Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2020

maxresdefault-2

Chronic features Tim Roth as palliative care nurse David, who looks after terminally ill or severely disabled persons in their own home, having one patient at a time. It follows him through looking after three patients and it is clear that he cares very deeply about his work, and also about the people he nurses. The power here is not always in what is said, but in the silences and in the mundane and sometimes unpleasant tasks that he carries out, without complaint. Make no mistake, this film does not flinch from showing the realities of people nearing the end of life, or unable to look after themselves. In one scene for example, a patient soils herself due to medication, and David is showing carefully soaping her and cleaning her mess up afterwards. In another scene, he is washing a man who is unable to do it for himself; the patient is in the shower room, naked and entirely vulnerable. Indeed, so intimate and private are these moments that I almost felt voyeuristic, as though I was intruding on someone’s life, when I had no right to.

For the always wonderful (in my biased opinion!) Roth, this is possibly a career best performance. Despite his dedication to his vocation, David is not always entirely likeable. He lies easily to strangers – he untruthfully refers to one of his patients as his wife for example – and seemingly has no friends, apart from his patients while he was looking after them. His own history is drip fed to the viewer, which does make his behaviour more understandable.

For some people, this film will be hard to watch. I could feel the pain and helplessness of the characters, their lack of dignity, and the sense of futility for their families, which manifested itself in different ways. One niece asks David about her aunt, underscoring the fact that she didn’t get to know her aunt well when she was alive, and she is aware that David knew her better than her own family.

It’s a stunning film, with an ending that took my breath away. I’m giving no spoilers here because I believe it deserves to be viewed completely unspoiled, which is how I saw it. I liked the ending; other reviewers didn’t. Overall though, this film will stay with me for a long time, and I would highly recommend it.

Read Full Post »

3704d07efabc17159316c745a77434f414f4141

Okay, this was another audiobook which I listened to over a few long runs. I mention this because I find that books I can quite like as audiobooks are often books that I know I wouldn’t enjoy if I read them as a physical book and this is one of those. The reason is because when running, I want something to divert me and keep me occupied while exercising. When I’m reading a physical book I want it immerse myself in it; it’s not a diversion from something else I’m doing. For this reason I can listen to chick-lit audiobooks but I rarely actually read one. This was narrated by Gerri Halligan, who did a good job, although I did find her American accent slightly questionable (but not enough to annoy me).

The story is narrated in alternate chapters by three characters…

Gemma Hogan is still smarting from her ex-boyfriend Anton falling in love with her ex-friend Lily. Life only gets more complicated for her when her father leaves her mother after 35 years of marriage, causing her mother to go to pieces. Gemma finds herself having to babysit her mother at the age of 32.

Lily is blissfully happy with Anton and their daughter Emer, but she can’t help feeling guilty about Gemma, and is convinced that karma will catch up with her and Anton at some point. She writes a book which is a runaway success, but the publishing world is a fickle business.

Jojo is the literary agent who takes on Lily as a client. Jojo is a strong independent and successful woman – who just happens to be in a relationship with her married boss. She is in a cutthroat business and has a complicated love life. Will her career ambitions and her clandestine romance clash?

I found the story somewhat diverting and it did hold my attention for the most part (it seemed to drift along aimlessly for a little while in the middle, and I think the book would have been more effective if it had been shorter). There’s no doubt that Marian Keyes can write humour very well; however for me the main problem was that I didn’t like many of the characters. Gemma was my favourite out of the main three. She was funny and hapless but obviously intelligent. She was also, in my opinion, far too good for Anton and wasted way too much time feeling sad about him.

I didn’t really like Jojo or her boss Mark. I didn’t like that he was cheating on his perfectly lovely wife, and treated his children like a liability that stopped him from having fun with his bit on the side. I didn’t like that Jojo was complicit in that deception. She was portrayed as a tough woman who takes no s**t, but she was happy to wait around for her cheating boyfriend to let her down time after time.

And Lily!! Don’t get me started. She was supposed to be sweet and sensitive but she came across as such a wet weekend. I felt like shaking her and telling her to get a bloody grip. And Anton just annoyed the heck out of me. Feckless with money and generally ¬†irresponsible, he was full of pipe dreams, which Lily was expected to finance. I kept wanting her to find a backbone and chuck him out.

With all that said, there were things about this book that I enjoyed; I preferred the first third, which featured Gemma’s job a lot more than later, and there was a side character (Johnny) who I enjoyed hearing about.

