. The plot becomes completely original by the end of this series and we see the characters explore things beyond their British counterparts. In the first episode, Michael introduces us to his friends: Ted, Emmett and Brian. We also meet Justin, Melanie and Lindsay.

We learn that Michael is the self-appointed boy-next-door. He is kind and mild-mannered but passionate and loyal. We see a flair of temper after he discovers Brian’s Jeep was vandalised in his care. Michael does not get a lot of action but still attracts the odd one night stand. They do not always end well and we see that Michael is more comfortable in a monogamous relationship. This is demonstrated by his partnership with David in Series 1 and later with Ben. Michael is also not very ambitious and accepts his place as an Assistant Manager at The Big Q. He goes along with dating fellow co-worker Tracy to land a promotion after acknowledging that to get ahead he has to be seen with a woman. Michael follows his passion and becomes the owner of his own comic book store and even starts his own comic, Rage with Justin.

Ted is smart and caring and the more cultured older one of the group. Ted is like Michael in the way that he is looking for a stable relationship but struggles to attract men for more than a momentary connection. He also has crippling self-doubt and does not value himself much which gets in the way of looking for a boyfriend. Ted is an accountant but he does not enjoy his monotonous work and spends much of his time on the phone to his friends or looking at porn websites. He branches out into running his own porn site after being fired. His love of opera leads him to briefly becoming a singing waiter but he eventually works for Brian’s ad agency as an accountant.

Emmett is the ‘queen’ of the group and the one who is most ‘obviously’ gay. He works at a fashion store on Liberty Avenue and dresses very colourfully with bright, outrageous clothes. Emmett has a very sweet nature that others sometimes take for granted. He talks often of his childhood in Hazelhurst, Mississippi and his Aunt Lula. Emmett also lives with Michael and continues to live in his apartment when Michael moves out to be with David. Emmett goes through a few jobs as a porn star, a domestic helper and eventually starts his own party planning business with Michael’s Uncle Vic.

Justin is artistic and romantic and wears his heart on his sleeve. He quickly learns how to be a gay man on Liberty Avenue and after his bashing, he becomes more mature and less dramatic. Justin is in high school and then goes to college to study art. He also illustrates Rage and works on the film in the art department in Hollywood. Justin moves out to live with Debbie and Vic and works at the Liberty Diner during high school and college.

Brian is cold-hearted and sleeps with many men. He cares deeply for Michael, Justin and the others but struggles to show his emotions for fear of not appearing in control or powerful. Brian loves expensive clothes and has a loft filled with designer furniture. He is often quick-witted and possessive over Michael. Brian is an ad executive for Vanguard. He makes partner but is then fired and starts his own company, Kinnetic.

Lindsay is sensible and mothering and she grew up with money. She is an art teacher at the university and goes on maternity leave for a year to raise Gus. She starts working at at art gallery in Series 2 and starts her own art once again. She has a deep friendship with Brian from their college days and always forgives him. She can be uptight sometimes but knows how to let loose.

Melanie is a lawyer who helps the group in many cases. She is daring and adventurous and more stereotypically ‘butch’ with her hobbies and strong personality but she can be soft and emotional too. She dislikes Brian at first and blames him for trying to come between herself and Lindsay. She also has a friendship with Ted as they both enjoy the arts.

Debbie is Michael’s mother and is very supportive of her son and his friends. She works at the Liberty Diner and never shies away from making suggestive comments. She is passionate in her love for Michael and her brother, Vic. She is very caring and is the unofficial mother of the boys, often lending an ear to Brian, taking in Justin and sending food to anyone who needs it. Debbie can sometimes be too overbearing and does not do well on her own.

Vic is a character we often see with Debbie whether at their house or at the local bar, Woody’s. He has HIV and is slowly recovering from a recent string of illnesses in Series 1. He can be cheeky just like Debbie and likes to party. He is an amazing chef and becomes partners with Emmett in his party planning business.

Analysis of Events

Michael has always held a candle for Brian since they met at age 14. In the first series, Michael still holds these feelings and relishes any time spent together and any friendly kisses the two share. When he dates David, his feelings for Brian and Brian himself come between them. Michael initially rejects David’s offer to move in together as he thinks he will never see his friends or go out clubbing again but after Brian’s harsh words at Michael’s birthday, Michael moves in with David as he thinks he has broken ties with Brian. It is almost in retaliation to Brian who never approved of Michael having a steady relationship and wants to keep him as a child. Debbie instantly knows why Brian outed Michael to Tracy and she thanks him later for finally letting him go. Brian knows he did the right thing for Michael but he still takes it badly. Debbie notes that Brian could not push him away gently and Brian agrees that Michael would have followed him around forever. Michael eventually forgives Brian like he always does and Brian once again gets between himself and David.

Emmett tries to ‘see the light’ in this series which appears very out of character for him. He does so in a reaction to a HIV scare and feels he has to honour a promise he made to God. It is the relief of being diagnosed negative that propels Emmett to try and become straight to never face that scare again. It is an understandable response to the situation but Emmett realises that he cannot live in fear and deny his true identity. Despite the risks of infection out there, he does not want to become someone he is not.

Ted harbours a secret crush on Michael that he feels relates him to Michael because of Michael’s love for Brian. Ted thinks of them as similar because Michael also doubts himself and whether he is worthy of love but when Ted confronts Michael, he does not get the answer he wanted. Ted uses his secret love for Michael as an excuse to never find a boyfriend but eventually realises that having an unrequited crush is not healthy and he tries to find a real relationship.

Brian who has never had a boyfriend or even the same man twice becomes attached to Justin and lets him into his life in ways he has never done before. He sleeps with him multiple times and even lets him stay with him for a few weeks. Brian sees part of himself in Justin after meeting his father. While Brian’s father does not know his is gay, he was emotionally abusive and told Brian that he never wanted children. When Justin is kicked out by his father and told he has a disgusting lifestyle, Brian knows that Justin should not be in that environment or he may turn out emotionally scarred like himself. One of the reasons that Brian never forms romantic attachments is that he is scared of becoming too reliant on someone and then they leave. He lets Justin in as Justin loves him unconditionally which no other man apart from Michael has ever done.

