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.


Top of the Lake – China Girl: Episode 2

BBC Two’s Top of the Lake
China Girl: Episode 2
Directed by Ariel Kleiman
Written by Jane Campion & Gerard Lee

* For a recap & review of Episode 1, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 3, click here.
Pic 1Flashback to the day Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) is meant to be married. That very day Johnno is arrested by the police. So they have the ceremony through the bars of his cell. Problem is Johnno was out having a bit of fun with a young blonde in the woods when he was picked up. His bride-to-be knows it, too. So the rumours of her walking away on her wedding day aren’t entirely true as others now see it. She walked away. Because of him and his untrustworthy cock, his unfaithful mind. Heartbreaking, considering all they went through up to that point. But not entirely unforeseen. Don’t forget, he let horrible things happen to her when they were young, in love. She took him back after all that, yet he was willing to throw it all away.
This sent Robin off, away from home. There’s nothing left, really. So why stay? Tui, everyone else, they’re moving on. And in present day, not long later, she and Constable Miranda Hilmarson (Gwendoline Christie) are facing a horrific, misogynistic murder. A young Chinese girl, Cinnamon, washed up on the beach. We know she worked at Silk 41, a brothel at least in part run by Alexander ‘Puss’ Braun (David Dencik).
Not only the crime reeks of misogyny. The cops both Robin and Miranda deal with are full of that shit, which they only take because this garbage world forces women to choose either their pride or their job in too many situations. The “China girl” is nearly unrecognisable in her decomposition. Robin begins uncovering whatever possible, along with the medical examiner. Strangulation is a possible cause of death. It’s early, but Puss is a clear front runner suspect. On top of that, Cinnamon was pregnant with a little boy; “1720 weeks” is the estimate. Double murder. Whoa.
Pic 1AThe great thing about Top of the Lake is it takes the whole damaged police officer angle and turns that concept on its head. We never get to see such a fragile, wounded cop played by a woman, at least not often, and certainly not this well written. A woman’s perspective is illustrated with such depth here, unafraid of getting dark, dangerous, not scared of exploring territory on the edges of morality. At times it’s almost suffocating: what I imagine it’s like to be a woman, day in, day out, unfortunately.
Sussing out to the crime offers nothing any more positive. The male police haven’t a clue. Meanwhile, Robin’s got a better grasp on sexual assault and other sex-related crimes, as well as a personal understanding of it in her own traumatised past. She’s tough, smart; usually the smartest one in the room, if not a bit stubborn at times. Her character’s great to take the journey with, especially now with her sniffing around her daughter Mary (Alice Englert), wanting to make contact. If even just for one conversation. Juxtaposed with the lost and lonely girls forced into prostitution amongst the brothels, Robin doesn’t want her daughter to wind up damaged because of her bloodline baggage.
The lads at the coffee shop, Brett (Lincoln Vickery) and the others, continue on trying to one-up each other over foolish chauvinist nonsense. Brett starts to worry, though. He sees the report about the Asian girl found on the beach. The rest of the idiots are full-on misogynists, casual woman haters masquerading as nerds wanting to get laid. But Brett seems a bit different. He loves Cinnamon, the fact she may be dead is too much for him to bear. He goes to Silk 41 hoping she’ll be there. Of course she’s not. I wonder if Brett is the father of that unborn child, or Puss, or someone else. So goddamn tragic.
