The Sinner – Part 8

USA’s The Sinner
Part 8
Directed by Tucker Gates
Written by Jesse McKeown & Tom Pabst

* For a recap & review of Part 7, click here.
Pic 1Cora (Jessica Biel), with the help of Dt. Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman), has finally remembered what happened that night, up in the cabin near the Beverwyck Club. Or at least she remembers Phoebe (Nadia Alexander) dying, Frankie (Eric Todd) trying to save her life with CPR. She still doesn’t recall the truth about the man in the mask, the syringe scars. So Harry’s digging further into the story, the club, those involved.
And still, Cora is in jail. Trying to remember what happened. She sees that masked man. Hears him: “Tell me.” When she responds with not remembering, he soothes her with a syringe and a “good girl.” Terrifying.
So, who was trying to get her to forget what happened that night? Somebody involved with J.D. surely. But who, exactly?
Pic 1AWell, when Harry tracks down a private medical clinic looking for a guy named Duffy, Daniel Burroughs, a white guy and a black there both make a run for it. Things go haywire. Duffy pulls a gun, then Officer Caitlin Sullivan (Abby Miller) puts a few shots in him. Is there more to Caitlin than we’ve been led to believe? Maybe I’m thinking too much. Either way the cops are left with half answers, seeing as how one of the men’s dead.
Who shows up at jail to see Cora? Her mother, Elizabeth (Enid Graham). Her daughter tells her about the night Phoebe died, how she met a boy, fell in love. Of course mom doesn’t want to hear any of that. Although the parents never called the police that night. Elizabeth says she heard them whisper “about Florida” and running away. But with a sick girl out there? Part of me thinks Elizabeth was happy. She’s an awful, awful woman.
In court, Cora decides to say her piece. She speaks to Frankie’s parents directly, apologising. “That is not who I am,” she weeps before telling the court about the people still out there, who held her hostage, buried her sister in the woods. However, it’s all done, anyways. She gets a minimum of 30 years in jail. Looking on, Mason (Christopher Abbott) is devastated, and Dt. Ambrose is, too.
So with our girl facing 30+ years in prison, what’s next?
One thing finally strikes me is that Harry isn’t just a masochist sexually. His job, in part, is masochism. Police work, the real stuff – not dealing with stolen BBQs like he is again, after the big case is finished – is like being in a masochistic relationship, where nothing feels good, it’s all pain. And now, returning to that regular, droning work, Harry’s truly tortured. Likewise knowing that out there are the answers to a dark puzzle, the last remaining pieces.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 1.24.07 PMMeanwhile, Cora wants Mason, her little boy to move on. He won’t have any of that, he insists they’re coming back next week, and every week after that. I love the character development in Mason, as well. He’s been amazing. Abbott really brought out the emotions of this guy, and also we see how Mason went from a sort of jealous man to a wholly devoted, understanding husband.
Harry just won’t let up, though. He goes back to that clinic, seeking more clues. This leads him to find Maddie (Danielle Burgess). She’s got a little kid now, a girl named Winter. She changed her named, all of it. A “toxic relationship” with J.D. prompted the 180-degree turn in her life. She was there at the Beverwyck that night, but claims to have left before everybody else. But this also gets the detective aiming closer in the right direction, concerning J.D’s pill business.
Suddenly Cora’s been taken somewhere. To meet Harry. In fact, it’s the Belmont home, Frankie’s parents. She goes upstairs, but nothing seems familiar. Until she’s in a room where the wall’s paint is cracking; underneath is that wallpaper, reminiscent of the dollar bill. Hiding in plain sight. The key to her trauma.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 1.34.05 PMFlashback to that infamous night. Frankie calls his father to come out to the Beverwyck. He rushes there and finds a dead Phoebe, Cora unconscious on the floor. His son explains what happened, wants to go to the hospital. Yet J.D. claims he’ll tell everyone about Frankie having sex with a sick girl, high on pills. This leaves dad and the drug dealer to deal with the body, and a very much alive Cora. They even cart the two into the woods in a trunk together. They dig a hole; in goes Phoebe. That’s exactly when Cora wakes up, seeing the abandoned bus in the trees. Frankie’s dad almost kills her before deciding on a different course of action.
So he brings her home, bloody and beat up. Mom’s involved at this point, Frankie is highly disturbed to see what’s going on. After that, Cora is kept in that room, tended to by the masked man in scrubs – dear ole dad – who dresses her wounds regularly, filling her veins with drugs to send her into oblivion. He and Mr. Lambert are still tied together by their nasty deeds, leading them deeper into business together; well, by blackmail.
When it’s time, Mr. Belmont digs into her arm with a needle, making her look like an addict. He brushes her hair, washes her, buys new clothes. A pretty good cover-up. Only now Dt. Ambrose and Cora, together, have completed the puzzle. So the truth is revealed, in that the Belmonts effectively killed their own son. When Cora confronts the father, she explains “I remember your eyes” and that she understands he did it for his son. Doesn’t make it any better.
Later in the car, Harry talks about understanding Cora, about blaming himself; just as she does. We get a bit of insight into his life, his past. “We didnt do anything,” he tells her in comfort. And finally, we take a look, briefly, at why Dt. Ambrose is who he is, a masochist, a man always trying to put himself back together. A beautiful bit of backstory in a subtle moment of dialogue.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 1.40.50 PMBack in court, things are different. “Extreme emotional disturbance” takes a murder charge down to manslaughter. Cora is ordered to a psychiatric facility, rather than prison. She’ll get therapy, some genuine counselling; she’ll get help. And her family will be able to see her more, plus now they know the truth, the devastating events which led her to that day on the beach. Only two years, then she’s free. In some ways, this has helped Harry free himself, though ultimately he’s freedom is up to him. He has to find a way of dealing with the past: either his masochism, or emotional catharsis.
My favourite part of this series is that it helps us look into the lives of women accused of murder. Sure, there are legitimate cases. But there are far too many out there, most of which are likely unknown, where women have been brutalised by men, in so many terrible ways, leading to them committing a violent, or seemingly crazy act. Only to bear the brunt of the law where previously those men against which they acted were given leniency. The Sinner‘s examination of the case of Cora Tannetti is a great template for that whole idea, representing a microcosm of a harsher reality in this 8-part series.

