Out Stealing Horses

Out Stealing Horses is just beautiful. Stellan Scarsgard plays an old man remembering a summer of his youth, where he developed a crush on his father’s mistress, as her family imploded. It’s a coming-of-age story, but through the melancholy gaze of age. The whole tone is of an old man’s whispers into the black night.

This film is music. And I don’t just mean the score – which is incredible – but this film communicates by weaving a textured soundscape which speaks when the characters cannot. The boy is spending a summer in 1948 at his father’s cabin, felling trees, and is surrounded by the sound of the nearly wild countryside. And because everyone is an insular Scandinavian in the reserved 1940s, what has to speak for the emotional drama is the cut of the saw, the peeling of bark, the spearing of lumber, the clatter of logs into the river. It becomes the melody of the heart of the main character.

A movie that really invites you into the experience, recommend!

You Will Die At Twenty

You Will Die At Twenty is about a boy who is taken as a baby by his mother to be blessed by a sheikh. Unfortunately this coincides with an ill omen and the sheikh declares the boy will die at 20. The film follows the fallout and how it shapes the life of the main character and his family.

His father abandons the family, unable to stomach the grief, and his mother dresses in mourning clothes and prepares more for his death and burial than his life. As for the main character, Muzamil, he becomes afraid of everything, living as though his life hangs by his fingernails, and will be lost at the least misadventure. Through this he misses for many opportunities, makes so many mistakes, and basically clings to religion with a quiet terror.

This story is a metaphor for the state of paralysis and fatalism so many young men experience in Sudan, in a country plagued with war for generations. Watching young men cut down so young, generation after generation, affects how the living see their lives.

Here’s hoping this beautiful film is just the start of the art to blossom out of a generation heading into peace.

If you like this

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

As anyone who knows me knows, Toni Morrison is my favourite ever author, along with Sylvia Plath. Toni Morrison has a large body of work, each one of which is unique and interesting in its own way, and deeply moving.

This a gentle documentary, letting Toni tell her story in her own words, while her more famous fans provide a greek chorus of celebration and inspiration from her work. For a woman whose books are full of such suffering, Toni tells her story as one of good fortune becoming greater fortune. Any discrimination or challenge she faced never seem to discourage her, she seemed to feel pity for any poor fool who thought they could stand in her way.

And she is like a juggernaut. She becomes the first African-American senior editor at Random House while raising two kids by herself, while also writing her novels and teaching at Yale. She ensures through her editing position that other African-American talent gets the recognition it deserves, and lifts others up.

And every time she is asked about her continued dismissal as a “black writer” who “limits herself” to writing about the experiences of African-American women, she meets it with humour, and not bitterness. She seems more bemused by it, as she continues right on outstripping her critics in success after success.

A lovely look at the very down-to-earth woman behind these very emotionally cataclysmic novels.


Proxima is a film about the relationship between an astronaut and her daughter. Unlike most movies about space and astronauts, it focuses almost entirely on the training and preparation for going into space, which is gruelling. The main character’s journey as she prepares to leave Earth is mirrored in the emotional journey as she prepares to leave her daughter.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it had a more ponderous pace than I expected. It is very grounded in the daily grind of training, of the work you have to put in, and can’t skip or montage your way out of. Similarly motherhood has no skips and so much is just being there every day, putting in the emotional labour.

Less pew-pew, more sweat and tears.

If you like this