Puss and Brett meet at the brothel. The pimp’s not entirely thrilled to hear he’s “in love” with Cinnamon. You can tell there’s something not right with Puss. He knows something, whether he’s the murderer he knows SOMETHING.
Pic 2We all look the same to you
At work, Robin gets a call about the letter she left at the Edwards place. They’ve agreed to meet. Simultaneously she and Constable Hilmarson are tracking down leads on Cinnamon, where she may have worked, in a brothel or otherwise. They get a bit of help, though surely it’ll be a tangled web to unravel. Thus begins their dive into interviewing women around the various brothels and sex dens in the city. This brings her directly to the women with whom we recently saw Brett talking, the very place where Cinnamon worked at Silk 41.
One of the disheartening things we see – not that most of us didn’t know – and watch Robin learn, is how so many men frequent brothels, all types, even the sort you’d never expect. More of the underlying casual misogyny that overtakes our society.
Robin goes to meet Pyke (Ewen Leslie) and Julia Edwards (Nicole Kidman) for the first time. Naturally they’re a bit sceptical, particularly the adoptive mother. They sit together, to talk about things before Mary’s brought into the situation. Doesn’t help that the Edwards’ are fractured with Julia going lesbian, their relationship crumbling. But Julia levels with Robin, about how difficult the daughter’s been. She also scolds the birth mother, for not replying to Mary’s letter. Blaming her for all the problems. Saying the girl is “violent” at times. Just a rough first experience together.
Luckily, Pyke is laid back. Perhaps a bit too much, though it helps when he and Robin talk together. He’s more willing to listen. Funny how Julia is such a feminist, yet her fierceness in adoptive motherhood blinds her to the possible reasons for Robin having to give Mary up, whereas Pyke actually bothers to listen. He thinks it’s necessary for the daughter and her biological mother to meet.
Could it quell the fire burning inside the girl? Or will it drive her further into her rebellion?
Pic 3Later, Robin gets a call from Mary. They agree to meet one another. In a restaurant they meet: “I believe we share a gene pool,” the girl starts off with a funny quip. Although I think she’s insane for being with Pussy, there’s a maturity about Mary. The way she talks is very adult, and direct, too. It’s an awkward meeting, though the girl seems happy enough to be there with her mother. She goes on about getting married to Puss, which Robin questions, knowing the darkness of men and the vulnerability of young women amongst such horrific predators. One thing’s certain, Mary also understands her real mother, she knows there are reasons why women make the choices they do, it isn’t always selfishness like society (and men) wish to believe. Mom levels with her girl about being raped by three men. This is why she couldn’t bear to keep her child; the ugly story of far too many women.
The medical examiner calls Robin – the fetus’ DNA doesn’t match that of China girl. Very, very odd. What could it mean? Robin figures it out: “Shes a surrogate.” Oh, my. This changes everything.
Pic 4What a fucking killer follow-up to the first episode of Season 2. Lord, is it ever good, this return to Top of the Lake. Really rounds out Robin’s character while offering up such new, exciting, dark, wild things.