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The Sinner – Part 7

USA’s The Sinner
Part 7
Directed by Tucker Gates
Written by Liz W. Garcia

* For a recap & review of Part 6, click here.
* For a recap & review of the finale, Part 8, click here.
Pic 1Cora (Jessica Biel) remembers one of Phoebe’s (Nadia Alexander) birthdays, the big 19! At the dinner table, after blowing out the candles, the birthday girl has to listen to a depressing story from her mother Elizabeth (Enid Graham) about when she was born. Then Phoebe opens her present from Cora, a beautiful sun dress for the beach. Only the girl doesn’t want to hear about her being “a miracle” or anything else. She’s sure she’ll die soon. And it’s as if she’s starting to resent her older sister, rather than being her close confidant.
That night, Cora is going out. She and J.D. (Jacob Pitts) have plans to run off. Phoebe wants to go out. She effectively blackmails her way into Cora taking her. So she puts her nice dress on, sneaking out quietly while their parents are sleeping. They go to a bar together. Music plays (“We Live Underground” by Lights On), people are swarming around them. Of course J.D. is there, greasy as ever. Then he offers the girls a couple pills. Cora declines, but her sister swallows one back before anything can be done. Holy fuck. That ain’t good.
Pic 1AIn the bathroom, Maddie (Danielle Burgess) starts getting into Cora’s head more. She talks about J.D’s previous girl, a pregnancy. Apparently Mr. Grease didn’t want any part of it, so the woman committed suicide, killing herself and the baby. That is some ugly shit. Things go haywire later when they’re leaving the bar. Phoebe pees herself, so they have to pull over. She’s peaking on the ecstasy, that doesn’t help. Then she figures out her sister was going to take off with J.D. and live together.
Back in the vehicle, they wind up at that big estate out in the woods, the Beverwyck Club. And who’s inside waiting in the dark? Frankie Belmont (Eric Todd). Looks like the place is deserted, he’s broken into the place. Everyone’s drinking, still taking pills. Frankie takes Phoebe on a tour while Cora trails behind. But J.D. hauls her off, to help with business, leaving her sister upstairs. Although for now Frankie seems like a nice guy. For now. Downstairs, Cora meets Tod Richter (Gary Hilborn), a prospective business partner to whom J.D. sells drugs.
Phoebe: “Lifes too short to be good, said the dying girl who has barely lived.”
When Tod shoots up he starts groping on Cora. Luckily, Maddie shows up. But that’s when J.D. tells her to get lost, very abruptly. The darker side of his personality, though we knew it existed, begins coming out for all to see. Plus, we can tell there’s something far more sinister happening in that room. I worry, a lot. We also figure out the story Maddie told earlier about the pregnant woman? That was about her, trying to kill herself. Everything starts getting scarier when J.D. becomes forceful.
So Cora heads to look for Phoebe, whom she finds slow dancing with Frankie in the small cabin nearby on the club’s grounds. It’s a sweet moment. Little sister doesn’t want to go home. Maybe ever again. When J.D. gets there they all head to the basement. Down that staircase we saw Cora remember last episode with Dt. Ambrose (Bill Pullman).
Pic 2They relax, they drink. Creepy Tod’s there. More drugs, a bit of music. Cora lets loose a bit when her sister urges. Things get a bit freaky once the sisters kiss, then Frankie and Cora kiss. And it seems like everyone’s having a bit of youthful fun together.
Then, we hear it. The song, “Huggin and Kissin” by Big Black Delta that’s become the signifier of some trauma. On the floor, high as hell, J.D. and Cora start to nasty. On the couch, Frankie and Phoebe lay together, kissing. Everything’s getting hot and heavy, all around. Little sister finally loses her virginity. A veritable sex party going on.
Frankie: “Theres nothing bad about this heart
That all changes when Frankie’s no longer thrusting. He’s trying to give Phoebe CPR. He pushes so hard that he cracks her chest. This prompts those familiar movements, the same ones Cora did while stabbing Frankie on the beach that day. After a moment J.D. cracks the older sister with an ashtray, knocking her out.
What happens next, we can already begin piecing together. Just never saw THIS coming, exactly.
Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 1.52.54 PMWHOA. The craziest, most intense, nerve wracking episode of The Sinner! Can’t get any better than that. Really looking forward to the finale, I wonder how it’ll all play out. Surely going to be another intense chapter. I won’t get over this episode for a while.