Melanie has an affair with another woman because Lindsay pulls away from her when she decides to take a year off. There was a balance between them but now Melanie hardly sees Gus and works all day whereas Lindsay gets to be with him all the time. Melanie wants to talk about everything as she did growing up and Lindsay wants to pretend everything is alright and not talk about their issues as she did growing up. Both are a product of their upbringing. Brian helps them to work things out by giving up his parental rights enabling Melanie to become a second parent.

My next post will be covering Series 2 and the key relationships between the characters.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

TV Shows I’ve been watching this month

Hello readers,

As lockdown is easing gradually in the UK and life hopefully will be returning to its pre-pandemic state, cinemas will be opening and production will increase. However, we are not quite there yet and this month I have been mainly watching television programmes that I find comfort in and sticking to old favourites. With real life becoming more exciting soon, maybe my watching habits will as well. The five shows I am going to write about in this post are all ones that have been in my life in some form for a while. For example while WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are new shows they are a continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the 23 films that culminated in Avengers: Endgame in 2019. Both of these shows pick up after Endgame and focus on some heroes who have not had their own films.

Shameless US – Netflix

I first became aware of this show around a year ago through a friend. I was introduced through the characters of Ian and Mickey and their ground-breaking relationship. For me they have been a great example of a romance that is not conventional or stereotypically confined by their sexuality. The show as a whole is set in Southside Chicago where every character has to fight for survival.

Shameless centres around the Gallagher family, the same as the UK version which this version is based upon but that is where the similarities stop plot wise. The family is headed by eldest sister, Fiona who is 21 in the first season. She has been raising her siblings since she was young and officially since she was 16 and her mother ran off from the family for good. Next is Lip, short for Philip, the smartest in the family with a high IQ who is 16 in season 1. Then there is Ian who is gay and has set his sights on the military by attending a junior cadet programme. He is 15 in season 1. After Ian comes Debbie, she is determined and is the only one of the Gallagher clan to still love her father. After her is Carl, a reckless kid with his heart in the right place. The youngest Gallagher is Liam, who is a baby in season one and somehow black with two white parents. Frank Gallagher is their father who is more interested in money, drugs and creating social change than his kids.

The show follows their lives and all the ups and downs. Other main characters are Kevin and Veronica who live near the Gallaghers and have formed a close bond with Fiona. Kevin works at the Alibi, the local bar and V works as a nurse at a care home. Other notable characters from season one are Karen and Sheila Jackson who become involved with the Gallaghers and Mickey and Mandy Milkovich. Mandy is Ian’s best friend and he meets Mickey through her.

I am up to Season 8 of the show but all together there are 11 seasons with the final season (11) being shown on television currently. Only 9 are on Netflix but hopefully the newer ones will be added soon. While this show is definitely for adults with lots of swearing, nudity and drugs; there is a lot of heart and every character goes through an amazing journey with hardships and successes.

WandaVision

The first venture for Marvel into television form with Kevin Feige helming the shows. WandaVision follows the story after Endgame as mentioned above. We are introduced to a new agency, S.W.O.R.D who have taken over from S.H.I.E.L.D as the governing body associated with superheroes and the Avengers. A phenomenon occurs when the town of Westview is trapped in a forcefield that no-one can penetrate. At the centre is Wanda Maximoff living as a 1950s housewife with her husband, Vision, who fans will know perished in Infinity War at the hands of Thanos.

Wanda’s life is now in black and white with a cast of friends and co-workers and a laugh track. As her life moves through the decades into the 1960s, 70s and 80s; we learn why Wanda is living out sitcoms from different decades.

What makes this show unique is that WandaVision completely inhabits the techniques and styles of every television decade including the special effects and props of the time. This show is a continuation of Wanda and Vision’s story in the Marvel Universe and we learn more about Wanda’s life pre-Avenger but it is also an homage to the great American sitcoms of the last 70 years.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier

This show is also in the Marvel Universe but unlike WandaVision, it is more similar to the Marvel spectacles we are used to from the MCU. The show is being released weekly and only two episodes have been streamed so far but the story is beginning to take shape.

In the show, we see Sam Wilson or ‘Falcon’ and Bucky Barnes or ‘The Winter Soldier’ in the months after Endgame where the world is trying to adjust to half the population suddenly appearing again. Sam is still working for the government as a contractor with his Falcon technology and Bucky has gone down a more solitary path. He lives alone in New York as a newly pardoned contract killer. Apart from his therapy sessions and missions to make his past wrongs right, he doesn’t have much to do with the Avengers.

A new threat appears in the form of Karli Morgenthau and her crew. They are dedicated to making the world how it was before everyone came back. Terror attacks have been threatening the population around the globe so Sam persuades Bucky to team up once again. What really convinces him is the debut of a new Captain America. John Walker is as close to a super soldier as he can be, without the serum but Sam who gave up the shield, definitely does not approve.

Bucky is still attached to his life long friend, Steve Rogers and together Sam and Bucky get back into the action. So far we have had an episode on a back story for both Sam’s family in New Orleans and more of Bucky’s past and a second with some action scenes between the pair. One delight of the series to audiences is the comedy between them. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan have had great comic chemistry since their interviews together for Captain America: The Winter Soldier back in 2014 and this series has amped up their natural back and forth to their on screen characters. A particular favourite scene is when Sam and Bucky are made to go through couple’s therapy with Bucky’s therapist.

Another element that I applaud Marvel for showing is race inequality. Sam as a black man gave up the Captain America mantle but then it was given to another white man. There is also a very pivotal scene where Bucky tries talking to another super soldier who was given the serum like him. This man was treated differently to Bucky however as he is black. After this revealing conversation, Sam is questioned by a passing policeman for arguing with Bucky and until Bucky tells the officer that Sam is an Avenger and a hero, Sam faces arrest.