Preacher – Season 2, Episode 5: “Dallas”

AMC’s Preacher
Season 2, Episode 5: “Dallas”
Directed by Michael Morris
Written by Philip Buiser

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Viktor” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Sokosha” – click here
Pic 1So Jesse (Dominic Cooper) just found out Viktor (Paul Ben-Victor) is Tulip O’Hare’s (Ruth Negga) husband. He’s got the guy in the torture room, too. He even uses Genesis to get who he thought was his lady out of the room. As she reminds him of “Dallas” and asking if he wants to “go there again.” Hinting at a dark, dark place in the preacher’s former life.
Flashback to Dallas, several months after that botched robbery and Tulip’s botched pregnancy in the wake of it. Jesse lives sort of washed up, his friend literally rolling joints out of the Bible’s pages and Tulip using the Bible to prop open the window. A far cry from where we first met Custer in Annville. We see the couple trying to get away from living the criminal life. At the same time, we see that Viktor was one of the jobs they were being offered; looks like Tulip went behind her man’s back, did a job when she pretended with him they were out. Wound up with a husband. Shiiiiet.
Pic 1AI mean, normal life doesn’t suit either of them. Not Tulip, and certainly not Jesse who looks wholly miserable without a bit of criminality in his existence. But there’s also the fact they were both on different wavelengths. She likely didn’t want to jump right back into conceiving a child after just losing one, whereas he seemed to feel the only way to get past it, to get over the loss was to replace the child now gone.
At Denis’ place, Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) gets a surprise when Tulip shows up with her stepdaughter Allie, while dad and the preacher are getting acquainted for the worse. It’s an awkward situation. Although the vamp does his best to entertain. He also feels responsible for letting Jesse loose, so he goes in hopes of talking sense into his buddy.
But I ain’t so sure the man’s willing to listen. He wants to hurt Viktor, to kill him. He’s still got him strung up in that torture room. Taking his sweet time. Viktor reminds him, though, how HE was the hell from which Tulip crawled to New Orleans, to Viktor. A constant, repetitive living hell of sex, drinking, fucking to get pregnant. Why wouldn’t she want to get away? Who can really blame her? Makes sense she loves him, after all their time together.
She surely felt conflicted, having to go through the motions over and over. Just the same as what we’ve seen in actual hell, with Eugene (Ian Colletti) and Hitler (Noah Taylor) and the bunch: living your worst day, from morning to night; exactly what Tulip was experiencing.
Pic 2It all broke down when Jesse stumbles across something stuffed in a vent at home: a bag filled with cash. She’s been working their old contracts again, after lasting only three weeks at her real estate job. She isn’t made for the straight life. He isn’t, either. But he didn’t realise that. However, we also see Tulip’s been lying, taking birth control without telling him. That’s a bit sad, though again: her life’s been shit. Still, I can’t help feeling they’ve both done each other wrong. Plus there’s the fact Jesse beats his friend in anger, terribly, showing off that dark temper we can already see is inside him lurking.
Cassidy gets over to Viktor’s place, where he and Jesse can have a chat together. He tells a story from “years ago” when he was rich, before telling his friend he’s an idiot, that Tulip loves him and not the man she went and married. But the preacher rejects the vamp’s affection, his too-late honesty. Feeling Cassidy is trying to be “a hero” to stop him from doing what he wants to do. Jesse doesn’t trust the “lying, junkie vampire.” For his part the vamp lays it bare and honest, sympathising, and assures his friend he’s with him, thick and thin. Regardless of what he decides to do to Viktor.
Cassidy: “No more Jesse Custer and Tulip? Please. Some thingsll never change.”
Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 12.56.08 AMSo what does he do?
He lets Viktor go, and goes back to Denis’ place with the vamp and Tulip. He chose to go with divorce papers rather than a nasty murder. All the same it feels like Cassidy was hoping his words would’ve pushed the preacher into killing Viktor, possibly ruining things with Tulip. Maybe, not sure. He’s clearly in love with the woman.
Tulip: “This is Americanut up or get out!”
We see Tulip, back with Viktor. Supposedly happy, not taking on jobs. Only until she found out more info on Carlos. Despite not acting too emotional over the past while, soon as she hears word on Carlos, the memories flooded back. And she disappeared into thin air on Viktor.
Speaking of Viktor, he’s home and paranoid after the preacher’s craziness. Prepared for anything that comes next. Except for the Saint of Killers (Graham McTavish), whose quest for the preacher continues and the trail left by the use of Genesis still warm. Viktor’s killed, but little Allie is willing to reveal where Jesse is, how to get there. Uh oh. They’re in for another chase soon.
Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 1.09.42 AMLoved this one, filled in bits of backstory for Tulip and Jesse that I was hoping to see sooner than later. The writing in this series is great, because the characters come through so subtly, even without some of the flashbacks. Yet those moments give life to the actions, reactions, emotions of Jesse and Tulip in present day after seeing what they’ve been through. “Sokosha” is next week, looking forward to a bit of action as the Saint of Killers is hot on the gang’s trail.