The Sinner – Part 6

USA’s The Sinner
Part 6
Directed by Jody Lee Lipes
Written by Tom Pabst

* For a recap & review of Part 5, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 7, click here.
Pic 1Last we left Mason (Christopher Abbott), he was heading up to see ole J.D. with a gun in his hand. We find him there now, as a couple people leave the house. Afterwards, he heads in slow. There he finds the guy dead already. Further in the baby’s crying. Then Mason calls the cops, even using the cellphone from the corpse’s pocket. He wipes his prints off and leaves.
Elsewhere by the water he thinks back to an earlier time with Cora (Jessica Biel), a happier time when they were enjoying each other, enjoying the relationship. A lifetime of happiness ahead of them. A far cry from where they are at this point.
Dt. Ambrose (Bill Pullman) has stepped over the line with his masochism. His mistress cuts him off, understanding something’s changed with him after she chokes him out. Something that she says is “a whole different game.” Just another rough patch for Harry to get through. There’s a lot of ’em. Meanwhile, he has Detective Farmer (Joanna Adler) taunting him over the “spider in [his] brain” that is Cora Tannetti.
Speaking of our lady, she’s talking with her lawyer who’s advising to take a deal. The woman’s back is against the legal wall. But Cora wants to stick with Harry. The guy is fighting for her, too. He truly is, it’s just hard when he’s up against a major mystery and Dt. Farmer’s disinterest in his theories. He knows, though. He’s gradually finding out more about the private club out in the woods. The key to all the trauma.
Pic 1AGlimpses of Phoebe (Nadia Alexander), perpetually ill, and a slightly younger Cora, who’s now got a “sex life” after so much repression. She sneaks out to be with J.D. who also has Maddie (Danielle Burgess) around, jealous of him being with another woman obviously. He has the talk of a pimp, of a man who exploits women. A patronising misogynist.
Poor Mason was in the wrong place, wrong time. Now he’s got Dt. Farmer asking him questions. To his favour, hopefully, he tells the truth. Honest about carrying a weapon when he went to visit J.D. Best of all is that he saw the car the men left in, leading to the cops tracking it down. At least they’ve got clues that help Mason.
And when he goes to see his wife in prison, he admits that in part all of this is his fault, as well. He knew there was “something wrong” a long while ago. He couldn’t bring himself to find out what it was, in turn, essentially, allowing the suffering in the person he pledged his life to be with, in sickness and in health.
This renews Cora. But can she push Harry away from self-destruction? The only thing he has left just about, with his estranged wife Faye (Kathryn Erbe) done seemingly for good, is his job.
More flashes back to Phoebe in the hospital, not doing well at all. Cora goes to her sister and lays in bed with her. The only two people in the world when they’re together.
Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 1.27.55 AMHarry needs to convince the rest of the department, and a judge, that he needs to take Cora back to that club. To try dredging up repressed memories, to crack the case. Lucky for our detective he once busted the judge when she had a drink too many while driving, back in the day. So, permission granted!
Again we flashback. The slick talking pimp feeds bullshit into Cora’s head, trying to convince her that Phoebe is a “vampire” feeding of her, living vicariously through her. That they need to leave and get away. This is one of the worst things he’s done that we’ve seen so far, driving a wedge between the two sisters. I can see much more tragedy growing out of this act.
Up at the club in the forest, Harry takes Cora down to the basement. Past the staircase, into those unfinished rooms where ski masks hang on the walls, stray taxidermy left gathering dust, a little room with a computer. Yet she doesn’t feel anything’s familiar down there. A bust.
Another flashback to Cora coming home late, Phoebe upset. She wants to know everything about how J.D. touches her, kisses her. So much so she wants her sister to actually do it to her, as she’ll never experience it herself. The incest goes further than just a kiss or a fleeting touch. Fuck, that’s disturbing.
Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 1.35.39 AMOn their way back, Harry takes Cora for a pit stop. Then she wants to go back to the club, even though they’re getting late for their return. If they’re not back in time a warrant goes out automatically. Uh oh.
Up at the club he takes her in one last time. She goes into the library on her own while Harry takes a call. After that he can’t find her. She’s gone. He finally finds her at a house a little ways off from the club. She’s stuck, gazing at staircase leading down into the basement. It makes her feel physically ill.
What lies at the bottom of those stairs, in the back of her mind? She speaks the words we all want to hear: “I remember now.”
Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 1.43.29 AMHOLY JESUS, CORA! I’m blown away, I need more. Now.
Yet, Part 7 is a week away. Dying to find out the next piece of the mysterious puzzle.