Love, Victor

This show has been out for a while but I am watching it weekly on Disney Plus. It is based on the film Love, Simon that debuted in 2018 which is based on a book by Becky Albertalli. I loved the film of Love, Simon and the representation and awareness it brought to young adult audiences from a major studio. Love, Victor is in the same universe as Love, Simon but picks up the story from another point of view. Victor Salazar has just moved to Creekwood, Atlanta with his family and starts at the school where Simon went. He has some trouble adjusting to a more open and accepting society and trying to work out his own feelings so he messages Simon online for advice. This starts a dialogue between the two which is presented as a voice over from the original actor, Nick Robinson.

While Simon’s story was not easy, he was from a liberal white background whereas Victor’s family are Latino and religious. They also are not as open as Victor would hope so he has trouble even processing his feelings, let alone telling his family. He starts dating a fellow student, Mia and gets along well with her but he has an attraction to his co-worker, Benji who is openly gay and has a boyfriend.

I thought this show was a good twist on the point of view that studios normally show of a supportive and accepting family. Victor’s family is very close but he still fears their reaction. I am up to Episode 7 out of 10 and Season 2 is already confirmed so I will see how Victor’s story plays out.

Taskmaster

This show is one of my favourite game shows on TV as the format is never boring and all the contestants are comedians that I like. The aim of the game is to complete the tasks and then be judged by the Taskmaster to receive a maximum of five points. The winner of each episode gets to take home all the prize tasks. The show is currently on Series 11 and has had two episodes aired.

This series the contestants are Lee Mack, Jamali Maddox, Sarah Kendall, Mike Wozniak and Charlotte Ritchie. Each contestant pre-records their tasks with the help of Alex Horne, the Taskmaster’s Assistant at the Taskmaster house or sometimes on location around the area. The tasks can be creative, fun, tricky, challenging and really put people to the test. Many people complete the tasks in a unique and funny way which makes for great entertainment. The other entertaining part is watching the Taskmaster’s reaction in the studio and see the contestants plead their case for points.

This show does not need to be seen in order and I would recommend starting from series 4 or 5 as that is when the show really hits its stride.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

François Ozon: How French Cinema moved me

François Ozon has made this film into a visual masterpiece. The plot of the film does not have many big twists or dramatic moments but with his direction, you feel as though this tiny French fishing town is the centre of the universe and all that really matters. The emotions of the characters go from big to small and are only present in front of certain other characters which was a good decision. It let the characters preserve their feelings and let them build up to crescendos which did not always end well for them. The locations used are all picturesque and fit into ideas of life in France at the time. There are strong and bold colours without crazy patterns to distract the eye. The fashion is all time-accurate with lots of double denim and block designs. The music used also contributed to the tone and emotions of the film. His writing, while macabre at times never tipped into depressive or gory but toed the line of acceptable for a death-obsessed teenager to say. His choice to focus on Alexis and let the audience be one step ahead of him was a great way to tell the story.

Dear Readers,

It has been a while since my last post; I had intended to do Top 20 of 2020 TV shows but the post did not spark ideas for me so I have decided to park that post for a while and focus on another topic. I may get back to it for a second post next month. Instead, I am going to talk about two films that I have recently discovered are by the same director and were two of my favourite films of the past few years.

I recently watched Summer of 85, a recent release to streaming services and was so moved by this film. It was sad at points but the film did not leave me emotionally drained at the end. I have seen very few films that deliver such a dramatic and devastating event but within the final act are able to build the viewer back up and let them walk away with a sense of gratitude. I will also be talking about Ozon’s 2018 film, By the Grace of God. It is a long one but I loved every minute and I remember saying at the end that I needed more of the film despite it being two and a half hours. I sometimes struggle to stay focused on a long film, especially ones with subtitles but this film captured maintained my attention the whole way through.

Summer of 85 – Original Title – Été 85

This film centres around Alexis and his relationships in the summer of 1985 in Normandy, France. He has moved to the idyllic seaside town only two years before so has not made any meaningful friendships. He borrows an acquaintance’s boat and after capsizing is rescued by David, a town native. From there, a whirlwind friendship, relationship and anything else in-between occurs. They make death pacts, reveal their deepest secrets and spend every minute together. A British au pair, Kate complicates matters and Alexis’ summer of love becomes a summer of death. The story is told in a flashback fashion where the narrator has written about the events and is recounting them. This is interspersed with the present and what Alexis’ life is like while writing the story. This is an interesting narrative technique that played well with the story. I will not say much more about the plot as a major detail is given away at the beginning and this played into my view of the film.

The two actors who play Alexis and David have brilliant chemistry and every scene with just the two of them is like watching friends or relatives you know. They have such vivid emotions and whether they are angry, sad, happy or otherwise; as a viewer you can connect with their characters. Félix Lefebvre who is Alexis plays a magnificent part for a young actor. He is the link between the past and present and we see the world through his eyes. Whenever he is on screen, you experience events through his emotions and feel what he wants you to feel. Benjamin Voisin who plays David has an energy about him that instantly makes you want to be around him. He certainly has this effect of many characters in the film. Through Alexis, we see his beauty and eventually his darkness. Philippine Velge is a great supporting actor as Kate with a near perfect British accent. She can also speak French with a British accent which makes me think she was raised in Britain. Her role becomes pivotal to the plot and even though she is not French, she becomes part of the community for Alexis.

François Ozon has made this film into a visual masterpiece. The plot of the film does not have many big twists or dramatic moments but with his direction, you feel as though this tiny French fishing town is the centre of the universe and all that really matters. The emotions of the characters go from big to small and are only present in front of certain other characters which was a good decision. It lets the characters preserve their feelings and allows the build up to crescendos which did not always end well for them. The locations used are all picturesque and fit into ideas of life in France at the time. There are strong and bold colours without crazy patterns to distract the eye. The fashion is all time-accurate with lots of double denim and block designs. The music used also contributed to the tone and emotions of the film. His writing, while macabre at times never tipped into depressive or gory but toed the line of acceptable for a death-obsessed teenager to say. His choice to focus on Alexis and let the audience be one step ahead of him was a great way to tell the story.

I loved this film, even though there were sad moments. By learning of the big event at the start, I felt prepared as a viewer. The final act after this event was useful to repair the sad emotions I experienced, so walking away from the film, I felt hopeful and not depressed. This is a technique I have not seen used very often. Many films with a devastating ending, usually leave the viewer with those emotions but Summer of 85 left me with a better outlook. This is a film I would love to live in and experience for myself as the 1980s is a well documented era but most films I have seen set in this time period are based in America or England and not Europe. The subtitles did not distract from the quality of the film and if anything, it helped me to focus more on every word said rather than looking at my phone at the same time.