Peaky Blinders – Season 1, Episode 2

BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 1, Episode 2
Directed by Otto Bathurst
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of the Season 1 premiere, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 3, click here.
Pic 1Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and the lads are out to the countryside, headed to the fair after a bit of business with Johnny Dogs (Packy Lee), a Gypsy fellow. He’s there to see about a horse. They do a coin toss, and Tom wins. Then a few boys laugh at Arthur (Paul Anderson), which doesn’t sit well with him. “Their grandad was a King,” Dogs says. Before one of the men calls Tommy’s mother a whore. Thus a few blades in the caps are put to good use. No one’s gonna pull that shit on the Shelbys. They’re good fighters, too. Even without the dirty stuff I’m sure they’d come out on top. Each of has a go, from Tommy to Arthur to John (Joe Cole).
Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill) is readying the force to hit the streets. This is a man with purpose, dangerous in his own right. They start shaking down people in every flat looking for Communists. In one, Freddie Thorne (Iddo Goldberg) and Ada (Sophie Rundle) make love. They run on the rooftops to make away before they’re found and who knows what happens to him for his beliefs. But the cops find a prescription belonging to the Shelby girl; sister to “those Peaky Blinders devils.”
Pic 1ACampbell talks with Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory), who’s busy lighting candles in church for dead soldiers. He’s an intimidating man. He puts hands on her, then she lays a kiss on his lips; this intimidates him. He couldn’t possibly handle a strong woman like her. Meanwhile, the Inspector is looking for more than Communists, he wants to find what was misplaced. And he needs to talk to Tommy.
They’re all on high alert with him sniffing about, as Tommy and Polly discuss the guns Campbell is looking to find. These two have a tenuous relationship, not entirely friendly, not exactly antagonistic on either side. Still, Tom’s got his hand on the pulse. Whether any of the others like it is different business. He does things his way.
Big bonfire using pictures of the King. Around the flame, Tommy tells a journalist about it all. How they’re taking down the King in order that he doesn’t see what’s being done to them in their own home, how they’re mistreated and abused and the coppers are taking liberties.
The Inspector receives a phone call from none other than Winston Churchill (Andy Nyman). He’s heard word of the reporter at the bonfire, “the Kings likeness” being burned. He doesn’t want anybody arrested, no drawing attention to the matter.
Pic 2Pol starts wondering if Ada’s pregnant. She’s over a month late for her period. So now the aunt decides it’s time to take her niece out to a back alley doctor for an examination. Pol wants her to be rid of it, though Ada doesn’t want to do that. Neither does she want to tell who’s baby it is, or else Tommy and her brothers might be angry.
Speaking of Tom, he runs into Charlie Strong (Ned Dennehy) who passes on a message – that the Lee clan are gunning for him, all of them after the altercation in the country. Nasty bit of business. More worries for the leader of the Blinders to take on his shoulders. We also see Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis) purposefully run into him, as he walks the street with his horse. She asks for one night a week when there’ll be singing at the pub. In turn, he offers to take her with him to the races.
Tommy: “Its just noise. Youll get used to it.”
When big brother finds out about Ada’s man being Freddie, her being pregnant, he is not pleased one bit. Although it shouldn’t matter, not if they’re in love. She does love Freddie, and of course he was a buddy of Tommy’s, a good one, during the war. So it’s all just a conflicted mess, certainly. All he’s worried about is that Ada won’t have a good life with a man constantly running, looking for revolution.
Later, Pol gets mad at her nephew for rigging a race without the blessing of Billy Kimber (Charlie Creed-Miles). Their relationship is fast getting worse, too.
Pic 3Campbell meets in a fancy dining room with Tommy, face to face. They size one another up before getting straight to business. They sit for tea and a chat. The Inspector has that prescription from Mr. Thorne’s flat. He wonders if the Shelbys are in bed with Communists, but Tom assures that the situation is finished, dealt with and done.
Then the Blinder lays out his elaborate plan, telling Campbell how things are going to go from here on in. In return he offers the missing guns, the ones meant for Libya. And if he’s taken into custody, the guns go to the IRA. If things go well, he’ll give over the guns and Campbell looks like top copper. Funny to see the juxtaposition between a guy like Tommy and someone like Campbell, the former being a criminal but having previously fought for his country. He was left with demons, as well. Smoking opium to dull them.
We see the Inspector meet with Grace, telling her that Tommy is now the main focus of the mission entirely: “Beginning, middle, and end.” He asks her to do anything possible to get close to the leader of the Blinders. Figure out anything about the guns.
Someone fetches Tommy, his horse isn’t right. Someone from the Lee clan cursed him. The feet are gone bad, it’ll get worse shortly. Nothing can be done. He’s got to put the poor animal down. Afterwards, he drinks away the pain and talks awhile with Grace. He’s found out a few things about her, that she didn’t work in Dublin. But he assumes a different story than her being with the law.
Pic 4Freddie turns up for Ada, on order from Tommy. To take her and get out of town. The lad even gets on one knee proposing marriage. A happy family ahead of them instead of something infinitely worse like it seemed before. Except then Freddie says he’s staying, they’re not going anywhere. Getting married right there, Tommy be damned!
At the pub, Billy Kimber (Charlie Creed-Miles) arrives, men with guns posting up at the doors. He wants to talk with Mr. Shelby. The place clears out so they can meet in private, even Grace is sent away. They talk of the race rigging, suspicious bets. Billy calls them “gypsy scum” and more. Threatening death. Until Tommy mentions the Lee family after him; they’re at war with Kimber, as well. The Blinders are offering help.
Pic 5Daaaamn. Lots of things happening. Next episode is surely gonna pack a punch, on many fronts. The Shelbys are ready to rock, and Tommy’s fucking steering the ship every step of the way with a keen eye.