The Sinner – Part 5

USA’s The Sinner
Part 5
Directed by Cherien Dabis
Written by Jesse McKeown

* For a recap & review of Part 4, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 6, click here.
Pic 1Flashback to Mason (Christopher Abbott) and Cora (Jessica Biel), when little Laine was just a baby. “Slept through the night” for the first time. The typical things parents experience together. Just as quick, we’re back to the present with Mason, his parents Ron (Robert Funaro) and Lorna (Patti D’Arbanville) helping around the house. Then comes a call.
Another flashback shows a slightly younger Cora, an older Phoebe (Nadia Alexander), as they were planning a getaway from the ruthless religious household in which they existed with their mother Elizabeth (Enid Graham). They were saving up cash, looking for apartments, trying to find Cora a man. All under their parents’ nose.
Back out at the bus in the woods, Dt. Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) looks over the human bones found nearby in the ground. Things are getting more tense in the case. He’s also got state police involved now, like it or not. He and Detective Farmer (Joanna Adler) go to question Cora together about recent developments. Only it’s all hard to explain, to anyone outside of her and Ambrose. Even he isn’t entirely sure what’s going on just yet.
Cora: “I didnt kill anybody
Farmer: “Else. You didnt kill anybody else.”
Pic 1ALooking around a ways off from the body site, Ambrose stumbles onto a piece of private property. He walks in to the gate, around it, and finds a massive estate sprawling over the land. Quite the place. He gets inside, finding a staff member at the place, getting a few answers and hopefully more to come. Wandering around he sees a bit of wallpaper that might just be the kind Cora spoke of before.
A strange twist of fate, as Cora winds up at a religious group in jail. Listening to their prayers she flashes back to being in that place, with the masked man, the wallpaper. She’s under the bed, an I.V. tipped over on the floor. “Howd you get all the way down there?” asks the masked man.
This is the theory I’ve had for some time – she was drugged, forced into prostitution. When she and Maddy escaped from that place, the latter was killed, buried out in the woods. Guaranteed. Or perhaps there are more twists and turns yet.
The Tannetti family are being ripped apart. People are spray painting their vehicles with KILLER BITCH, dumping garbage all over their lawn. Mason’s parents are fed up. He’s barely hanging on by a thread.
There’s also more going on in Ambrose’s life, too. He and Faye (Kathryn Erbe) have a marriage in a death spiral. She regrets their bit of reconciliation, feeling he’s not there even when he is physically. Back at the station, he’s being chastised for “barging in” on the club at the estate, a high profile guy there representing the place and its interests. Oh, you know some shady, fucked up shit is going on up there. YOU KNOW.
Pic 2Dt. Farmer is barging on ahead herself, without consulting Ambrose. She busts J.D’s girlfriend on the drugs, hauling her in for questioning. She’s already pursuing charges against Cora for the dead body. Well, we see that she’s also accusing our detective of being sweet on the accused. I don’t think it’s that, at all. I feel like he genuinely cares and wants to find out what happened to her, to know the truth. He’s got his issues, no doubt. He’s a brutal masochist. But a cop in love with a suspect, no sir.
They do have a connection. It’s one of trust. She calls him, wondering if she ought to take the latest offer. However, he wants her to hold on, so he can chase down his lead on the club.
On the street, Mason’s father is beaten by J.D. with a baseball bat. Holy shit. Then we cut back to see Cora when she first meets J.D. on a dark road, ironically helping her out of a bad jam with a potentially creepy dude. After that it’s off to a house party together. Immediately he’s working his charm, pretending he wants to get to know her. A very Manson-esque personality. All brings us to her losing her virginity to him.
That night when she got home there’s a scene. Mom calls her a “whore” while Phoebe is hyperventilating, worrying over her big sister. Quick cut back to the present, as Dt. Farmer grills Cora about J.D. and the found skeleton. Meanwhile, Ambrose is back up at the club poking around, he finds a staircase leading to the basement; looks familiar, only without the wallpaper. Further in are masks hung on the wall in the dark, ones we can recognise easily.
But can Harry break the case wide open before Farmer uses her fake sympathy on Cora to make a deal? Our girl’s not having any of it. What’s worse is that Mason is heading for J.D. with a gun in hand. Both of Laine’s parents might be in jail soon. Uh oh.
Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 1.56.49 AMEvery episode of The Sinner is heavy as hell. New things come to light with each chapter, the darkness gets deeper and scarier, the emotions more intense. Part 6 is next week, and I don’t know how they’ll top this one. Although I say this every week.

