Moon, 66 Questions

I dunno if I get this movie.

It’s about a lassie who decides to care for her estranged father as his multiple sclerosis worsens. But I was left with a number of unanswered questions. Firstly, why is she there? One great thing about estrangement is you can opt out of this shit. Why has she decided to stop her life, travel to what we are told is a fairly remote house, to look after someone she has little relationship with, for what might be, given the progress of MS, years?

You could say she is yearning for a relationship with her father, but you don’t really get that sense. There’s a curiosity, but not a longing. She seems starved of affection but not wounded exactly. I just don’t see a drive great enough to make this major life change and commitment.

Secondly, he has other family nearby. He has brothers and sisters, who seem wealthy enough to hire a cleaner (although we never actually see her outside of the job interview). Now they seem like they’ve got their own issues – everyone talks over one another, no one listens – but that’s not a big deal in the realms of being able to coordinate a paid carer. If they can hire a cleaner, they can hire a carer. Given that there’s so little relationship between the dad and his daughter, a professional carer might be preferable.

Also, none of them pitch in. They never visit, except to gawk when the physio therapist first comes by. They encourage the daughter to learn how to lift and support the dad physically, but don’t bother to learn themselves. They’re in their 50s, not too old or infirm to do it themselves, so why don’t they? Why are they so sure they’re never gonna need this info or be around to use it?

Also, like, what age is the daughter? Maybe late 20s, early 30s? Why is this all on her? She’s meant to building her life at this stage. She has no partner and no kids, which, yeah, might be read as she has no other commitments, but could equally be read as she has yet to start building her own family. Like, why is she being chosen to give up her life at a time when she’s barely begun to live it? Yet her aunts and uncles, who have families who can support them, basically bounce. Even the mother, the dad’s ex-wife, never shows up to help. Which is bizarre, because the daughter obviously has a relationship with her mother, so why wouldn’t she show up even just to support her daughter? It makes very little sense to me.

Also, we don’t really see anything of the life the daughter is giving up to go do this. There are a couple of scenes with her hanging out with folk her own age, playing ping pong and such, but we are never told if she has a lover or friend, no one phones from her old life to ask how she’s doing. What was her life before this? What did she give up to do this? Was she studying? Was she working? Did she have career goals? Her sacrifice doesn’t make sense because you have no idea what she’s sacrificed. And she doesn’t seem to miss it or think about it much. She just seems totally focused on her father, who, again, we are told she had virtually no relationship with.

The whole thing just doesn’t make sense to me. The plot is that she and her father get closer the longer she acts as his carer. Which might elicit an awww from some people, but gives me a bit of an ick, because it’s like you could only bond with him when you could attribute his silence and stubbornness to a sickness, rather than his shitty personality. Also, she finds out her dad has lived his life as a closeted gay man, and is in a relationship with one of his neighbours. Which, fine, might give you a bit of sympathy for him, but still doesn’t explain or excuse why he has been such a crappy dad, or can’t answer a frigging question, or has almost no interest in talking to her, even when she’s right there on the couch next to him, giving up her life to look after him. I also don’t understand why she thinks it does, either.

I get what they were going for with this story. And Lazaros Georgakopoulos is excellent as the ailing father. But I found the daughter’s character underdeveloped. What was her life? What does she want? What drives her need to care for her father if their relationship was so poor? Why is she willing to make so big a sacrifice? Why does she feel uncovering his secrets excuses his lack of affection? I dunno, I felt I didn’t really get to know anything about her.

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God, that was tense!

Carajita is about Sara and Yari, and their relationship. Sara is a rich white kid. Yari is the Black woman who works as her nanny, sending money back to her sister who is raising her child at home. Sara and Yari are both very close, and both of them at times like to let go of the awareness that they are not mother and daughter, and drift into their blind affection for each other.