Fear the Walking Dead – Season 3, Episode 2: “The New Frontier”

AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead
Season 3, Episode 2: “The New Frontier”
Directed by Stefan Schwartz
Written by Mark Richard

* For a recap & review of the Season 3 premiere, “Eye of the Beholder” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Teotwawki” – click here
Pic 1Fleeing in helicopter, Travis (Cliff Curtis), Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), Luciana (Danay Garcia), and Jake (Sam Underwood) head for the Otto family ranch. Travis is, naturally, worried. He just reunited the family and quick as that, they’re torn apart. Their trip gets nasty when bullets fly through the window, someone below firing on them. Then Travis takes a bullet through the side of his neck. He goes into shock, opening the vehicle’s door. When Alicia tries helping she sees he also has a wound in his stomach.
He lets go and plummets from the side, into the air below. Lost. Gone.
Is this for real? No. He will survive, though I’m not sure in what shape.
Pic 1ABack to the hotel by the beach where the group fled in Mexico. The gates are teeming with people trying to get in, to see the doctor inside. The people remaining include Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), who calms the near rioting crowd. He claims to be the doctor, asking that the people be let in and given rooms. What’s he up to? You can bet he’s scheming, he’s always the planner.
When Jake manages to get their crew on the ground again, Alicia’s distraught by the loss of Travis. I still don’t believe he’s gone, not totally. She worries about having let him go. She’s already felt guilty over other things, I fear how badly she’ll take this latest blow.
Meanwhile, stuck in a car with one-eyed Troy (Daniel Sharman), Madison (Kim Dickens) and her son Nick (Frank Dillane) are totally unaware of the tragedy, headed to the ranch. The place is definitely impressive, with cows and land sprawling over the hills, armed guards and a gate. But they arrive and find Jake, the others, they aren’t there. This makes brother Troy worry.
For a guy who’s not actually a doctor, Strand does a nice job. He’ll do anything he can to keep himself in good graces, wherever he goes. But not in a bad way, we’ve seen the extent of his humanity. The makeshift doctor’s then faced with a pregnant woman, her broken water. This is fucking do-or-die time.
Nick: “I dont trust these people.”
Madison: “Dont trust them. Trust me.”
At the ranch, Madison and Nick try remaining calm. It isn’t easy, worrying for their separated family unit all over again. She assures him one good thing: she got hold of a gun for them. You can always count on mom taking care of them, in every which way. Nick doesn’t like these people. Nor does she, but she figures they’ll use them for their own gains. She then meets Jeremiah Otto (Dayton Callie), he brings a coffee and has a chat. He wonders if Travis hijacked the helicopter, and she doesn’t take kindly. However, he’s only concerned for his son and goddaughter on board.
Pic 2So the Otto family, they’re “building a new nation” on the new frontier. Trying to make sense of a mad world. He acts like the Clark family are ungrateful. He doesn’t want to believe his son Troy is a fucking psycho, and y’know, I don’t fully trust either of the Ottos; except for Jake, who’s seemingly still a human being. But I do not like Troy, neither do I like anything about Jeremiah just yet. Nick’s got the idea, he doesn’t dig any of this stuff. Moreover, he’s blaming himself – he took Luciana to the base, Travis and Madison they went looking for him there. Poor guy, I hope he doesn’t let his old addictive habits crowd his mind again.
Across a fire in the wilderness, Alicia asks Jake about his brother, his… issues. They bond over “allowances” they give their loved ones; him with a psychopath for a brother, she with a former junkie. An interesting parallel. Yet things get tense, as whistles in the woods alert them to somebody else out there. Jake arms Alicia, then heads off to scope the situation out. He stumbles upon a walker in the dark, nearly getting chomped before Alicia saves him. Still, there’s never tragedy far from any of the people in this series. Jeremiah’s goddaughter is one of the latest casualties. Not good.
Strand is successful in delivering the baby. Only problem is the people at the hotel aren’t happy with his lie; it involves them, they’re at stake just as much as him. So, they kick him out. It’s on the road again for the now former Dr. Strand. And one last person to tend to, a woman who’s refused to eat and is barred in her room. It’s the mother of the bride from last season, Eileen, the one who stabbed him; she’s been in there ages. Not looking well. They talk and he reveals he’s got a place in mind to head after leaving the hotel. She then offers him what was meant as a gift for the wedding, a piece of jewellery.
Before plunging off the hotel balcony to her death.
Pic 3The helicopter crew ready themselves to walk for the ranch. “Its a terrible world, isnt it?” Jake quips to Alicia, who even without response probably agrees wholehearted. They soon get to the ranch carrying Luciana, barely conscious in their arms. Then, daughter is forced to explain to mother where her husband has gone, why he hasn’t come back. A devastating moment.
Even worse is the fact Luciana is ready for death, so says Troy. Can’t be helped. They don’t want her turning. Nick offers to take care of it himself. Rather than doing that, he turns the gun on Troy, as the other armed men raise their weapons.
I said let her in.” He is not going to listen to mom, and not with Troy condescending. A Mexican stand-off, if there ever were. Jeremiah steps in, assuring Luciana will not die if he turns over the gun. He does, on good faith. The Otto patriarch orders her taken inside and treated, though safely.
More than ever, Madison’s had her world turned upside down. She faces this new frontier without her beloved husband. Jeremiah tries comforting her, more concerned if she’ll be a danger, if she wants to commit suicide, the like. He’s missing a Beretta, the one she took. Doesn’t make a big deal, only wants it signed out officially in their records, which she obliges.
How will the family move on? Can they? Well, they have to; there’s no choice. Each of them deal with things in their own way. Madison now says they’re staying at the ranch. They’ll make it home. Even if they have to take the place themselves. Her children don’t agree, and thus starts more struggle.
Madison: “Its our fate. We suffered to get here.”
Pic 5Intense episode, all around. Wow. I cannot wait for the next episode “TEOTWAWKI” because I just know… Travis can’t be dead. He survived too much in that pit to simply die this way; by law of the TV gods!

