A lonely woman befriends a group of teenagers and decides to let them party at her house. Just when the kids think their luck couldn’t get any better, things start happening that make them question the intention of their host.
Jesus. I think the main thing I took away from this film is that Ma and I ain’t that different. Watching her hang out with actual teenagers in her basement is an accurate depiction of my social life. LOL.
Sure, I’m joshing but I do feel for our protagonist/antagonist as we slowly learn more about the humiliation that leads her to being this… unconventional. School age kids are the cruellest, man and I wouldn’t go back for all the money (and tea) in China.
Before we get to Ma, let’s start at the beginning. Maggie Thompson (Silvers) and her mother Erica (the legend Juliette Lewis) move back to Erica’s small hometown in Ohio. Erica has a job at the local casino while Maggie attends the very same high school her mother did.
On her first day, Maggie befriends a group; Andy, Haley, Chaz and Darrell, who invite her to a party. On their first outing together, the gang meet veterinary technician Sue Ann (Spencer) outside the liquor store and persuade her to pick them up some booze. All is fine for the kids until the po po turns up to where they’re hanging out.
It seems Andy’s dad Ben has found out about the drinking and sends an officer to arrest his son. Ben runs a successful security business in town but due to the officer’s relationship to Andy’s Dad (he thinks he’s a dick), he lets the kids off. All this is convenient for Sue Ann though as now the kids don’t have a drinking spot and when they approach her for more supplies a few days later, she leads them to her place.
Here she tells the kids they can more or less do what they want in her basement as long as they a) don’t take the Lord’s name in vain and b) NEVER go upstairs. Ooooooh!
When Sue Ann, now known as ‘Ma’, gets a little too into her new friends and their lives, they start to back off. What’s her agenda? And what’s on her mind when she drifts off every now and again into a deep reverie?
Well! There’s a lot going on beneath the surface and behind closed doors. Spencer’s performance is suitably unhinged and I loved every moment she was on the screen. She has the range to flip flop from lovely (and relatively in control) to maniacal in a heartbeat. It’s also so fricking refreshing to have a plus-size lead and a WOC at that. The role of Ma is delicious and it suits Spencer so well.
Booksmart’s Diana Silvers is good as Maggie and of course it’s always amazing to see Juliette Lewis on screen.
While Ma’s behaviour grows increasingly erratic and bizarre, we learn more about what has brought us here and needless to say, things are about to get real for a couple of the characters. Whether or not the punishments fit the crime is up to you to decide but I think I’m with Ma.
I have one question though – and *Spoiler* – Ma dispatches with someone at one point – and nobody ever refers to it again. Even though it’s done in broad daylight and no effort is made to cover it up. Eh?
I enjoyed myself, and laughed and cringed a lot but the truth is, the script is horrible and the film isn’t as good as it could have been, especially given its Oscar-winning lead. And I guessed most of the story a third of the way through.
What are you watching?
You may have noticed some changes around here lately, the name mostly. I’m having a flash of inspiration again and since it seems to have been stunted for a while, I’m going to go with it. I only did my last housekeeping back in January but I’ve decided that The Middle Row only covers a part of who I am.
Welcome to Strange Weather.
I feel like the new name represents my darker side and encompasses my mood, which is subject to change at any time. It’s also inspired by the title of the book Strange Weather in Tokyo, just because I like it.
Nothing else is going to change – the content will remain exactly the same, though I might try and post more non-film related posts. That’s all I’ll say, I’ll try.
This is just me checking in. You can follow me via the usual channels if you choose to.
Happy Tuesday, all!
It’s time to get control of this strange, strange weather
Ummmmmmmmmm. I have A LOT of thoughts about this movie, though it will be really hard to explain it – because it is one of the weirdest rides I’ve ever been on. I think maybe going into the movie with no idea what you’re in for would be the best way to enjoy it – so maybe hold off this review until you’ve seen it? Your call obviously.
When troubled musical prodigy Charlotte seeks out Elizabeth, the new star pupil of her former school, the encounter sends both musicians down a sinister path with shocking consequences.
Charlotte (Williams) is a supernaturally talented cellist, forced to leave the prestigious Bachoff music academy to become a carer for her terminally-ill mother. When her mum passes away a decade later, Charlotte gets in touch with Anton (Steven Weber), the academy’s director. She’s invited to join him and his wife Paloma (Alaina Huffman) in Shanghai, where they are selecting their next musical prodigy.