Sara comes from a wealthy family of white Argentinians, but has been looked after from birth by Yari, a Dominican. Her father is a corrupt business man, known for his connections and friends in high places. Her brother is a typical spoiled kid party boy. Sara doesn’t feel at home with her biological family, she doesn’t want to be like them, and finds them faintly disgusting.

This film is about whiteness. Sara wants to be Yari’s daughter. She wants to look like her, be like her, be Black like her. When she meets Yari’s daughter, Mallory, she’s jealous of her. Sara thinks her rejection of her family’s privilege makes her one of the Good White People.

Just a word on Sara’s family. These are not cartoon villains. They are simply people, like any people, who have access to a good deal of wealth, and privilege which insulates them from the rough edges of the world and the consequences of their own behaviour. Do they make shitty choices? Yes. Is being corrupt business owners one of them? Yes. Is hiring a broke teenager to look after their baby day and night? Yes. (You find out Yari must only have been 15 when Sara was born). But they are kinda just doing what is normal to their station. They consider themselves good people. They’re not cruel. They treat Yari well, act like she is one of the family.

But that’s the problem. At the heart of Carajita is the effects of structural societal racism. They mean Sara and her family can do what they can do, and Yari and Mallory can only do what they can do. Sara’s family can steal, and hire a 15-year-old child to work night and day in their house, and that’s not only not punished, but considered normal, a moral neutral, the injustice of which both they and others will be blind to.

Sara acts like she wants to renounce all that. But to paraphrase an MC, “Y’all wanna be me, until it’s time to be me”. Circumstances will prove that when it comes time, Sara will find her whiteness useful, and not so glibly discarded.

SPOILERS ahead! Bail now if you are convinced to go see the film.

Sara and her brother take Mallory out to a party. They all have a great time, and as the evening tails off, Mallory decides to walk home. Sara’s brother decides to stay at the party, so she drives her boyfriend home. On the way, they have a weird moment, a herd of goats come suddenly out the grass, and one creepy looking motherfucker stares Sara down, standing in the road, looking directly at the car.

A little unnerved, but ok, Sara continues to drop her boyfriend off at his house. As she is driving home alone, a storm rises, pouring rain and reducing visibility. Then her brother calls her, asking to be picked up, and Sara fumbles for her phone, and . . . she hits something. She’s drunk, she’s driving in the dark, at night, in the rain, in a storm, while using her mobile phone. She is entirely culpable if she has struck someone.

She sits there frozen, unable to look. She has that sharp, bright sobriety that comes with a bad shock. And it’s like, if she doesn’t look to see what she’s hit, it never happened.

And then ahead of her, the goats reappear. She sighs, relaxes. It was just a goat. She continues to the party, collects her brother, and drives home. She sleeps the night away, without a care in the world.

You know how this is going to go. You know what she hit out there.

Mallory doesn’t return home, and Yari is worried. She calls around and tells Sara’s mother her concerns. They fly into action, like Good White People, and Sara’s father starts ringing round his contacts for help.

Then Mallory is found. By the side of the road. Her ribs crushed in by impact with a car. She lay out all night in the storm. The impact didn’t kill her outright. She was left to die, face down in the dirt, and drowned in the mud.

As soon as Sara hears, she knows. She knows in her heart of hearts, it was Mallory she hit on the road last night. And what follows is this sickeningly tense journey, as she hopes against hope it isn’t true. Sara’s family take Yari back to her family, and sit all day with them in mourning. Sara’s father, ignorant of her involvement, offers to pay for the funeral expenses. They want to show they were sincere about Yari being like family. That her loss is their loss.

Except it’s not. And they leave later that evening to make the dinner party they’ve planned with business leaders and congressmen.

What I was a bit worried about with this film is that they would stretch out the tension of the possibility of Yari finding out, but the film actually cycles through events quite quickly. Sara is acting off to anyone who cares to see, and she confesses to her boyfriend that night. What follows is not what she expects.

He says she’s wrong, she hit a goat. When she tries to explain, he repeats. She’s wrong. She hit a goat. He alerts her family to the fact she looks likely to confess to Yari. And all the machinery of privilege goes into motion to protect Sara from her crime.