I give this film 10/10.

By the Grace of God – Original Title – Grâce à Dieu

By The Grace of God tells a tale that had unfortunately become more and more prevalent in the last decade but it does so in such a way that enables the viewer to feel optimistic about the victims going forward. It depicts how the victims of a Catholic priest find each other in their 40s after being sexually abused as young boys. They form a website to spread awareness and raise funds to prosecute the priest. It is based on a true story but rather than a harrowing tale, it represents fighting back and how to overcome your abuser. The film is told from the point of view of a victim who is now a businessman with children. He has lived with this childhood trauma but finally decides to do something about it. Many of the men in the film have managed to suppress or deal with what happened to them and form attachments with friends and partners but for a few men it has not been as simple. Just talking about what they went through leads to the men questioning their own relationships and lives.

The cast themselves were amazing in their portrayals and embodied the stories of the real men that went through the trauma as children. The man who played the priest did a great job at making the viewer comfortable in his presence despite his horrific crimes. It shows how the boys aged around 8 to 10 years old were happy to be in his presence. Many of them said nothing to their parents at the time, either too ashamed or not fully understanding what had happened.

When watching, I did not realise that François Ozon was the director but I was hooked to the film. It is not really a film to be enjoyed but one to learn from. The way the website and the community of the men and their families comes together was told in a way that eased the viewer into this story and helped them build up an attachment to the group and what they want to achieve. Not that anyone would side with the priest but at first, he denies the allegations and you will the men to find more evidence and support them on their quest for justice. Nothing explicit is ever shown but enough is insinuated with flashbacks to make you understand what was happening. The mind is very suggestible and even a hint of maliciousness can help you fill in the blanks. Religion played an important role in the film and many of the men struggled with how they saw religion after their experiences. Some had walked away from the church and some still went with their families, blocking out the connotations.

At the time of viewing, I was very moved by the film. Although, I think to properly describe my feelings, I would have to re-watch it. I will say that it was a very powerful and necessary story that left me wondering why it took so long to convict this criminal. Again, the subtitles did not detract from the story. I saw this film at the back of a cinema and I was able to hang on every word. Some films are so strong that language is not a barrier when conveying its message.

I give this film 10/10 but I would want to re-watch to confirm this rating.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

My Top 20 Films of 2020

A recent viewing for me over the Groupwatch Feature on Disney Plus. The animated version was a childhood favourite of mine so I was sad that I did not get a chance to watch it at the cinema last September. Its release on Disney Plus was a delight for me and despite some controversy surrounding its locations, I think this is an important film for Asian representation in Western culture and especially for women. Mulan volunteers to fight in the Chinese Imperial Army some one thousand years ago. In the live action version, Mulan lives in a poor village and takes her father’s place due to his ill health whereas in the original version, Mulan is a princess and takes his place to prove herself. I loved Yifei Liu’s performance as Mulan; I remember they spent a long time trying to find the right actress and I think the casting was perfect. She was able to portray vulnerability and femininity at the beginning and then brute strength and leadership as a soldier. The fight sequences were impressive and used clever techniques as well as offensive action. Scenes with the snow avalanche and the final showdown were particularly impressive as well as the general production design. It did not feel like a typical cuddly kids film and I think it was a good move to get rid of the songs, no matter how great they were. I really loved this film but it was missing that extra something that makes me give a film full marks.

Hello readers,

A friend suggested this concept to me after talking about one of their favourite films of the year and I thought it would be great way to say goodbye to a horrific year for the world. Despite cinemas being closed for most of 2020, film found a way via streaming services. I was surprised at how many new films Netflix was putting out but it certainly kept me entertained. I’m listing my top 20 in no particular order apart from my IMDb rating. Going through all the films I saw released in 2020, I realise that my total viewing is only slightly longer than this list but each film on the list did bring me some joy this year and that’s what really counts in my eyes.

Onward – 10/10

This was the last film I saw at a chain cinema before lockdown and I am glad it was this one. It was a great story with an interesting new universe, a great cast and a feel-good story. I loved the dynamic between the brothers played by Chris Pratt and Tom Holland. They are elves living in a modern fairy tale land which is a blend of technology and mythical creatures. The characters go on a road trip/quest to try and fix a spell and see their late father one last time. This Pixar animation is a lovely tale for adults and children and I am glad I saw it in the cinema. It is now available on Disney Plus.

Godmothered – 9/10

I was pleasantly surprised by this Disney film that I saw over Christmas on Disney Plus. It represents the maturing of the Disney company as I have seen other content in the last couple of years with more feminist and LGBT story lines than previously included. This tale focuses on a fairy godmother who goes to Earth to help a little girl and save her godmother academy. The little girl is now an adult with children of her own and a job at a local news station. Eleanor, the godmother is not well versed in the modern world which leads to some hilarious incidents. There was a lot for adults but this is definitely a film for children. It is also set at Christmas but this is more in the background. The ending was not the usual marry a prince which I liked and shows that romantic love is not the be all and end all. A great cast with Jillian Bell, Isla Fisher and June Squibb.

Dating Amber – 9/10

I enjoyed this film set in the 1990s in Ireland with a great twist. It features Eddie and Amber who are both gay but pretend to date each other to get their fellow students off their backs. They embark on a deep emotional friendship and are able to be themselves for the very first time while exploring their sexualities. This was a very sweet story about finding yourself while also discussing some darker themes and it is worth its 15 rating with some older discussions. Starring upcoming actors Fionn O’Shea and Lola Petticrew along with Sharon Horgan and Simone Kirby. A great Irish film with comedy and heart.