Here she meets Elizabeth Wells (Browning), Anton’s star pupil and Charlotte’s replacement. Lizzie is, of course, an incredible talent and has already achieved enviable international success – but she’s also really cool. The girls hit it off and soon become very close. Very close indeed.
That night they end up in bed and Charlotte admits that Lizzie is the first person she’s ever been with, what with all the caring she’s been doing throughout her adolescence. Lizzie has decided to take some time off from music for once in her life and plans to do some travelling around China. It makes sense that she invites her new friend…
So the girls jump on a rickety old bus into the middle of nowhere, despite the fact that Lizzie is nursing the hangover from hell. Luckily, Charlotte is on hand to administer Ibuprofen and water every four hours.
When the pills don’t make Lizzie feel any better it becomes clear that there’s something very seriously wrong with her…
Honestly, from the bus ride onwards, all bets are off in this truly bonkers, grimy, fucked up masterpiece. I say this with love – the movie is one of the most bizarre I’ve seen in a long time and I loved every trashy moment. Just as you think you’re getting to grips with what the fuck is going on – you’re wrong. So very wrong.
I don’t want to give too much away but let’s just say, if you have the instinct that Charlotte can’t be trusted then you’re onto something – or are you? As this whole tale pans out, nobody seems to be who they say there are – least of all Anton and Paloma – and Bachoff might just be a front for something other than nurturing the musical talent of tomorrow.
There are some grisly horror moments that work very well indeed, and are somewhat unexpected – and there’s a really jarring stop-rewind-play plot device that didn’t work for me but adds to the melodramatic tone.
It’s a rip-roaring, crazy, limb flying, stomach churning adventure for which you’re going to have to suspend your disbelief – but hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. That climax though – the last shot is, well, perfection.
What are you watching?
We’re back on our bullshit with a Free-for-all month, which if I’m honest is kind of my favourite theme outside of Halloween. This week we spend 90 minutes (and a bit) with one of the most elegant men in cinematic history.
A legendary American war veteran is recruited to hunt a mythical creature.
Calvin Barr (Elliott) is living out his twilight years in modest surroundings. With his faithful hound in tow, he’s getting by but also feeling his age.
Via the medium of flashback we learn that the young Calvin (Turner) was once the handsome beau of Maxine (FitzGerald), until he was called away to war. Undercover as a Nazi, Calvin was the man who put a bullet in Adolf Hitler’s head. Since it was a secret mission, the government covered it up – and history played out as we know it now.
Unfortunately, as Calvin recounts later, the assassination didn’t stop the Nazi agenda and he became a murderer for nothing. The FBI know who he is though and this is an important point for later on.
In present time, our boy still has the moves – as he fends off a group of muggers when they try to take his car. He’s also being tailed by a couple of mysterious men. So life’s not all dull.
As Calvin laments his lost love and we find out more about their love story via his memory bank, it seems the world isn’t done with him yet. The American and Canadian FBI to be exact want him for one last job – to kill a disease-ridden Bigfoot before he infects more people and causes the destruction of all humankind.
There’s a lot about this film that just seems incredibly pointless. When Jill suggested it, I assumed from the title that I was in for a B-movie/exploitation adventure. While this is quite the bizarre premise, it’s also very slow and ponderous. I don’t mind that but this film has a fucking Yeti in it and somehow just doesn’t come through.
If anyone but my love Elliott was playing Calvin, I don’t think it would have worked as well. He manages to portray a vulnerability that breaks your heart at the same time as being a total badass. That wry smile of his gets me everytime.
Obviously Aidan Turner is a total piece as the young protagonist who just wants to propose to Maxine. Alas, duty calls and it keeps the young lovers apart, as it turns out, forever. I also enjoy the scenes between Calvin and his younger brother Ed (Miller), who never really had a traditional relationship but are working on it now.
I have to admit that the Yeti bit is fun but it’s a little random. It doesn’t really have any bearing on the story – and at the end, Calvin is presumed dead and there’s a funeral. I can’t work out why they thought he was dead unless he wanted them to – and then he comes back…
Anyway, I didn’t hate this, it just wasn’t quite what I had in mind.