The Sinner – Part 4

USA’s The Sinner
Part 4
Directed by Brad Anderson
Written by Liz W. Garcia

* For a recap & review of Part 3, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 5, click here.
Pic 1Mason (Christopher Abbott) is in the box with Detectives Dan Leroy (Dohn Norwood) and Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman). Juxtaposed against the mysterious J.D. in there with them later. We go back and forth between the two men, as well as get a look at more sexual moments between J.D. and Cora (Jessica Biel), years before. Eerie stuff.
Flashback to younger Cora and Phoebe. They talk about boys, the “shameless harlot” across the street. All the while the older sister doesn’t want to even so much as sin in thought, let alone do anything physical in real life. Strange to see the sick little sister be more sexually aware than her big sister. They slowly dip into another world, one that’s been locked away from them a long time. They also discover the other world of their father, sneaking out at night to go sleep with another woman.
With Dt. Ambrose we watch Cora going back through old memories. Fourth of July, leaving with J.D. and going to someone else’s house, having sex, taking drugs. After that’s a blank spot. Two months later, she’s in a detox centre. The mystery is continually whipped into a new whirlwind.
Pic 1AHarry’s trying to figure out how to unlock the memories Cora is holding close, unconsciously. She can’t figure it out, either. So he’s trying anything and everything, including looking into recovered memory therapy in order to draw out the key to her secrets. At the same time, Mason’s watching his wife suffer, trying to be supportive while worrying she’ll do hard time in jail. He doesn’t like her talking to the cops, though Harry in particular might be the only hope she has left.
And of course the cop’s got his own personal shit going on, trying to reconnect with Faye (Kathryn Erbe), out eating together at a restaurant they’ve frequented before, in happier and more tragic times, too. Sort of bittersweet. They lost a child years ago, something which obviously impacted them both hard.
The recovered memory therapy commences. Cora goes into a deep mental state, guided along as she attempts to dive into her mind; this is visually represented as she closes her eyes, stepping into a vast lake. She goes back to a “hopeless” memory of her standing in a forest, disoriented, the night before July 4th. Then she goes through the other moments. She remembers J.D’s ex Maddy, who doesn’t like her. Maybe they planned on doing something to her. Simultaneously, she jumps to a memory of being a little girl, the bus barrelling past her as if she doesn’t even exist.
But she gets back to July 4th weekend. Cora and Maddy have words, the former seeming very unstable. The women hate each other, specifically Cora who has strong hatred for her. Violent hatred. Uh oh. Continually the plot gets thicker. Armed with the new memory, which includes J.D. siphoning gas to get home that night, Dt. Ambrose tries narrowing down the area where the trio went after the bar.
Pic 2Closer and closer Mason inches towards J.D. He goes to his place to buy coke, pretending to be an acquaintance. When the girlfriend figures out Mason isn’t who he claims, he leaves. I’m worried about him, he’s getting brazen. I know he wants to find out what happened to his wife, naturally. But to the detriment of his own health, maybe his life? Surely there’s more shady things happening behind the scenes we don’t yet know about. At least he’s got Caitlin (Abby Miller). That’s wearing thin, though. We get more of their history, they had sex and then he ignored her. He brings her the drugs he bought, and it pisses her off. “You use people,” she tells him.
Flashback to young Cora. She makes an eager move on a boy across the street, exploring her sexuality out in the shed with him. Later, she goes up to fill Phoebe in about her “two orgasms” and the rest of her sexual encounter. What we’re seeing is how a stuffy religious upbringing, so strict and medieval is a fast way to drive kids towards the things you’re trying to steer them away from.
Present day, Cora heads back into the waters of memory. Dancing with Maddy, stoned. Then later they’re in the woods, terrified. Search lights shine through the trees. A gunshot goes off. “Theyre hunting us,” Cora tells Dt. Ambrose and the doctor. Fragments of memories. Maddy calls her towards a basement. The song from the beach that day plays loud. Naked bodies everywhere. The black wallpaper imagery returns, as Cora goes down a set of stairs. Followed by a shocking moment that looks like Maddy being stabbed in the chest. The masked man from the end of Part 3.
A flashback shows young Cora beg her father not to go next door, knowing he’s heading there to cheat on his wife. Realising the fragility and weakness of men, that sex is all they consider.
On a walk together, Faye and Harry come to a significant place. One he’s been hoping to find. Using the water tower image from Cora’s memories, he likewise finds a school bus. Perhaps those fragmented memories might’ve been pointing to something subconscious. Near the bus is also what looks like a possible grave. Sure enough, below the dirt they find skeletal remains.
Pic 3Every episode makes the mystery more compelling, it’s hard to ever be sure of what’ll come next. Amazing to watch unfold. Never imagined the series would be playing out the way it is now.
Part 5 will surely give us something else shocking, wild, disturbing. So many elements locked together in one box.