Meanwhile Yari’s family are no dupes. They noticed the broken headlight on the car Sara’s family showed up in. They go out to where Mallory was found, and find the same glass there in the mud. Some of her family exult in having proof against her murderer. But Yari is just stunned. She can’t believe it.

Without saying a word, she returns to Sara’s house. And finds the car and the garage have been washed. There’s not a fragment of glass there. Not only is it true, they KNOW. And they are going to ensure there will be no justice for her, for Mallory.

And Sara, who so eschewed her family’s wealth, privilege, and corruption, the whiteness which protected them from the consequences of their actions, now she will really have to decide. She wanted to be like Yari, until it was time to be like Yari.

Wild Men

Masculinity In Crisis: The Road Trip.

Martin is having a mid-life crisis. He’s a big lad that works in IT, wife, two kids, a bunny. Then he snaps and runs away to the mountains dressed as a Viking to live off the land. Which might be great if he actually knew what he was doing, but he’s down within a fortnight to try and get fags at the local Shell station. He ends up nicking a bunch of crisps and legging it back into the forest.

There he meets Musa, an injured traveller. Martin takes him for a novice hiker, patches him up and promises to help him to safety. Unfortunately Musa is not a lost hiker, he’s been ferrying hash back and forth between Norway and Denmark, something which sadly still counts as a serious crime. He and his mates got into a car crash, and thinking they were both dead, scarpered with the cash.

Up in the mountains, Martin and Musa cooperate and become unlikely friends. They gaze out over the breathtakingly beautiful landscape, and talk about their dissatisfaction with their lives. Musa has a son he’s not allowed to see coz, you know, he’s an international drug smuggler. Martin basically has the perfect life, and he finds it suffocating. He’s effectively run away like a little boy to play at being a Viking instead.

The awe-inspiring landscape seems to dwarf their petty life problems. At the same time, being genuinely hungry and cold and on their own, reduces life down to a series of immediate and basic problems. Existential crisis takes a backseat to getting food and finding shelter.

But more problems are on their way. Musa’s pals did not die in the crash, and are now very pissed at being left for dead while he legged it with the cash. The polis are onto them, primarily for the drug smuggling, but Martin’s also shiting it about his Shell station robbery, eg the crisps. And Martin’s wife is determined to find him and figure out if he’s genuinely lost the plot.

Wild Men is a comedy crime caper, but it speaks to a very recognisable searching for authentic masculinity. While labour becomes increasingly sedentary and technocentric, in a world where we are so alienated from nature that we are literally destroying the environmental systems which make human life possible, in a time where both our economic system and our ecological way of life has no future, nothing could be more understandable than an IT analyst running off to be a Viking in the woods. It’s selfish, it’s childish, it’s a fantasy, and it is very, very tempting.

Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Angry Young Men

Ok, so Angry Young Men was made for, like, £2.50. It’s actually 5 grand, but that’s the same thing by film budget standards. So you’ve got to bear that in mind going into it. This is a micro-budget operation made by a first time filmmaker, basically with his pals. So some stuff will be ropey as fuck.

That being said, it’s awright. It’s a comedy about two young teams squaring off. It’s not going for a real and gritty drama about the mean streets. It’s more about the absurd and achingly parochial nature of it all. The idea of your life’s work to be king of three streets.

The Campbell Group look to move in on the long-held territory of the Bramble Boys. The Bramble Boys set themselves up as a protection racket many years ago, but are effectively collecting money in order to act as the patrol to break up every rowdy teenage fight and retrieve every lost wheelie bin. Some of the original members are beginning to age out, thinking about leaving their shitehole town, or focusing on starting a family. Will the Campbell Group invasion bring them closer together, or break them apart?

Props to the filmmaker for getting this made.