What does my queen think of this one? Would change history by murdering it or let it live in the wilds of North America instead? Find out here.
A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John‘s breakthrough years.
I would happily of swerved this biopic had my friend Helen not been so excited about it. Her anticipation rubbed off on me, what can I say? I’m delighted that she changed my mind.
Kingsman hottie Egerton plays Elton in this tribute to one of our greatest treasures, king of the banger, Mr John. Which is no mean feat when your subject matter is still alive and will be watching your portrayal for themselves. Luckily, his performance is spot on (but more on that in a bit) – and his voice, well it’s really something. Who knew?
We begin where most good stories do, at the start. Elton, born Reginald ‘Reggie’ Dwight to a cold mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) and disengaged father (Steven Mackintosh), is an ordinary boy. Until he sits down one day at the family piano and duplicates a piece of music note for note. Grandma Ivy (Gemma Jones) encourages his parents to get him piano lessons and the rest is history. Except of course there’s way more to it than that.
Our boy attends the Royal Academy of music and discovers Elvis, which whets his appetites for all things rock n’s roll. Worst Dad of all time Stanley meanwhile finally leaves Reg and his mum – and starts a new more palatable family.
Reggie’s life changes forever when he supports a band on tour and gets the inspiration he needs to pursue a solo career. He approaches Dick James (Stephen Graham) and gains representation with James’ assistant, Ray (Charlie Rowe). Despite James’ initial negativity towards Reggie (now Elton John), Ray takes a chance on the young upstart and inadvertently sets him on the path towards his greatest ally, amateur songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell).
When Bernie and Elton meet magic happens – and they’re soon on their way to superstardom. Bernie supports Elton in every aspect of his life – and Elton boasts that they have never had a cross word.
Elton eventually meets and falls in love with music producer John Reid (Madden), who makes an even bigger star of him and encourages him to live a little larger. Which he does very well indeed, leading him to massive issues with drug, booze and shopping addiction.
Throw into the mix a crumbling personal life – John turns out to be a total scumbag – a still disinterested father (despite all the success) – and cruel words from his mother when he finally comes out to her – and Elton is on the road to self-destruction.
Will he ever be loved properly? Will he forgive the emotional crimes of his parents and save himself before its too late?
Rocketman is stunning with top notch costuming, as you’d expect. Every aspect of the movie looks good and I loved the performances. I cried a lot – particularly when Egerton sang Your Song and Tiny Dancer – his voice is powerful as hell.
While I loved his performance I have to be honest and say, I never once saw him as Elton. He’s just too damn attractive. That’s not to say I wasn’t engaged – I really enjoyed it. It just feels like a tribute performance to the man himself, rather than an uncanny reimagining (as with Rami Malek and Bohemian Rhapsody).
As for the surreal elements of the storytelling, I don’t think it could suit the main character more. It’s magical. And no, I haven’t been able to stop humming Rocketman since I left the theater last week.
What are you watching?
Super-assassin John Wick is on the run after killing a member of the international assassin’s guild, and with a $14 million price tag on his head – he is the target of hit men and women everywhere.
Johnny is back and he’s on a strict deadline, to get underground before he’s officially considered ‘excommunicado’ and therefore fair game to any assassin lucky enough to get to him first. With a $14 mill bounty on his pretty head, he’s a hot commodity – with one catch – he’s motherfucking John Wick. You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?
Set less than 30 minutes after the end of John Wick 2, our hero needs to get to The Director in order to secure safe passage out of NYC, to Casablanca, Morocco. The Director (Anjelica Huston) is a mysterious woman from John’s past who really shouldn’t be helping him according to the High Table but whatcha gonna do? She allows him to cash in one last favour and it’s the one he wanted.
Meanwhile, The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) – a High Table employee – is kicking arse and taking names around the Big Apple, admonishing those who have helped JW.
Both Winston (McShane) and Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) are in the dog house for (respectively) giving John a head start to escape and helping him kill Santino D’Antonio (the crime lord he murdered on Continental ground, against strict High Table rule). They’re given seven days to give up their positions or face serious consequences.
John finds his way to Morocco and calls in on old friend Sofia (Berry), who reluctantly helps him get to The Elder (Saïd Taghmaoui) for help. When The Elder makes it clear the price JW will have to pay for forgiveness it’s almost too much – isn’t it?