Palm Springs – 9/10

This American comedy is the only film I saw in the cinema last year since lockdown started. It was in a cinema in Turkey but I have not wanted to attend in the UK so far but hopefully cinema will be back soon. This film played on the Groundhog Day trope with someone getting stuck in an endless time loop only in this film there are three people in the time loop. It made it a fun twist. The film is set at a wedding in Palm Springs and it begins with Sarah entering the time loop that Niles is already in. The two of them make the most of the endless days and gradually become closer and look for ways to leave the loop. It was a fun comedy that took my mind off 2020 for a while. Some great comedy stars star, Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti with other known faces: Peter Gallagher, Tyler Hoechlin, Camila Mendes, J.K. Simmons and June Squibb.

The Lovebirds – 9/10

This film moved onto Netflix after cinema shut down and I was glad it did as I got the chance to see it. It was a great buddy comedy with a couple who are going through problems. They end up on the run after a misunderstanding and encounter many interesting characters while trying to clear their name and fixing their relationship. It is a blend of comedy, drama, adventure and a little horror. With comedy gold Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani and set in New Orleans, a great film if you’re looking for something new and distracting.

The Old Guard – 9/10

This was a great film and one of my favourites released this year. It was a great story and I think the fact it is based on a comic book really made it a step above past action films. I am a fan of the director, Gina Prince-Bythewood and how she made this film into a fan favourite and cult phenomenon. The idea is something that has been played with before but rarely outside of the superhero genre. The team are made up of immortals who have been fighting evil for hundreds or thousands of years. They spend their infinite time helping secretly around the world to solve problems and take down criminals. When a new immortal is found for the first time in a hundred years, she joins the group and tries to protect the immortals from the threat of exposure from a man trying to harness their immortality for themselves. I loved the characters and their backstories and the relationship they all have with each other. The romance between Nicky and Joe is a highlight along with Andy’s character. The cast of Charlize Theron, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harry Melling, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli make this film, a great one and I am looking forward to any potential sequels and I will definitely be re-watching soon.

The Half of It – 9/10

This indie Netflix original uses a well known trope with a more diverse outlook. Paul has a crush on Aster and pays Ellie to write love letters for him. While a friendship blossoms between the two from completely different social circles, something else develops between Aster and Ellie. The story is set in a small fictional town, Squahamish most notable for its conservative church and railway line. This gives an idea of the views of the townspeople when it comes to outsiders or those who do not comply with their religious beliefs. I was pleased to see that the romance is not the main focus of the story but the sweet friendship that develops between Ellie and Paul. This is not to say that the love story between Ellie and Aster was not explored. A lot of the shots were done to show the cinematography of the piece and to enhance the plot. I watched this film via Netflix Party with a friend and we both enjoyed. It was interesting to see a teen film with a slower pace and a less studio vibe.

My Spy – 9/10

I was happy that this film appeared on streaming services after the pandemic ensured it only had a limited run. A family action comedy that provided some well needed escapism in the first lockdown. We see tough team up with cute when JJ, a CIA operative is assigned to track the family of a former agent. Sophie, the former agent’s young daughter manages to suss out JJ’s mission and they team up to get the job done. I enjoyed seeing Dave Bautista is a role where he plays a human rather than as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy and while he is the funny one of the group in the Marvel films, he gets to show a different side in My Spy. Sophie is played by Chloe Coleman, a rising child star who has no trouble carrying the film as the co-lead. It’s always fun to see a hardened stoic man softened by a smart kid. There are some laughs but also a lot of action. An all round enjoyable film.

All The Bright Places – 9/10

There was a lot of anticipation for this film as it is based on a bestselling novel by Jennifer Niven. While it has a depressing premise, I enjoyed the film. I feel like it has similar tones to The Half of It with a focus on the cinematography. I think it was important for the film that the author was a writer on the film and helped maintain the feel of the story. It stars Hollywood heavyweights Elle Fanning and Justice Smith who have both starred in their share of big films. Other stars include Luke Wilson, Alexandra Shipp and Keegan-Michael Key. This film shows the complex love story between Violet and Theodore and how they battle their past demons. Set in Indiana but shot in Cleveland, the unique locations add to the motifs and details of the film. It is a sad one but I think this is an important depiction of mental health and I hope it prompts more conversations amongst young people.

Mulan – 8/10

A recent viewing for me over the Groupwatch Feature on Disney Plus. The animated version was a childhood favourite of mine so I was sad that I did not get a chance to watch it at the cinema last September. Its release on Disney Plus was a delight for me and despite some controversy surrounding its locations, I think this is an important film for Asian representation in Western culture and especially for women. Mulan volunteers to fight in the Chinese Imperial Army some one thousand years ago. In the live action version, Mulan lives in a poor village and takes her father’s place due to his ill health whereas in the original version, Mulan is a princess and takes his place to prove herself. I loved Yifei Liu’s performance as Mulan; I remember they spent a long time trying to find the right actress and I think the casting was perfect. She was able to portray vulnerability and femininity at the beginning and then brute strength and leadership as a soldier. The fight sequences were impressive and used clever techniques as well as offensive action. Scenes with the snow avalanche and the final showdown were particularly impressive as well as the general production design. It did not feel like a typical cuddly kids film and I think it was a good move to get rid of the songs, no matter how great they were. I really loved this film but it was missing that extra something that makes me give a film full marks.

The Prom – 8/10

I’ve always loved a musical and this one was no different. The film is based on a Broadway musical and a true story about how a school in Indiana prevents a female student from bringing her girlfriend to the prom. When some washed up Broadway stars hear of the story, they rally to the cause and fly to Indiana to help Emma just live her life. This film debuted on Netflix with some A list actors: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, James Corden and Keegan-Michael Key. I thought this musical had a fun vibe and while a little cheesy it had a great message of acceptance and love. The songs were a great fit and are more universal than some musical songs. The design of the Prom at the end was a lovely celebration for all sexualities and I’m glad that the story was told.

Enola Holmes – 8/10

This spin on the classic Sherlock Holmes tale offers a female led perspective and introduces a younger cast supported by well-known actors. Set in Victorian England, Enola is the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. She is raised in the country by her mother away from proper society. When her mother leaves with no explanation, Enola heads to London to find her encountering a wayward Viscount and a mystery along the way. A lawsuit over the addition of more human characteristics to Sherlock’s personality was issued by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle but this has now been settled. I thought this film was a fun take on the Sherlock story and gave younger and female viewers a point of view in the story. I enjoyed the film and the story. It was a delightful story with enough intrigue to keep you interested and beautiful production design. A talented cast featuring Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Helena Bonham Carter, Louis Partridge, Burn Gorman, Frances De La Tour and Fiona Shaw.