ÉVOLUTION’s Sci-Fi Medical Redefinition of Gender

Évolution. 2015. Directed by Lucile Hadžihalilović. Screenplay by Hadžihalilović & Alante Kavaite in collaboration with Geoff Cox.
Starring Max Brebant, Roxane Duran, Julie-Marie Parmentier, Mathieu Goldfeld, Nissim Renard, & Nathalie Legosles.
Les Films du Worso/Noodles Production/Volcano Films.
Not Rated. 81 minutes.


DISCLAIMER: This review is a spoiler-filled discussion on the thematic aspects of the film. Usually I opt to discuss technical elements alongside theme, but because of the cryptic nature of Evolution, I’ve decided to solely look at the film’s meaning. Or at least what I feel it means.
screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-12-12-37-amLucile Hadžihalilović is a gem of a director and writer. Her work may not be accessible to every single viewer. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the time to explore. Her first full-length feature Innocence came to us over a decade ago, the story of a relatively ambiguous yet dangerous process, the grooming of girls at a boarding school for adult life.
Now, we swap genders and genres to take a look at a world where young boys are groomed, although for an entirely other purpose than the girls of Innocence. This time there are doses of horror, mystery, and a heavy dab of science fiction. The boys in this film are like a parallel to the girls of Hadžihalilović’s 2004 feature. Or rather, they may be a statement in line with them. This is something of which I’m still not totally sure.
For a pretty gruesome story, at certain (many) points, Evolution is equally as interesting. There area number of questions left at the end. Some will likely walk away confused and feeling slighted, as if Hadžihalilović didn’t give us enough answers. Others, like myself, might find them just enough, and good enough, to keep your brain mulling certain events, images, dialogue over and over.
And whatever the film is definitively about, one thing is for sure: you won’t forget some of what you see.
screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-12-22-57-amThe story is set in a seaside village populated solely with women, maybe in their mid-30s, and young, prepubescent boys. At first, there’s a quiet, idyllic quality about the place. You almost feel a tranquillity wash over everything. Without all that machismo and testosterone of a world filled with men, machines, noise, so on. But we get to a point where the nasty underbelly of the village is exposed, and discover the women aren’t the mothers of these boys, though they say so. They’re actually experimenting on the young boys. During the night, the women write naked, moaning together in the sand. By day, they watch videos of C-sections and implant the boys with medicine, force feed them nasty gruel, all in order to get them pregnant.
Oh yes. You heard me. So, is this a proactive smashing of patriarchy by redefining biology, literally? Science fiction has these women actually configuring the body of young boys to have children. And at this juncture, there are many divergent paths a thematic reading of the film can go.
One of my best guesses is based on the fact the women have suction cupped backs, like the underside of a tentacle running up their spine. First of all, they don’t look slimy or weird. It looks like they’ve either evolved from another form, or they’ve been transformed into something other than normal women. Secondly, a woman named Stella shows the main boy Nicolas pictures of doctors – which look like men, though you can’t actually tell (they have male hands, it appears) – with young girls, suction cups along the spinal cord. This seems to suggest the women were experimented on, as the boys are now. Aside from Stella, the women are cold and emotionless, to a robotic extent. She’s the only one to show anyone – Nicolas – any actual emotion. Therefore, it leads me to believe that perhaps these women escaped their own doctor captors, or a situation similar, and can’t reproduce. They then experiment callously on the boys like men once did to their bodies. I believe the women can’t reproduce because of the writhing sand scene: the women produce what looks like a bloody, dead fetus after moaning awhile together; assuming I’m right, this is a stillbirth and it suggests the women are infertile. Why else experiment on the young boys? Because if not then it seems their fertility work is born of pure revenge, a way to get back at the male gender for having treated them with such disdain.
screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-12-32-16-amUltimately, Hadžihalilović plays on the male fear of someday being treated exactly how women, particularly girls, have been treated since time immemorial. So many scenes take us to the limit, as we’re forced to watch these young boys, Nicolas especially, experience unnatural reconfiguration of their bodies. At the end we find out the women have abducted these boys from an industrial, modern-looking world, starkly in contrast to their simplistic and primitive village. The movie works as a futuristic fairy tale, an allegory about the male anxieties surrounding many men’s worst nightmare: what if we had to go through everything a girl goes through in order to, by society, be considered a man like they must do for us to see them as a woman? For women, beginning at a much too young age as girls, one thing is for sure: your body is not your own. Boys, men, this is a given; we own our bodies. However, the girls haven’t had it that simple. Evolution sees a sci-fi twist on gender roles to make those male anxieties come alive in a terrifying way.
Though hazy at the best of times the film is chock-full of symbolism. One of the most prominent and first to come about is that of the starfish. Sure, they can regenerate. They also represent the Virgin Mary in Christianity. It’s the fact they can reproduce both asexually and sexually which interests me. Much like the boys, who after the experiments would be able to both have a child and also impregnate a woman with child. Along with the starfish is the colour red. We see the colour repeatedly referenced throughout: a red shirt, Nicolas’ red swim trunks, and later the bright red hair of Stella. There are several symbolic meanings for the colour red, such as fire, blood, seduction. Which interests me most? Love, or passion, whichever you prefer. Why does it interest me? Because Nicolas is the only boy whose passion/love still exists. He’s the one in the red shirt, the red trunks, and likewise Stella, with her red hair, is the only woman to show any emotion (also notice that in terms of colour her eyes are not black like the other women; they’re blue). The other boys lack his thirst for knowledge. This ties into the other images, of the drawings. We see Nicolas draw a giraffe, a ferris wheel, all these images that are nowhere to be found in the village. In the finale we see Nicolas returned to the shores of that old industrial world of his, so it’s evident then that these are things he remembers, from back home, from where he was taken. But the red, his passion, it’s exemplified in how he refuses to become emotionless like the other boys or the women. Rather, Nicolas is unrelenting in wanting to discover the truth, to understand, to know, and his passion for knowledge, the love he feels in connection with Stella, these are ways for him to retain humanity.
screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-12-47-15-amI’m not sure what the true, overall message of Hadžihalilović’s film is, and after seeing the film a couple times I don’t know if I ever will, not positively. Evolution absolutely explores gender roles, though I can’t tell to what end exactly. Male anxiety is one thing, but there are many elements at play in this cryptic screenplay.
You can look at a lot of images, the symbolic use of red and the focus on the starfish among others, and draw your own conclusions. Please! Let me know what you think if you’ve seen the film.
We can almost relate Hadžihalilović’s story to a modernised fairy tale about what happens when we, the adults, interfere with the gender roles, or lack thereof, in the children of our society. The damage can be done on both sides, whether forcing them into certain roles, or even insisting constantly that they ought to be fluid and embrace both sides of their nature, whatever. Maybe Hadžihalilović is pointing out that kids ought to be left as kids. If we interfere too much the consequences are endless. But the consequences aren’t always good ones.