What will our boy do?
Ung. This film is pant-wettingly exciting and closes off the first trilogy beautifully, while leaving it wide open for the next instalment. I couldn’t be more chuffed with the stunningly choreographed action sequences and the exploration of JW’s mythology. And despite the intricate world-building, there’s still so much we don’t know – like who doesn’t need way more from The Director and her tattooed ballerinas? Etc.?
There’s double-crossing and new allegiances, uber-violence and dogs. So many wonderful dogs. Not only Good Boy Dog but also Sofia’s incredible fighting dogs, who Halle Berry trained herself in addition to being a butt-kicking queen.
My only criticism, and it’s tiny, is that some of the fights going on just a fraction too long. But the set pieces, the performances and Keanu Reeves make up for everything. I think this might be my favourite in the series to date.
Bring on part 4.
What are you watching?
On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night.
Olivia Wilde‘s first feature is near perfect and I can’t stop thinking about how funny, charming and lovely it is. Centred around two booksmart best friends, Amy (Dever) and Molly (Feldstein) who are just about to graduate high school and fly into their respective bright futures, it’s a wild, coming-of-age romp – and I love it.
When Molly, during a smug argument with class mate Triple A (Molly Gordon) learns that not only has her ‘slutty’ nemesis got into a good university – and so have the seemingly less academic students from her year – she freaks out. All the sacrifice of a social life and all the hard work, what was it for? Sure, she’s done well but at what cost – all this time could she and Amy have been doing both?
With just one more day of school in front of them, Molly is determined that the girls will spend their last night of freedom at the biggest pre-graduation party in town. If they can just get the address. And so commences four years of missed opportunities crammed into one night.
While our BFFs rocket around town in search of the ultimate action, Amy has something to tell Molly but hasn’t gotten around to it yet. Molly has a secret crush on popular jock Nick (Mason Gooding), who’s throwing the party of the year. Meanwhile, ‘out’ Amy has the hots for skater chick Ryan (Victoria Ruesga) but is too shy to do anything about it.
We also meet a whole host of side characters including Principal Brown (Jason Sudeikis), hot AF Miss Fine (Jessica Williams) – misunderstood douchebag Jared (Skyler Gisondo) and his kooky girlfriend Gigi (Billie Lourd). Props also to the hilarious theatre kids George (Noah Galvin) and Alan (Austin Crute) who are proper little scene-stealers.
Will the girls make it to their goal and make their last night count? Well, there’s only one way to find out. There are way worse ways to spend a couple of hours and this is a smart comedy with well-rounded characters who buck against their high-school stereotypes. Molly is forced to examine her actions when she gets to know Triple A better, ‘Triple A’ being an unkind slut-shaming nickname she’s helped to perpetuate. And Amy realises there may be more to her classmate, beautiful but mean Hope (Diana Silvers) than meets the eye.
It teaches sweet lessons without shoving them down your throats. There are always lazy comparisons when it comes to film but in this case I kind of agree that Booksmart has a decidedly Superbad vibe to it – which can only be a great thing.
As for the central performances, Feldstein is the queen of everything as far as I’m concerned and her BFF chemistry with Dever is completely authentic. The girls are wonderful and I’m excited to see more from them. As for Olivia Wilde, Director – I can’t wait to watch what she brings us next – she’s knocked her first feature out of the ball park.
What are you watching?
I’ve spend most of this week feeling slightly bummed out and I swear to god it’s Stephen King’s fault. I know I’m way behind on Cujo’s story but I did not expect to end in such a devastating way – I guess that’s why it’s so effective. While you’ve got your eye firmly planted on Cujo, you don’t think about anything else.
Most readers (and their dogs LOL) will know the story of Cujo – and obviously I always had a rough idea of the plot, not least because it seems to be referenced all the time in other King books. It is good finally to have the details for myself. My husband said he never liked it because he felt too sorry for Cujo – and boy do I agree with that.
If you don’t know, Cujo is a massive, lovable Saint Bernard – the beloved pet of ten-year-old Brett Camber, a mechanics son. His father Joe is a dominating influence who beats his wife Charity and drinks with his neighbour Gary in his down time.