I remember reading some of Marian Keyes’ other books many years ago – I loved them. This one was not as enjoyable, but whether that’s because of the book or because of my changing tastes, I’m not sure. I probably would give another book of hers a go, as it was pretty undemanding, but it wouldn’t be top of my list.

Read Full Post »

a654ab003e1be82596d515a6567434f414f4141

First, a couple of points to be aware of regarding this book: (1) You do not need to be a fan of Jimmy Carr to appreciate and enjoy it. That said, I am a Jimmy Carr fan – in fact he is probably my favourite comedian – but even if I had never heard of him, I would have really liked this. (2) This is not a joke book. It’s a book *about* jokes. There is a joke (typically a snappy one-liner) at the foot of every page, and at the end of each chapter there are about four pages of jokes related to the subject of that chapter, but essentially this is a book about the history of jokes, the purpose they serve, the way they evolve, and the value of jokes in various cultures and across generations.

It’s a fascinating read, told in an engaging style by Carr and Greeves, and each chapter held my interest. They manage to keep the tone light but also really informative, and cover such subjects as why clowns are scary, and how different cultures have mythical japesters, some of whom are not only funny but also fairly sinister. The politics of joking is covered, and also a chapter on where (and if) humour should draw a line. Are there for example, some subjects which it is never safe to joke about?

I found this thoroughly absorbing and very well written. Hats off to both authors for a terrific read.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

the-pale-horse-1581336443

The Pale Horse is a BBC production, based on Agatha Christie’s novel of the same name. It was scripted by Sarah Phelps, whose previous Christie adaptations have been the subject of some controversy, due to her changing of plot details. I have read a fair few Christie novels, but not this one. And judging by some of the reviews I have seen of this mini-series, that is all to my favour!

The story – in this adaptation – revolves around antique dealer Mark Easterbrook, who is informed by the police that his name was found on a list of several names, which was inside the shoe of a dead woman. The rest of the people on the list are dying in mysterious circumstances and Mark grows very concerned for his own safety. Three women, who people believe to be witches, are clearly mixed up in it all somehow; can Mark figure out what is happening in time to save himself?

I actually really enjoyed most of this mini-series. It was spread over two one-hour long episodes, and for the first hour and 50 minutes, I was entertained and eager to find out the truth. The last 10 minutes however went somewhat awry and at the very end I was pretty confused. I quickly jumped online to see what other people had thought, and was gratified to see that I was not the only one who felt flummoxed! But while a bad ending can ruin a previously good show, in this case I still felt satisfied overall. This is no small part due to Rufus Sewell as Mark Easterbrook. He brings all facets of the character’s personality together – in the beginning Mark seems quite a sympathetic and relatable character, but as we get to know him, he is actually revealed to be deeply unpleasant. His mounting fear was very believable, as was the resentment of his young wife Hermia (Kaya Scodelario), and the scepticism of the police officer investigating (Sean Pertwee). Bertie Cavel was also excellent as Mr Osborne, another man who has his name on the list.

Production values were very high – this was a beautiful looking, glossy and colourful drama. I also thought that the tension was well maintained throughout and I didn’t guess the truth behind the mystery.

If like me, you have not read the book, then I would suggest giving this a go. The last ten minutes notwithstanding, it was an enjoyable watch with great acting.

Read Full Post »

1782116648.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Here’s a basic rule of thumb – if Mark Kermode writes something, I’ll read it. I’ve read – and loved – his three previous books, and therefore looked forward to reading this one. It’s co-authored with Simon Mayo, who is his co-host on Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review (broadcast on BBC Radio 5 on Friday afternoons).

Happily I was not disappointed, but for anyone else who has read Kermode’s previous works, it may be worth noting that this is much more of a dip-in-and-out type book, if you wish it to be. That’s not a criticism – I enjoyed it a lot and would definitely recommend it.

The premise behind the book is that movies are able to cure many of life’s ailments and dilemmas. (Obviously, they are not suggesting that you eschew proper medicine!!) So there are movies to pick you up when you’re down, movies to help you decide whether you want to have children or not, and movies to bring down an excitable mood. They also look at movies which in themselves could do with some ‘medical’ attention – for example, those which would have benefitted from being shorter in running time.

There are several chapters, each with an essay discussing the subject of that particular one, which delves into the histories of some films, and tells some interesting and amusing anecdotes. There are interludes where the ‘doctors’ are in their surgery attending to a patient, and usually end up prescribing an appropriate movie. There are also lists of films for every topic. Be prepared for your watchlist to grow!