Work It – 8/10

Dance films are always an upbeat fun watch for me and this film was no different. What sets this film apart from every other dance film is that the main character is not a professional dancer. Quinn’s best friend is in the high school dance troupe and when she lies in a college interview, saying that she is a dancer, she needs to make that happen. She is not allowed into the troupe so forms her own with a group of outsiders and becomes the rival team at a competition. This is a film about learning to accept your flaws and living your best life anyway. The different styles of dance shown create a diverse story rather than just hip hop or ballet as in some films. There is also a brewing romance between Quinn and the choreographer she convinces to help them. I enjoyed the fun-loving nature of the film and it stars some great young actors: Sabrina Carpenter, Jordan Fisher, Liza Koshy and Keiynan Lonsdale. If you are a fan of teen films or dance films, then this is one for you.

Desperados – 8/10

A slightly out-there plot that could only happen in the modern world, Desperados also reunites actors Lamorne Morris and Nasim Pedrad who played husband and wife on television show, New Girl. Wesley meets Jared and at first her relationship is great but then he ghosts her and she sends a ranting and insulting email. He is in Mexico and was in a car accident so while he is recovering, Wesley flies to Mexico to delete the email before he sees it. What ensues is a girls trip with her two best friends and a ridiculous adventure. Each of the three women have things to confront about themselves and this trip offers the chance to do it. Wesley then bumps into a blind date she had before Jared and develops a friendship with him. This film was cheesy but had some real content and was a plotline I hadn’t seen before. It stars some great comedy actors: Anna Camp and Robbie Amell as well the aforementioned actors. I watched the film over the summer and seeing Mexico was something to take my mind off the pandemic for a while.

The F**k-It List – 8/10

This film is about finding your own path in life and not just going along with what others expect of you. Brent Blackmore spends his whole life studying to please his high-achieving parents. When he joins in with his senior prank and it goes wrong, Brent posts a ‘F**k-It List’ listing things he wish he did in high school. Slowly his college offers dwindle and he is banned from graduation. He goes viral and opportunities start opening up. This is a fun teen comedy with some real heart and a good message about being yourself. Set in sunny California, this film is for everyone that felt they missed out on something in life and needs persuading to pursue it. Featuring an up and coming cast of Eli Brown, Madison Iseman, Andrew Bachelor and Karan Brar.

Extraction – 8/10

A fast-paced action film set in Bangladesh in a world of weapons and arms dealings. The son of an international drug lord is kidnapped from his school in India and mercenary Tyler Rake is dropped into the city of Dhaka to rescue him and extract him back to India. The action never stops and a bond forms between Tyler and Ovi, the boy. I enjoyed the different setting and the city made a great location for this type of film. Chris Hemsworth is great in this type of role and it’s a good film to show his range after his high profile role in the Marvel universe. Despite the high stakes and difficulty of the mission, Tyler never gives up. In the background, his colleagues work to get information about the kidnappers and their motives.

Birds of Prey – 8/10

Another film I saw when cinemas were open and life was normal. I am not normally a fan of DC Universe films, I have only seen a few, namely Wonder Woman and Shazam but I went to see this film with a friend and I thought Margot Robbie could carry the film as Harley Quinn. Sometimes giving a secondary character a solo film doesn’t work but Harley really had her own tale to tell. The film starts with Joker having dumped Harley and she takes it hard. She spends the time getting back to what she does best: fighting bad guys. She meets a young girl on the run from an evil sexist crime lord who has also done Harley harm. She teams up with other female heroes to form the Birds of Prey and take him out. Her outfits were really fun and different. Her character is not how women are usually presented in superhero films such as Black Widow who was originally a sexy assistant or Captain Marvel who is a strong and sarcastic pilot. Harley is neither of these things but forges her own path. Even though she is a comic book character, her story of recovering from a toxic relationship and learning how to be her own person without that relationship is relatable to many women. A fun film about the strength of women and how they can be tough and violent yet vulnerable and broken.

The Boys in the Band – 7/10

This film has a long history as it is based on a play that debuted in the 1960s in New York City. It was controversial at the time as the main characters are all gay men and being homosexual was still illegal in America or certainly looked down upon in many states. The film itself features actors who are out as gay in the roles which the playwright insisted upon. The original cast featured gay actors too at a time when it was dangerous to be out as gay in America. The film is about the men all gathering for someone’s birthday party in a New York apartment and they all come away as different men than they were before. Secrets are spilled and dares are made and surprise guests appear. It does play out like a play with a few scenes not set in the apartment. Ryan Murphy is on as a producer and there are some talented people involved such as Zachary Quinto, Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer and Andrew Rannells. Its an interesting piece and says a lot about how it felt to be gay in that time and place.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga – 7/10

A very cheesy and almost parody of the Eurovision Song Contest, the film celebrates the energy and vibe of the contest as a strange, trashy event where anything goes even Australia being in Europe. This film features Lars and Sigrit who by freak accident get the chance to represent Iceland at the contest. They have been trying to get their musical duo going for a while and get the chance of a lifetime. They head to Scotland for the contest and face rivals, potential lovers and extravagant costumes. This film was not made to be taken seriously and I thought it was good for what it was: a fun musical film to honour a ridiculous tradition but it did not inspire me. Starring some big names: Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams as the duo Fire Saga along with Pierce Brosnan, Dan Stevens and Demi Lovato. Of course, Graham Norton stars himself as he has been the UK commentator for a number of years.