Across town (the story is set in SK staple, Castle Rock, Maine) the Trentons, Donna and Vic live with their little son Tad. They’ve got their own shit going on – Tad is haunted by the ‘monster in the closet’, while Donna is dealing with the aftermath of a pre-marital fling. Vic’s ad business is crumbling and he has to leave town just as he finds out about the affair – none of them are doing that great, what will a fateful meeting with a rabid Saint Bernard throw into the mix?
Well, one day of course Cuj goes for a run in the fields around the Camber home and ends up chasing a rabbit into a deep burrow. Alas, within the burrow live a family of rabies infected bats – and they’re not cool with the intrusion. Cujo gets bitten and so begins his tragic demise, via a horrific swansong of death and destruction. Bad doggie!
As events bring Donna and Tad directly into the path of Cujo’s fury, I was on the edge of my seat. It’s so effective and the final, agonising stand-off between (wo)man and beast is incredible. Donna is a brilliant character, flawed and fiesty, and hard as fuck. I love her. As Vic realises something is not okay at home and has to haul ass back to the Rock to rescue his family, Donna is taking care of business herself.
Meanwhile, Brett and Charity are miles away visiting family, clueless about the carnage they’ve left behind. Charity is secretly worrying about her son turning out like her abusive husband and contemplating divorce, while Brett can’t stop worrying about Cujo back home.
This book was very good and I enjoyed myself but I hated the thought of Cuj in pain. And I was in no way prepared for the Trenton family’s own tragedy. I don’t know why I was so invested in a perfect, happy ending. I must have forgotten who I was reading for a second.
Bought secondhand paperback for myself
What are you reading?
A quickie! I’m having a creative slump AGAIN so can’t be arsed to get into regular posting at the moment, even though I’ve got shed loads of reviews piling up.
I’ll get to them at the weekend I guess.
It’s just sometimes life is hard and I feel tired and slightly depressed. Not enough not to function but enough to know I’m not myself. I’m also doubting myself a lot and I hate this feeling the most.
There’s a lot to look forward to this weekend though, I’ve got a London trip with eleven girls to look forward to on Friday. It’s not my usual scene a group that big but I enjoy every one of them, so it’s going to be fun.
Last weekend we went to a Mormon wedding and it was gorgeous, so full of love and generosity. And the groom, my work bestie Josh, asked me to be his witness. Hashtag blessed to be part of his history, officially.
I’m trying to hold on to all the beauty in my life. I know I’m loved and I’m lucky and I have my health and a roof over my head. What use is there worrying I’m not good enough? I’m good enough to sign a wedding register, I can get through this week. I can get through anything – the rest of this year, Brexit, global warming – this life. I have to keep telling myself that.
I’ll shake it off and be back to normal service soon. Just give me a minute.
Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
Who doesn’t love a damn good whodunit? I love all the (mostly incorrect) guessing, the red herrings and the final reveal – it’s all so deliciously satisfying. But does this tale suffer for not having a stong central character à la Miss Marple/Hercule Poirot? We’ll see.
Crooked House (2017)
In Agatha Christie’s most twisted tale, a spy-turned-private-detective is lured by his former lover to catch her grandfather’s murderer before Scotland Yard exposes dark family secrets.
Hot Private Dick Charles Hayward (Irons) is all out of sorts when his former lover, the beautiful Sophia De Haviland (Martini) turns up in his office, all red lips and jewel-coloured tones. Although the pair parted on bad terms – after a romp in Cairo – here she is asking him to solve her grandpapa’s murder. Bit cheeky if you ask me but there’s still feeling there between them so no judgement for now.
Charles flip flops back and forth on whether he should take the assignment given the conflict of interest but he eventually gives in, not least because the publicity from solving such a case, surrounding the death of a very wealthy and famous buisness man will do his one man outfit the world of good. Plus, he wants to know why Sophia left him in the first place.
Chief Inspector Taverner (Terence Stamp) of Scotland Yard gives Charlie his blessing. Which is pretty decent of him.
When Charles gets to Aristide Leonides’ sprawling estate it soon becomes clear that this is a family with secrets. The walls practically creak with scandal and intrigue. Right away Charlie bonds with the youngest resident, Sophia’s baby sister Josephine (Honor Kneafsey) who is something of an amateur sleuth. Bored out of her box, she looks for clues in every corner – and keeps record in her notebook.