If you like movies, this one is definitely worth a read. You can do what I did and read it straight through, but as I alluded to earlier, you can also dip into this book between other books.

Read Full Post »

689b23b7d0af071596a59576951434f414f4141

I have thoroughly enjoyed previous novels by Sarah Waters, and had high hopes for this one. The story is set in the early 1920s, and Frances Wray and her mother have fallen on hard times, and are forced to take in lodgers. When Leonard and Lilian Barber arrive, Frances is shaken out of her small world, and drawn into their lives. However, when passion mounts, the consequences are shocking and everlasting.

This is a strange book in that it starts off being fairly slow moving – in keeping with the pace of Frances’s life. Every day is the same for her – housework and spending time with her mother, before retiring to bed. But as her new lodgers arouse her interest and she gets drawn into their lifestyle, the pace picks up. The last third of the book is a very different tone and I did get very absorbed, staying up late to find out how the story ends (without revealing any spoilers, I would have to say that I found the ending surprising, but in a weirdly anticlimactic way).

I cannot say I didn’t enjoy the book, but whereas with Waters’ previous novels Fingersmith, Affinity and The Night Watch, I couldn’t put them down, with this one I found myself not really engaging until the last part. The characters were not particularly likeable, which was not a problem, as I don’t believe they were written to be. They were believable though and the idea of Frances, being an intelligent woman trapped in claustrophobic lifestyle, was convincing.

Overall, not one of Sarah Waters’ best, but still worth the read and I will continue to read anything that she writes.

Read Full Post »

51wnuak1xml

The fourth instalment of the Cherringham series, was I’m happy to say, equally as good as the three that went before it. I love listening to these stories – they are ideal to keep me engaged during a long run or two, and I really like the central characters of Jack Brennan and Sarah Edwards.

In this ‘episode’, two men find a rare Roman artefact on a farm – it will be sold to the British Museum and the money will be divided between the two men, the farmer and ¬†Lady Repton, who owns the farmland, making them all rich. However, the artefact is stolen and while the police blame a notorious gang of thieves, Jack and Sarah are not convinced. They set out to solve the mystery themselves, but with several possible suspects, it’s not an easy job.

As always, this was an enjoyable and undemanding listen. The mystery itself was well constructed and I did not guess the culprit. It’s not giving anything away to say that there is a part of the story where Jack has to pretend to be a Texan tycoon, which I enjoyed immensely.

Another great story from the Cherringham series.

Read Full Post »

hallmark-channel-news-martha-vineyard-mystery1

I am reviewing these two TV movies (made for the Hallmark Channel) together, as they are the first two films in a new mystery series and feature the same main characters.

Jeff Jackson (Jesse Metcalfe is a former Boston PD detective who has retired early and moved to Martha’s Vineyard where he grew up and now hopes to live a quiet life. Zee Madeiras is a Doctor on the Vineyard and former childhood friend of Jeff. Her father is the Vineyard Chief of Police, who asks for Jeff’s help in solving crimes. In A Beautiful Place to Die, a young man is found floating in the harbour and it becomes apparent that he was murdered…the night before he was seen arguing with the children of a wealthy businessman, but they are not the only people with a reason to want him dead. As the suspects mount up, Jeff and Zee find themselves uncovering secrets and facing danger…

In Riddled With Deceit, a rare and expensive emerald brooch, which was stolen years before from the family of Zee’s best friend, is returned, only to be promptly stolen again. Jeff and Zee assist the police with looking for the thief, but before long it has also turned into a murder enquiry…

If you are a fan of murder mysteries set in beautiful places – for me, I love shows like Midsomer Murders, set in the Cotswolds; Death in Paradise (Caribbean), Shakespeare and Hathaway (Stratford-upon-Avon) – then this is the series for you. Admittedly all of the above examples are English shows, but if those are your kind of thing then I think you would enjoy these two movies. Although set on Martha’s Vineyard, they were not filmed there – but the scenery is beautiful nonetheless and the mysteries are engaging enough to keep you interested, while still being a fairly undemanding and fun watch.

If you want a really gritty realistic crime drama, then maybe give these a miss, but otherwise, see what you think – you might enjoy them!

(NB: These films are based on books from Phillip R Craig, who wrote a series of Martha’s Vineyard Mystery books. I’ve not read any of them, but might be tempted to give one a whirl).

Read Full Post »