Dolly, Kitty and Those Twinkling Stars

What an epic! A family drama, a coming-of-age, this film is just packed.

It focuses on Dolly, a frustrated housewife, and her cousin Kaajal, who is more like a sister to her. But this film spills out in a hundred directions, taking in storylines with Dolly’s mother and kids, Kaajal’s friends and lovers. Yet it doesn’t lose focus, and you never feel like your time is being wasted. All of it informs how these two characters figure things out for themselves.

Dolly is going through a mid-life crisis, spending money like water, and flirting with this college-age delivery boy. Her sex life with her crappy husband is in the toilet and she is flagging in her ability to maintain her happy families rictus grin.

Kaajal is much younger, and very naive. She comes to live with Dolly in the big city from her small village, but quickly moves out because Dolly’s crappy husband is a sexually predatory creep. Struggling to survive, she turns her hand to everything.

She ends up renting a bed a Christian hostel for unwed and surrogate mothers. Her only pal there is a prostitute. She ends up getting a job in a call centre for a phone sex/romance chat line. As a naive virgin from a conservative rural area, she is totally out of her depth.

The main theme of the movie is about playing the roles required of us as women. Dolly has to be a dutiful wife. Kaajal’s telephone persona is Kitty, who has to alternate between a virgin and whore depending on her client’s fantasy. Dolly has a child, Puppa, that she is raising as her son, but who is constantly tell her that she’s a girl. Puppa is always being told she has to act more like a boy.

This again is echoed in the character of Dolly’s mother. She abandoned her husband and daughter when Dolly was a kid, but is trying to reconnect with her now she is grown. Dolly is full of rage at her. “How could you?!” she asks her furiously. “What kind of mother could do that?!” Her mother is unapologetic, and simply says, she wasn’t happy and she had to live her own life.

There can be nothing more of a betrayal than a woman who lives for herself, rather than servicing the roles required of her. And the arc of the movie is Dolly coming to understand her mother’s decision.

That doesn’t even cover it. I’m giving you the tip of the iceberg here. But what I loved is that the film says that experiences can be ambivalent, but you can still take the good away from them. The power of men and the structure of sexism pervades women’s lives, but it doesn’t need to define them, we can take away from our experiences what we need and what we enjoy from them.

Great film.

Balloon

A surprisingly funny film about a Tibetan family dealing with the Chinese One Child policy.

There is such warmth in this happy little family. They are sheep farmers, the grandfather, parents and kids all living under one roof. A lot of the humour comes from the fact this is obviously a very traditionally conservative culture, but the One Child Policy means sex is being talked about far more publicly than before. The weans are blowing up johnnies and trading them as balloons to the neighbours’ weans for their tin whistle. Nobody knows exactly where to look.

When the kindly old grandfather passes, a lama prophesies that his soul will be reborn into the family. This is a message of great joy. Even though the child will not remember their previous life, the father will be able to care for and look after the grandfather’s soul, keep him safe from harm, and return the years of care he received in a reversal of the parental relationship.

But the mother must deal with the practicalities of this pregnancy. They cannot afford the fine they will be charged for bringing this child into the world. So conflict enters their happy home.

A warm family drama with humour to soften the strife.

Disco

This cements for me the opinion that religion should not be forced on children.

The main character is a disco-dancing champion and lead attraction in the ‘cool church’ run by her stepfather. They clearly know what they have in her as a sales tool – she’s young, she’s beautiful, she’s sexy, she’s fit, and yet she carries with her an air of piety and purity. Good catch-all for getting people through the door. And once they’re there, it’s full on 80s kareoke style hymn singing and show-girl disco dancing. Which makes people feel like they really got something for their money when it comes collection time.

Of course it’s all bullshit. Her stepfather is an abusive arsehole, gaslighting her mother and creepily sexually predatory around his stepkid.

The main character develops some mix of anxiety and depression which causes her to start having panic attacks during her disco-dancing championship performances, which then snowballs with the condemnation from her family that this failure indicates a lack of faith and closeness to God.

Throughout this film, you are just begging for this girl to meet a sane person. Someone who will say you can’t pray away a mental illness. You’re in an abusive, exploitative cult. Your family is bonkers.

But she’s been very thoroughly isolated and the only people she knows outside her little cult, are other religious extremists who are trying to fish from the same pool of devotees. In the end she only manages to exchange one set of ecstatics for another.

Moffie

What is it about us that we need to make men into monsters?

Moffie is about a guy joining and fighting in the Aparteid South Africa army. A less sympathetic subject you’d be pressed to find.

It may make a difference that he’s a 16-year-old conscript who’s secretly gay. That’s what Moffie means, it’s the Afrikaans slur for a gay guy.

Whether this is enough to gain your sympathy is debatable. The film reminded me of Full Metal Jacket. And all I could hear was a variation on the old Frankie Boyle joke, about joining a racist, homophobic, human rights-abusing army, then making a film about how being in a racist, homophobic, human rights-abusing army made you sad.

Suicide Tourist

The premise of this film will be familiar to anyone who has given even a passing thought to ending their own life. Like, why isn’t there an app for this?

Wouldn’t it be better if there was a service you could go to, say, “I wanna end my life”, and they handled the rest. It would be safe, you would be taken care of by medical professionals who would ensure you didn’t just injure yourself horribly, but died correctly and quickly. There would a legal service included to get all your affairs in order. All for one affordable price.

Sounds great to me. And the film does give serious time to the absence in our society of any process that prepares you for death. We live in a time of the cult of life, and even our religious institutions only prepare you for more life. The least serviced aspect of our lives is that they end.

The main character Max books into the Aurora Hotel, a luxury spa for the suicidal, which fosters peace and acceptance of the end, and helps you plan and enact your finish.

Because this is speculative fiction, of course, there has to be a dark side. And given that the film doesn’t set bodily autonomy and the right to die as the dark side, the ominous element is “How does a business act when their Unique Selling Point is that you definitely will die?”

If they sell themselves as “We are the people who will ensure you won’t chicken out, fuck it up or put it off”, then your have to have a 100% customer satisfaction rate.

A moody interesting drama with a good cast Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones) and Robert Aramayo (Elmer Wayne Henley Jr from Mindhunter).

Our Mothers

Our Mothers is a film in awe of the strength of women.

It follows the main character, a forensic anthropologist, who is responsible for identifying the dead when they are unearthed from the mass graves created under the military dictatorship and genocide in the 80s. He helps a woman retrieve the bones of her husband, while he himself searches for the body of his father, whom he never knew.

It is a one-act story, in which the ghosts of the past finally come home. It is a story that venerates the women who endured the unendurable and somehow still had the love to build a future for others. A film of quiet, underappreciated dignity.

Cook Fuck Kill

At one point in this movie, a lassie puts a frog up her vagina, and that’s the closest this film comes to making sense.

As far as I can tell, Cook Fuck Kill follows one guy, Jari, as he relives the same hellish day over and over again, in some kinda purgatory. And purgatory is what he deserves as he’s a wife-beating, child-abusing, misogynistic, self-pitying asshole.

He’s in good company as everyone else in the film is a fucked-up mess too. It kinda leaves you with no one to root for.