Olga is a Ukrainian teenage gymnast training for the Olympics. Because her father was Swiss, she has the opportunity to go and train in Switzerland, but it will mean competing for their team instead of Ukraine’s.

The film is set during the 2014 Euromaidan protests. Now, we didn’t pay much attention to that here, because we didn’t know it was gonna be part of a series of events that would end with Russia invasion. Long story short, the pro-Russian President Yanukovich’s popularity had waned because he ran a government rife with corruption, which seemed to be draining billions out the state, and which was horrendous with human rights abuses. He was widely accused of being nothing more than a puppet for Putin. Then Yanukovich refused to sign a political agreement with the EU, effectively bringing Ukraine’s membership efforts to a halt.

Shit blows up. People take to the streets. They occupy the main square in Kyiv in protest. The police, the military, everybody attacks them, but they last it out and Yanukovich flees the country, and the new government basically cleans house. (That’s the good news. The bad news is Yanukovich basically runs greeting to Putin and it becomes a pretext for the 2014 Russian invasion, but that’s a story for another time).

Anyway, the TLDR is the film is set during a revolution for the good in Ukraine. When the film starts, Olga’s just 15 and focused only on getting to the Olympics. Her mum, though, is a journalist. She has the same single-mindedness as Olga, working on stories about corruption and criticising Yanukovich. Olga and her mother’s interactions frequently spark friction as both have all-consuming obsessions, but underneath she is really proud of her mum, and they love each other very much. There’s a lot of support there, going both ways.

In an early scene, someone tries to run Olga’s mum off the road, while Olga is in the passenger seat. Suddenly now seems like a good time to get out of dodge. Olga is packed off to Switzerland, where she has entry to the Swiss national team, on account of her father. They have superior equipment, but there’s no camaraderie, and Olga struggles to make friends. Her rusty French is one reason, but mostly they just view her as one more person they have to compete against.

Isolated, under the strain of daily demanding practice, when the Euromaidan protests start up, it seems like more than one person can bear. Her mother is right in the fray covering the story, and her pal takes to the barricades to help. She is constantly worried about what is happening at home.

In signing up for the Swiss team, she will effectively be signing away her Ukrainian citizenship. Is that something she is willing to do, on top of all else? And how can she possibly keep her head straight for a competition when all this is going on?

Adult Adoption

Adult Adoption is a comedy about family, finding it and making it. Rosy is 25 years old and has aged out the foster care system. She signs up to an online site that is basically Tinder for adult adoptees. It’s kinda a rom-com about meeting The One, except for parents not lovers.

What I really liked about it is it makes a comedy out of a subject that is mostly treated as tragedy – growing up in the care system. Rosy is no victim and refuses to conform to the traumatised and troubled stereotype everyone has for her when they hear she was in care. I mean, she’s a mess, but no more than anyone else.

Loneliness is mostly her problem. In fact most people in the film are searching for something, to a greater or lesser extent, everybody’s looking for connection. Because Rosy doesn’t have a family, she assumes that this is what she needs. She finds dating functional, more a hook-up kinda thing, and she’s not looking to settle down just yet. So it’s more a parental bond she wants.

Other people are doing the same thing. Jane, who Rosy meets on the site and bonds with as a mother, has an estranged daughter, which has left her with a lot of pain. Brian, also from the site, seems to be searching for some kind of fantasy, a sort of recapturing of something gone. Rosy’s friend Nola seems to have got embroiled in a cult, which promises a sense of family and home.

The most together character is nice guy Dan. He’s a total sweetheart and I really liked him. He seems like he would be really good for Rosy, just maybe not right now. She’s still figuring a lot of stuff out.

I really liked Rosy. Her colour palate is best described as ice cream and bubblegum. She listens to hyperpop and is basically all of us in our early 20s, with imposter syndrome. You wanna shout, “I’m not a real adult! I just snuck into a job and a flat and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing!” Same here babe, same here.