The Sinner – Part 3

USA’s The Sinner
Part 3
Directed by Antonio Campos
Written by Derek Simonds

* For a recap & review of Part 2, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 4, click here.
Pic 1Cora (Jessica Biel) lies in bed, in jail, dreaming of home. She later talks with a psychologist, who takes her back through old memories of being 13. She’s asked what she’d tell herself, back then. She replies: “Run.”
Out on a trek, in a stark juxtaposed shot from the inside of Cora’s cell, Dt. Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) and his semi-estranged wife Faye (Kathryn Erbe) are hiking, and he is sweating it out fierce. At the station, he’s not entirely thrilled with the psych report, as it doesn’t seem out of whack. He’s wondering about the song that played on the beach, the one which triggered the exact identical response in the interrogation room with her. Psych says it’s possibly linked to PTSD.
Harry: “So, shes somewhere else, and shes stabbing someone else.”
At home, Mason (Christopher Abbott) is continually dealing with the fallout, the media attention. His wife calls, asking to see their boy. She’s in a bad space, though the father doesn’t sound averse to bringing him to see his mom. One ray of light in the life of Cora. Only that doesn’t turn out so well, once Mason doesn’t bring their child to see her, realising this could and likely will be a long, difficult road. After finding out things from the cops about her former life.
Harry goes to see the Laceys, adopted family of Cora – Elizabeth (Enid Graham) and William. They say she ran away five years, about the Fourth of July, a day before. Of course mom calls the girl selfish, so on. Sick little Phoebe died only weeks after Cora ran off. It’s obvious just from being around them something wasn’t right between the two adopted parents and Cora.
Note: We keep getting the wallpaper imagery, and now we’re going deeper inside. A great visual representation of going deeper into the walls of a home, discovering what’s actually inside as opposed to whatever it might look like on the outside.
Pic 1AWe see more of Cora having nightmares. Terrible ones. She loses her mind in the night, having a dream of a woman telling a man to “give her another hit” and then someone steps right down on Cora’s chest, it cracks. As guards come to subdue her, she pleads they don’t put anything in her arm. When they pull up her sleeve they see the dried, cracking wounds of an old injection site, a veritable crater. Same goes for her other one, too.
Before Cora met her husband, after she left home, she got hooked on heroin. But there’s a deeper story. And Dt. Ambrose is going to get digging. He finds out something else, that Cora had a new visitor recently: Margaret Lacey (Rebecca Wisocky), the cool aunt. Seems Cora disappeared a long while, then showed up at a detox centre. Elizabeth refused to have a “whore” and a “degenerate” living with her, so aunt Mags took her. Yet she blames herself for ignoring the “signs” of something larger wrong. Like a large, jagged scar on the top of Cora’s head, one her aunt never discovered the story behind.
Quick flashes to the old Lacey home, Cora as a teenager. Dad isn’t happy sharing a room with his daughter, so long. There’s many nasty things going on beneath the curtains here. So then dad takes sick Phoebe, transplanting her back into the room with Cora, where the two girls eye each other with a strange emotion running like a current between them. Afterwards, they have an awkward discussion. And Phoebe, for the one slowly dying, is surprisingly more free than her sister, knowing about sex, even reading a stashed magazine she took from the hospital.
The further Harry gets into the details, the more he sees a sort of spiralling abyss into which he’s falling. Someone named Caleb Walker brought Cora into the rehab facility several years before. It also didn’t look like she was a regular junkie, she was clean, wearing new clothes. Strange, no? Meanwhile, Harry’s got himself a problem. He might be fixing things up with his wife, but he’s still hooked on his dominatrix lover; she purposely spills oranges in a grocery store, watching him as he dutifully picks it up.
Pic 2More flashes back to the past. Elizabeth finds the magazine from the girls’ room, and so Cora takes the blame, admitting to her apparent sins. “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned,” she and her adopted mom pray together, kneeling painfully on a line of dry white rice (at least that’s what it looks like) in penance. It’s the little sister who later must try getting through to the older, to show her all this religious stuff is bullshit. That’s when the two bond mischievously over makeshift communion, wine and crackers, lying on the floor next to the crucifix together. Interesting to see how the young would choose to worship Jesus over how the older, more foolish deem it necessary to be afraid of God, to be scared of his power. These two merely tell Christ they love him, caressing his wounds.
Phoebe: “Cora, God doesnt listen.”
Sitting around with people at home, Harry has to listen to other people talk about their perceptions of Cora’s case, from what they know in the media. One guy’s pontificating too hard for his liking, so he gets a bit mouthy. That night he and Faye try connecting physically again.
Mason is still looking for J.D. and he’s tracked him to a bar. They wind up in a bit of a fight after the guy’s nonchalant about the whole ordeal. This puts the cops on Mason, luckily Caitlin Sullivan (Abby Miller) helps as much as she can, what little she can.
Back at prison, Harry brings in the tools of the trade, asking Cora to show him how she shot up heroin. Except it seems she doesn’t know much about the process, really. So, what exactly happened to her back then? Was someone force feeding her the drug? Oh, I’d bet on that. She barely remembers the two months she was gone; “fragments,” she tells Dt. Ambrose.
Pic 3Was Cora forced into prostitution? It seems like an almost human trafficking-type scenario, a pimp plying her with heroin to sell her off. I can’t help believe it’ll never be so simple; ugly, but not simple. We get a last flash, of that room with the black wallpaper, a man in a strange mask, kind of like a ski mask, and he asks: “How are you feeling today, Cora?”
Pic 4Whoa, this episode – like the one preceding – blew the lid off my expectations. There’s so much more to this story than I ever thought. Can’t get enough of the mystery, plus the well drawn characters like Harry Ambrose, who make the picture that much more complete. I’m frothing for the next episode! Part 4 is next week.