Parasite – 7/10

This film was a cultural phenomenon when it came out especially as it made history and won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. I thought the film was good but not 10 out of 10 good. The story had many twists and turns and could only happen in that sort of society with such a class divide in the same city. It spoke volumes about how people treat each other, not just in South Korea but worldwide. The film is about a poor family living on next to nothing, the teenage son gets the chance to work for a rich family and he gets positions for each of his family members. Things take a turn when they realise that they have stumbled into a chilling situation. The director Bong Joon-ho has made films like Snowpiercer and Okja as well as many South Korean ones. I was not familiar with the actors in the film but they did a great job at creating the story of the film. I thought some of the plotlines were a little far-fetched and I was a little confused about the genre and message of the film as the ending was so bleak. I know that this film meant a lot to many people so I wanted to include it even though there were other films I enjoyed more this year.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

My Thoughts on Christmas TV shows

The show centres around Johanne, a 30-year-old nurse. She attends her family’s annual December 1st celebrations and when receiving many questions about her love life and lack of boyfriend, Johanne invents a boyfriend and has until Christmas Eve to find one. I think this premise works really well in Norway as December 1st is not a traditional family gathering in the UK or US so there would have to be another reason for the family to get together.

Hello readers,

It has been a strange and stressful year for most of us and I have not been watching as many Christmas films as of late but I have been watching and re-watching some Christmas TV shows. Before Christmas 2019, I did not think that television shows dedicated to Christmas were a genre but they have been popping up on Netflix and I have been watching. It’s a great way to get a short half-hour burst of festive content without dedicating 90 minutes or more to a film.

Merry Happy Whatever (2019)

This was the first and only series I saw in 2019 and kicked off the genre on Netflix for me. If you’re looking to watch something comforting and family-orientated, then Merry Happy Whatever should definitely be on your bucket list. It centres around the Quinn family and their family celebrations over the Christmas period. The main focus of the clan is Emmy who is the only sibling to have moved away from under her father’s thumb. She is also the youngest and this year is bringing her boyfriend, Matt to Christmas in Philadelphia from their home in Los Angeles. While there are some ups and downs during the get together, nothing terrible happens so this is also suitable for kids, especially those with short attention spans as every episode comes in around the 30 minute mark.

The show does have some Disney Channel vibes as there is no swearing or violence and although the dialogue is a little cheesy I think the show has real heart; a great diverse cast showing how American families truly are. Each of the siblings go on their own journey through the show and Emmy (played by Bridgit Mendler, a Disney Channel alum) gets to see that her family aren’t as picture perfect as she once thought and her father sees that he should not try and control his adult kids.

There are a couple of other familiar faces including another Disney alum, Ashley Tisdale and Dennis Quaid as Don Quinn, the patriarch of the family. It’s a nice change of pace to see a show set in a lesser shown city in America but you don’t get to see much of Philadelphia as the show is all shot on a stage or using only half a room to create the impression that it is all staged. Think of other US comedies like Friends or How I Met Your Mother and you get the idea.

Overall, I think the show did a great job at being one of the first shows to focus solely on Christmas and you never get caught up around the festivities too much as there are so many other plotlines that the holiday is more of a backdrop with an excuse for activities and the family gathering together. I watched this show last year and then again this year. It’s an easy watch and all of the actors make you feel relaxed and at home with just enough Christmas spirit.

Home for Christmas (2019-)

This show actually premiered in 2019 but I didn’t notice it until this year. With a second season dropping this December, Netflix must have been promoting it more. This show is a Norwegian original, set in Oslo, although this is never explicitly stated. I watched with subtitles as I’m sure most people will but it didn’t distract me from the humour or heart of the show. There are some genuinely laugh out loud moments in both series of the show along with romance and joy.

The show centres around Johanne, a 30-year-old nurse. She attends her family’s annual December 1st celebrations and when receiving many questions about her love life and lack of boyfriend, Johanne invents a boyfriend and has until Christmas Eve to find one. I think this premise works really well in Norway as December 1st is not a traditional family gathering in the UK or US so there would have to be another reason for the family to get together.

Johanne with the help of her friends and roommate starts actively looking for a boyfriend and has a few adventures along the way. She tries speed dating, online dating, dating older and younger men with a mix of results and in between finds time to celebrate December with her friends, family and colleagues. Every episode shows a few days in December leading up to Christmas Eve and Johanne’s big reveal. The setting of a snow-covered high street with lots of Christmas village-esque shops creates the perfect Christmas setting. By watching the show, you learn a lot about Scandi or Norwegian traditions and rituals and you get to see a lot of the city with the various dates Johanne goes on.

I won’t give away the ending but in the second season, it is a year later and Johanne is hosting Christmas this year and still looking for a boyfriend or possibly her true love. There are a lot of characters to balance in the show but I think it does it well. There could be a little more diversity in terms of LGBT characters but there are a couple in there. Norwegian is such a lovely language and I definitely picked up a few phrases while reading the subtitles. I used to not like foreign shows or films as much as I struggled to keep up with the subtitles but having watched more and with many foreign films gaining better international recognition, I have become more familiar with subtitles.

I don’t personally recognise any of the actors but having looked at their profiles on IMDb, there are some actors that have been in a lot of projects even some English-speaking ones. The cast is great with the actress playing Johanne as a stand-out. She is able to navigate all her relationships and emotions perfectly and you can always tell what she is thinking by a look or gesture. I watched the first series at the start of December and then the second shortly after it came out. Both series were really strong and having most of the characters come back again helped to unite the story from one year to the next.

Dash & Lily (2020)

The only new Christmas show on Netflix this year is based on a book by David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn who have also had their two other joint works made into films. I think this story needed to be a television show as there is a lot to show and the nature of a back and forth works well in this format.

Dash and Lily are both teenagers in New York City at Christmas time and they are both alone. Dash by choice and Lily by circumstance. Dash is a cynic and the Grinch of the pair whereas Lily loves Christmas and takes every chance to celebrate. The story starts with Dash finding a mysterious notebook in his favourite second-hand book store and follows the dares inside. He begins a back and forth between himself and Lily who started the book. They trade dares and secrets about each other and gradually come out of their shells. Lily is shy and never ventures far out of her comfort zone or area in New York and Dash believes that joy is dead after his girlfriend left town and his parents divorced. He tells them both he is with the other and plans to spend the holidays alone at his dad’s apartment.