Adult Adoption is funny and really well realised. I loved the attention to detail, like really fleshing out all the side characters. Like Brian’s outfit style getting younger and younger as he regresses. Or Helen’s collection of crystals and her ability to tell you what each one is for. And her constantly going on about what she talked about in therapy – identify! And Nola turning her dress into a tube top. I just loved it.

With warmth and humour, this film is like a big hug saying, “Rosy, you’re a hot mess. Welcome to the world!”

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The Braves

Alma is this character who is larger than life. She’s a whirlwind of energy and passion. She seems like she’d be a good laugh on a night out, and also could start a fight in an empty house. A wee drama llama.

Her best friend is Margot. They are both aspiring actresses and go on auditions together. Alma brings Margot out her shell a bit more, and challenges her. Margot grounds Alma, and comforts her when the highs become the lows.

At the beginning of the film, Alma scores her first part as the lead in a play. Margot, who also auditioned for the part, gets cast as her understudy. Margot is genuinely happy for Alma, and Alma is delighted. It means they get to practice and rehearse with each other, hang out every day.

But that all goes to shit when Alma collapses on stage on day during rehearsals. She has cancer, and she’s kept how sick she is from Margot, from everyone. Margot is devastated, but Alma’s mum convinces her to keep rehearsing with Alma in the hospital. The only thing keeping Alma going is the idea she might be able to get out here someday and finish the run as the lead in the play.

The relationship between the two women change. Not so much because of Alma’s jealousy, she does feel a spike of it, but when she sees Margot is still on her side, she reconciles herself to the fact Margot will have to go on for at least the first few shows. No, the biggest change is the weight of guilt Margot feels. For being the lead in the play, for having some success in her career, for being able to laugh and relax over drinks with friends, for be healthy, for being alive. Every joy feels like a betrayal. Yet, she can’t let her spirits down, she has to be strong for Alma.

Throughout the film Alma is delusional about her capacity to return to the show, and Margot tries to protect her from some of her more unlikely ambitions, while at the same time, herself buying into the possibility of hope. These two women really love each other, with a fierceness that is only matched by the intensity of their grief.

A film about love and friendship, sisterhood and the fundamentals of life and death.

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I picked this film to see because the synopsis described it as The Parent Trap directed by David Lynch. Man, is that right on the money.

A very Twin Peaks feel. Set in 1987, it’s one of the few films I’ve actually looked up to check wasn’t a new release of a restored film from the time, so realistic is it. There’s a sparsity to how it’s filled. Many scenes have no score, and the rooms of the house where most of the film is set are painted bright, block colours, with little furniture. If the scene only requires a table and two chairs, then the room only has a table and two chairs. It leaves the film feeling bald, but in a good way. Stripped of anything unnecessary to allow all focus on the character interaction.

It stars Alessandra and Ani Mesa as Marian and Vivian, twin sisters whose lives have went in very different directions. Vivian has settled down to suburban life in her hometown and married just the biggest dork. When the film starts, she hasn’t seen Marian for 6 years.

Marian tells her sister a rosy version of the truth about her life. She’s in a band, she goes on tour, she isn’t tied down. What she leaves out is that she had an abusive boyfriend, who successfully kept her isolated and terrified, and whom she mowed down in her car as she literally ran for her life.

Hiding out at Vivian’s seems like a safe option, and the majority of the film is this really enjoyable journey as they reconnect. Vivian’s insufferable dweeb of a husband insists Marian get a job to pay her own way if she’s to be a longterm house guest. But Marian hates it, and Vivian switches places with her, happy to let Marian take her daily chores to get out of the house. Vivian ends up smoking dope with the local teenagers while working at the ice cream shack and actually starts enjoying her life again.

This switching back and forth is fun, and the twins bond over their secret game. But the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads is Marian’s violent ex. Did he survive being struck by the car? And if so, is he looking for Marian for revenge?

Cool movie.

La Civil

Brutal. Just brutal.