The Sinner – Part 2

USA’s The Sinner
Part 2
Directed by Antonio Campos
Written by Derek Simonds

* For a recap & review of Part 1, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 3, click here.
Pic 1After the surprising, devastating first episode, The Sinner continues as Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) faces the court after committing a brutal and spontaneous murder on the beach. She pleads “guilty” and prepares on facing the consequences of her actions. Detectives Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) and Dan Leroy (Dohn Norwood) watch on, as does the terrified husband Mason (Christopher Abbott). Now, Cora’s ordered to psychological testing, to see if she’s fit to stand trial.
After the court adjourns, Mason comes across a police officer he knows from back in the day in school, Caitlin Sullivan (Abby Miller). He tries getting info out of her, but she’s too professional for that. Inside, his wife gets a visit from Dt. Ambrose, who knows that she knows the man she killed, Frankie Belmont. Although she denies it. However, it’s like she’s resigned herself to being guilty. As if she believes she’s guilty, knowing something more than she lets on.
Flashback to her life as a girl. Her father rants and raves about not being able to sleep in his own bed. Clearly, their love life has suffered because of their sick child. Meanwhile, dad looks to be sleeping in bed with one of the other daughters, young Cora (Jordana Rose), only eight. And there’s something not quite right about it, either. Christ. So much ugliness in her past that’s yet to be uncovered.
Pic 1ADt. Ambrose keeps on trying to suss out the truth. He talks to Frankie’s wife, Leah (Teri Wyble). Apparently the husband once told his friends about a girl with whom he had a relationship, something tragic happened. They had an “intense connection” but the girl was damaged. Later, an accident nearly ruined his whole life. Hmm, all about five years prior. This is interesting, ramps up the mystery to a serious degree. The intrigue’s already high, but now my Spidey senses are TINGLING!
Flashback to Mason first meeting Cora, the latter waiting tables in a nice little place. They talk a bit, he chats her up. After she’s off they go for a stroll together, getting to know one another, the usual first meet/date type of thing. It’s cute. Very sharp juxtaposition against where we are now. What this does is show us their connection, particularly we see why Mason’s so torn up. It isn’t like she wound up a serial killer. This sudden outburst of violence in her life is totally inexplicable to him, so to see their beginnings as a couple is kind of poignant.
We get a look at some of Dt. Ambrose’s rocky relationship with his wife (Kathryn Erbe). They go to therapy, but the separation between them is shocking. Not entirely surprising, still shocking. He’s not exactly the doting husband, having left her in the hospital once to go spray his plants at home. Even when she calls him out on it he’s poised to argue rather than admit he fucked up. Typical man blinded by his own bullshit.
Another flashback to young Cora, her aunt Margaret (Rebecca Wisocky) leaving a treat with her before leaving. They’re all together in vigil for her little sister Phoebe, sick, frail. We see the first semblance of a second life for Cora. Aunt Peg gives her a Delicieux chocolate bar, a little treat she takes to a secret hiding place. Where she’s got other items most likely from her aunt. She stashes them, so nobody will find her special items. Sort of how she’s stashed away all the secrets of her previous live, so deep down and in the dark that even her husband has no idea what’s gone on.
Those closest to her, then and now, they don’t truly know Cora.
Pic 2In the interrogation room, Harry gets Cora to start talking. She met Frankie in a bar five years ago on the “Fourth of July,” though he went by a different name, J.D. They took some pills, drank, dance. The song she heard on the beach that day is the one he used to play endlessly. They had sex, of course. A couple weeks later? Pregnant. She panicked, not even having Frankie’s phone number. So then she finds out he gave her a fake name.
And she stepped in front of a car on the road. No longer pregnant, banged the fuck up in the hospital, she was still clinging – for a while – her religious upbringing. Before realising God’s shit. Cut to five years later, she stabs Frankie to death on the beach. All good, right? Well, Harry doesn’t seem convinced. Not yet.
Flashback to Cora and her mom Elizabeth (Enid Graham). The little girl kneels in the yard in the middle of the night, praying to God for her sister. The recurring theme is religious fanaticism. Mom found the stash, the chocolate bar. She says “one bite” could mean God will decide to let Phoebe die. Holy fuck. It’s like everything wrong with Cora’s sister is blamed on her, in some way. A life of having sin heaped upon her, sin that isn’t her own.
Another flash to Mason and Cora in bed together, what looks like their first time. Or at least the first time Mason is about to go down on her and she almost cracks his neck in half, squeezing her thighs around his throat. When he asks what happened, she replies: “I dont know.” Although we know, at least in part. There’s a terrifying trauma in there somewhere.
Caitlin, talking to Mason, lets slip bits of the story concerning his wife and Frankie, the secret history. Naturally, it rocks him. All the while Dt. Ambrose continues combing through evidence, to find a better answer. He goes to Carl’s Taproom, where Cora met Frankie. The bartender remembers her, though confirms a different man than Frankie being with her, also mentioning she was extremely drunk. Might be possible something non-consensual happened that night. Cora is absolutely not telling the whole truth.
The big news? Harry gets over to Frankie’s parents place. Turns out, their boy wasn’t even on the same coast as Cora that Fourth of July. Oh, shit. Moreover, the cops are coming up with more lies she’s told. They have to dig much, much deeper.
Pic 3Another flashback to young Cora, her mom, sick little Phoebe. “Youre not doing your part,” the hideous mother says. She makes Cora tell her sister she isn’t better because she’s “a sinner” and took the chocolate bar. This poor little girl grew up having to bear the brunt of all the supposed sins her parents blamed on her. That could really fuck a girl up.
Ambrose: “The truth is my job
In the interrogation room Harry presses Cora harder than before. He’s getting pissed off about her lying. He even puts on the song she heard that day. You can see by the look in her eyes it dredges up horrible memories. Finally, she jumps on top of the detective, pounding him and screaming: “Im gonna kill you!” WHOA.
Mason comes to see his wife. He mentions J.D. and knowing him before they met. He’s also getting pissed. The person he pledged to love in sickness and in health won’t tell him the truth. This sends him off looking for J.D. in any place he can think, old buddies from his younger days. Uh oh. I feel something bad coming.
There’s also a tenderness we see in Harry, after he and his wife start their reconciliation. While they eat dinner a bird flies into their patio door. He picks it up, nurturing the bird and helping it fly once more. Not long later he also has an epiphany about Cora. She smashed him on the chest in specific places. Right where she stabbed Frankie. And she hit Harry the same amount of times she stabbed him, too. A pattern. She’s subconsciously repeating that pattern. I assume it’s got something to do with what happened to her as a girl.
But there’s really no telling. Cora is an enigma, wrapped in a mindfuck. Who knows what the key will be to unlock all her mysteries.
Pic 4Pic 4AHonestly, the first episode was good! Enough to get me into the whole concept. This episode blew me out of the water. I never expected the twists that came here, nor the final little revelation Harry has about the wounds. Interested for Part 3. So much dark, dangerous stuff to explore.