Also living in the house are Aristide’s two bickering sons, their wives and his own sexy wife, former dancer Brenda (Hendricks). There’s also the nanny, his first’s wife’s sister, another grandson and the children’s personal tutor, Laurence. Phew.
Obviously, everyone’s a suspect.
As Charles visits each member of the family/household, one by one, he realises there are motives everywhere. Brenda was banging Laurence (John Heffernan) – therefore has a very good reason for wanting her husband out of the picture. Aristide’s eldest son Philip (Julian Sands) hated his guts. Meanwhile, Sophia looks set to inherit everything given that her grandpapa failed to sign his will – ooooooh!
So the question is: who?
Was it saucy Brenda with her curves to die for, skanking about with the hired help on her husband’s dime? Could it be Edith De Haviland, Aristide’s ex-sister-in-law who despised him for his coolness towards his grandchildren?
What about beautiful Sophia, who’s about to become a very rich woman indeed? Nanny (Jenny Galloway) might be pissed off about low pay maybe. And Clemency (Amanda Abbington) is a literal botanist (the victim was poisoned) – could she have knocked off her father-in-law? After all, she and her son Roger are barely keeping it together financially.
Was in one of the neglected grandkids – sly Josephine or snarky Eustace (Preston Nyman), sick of mean Gramps, hellbent on revenge or excitement? I guess all bets are off when you enter Christie’s imagination – but it’s fun trying to work it all out. Will Charles get to the answer quick enough, especially since more murders have start to happen around him?
You know what to do.
This movie looks great, the setting is exactly what you’d expect and enjoy about a film like this – and it is enjoyable, perfect for a Sunday afternoon. I don’t know about it being Christie’s most twisted story but then again the final reveal is an interesting one that doesn’t pull its punches. I like it for that.
Charles himself doesn’t have much going on apart from a pretty face. He’s no Marple, no Poirot and yes, I do think the story suffers for that. I haven’t read enough Agatha Christie to know if he’s a reoccurring character but I do feel he lacks the charisma to bring this all together. His sexual chemistry with Sophia isn’t all that – and I don’t really care about the side story of their love affair.
I do love self-absorbed Magda – and Anderson is always an absolute delight. As a fading stage actress with a drink problem, she’s even more glorious. When an accident occurs and her youngest child ends up in hospital, she doesn’t even go and visit. What a dame.
Likewise, super snooper Josephine is so much fun. Lurking in shadows and listening at doors, she has her nose up in everybody’s business – and I love it. I also have all the time in the world for Edith, who has her own personal shit going on.
God I love murder mystery. I want more. Way, way more.
What does my prime suspect Jillian think of this tale? Would she work it out in the first first minutes or murder it in its sleep? Find out here.
I think about most things way too much but one of those things is anxiety itself. It can be all-consuming and exhausting. Nobody wants to spend that much time looking inward and fretting that they’re a terrible person with no potential. But that’s what it does to you – it’s the voice in your head that whispers you’re a fool with bad jokes and everyone hates you.
Living with anxiety and depression is a ride. I experience highs sometimes, not particularly nice ones that border on mania (this is usually if I’ve foolishly let my meds run out) but the lows are more frequent. I can feel them coming usually which is helpful, as I can batten down the hatches and prepare for them but in between these extremes there’s the constant doubt.
I think most people have a clear idea of what an anxious person might look like but the truth is, we’re not all rabbit-in-a-headlight eyes and wringing hands. More people than you can imagine live with anxiety and mental health issues – and they look like any one of us. Normal basically and with only one head.
Anxiety to me is a very mixed bag. I find my feelings are quite contradictory and in the past when I’ve tried to explain it to other people, I’ve told them it feels like there’s a perpetual war waged within me. Me vs. Me – it’s like the Battle of the Bastards up in here with less Jon Snow wandering around gormlessly. It’s Me, the confident, independent woman up against Me, the doubtful worry wort – the paranoid introvert who doesn’t like crowds.
I have to remind myself every day that I have a right to be here are much as anyone – and that I’m allowed to take up space.
