Archive for January, 2022

Mass (2021)

I genuinely think this might be one of the most heartbreaking films I have ever seen. Certainly it’s one of the very best acted, with a truly outstanding cast.

Some years after the worst kind of tragedy affects their lives, two couples meet up to discuss events, try and understand each other’s pain and finally be able to move forward. I knew what the tragedy was before I watched the film, but I think it would have been even more hard hitting if I hadn’t, so I’m not going to reveal that here, but the details do unfold through the film.

So, except for the very beginning and very end of the film, it’s just the four characters in one room, in real time. And each character is so vividly drawn that it’s impossible not to feel for each and every one of them. Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd and Reed Birney all deserve to win every acting award going for this one. Isaacs (one of my very favourite actors; always brilliant and never more so than he is here) starts out as a polite and co-operative, wanting to be civil, whereas his wife Gail (Plimpton – incredible) doesn’t even really want to be there at the beginning of the meeting. Linda (Dowd) and Richard (Birney) are, respectively, eager to make amends and try and understand the other couple, and slightly repressed, worried about what might unfold.

Each character runs the whole gamut of emotions, and goodness I ran through them too. An hour and a half conversation between four characters might not sound like the sort of thing that everyone would enjoy but I was figuratively on the edge of my seat, and could not peel my eyes away from the screen. I also recommend keeping tissues handy for this film, as I was in tears several times throughout.

Since I watched this film a few days ago I have not been able to stop thinking about it. It’s the second film I have watched so far this year, and right now I cannot imagine that there will be a more emotional and hard hitting one. Kudos to each and every actor involved, to the writers and everybody else who worked on this. All I can say is please watch.

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I’m not really into violent films or action movies, although I do like some thrillers and I would class this more of a thriller than action. Definitely violent! I would probably have not bothered watching if it were not for the fact that Viggo Mortensen was in it – there are a few actors I will break out of my normal genres for, and he is one.

Mortensen is Tom Stall, a mild mannered cafe owner in small town America, happily married to Edie (Maria Bello) and with two children. One night two armed thugs come into the cafe with the intention of robbing the place and killing the staff and other customers. Tom single handedly fends them off and kills them, which leads to him being hailed a local hero and featuring in the press. Unfortunately, the following day two strange and intimidating men turn up at the cafe calling him Joey, and clearly think that he is someone else, and that they have a score to settle with him. For a while, we don’t know whether this is a case of mistaken identity or whether they are correct. We find out the truth but I won’t reveal it here in case of spoilers. Unfortunately this leads to further problems for Tom and his family and it is up to him to keep them all safe.

This a David Cronenberg film, so highly stylised and with explicit scenes of sex and violence – worth noting if this kind of scene disturbs you. I did enjoy it, and thought Mortensen and Bello were both excellent, with Ed Harris as one of the mystery men who turn up at his cafe after his heroics make Tom famous, both charismatic and menacing.

Overall, an enjoyable way to spend a few hours although you might want to have something a little light hearted to watch afterwards as a palate cleanser!

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Very much a ‘What If?’ kind of story – actually it’s three stories.

In 1958, two Cambridge students, Eva and Jim, meet when Eva’s bicycle has a puncture. There are three different versions of this meeting, which then spin out into three different versions of the rest of their lives. The versions are told in alternating chapters, often covering the same events.

First the good – I liked Laura Barnett’s writing, and she definitely made her characters believable. I liked Eva considerably more than I liked Jim in all three versions of their story (actually, I felt she was probably too good for him and preferred each of the other men in her life – or lives – to Jim). I also liked the fact that all of the stories in their own rights felt realistic, with each having moments of happiness and hurt. The characters made good and bad decisions each time. Also the surrounding characters – their friends and of course family members – were the same throughout each version, but obviously reacting to different situations each time.

The bad – It was simply too confusing a format to properly enjoy. Not only does each chapter change to one of the other timelines, but also several years pass between chapters, so new characters are introduced without warning and I was always having remind myself who was married to who, and who the other members of their families were. I wondered at first if it was just me experiencing this problem, but having read other reviews, I saw that lots of readers felt the same way. I wish I had thought of just reading version one straight through, then going back to the beginning and doing the same with version two, then version three. Having things jumbled up meant that certain events had less impact, because no longer were they happening than you were in a different story.

I DO like ‘what if’ stories – Taylor Jenkins Reid did it very effectively in Maybe In Another Life, and I think the concept of The Versions of Us is terrific. And any of these three stories on their own would have been a good read. So despite my misgivings I would certainly try another book by this author, and would say taht even though this one didn’t quite work for me, there will no doubt be lots of people who will love it.

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Although marketed as a novel, this is really eight short stories most of which have two narrators, and all of which are linked by a writing desk. It spans decades and countries and is essentially about the secrets we hold within us, even from those closest to us, and how we often don’t know people half as much as we think we do.

Honestly, I wanted to like this so much, but I felt that I just did not end up getting it. A couple of the stores sort of held my interest, but I was bored by most of them and found them self-absorbed. It’s a shame because Nicole Krauss is obviously very capable of eloquent writing, but this felt repetitive – I get the point, there’s no need to keep repeating it – and most of the narrators had the same voice, with little to distinguish them as characters.

I need to get past the idea that once I start a book I have to finish it. Sometimes it’s okay to leave a book unread if you are not enjoying it, and I sort of wish I had with this one. I did enjoy the feeling of relief once I got to the end of it though.

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In Los Angeles in the late 1960s, brothers Billy and Graham Dunne form a rock band called The Six. At the same time, teenager Daisy Jones is discovering her identity, crashing clubs on the Sunset Strip, discovering drink and drugs, and sleeping with rock stars. She eventually becomes a singer and ends up joining The Six. The band went on to huge success and sell-out tours, until mid 1979, when they split up abruptly and without warning. Finally in this book the reasons behind their shock split are revealed.

This was the first book I read in 2022, and I think the third book I had read by this author (although the other two were audiobooks). I breezed through this one very quickly and if it wasn’t for things like eating and sleeping, I probably could have read it in one sitting!

Daisy Jones & The Six are a fictional band, but there were certainly bands like them around in the late 60s and 1970s. This book is written as a sort of interview with different band members and people around them, so the events described are sometimes told very differently by some characters, because of course memory is not always reliable and people always bring their own biases to the table. It’s a style of writing that not everybody will love, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really liked seeing the development of the band, spotting things that were happening before the characters themselves were always aware, and watching tensions arise and relationships – good and bad – forming.

Daisy was definitely what you would call a hot mess. WAY too into the alcohol and drugs, and I feared for her. The rest of the band were very relatable and believable with their own distinct personalities. My favourite character was Camila, who was not actually in the band at all but is a very important character throughout. I didn’t always agree with her choices, but she is very much a friend that someone would want to have by their side.

Anyway, a fascinating story that moves apace to keep you interested together with characters that you can really invest in even if you don’t always like them make this a great read. Perfect for kicking off this year of reading.

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