James White: Burden, Childishness, Disease, and Love Everlasting

James White. 2015. Directed & Written by Josh Mond.
Starring Christopher Abbott, Cynthia Nixon, Scott Mescudi, Ron Livingston, Makenzie Leigh, David Call, David Cale, Benjamin Brass, Lori Burch, Scott Cohen, Adriana DeGirolami, Jeanette Dilone, David Harris, Rosemary Howard, & Sue Jean Kim. BorderLine Films/Relic Pictures.
Rated R. 85 minutes.
Drama

★★★★
POSTER
Producer Josh Mond has been behind a few really excellent films such as Martha Marcy May MarleneAfterschool, and others, as well as the upcoming Christine (not a Carpenter remake). His first feature film, James White, is a little flawed, but overall an honest, raw look at the life of a New York City Millenial stuck in a brutal situation between trying to reign in his own childish behaviour and taking care of his very sick mother, all after the death of his father. In a day and age where many young people are starting to deal with the death of parents, just as every generation has before them, this is certainly a film with huge impact.
Often the battle against cancer is portrayed in an almost romanticized way. Many movies will show the devoted individuals caring for their sick loved ones as unabashed caregivers, noble, nearly saint-like. Instead of the cliched, emotionally manipulative picture many mainstream Hollywood movies paint, James White is the portrait of a young man, imperfect and stubborn, whose life is upended. He becomes caretaker to his mother while also trying to discern his own place in the world. Along the way we watch his destructive self unfolding in the emotional massacre of his life. There are portions of this film that are genuinely sweet and beautiful. Still, the ugly side of love in a time of disease is on display to make sure the honest truth never slips from our memory.
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The center of this film, above its gritty real life feel, are the two major performances from Cynthia Nixon and Christopher Abbott. I mean, honestly, this doesn’t have to be your cup of tea. Although, if it doesn’t move you there may be parts of your insides made of concrete. Immediately we’re drawn into the reality of this story because of cinematographer Mátyás Erdély (Son of SaulMiss Bala), his natural feeling lens hooks the eye. We’re able to drop into the perspective of the main character James because the camera follows closely behind him, near him, hovering over his shoulders constantly. So once we’re put in that position, Abbott’s talent further pierces us. He is enigmatic, and at the same time upfront. He’s enigmatic because there are things he’s not saying, leaving below the surface, as the drinking problem and everything else, his bravado, masks what’s truly going on. Simultaneously, the camera lets him be upfront because we see his darkest moments. And under all that machismo, there’s a sensitive part which eventually breaks through those barriers. Abbott is able to give us all the aspects of James that makes him interesting. They’re not always easy to watch, nor are they enjoyable. Sometimes you want to smack him and scream into his entitled face. But always, always he is able to command your attention with a brave, truthful performance.
Added to Abbott is the fantastic(ally underrated) Nixon. Her performance is even more exceptional, simply because of the condition she portrays. Her character, Gail, is often difficult, though loving, and many other opposites. Because the disease is ravaging her. It’s the way she shows us the disease which is powerful. It will stop you, freeze your eyes to the screen. One in particular sees her unable to speak, as she says later her brain couldn’t get the words to her mouth, and that moment between her and James is extraordinarily gripping. You’ll almost want to hold your breath.
Ultimately, the two performances together, the relationship between James and his mother, this is what drives the film. I love the look and feel of it all, but these are what makes the whole thing worth it. The threat of cancer and disease is something we all know, and if not yet then someday soon. It touches everybody. To examine the issues – such as how a child might end up having to totally care for a sick parent in an event like James experiences – can really turn heartbreaking. And no doubt, James White both character and film will break your heart to pieces.
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A major aspect of why this movie is intense lies in the decision to look at how a young man out of the Millenial Generation is forced to cope with a parent dying. There are so many dumb think-pieces in the media these days, so many ridiculous opinions about the younger generations today, that we’re often forced into believing there are no serious issues at stake for Millenials – and so you know, I just barely fall into this category being born in 1985. With an intensely emotional screenplay by director-writer Mond, this movie allows us a window into a microcosm of that generation. Left with one parent, whose time is numbered due to cancer, James is confronted with trying to make dreams into reality. He’s a struggling young man that wants to be a writer, though circumstances in his life throw him into complete chaos. In an already bad economy, being a writer is a tough life decision; one I know all too well personally, being a writer (I don’t only write reviews). With his father gone, his mother on the way out, he’s almost got a limited amount of time to construct his life. And with so much time spent being there for his mother, he’s had no time to concentrate on getting himself better, he has neglected his best interests. While there’s a noble aspect to that, he is left with a gaping abyss ahead of him, and with no one there to help guide him.
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This is a film about cancer, the effects it brings down upon those caring for a sick loved one. It also comes at a time where people in their twenties can relate. Because even as the older generations start to die out (Gail here is not particularly old though) and make way in a sense for the younger ones, there is an element of loss, aside from personal loss, because now we are the ones left to guide the way forward, to steer the future. And like in the case of James, not everyone is ready for the burden.
Absolutely a 4-star experience, from the cinematography and its hyperreal atmosphere, to the directing and the screenplay from Josh Mond. Hopefully Mond will go on to do more directing, apart from his great track record as producer. He is talented, and the personal nature of his writing shines through, even if things are grim, uncertain throughout. James White is difficult but necessary cinema in many ways. Aside from its raw look at something which affects us all, this film really speaks to a passing of the torch, willingly or not, from parents to children. And the torch will pass, no matter if its ugly, or if it passes silently in bed during the night.