Anxiety looks different to everyone but to me it manifests itself in intrusive thoughts and dark spots on an otherwise happy life. It’s not crippling but it does need to be kept in check. I’m getting quite good at pushing back – I have the tools to fight. And lately I’ve started to think of it from a more positive stand-point – what if being anxious is my secret super-power? What if I’m supposed to feel crap sometimes so I can recognise it in others – and be a better friend/wife/colleague because of it?
I think my friend anxiety would hate that idea – which is why I love it even more.
Costume Drama Month is going okay, if a little dull last week. This week’s pick however feels like a dream. It’s more of a poem than a movie – and it’s deeply beautiful. It also inspired some of the imagery in Beyoncé‘s Lemonade so make of that what you will.
Daughters of the Dust (1991)
Languid look at the Gullah culture of the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia where African folk-ways were maintained well into the 20th Century and was one of the last bastions of these mores in America. Set in 1902.
Director: Julie Dash
Starring: Cora Lee Day • Alva Rogers • Barbarao
“I am the first and the last. I am the honored one and the scorned one. I am the whore and the holy one. I am the wife and the virgin. I am the barren one and many are my daughters. I am the silence that you can not understand. I am the utterance of my name.” ~ Nana Peazant
1902, St. Simons Island, off the Georgia coast. Here we meet the Peazant family, whose ancestors were enslaved on the island centuries ago. The small community of islanders who still live there have developed their own language and culture – and the head of the family, Nana Peazant (Cora Lee Day) practices African and Caribbean spiritual rituals like a boss. Their dialogue is in Gullah creole.
“We are two people in one body. The last of the old and the first of the new.”
Eula is about to give birth after being raped by a white man during a visit to the mainland, so relations between the couple are strained to the max. Eli laments to Nana that he no longer feels as though his wife belongs to him, while Nana reminds him that Eula is his wife and not something he can own. (Nana talks all the sense).
Both fear that the child about to come is not Eli’s – and Eula refuses to tell her husband who attacked her for fear of endangering his life. It’s desperately sad and later there’s a line uttered by the Unborn Child that reinforces this. Something like “I spent the rest of my life convincing my father that I was his”.
On this day however, there are other matters afoot. Some of the cousins have returned to the island from the mainland – to usher a number of the remaining family into their own travels North, where they will start their new lives.
Cousins Viola (Cheryl Lynn Bruce) and Yellow Mary (Barbarao) are polar opposites – V is a devout Christian (and don’t we flipping know it) – while Yellow Mary rocks up with her lover Trula (Trula Hoosier) and is cut from a more bohemian cloth. Mr Snead (Tommy Redmond Hicks), a mainland photographer accompanies Viola on the trip to document the family’s travels.
There are many stories told during this time together, as the family catch up and gather around Nana, who will be staying behind. They are differing views and tales of woe – stories of triumph and success from the mainland. Eula gains strength from Yellow Mary, who reinforces her decision not to reveal the identity of her rapist.
This beautiful poem culminates in the preparation of one final meal on the beach. Eula and Eli wax lyrical on the history and folklore of the slave uprising and those about to leave must make their final decisions – is it the right thing to leave now, or should they stay and maintain their traditional values and beliefs?
Daughters is breathtaking in the way it looks – the cinematography and costuming is pure perfection – and is rich with history. It examines truly brutal subject matter – from slavery to sexual assault – and has taught me something about a culture I did not know about and had never considered.
The Gullah are fascinating and fierce – and the lessons Nana teaches her daughters are mostly common sense. Her desperate insistence that they stay connected to their unbelievable history is so important and it wrangles at the heartstrings to imagine her left behind.
All performances are lovely but there’s a certain stiffness to some of the characters, though I’ll admit it actually suits them (for example, Cheryl Lynn Bruce’s bible-bashing Viola). Cora Lee Day is the stand-out as matriach Nana, while the wide-eyed beauty of Alva Rogers’ Eula works wonderfully. You want to rage against anyone who would ever hurt her, just like Eli does.
Although I’ve seen this pop up a few times on Netflix, I never would have watched it of my own volition so thank you Jill for the suggestion. I feel enriched just by listening to Nana’s lessons, even though they’re not meant for me.
“Eli, I’m trying to teach you how to touch your own spirit. I’m fighting for my life, Eli, and I’m fighting for yours. Look in my face! I’m trying to give you something to take north with you, along with all your great big dreams.” ~ Nana Peazant
⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