La Civil is a drama about a Mexican woman who searches for her daughter after a kidnapping. These aren’t rich folks, Cielo and her husband Gustavo are just ordinary people. They live in an ordinary house and run a shop the size of a closet, just an over-the-counter thing. You would never dream of being a target for kidnappers with such modest means.

But this is Mexico, and this is a standard cartel business, lifting people and squeezing their loved ones for cash. You don’t have to be rich, they have the time and manpower to work everybody, since they are so unlikely to be caught. In Mexico, life is cheap, female life especially.

The film starts on an ordinary day with Cielo and her daughter chatting and putting on makeup before leaving the house. As Cielo is driving around town, a car pulls up in front of her, and a guy gets out and approaches her vehicle. He tells her that her daughter Laura has been taken and she needs to give them a vast sum of money for her return.

Cielo tries to get every penny she can, even though it still falls short of the amount demanded, but after she pays, Laura doesn’t come home. And this is where the nightmare that couldn’t possibly be worse, gets worse.

Because how to do you track down these people? They are just “them”. It’s not like the cartel leave a calling card saying, “You have just been extorted by cartel so-and-so, please contact us on this number for more information about your case”. Which cartel? What people? What are their names? Where are they?

In action movies it’s just a matter of shooting your way to the truth, but the reality is much more grim. Cielo jumps every time a body is reported found on the news. She turns up at funeral homes to see if she can identify any newfound corpses.

In one of the most brutal scenes of the film, the funeral director tells her that the police dump murder victims on her, because the country’s coroners are all full. Naturally, she doesn’t have an infinite capacity of storage either. So she leads Cielo back into this closet. It’s not refrigerated, bodies and just put wherever there is space, across the floor, whatever. In this stinking, tiny room, she tells her that many come in decapitated, but two girls’ heads were discovered that morning, and shows her two severed, discoloured heads in a bucket.

The horror that this is not just a film, this is based on real people’s stories, this is how real people live, it’s unimaginable.

In Mexico there is virtually nowhere to turn. The police are overwhelmed, indifferent and corrupt. The cartels hold everyone in fear, and the police make only sporadic and piecemeal dents in their arrests. In La Civil, Cielo manages to make inroads with an anti-cartel unit of soldiers, but even they torture and execute according to their own needs. There is no one to turn to, no rule of law effectively.

La Civil is powerful, unflinching, and heartbreaking. How anyone survives living through what this mother endures is a miracle. Excellent film.

Blue Moon

Irina is a 22-year-old Romanian woman struggling to escape her violent and domineering family. She lives with her sister, aunt, uncle and cousins. They run a hotel as a family business, but they come off more like gangsters.

I’ll be honest, aside from the two main characters, I had a hell of a time figuring who everyone was in this film. There’s Irina, an intelligent lassie who wants to go to Bucharest to study, but is constantly being discouraged and having roadblocks put in her way by her family. Her smart mind is something they can use in the business, and she already does all the accounts. Liviu, her cousin, a complete brute that beats the shit out of her constantly. He pretends she’s worthless, but takes her everywhere because he is functionally illiterate. There is Sergiu, who I think is her older brother, he runs the family and is the only person with any self-possession. Sergiu can’t have kids so has commissioned Liviu to buy him one, on the down low, which is proving a difficult task. And there is her sister Viki, who can occasionally be just as bullying towards Irina, but underneath genuinely has a heartfelt relationship with her. She has a secret lover, and it transpires, is secretly pregnant, something she hides for fear that Sergiu will take her baby.

What anybody else’s story is, I have no idea. This is not one of those movies that explains what’s going on straight to camera. You’re kinda just dropped in it and have to figure out what’s going on. And there are so many people trying to keep the truth from each other and posturing, because the family is such a mess.

Throughout the film you’re asking yourself, will Irina escape? And if so, how? And will it require her to play this game of violence and domination?

It’s a gripping drama. It just can get a bit confusing at times, as obviously nobody reacts in a normal, communicative way, but spirals off into dysfunction.

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