Dash and Lily are each helped in the dares by their friends or family and they both gradually become more well-rounded people. Setting the story in New York City at Christmas creates many opportunities to show the hidden places in the city as well as many iconic locations such as Macy’s, Grand Central Station and Central Park. There are many spots that are not normally used in New York for filming so it is not just the same scenery you have seen a thousand times. There are a lot of emotions in the show with humour and festive cheer included as well as darker emotions. The show is certainly not shielding any realities but there is not any real threats or bad language so suitable for a family watch with older kids.

One of the best parts of the story is showing New York how it really is in terms of its residents and realities. The cast felt naturally diverse as New York has many different people living there with a secondary character having a gay relationship that was relevant and real. David Leviathan has written many books starring gay characters so I would expect nothing less and I am glad it translated over to the screen.

This show will help bring out your festive cheer and show you that there’s more to life than your neighbourhood.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Honey Boy – My Thoughts

I think it shows how rich and powerful the script and the belief in the director to have a female director narrate this story. It is from a male perspective about male relationships; father and son; roommates at rehab; an all-male AA meeting; the Big Brother programme but I think Alma Har’el added some great narrative and design choices to an already strong script. Her directive decisions elevated the film to include great visuals along with the story. I applaud the producers and studio for promoting a female director especially someone who had never done a narrative film before Honey Boy. I think this example goes to show that women are just as capable as men when it comes to being behind the camera.

Hello readers,

I recently watched the film Honey Boy (2019) written by Shia LaBeouf about his early life as a child actor and his time in rehab. I have been interested in this film since I saw the trailer and I have been waiting for it to come on to streaming services. A few days ago, I noticed that it was now on Amazon Prime so I watched it. This film really stuck with me and taught me about how to structure a film and how trauma can affect you even if you have had a relatively trauma free life. I am glad that Shia LaBeouf made this film as it was very powerful and I think it was a great film to come from childhood trauma.

Synopsis

Honey Boy is based on Shia LaBeouf’s life but with times and characters renamed. It focuses on Otis, an actor and how as an adult he relives his childhood in rehab and learns about his mental health. Otis was a child actor and chaperoned by his father but his father is an alcoholic and takes out his anger with emotional and sometimes physical abuse. The film is shot with flashbacks to Otis’ childhood and then his recovery in a rehabilitation facility.

Director

I think it shows how rich and powerful the script and the belief in the director is to have a female director narrate this story. It is from a male perspective about male relationships; father and son; roommates at rehab; an all-male AA meeting; the Big Brother programme but I think Alma Har’el added some great narrative and design choices to an already strong script. Her directive decisions elevated the film to include great visuals along with the story. I applaud the producers and studio for promoting a female director especially someone who had never done a narrative film before Honey Boy. I think this example goes to show that women are just as capable as men when it comes to being behind the camera.

Cast

The cast’s performances especially of Noah Jupe as 12 year old Otis and Shia LaBeouf as Otis’ father were what made me think about this film for hours after watching. Personally, it was some of the most emotional and heart-wrenching acting I have seen. Their relationship and the use of the word PTSD when referring to Otis’ childhood really made me question how our mental health works and how trauma manifests itself. As a child, Otis appears relatively balanced apart from smoking and some crying but he doesn’t carry the weight that 22 year old Otis does. He is played by Lucas Hedges who took the character of Otis but through his voice and body language presented us with Shia LaBeouf from that time period and really connected both versions. The public and the media all know about Shia LaBeouf’s drinking, rehab and prison time but his childhood was a mystery. More liberties were taken with Otis’ character at this time as Shia himself hadn’t become the person he turns into but Noah Jupe gave us an emotionally traumatised child actor who we could associate with LaBeouf.

Noah Jupe is really up and coming as an actor and I think this is his strongest performance of his career so far. The roles I have seen him in such as Jack Will in Wonder; Peter Miles in Les Mans ’66 and Marcus in A Quiet Place are all side characters and serve to aid the main character(s) but this is his first real lead role as he is the titular ‘Honey Boy’. He had a great depth to his emotions and even though the story and his experiences are far removed from my own but I really empathised with his situation and it made me think about how I relate to my own experiences in life. I was surprised to learn that he is British as most of his performances include him speaking in a very convincing American accent. I think Noah Jupe is definitely one to watch because as he is this good at 15, just think how good he is going to be in five, ten years.

Shia LaBeouf’s performance obviously came from a deep and painful place and confronting his dad’s words and actions by embodying this character of James based on his father. I haven’t seen a character quite like James, every word and action towards Otis was either criticising or pressurising him. There were no real kind words said as every positive was as the result of mean words said or as a way to emotionally manipulate him. A clever narrative device was James telling his story in AA and this gave him a softer personality but Otis later reveals that his AA story is an amalgamation of other AA stories and I think this sums up the character. Another line that you can hear in the trailer above that really hit to the heart of James was ‘If I didn’t pay you, you wouldn’t be here’.

Back story

I knew that Shia LaBeouf wrote this story when he was in rehab which he is shown doing in Honey Boy and was going to be playing his own father but I had no idea of the trauma and scenarios that he went through. Many people thought unfavourably of Shia LaBeouf after his stint in prison and rehab and I feel this film gives reasons to his actions and I certainly didn’t know that Shia LaBeouf suffered from PTSD and from watching Even Stevens as a child, I never would have suspected what was going on behind the scenes. If you are interested in the history of the film and more of the backstory, watch the interview below where Shia LaBeouf talks about Honey Boy on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Thoughts

I really enjoyed Honey Boy and I think it is such a special film that has really taught me about film-making and how to structure a film. I thought the story was so well shown and I liked all the little call backs that linked the two timelines. The scene with the harness at the beginning that the versions of Otis go through is a great way to create unity between both versions of Otis. There are also similarities between things that Otis learns at 12 years old then regurgitates at 22. Even though the actors Lucas Hedges and Noah Jupe do not look very similar, these small callbacks and similarities help to convince the audience that they are the same person. There were some very artistic shots with the lighting and angles that conveyed the emotions of the characters and added a documentary feel. This was Alma Har’el including her own documentary background.

Overall this film is a great watch and I would highly recommend to anyone especially those who work in or aspire to work in film and anyone that wants to learn about how trauma can affect you throughout your life. This film gets a 10/10 from me.

Happy Watching,

Robyn