Bleeder Draws a Violent Line in the Sand Between Film and Reality

Bleeder. 1999. Directed & Written by Nicolas Winding Refn.
Starring Kim Bodnia, Mads Mikkelsen, Rikke Louise Andersson, Liv Corfixen, Levino Jensen, & Zlatko Buric. Kamikaze.
Not Rated. 98 minutes.

People who frequent this site will now be sick of my love for Nicolas Winding Refn. He divides people. Nowadays, some of his supposed fans are really just fans of Drive. Others like his earlier work but find his latest stuff in the past 10 years a bit too much. Furthermore, there are others like myself who enjoy every last inch of film on which he’s left his mark. Not only that, I enjoy his writing alongside his choices and style as director. Not everything works every bit of the time. However, Refn always manages to intrigue me. He pulls at the seams of the brain and makes it unravel, no matter if we’re stuck in the gutters of Copenhagen, the cluttered video shops and bookstores, or whether he’s got you traipsing across the landscape of some foreign place on the way to who knows where – his mind is always working to try and fuck yours. In one way, or another.
Bleeder is in the earlier portion of his career, where the main focus of the stories he told were based in the streets of Copenhagen. First with Pusher, he explored a criminal, drug world. This film is set in a similarly lower class environment in semi-rundown flats and other locations, the characters each lower to middle class types. Above all else, Refn sticks with the gritty, in your face realism of his first feature. Here in his second feature there’s a closer, more personal look into the life of a family that’s falling apart, all due to the husband’s inability to express himself or seek out what he truly wants, instead opting to go along with the status quo – get married, have a kid – when it isn’t what he wants.
The results are tragic and violent.
And ultimately, blood begets more blood.
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The biggest, most evident part of Bleeder is how Leo (Kim Bodnia) is so obviously jealous of the single life. More importantly, his problems with the movies, the difference between reality and fiction are what bother him most. See, Lenny (Mads Mikkelsen) is a cinephile, much like myself. He spends a good deal of his time immersed in the world of various directors, auteurs and blockbusters and everything in between. At the same time, that also paints Lenny’s view on life a little unrealistically.
Or does it?
Compared to Leo and his fucked up life, the life he fucked up all on his own, the way Lenny approaches life is quite normal. Also, he looks at what Leo has and wants that while Leo is busy shitting all over it. Lenny’s a more reserved type, likely hoping a movie romance is going to fall into his lap, as well as maybe he’s a bit too reserved, a little anti social. But Leo is stuck in a life he’s not so sure he wants to live. His wife Louise (Rikke Louise Andersson) is pregnant, he doesn’t truly want a kid, then of course he winds up beating the hell out of her. So when he rags on Lenny for watching too many films and when he rages against a movie because it’s unrealistic, what’s really going on inside is that Leo is jealous.
He wants a different life, but won’t get one. Can’t now. So instead he decides to take control, unlike Lenny who he sees as aloof in the obsessive world of cinephilia. He buys a gun, he acts like a movie tough guy but in real life. However, in real life there are consequences. In the movies we see gangsters beat up on their girlfriends and nothing ever seems to come of it. They get off with everything, free to do as they please, to whomever they please. When Leo takes it upon himself to make his life into a real live motion picture, he also must face the consequences. Even better, the climactic moments of this story are wild and almost outrageous. Yet still they’re all too real. So real in fact that it’s almost nauseating.
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The gritty qualities of the film are paralleled in the ultimate nasty, defining moment that comes in the last twenty minutes. Added to that, Kim Bodnia – perhaps the world’s most underrated actor – gives us a stellar performance. There’s a scene where he comes to and find himself tied up, hanging from chains, and there’s this odd, moaning sound that emanates from him, louder and louder, longer and longer. It’s actually chilling. Even before that he does a fascinating job with a despicable character. You can see him cracking, gradually, then over the course of the film watch him drift into oblivion. There’s a good progression to the character and it’s only made better with Bodnia in the lead, doing a fine job like he did with Refn’s Pusher as Frank.
Similarly, Mads Mikkelsen is awesome as Lenny. He is one of those actors that has wide range. In some projects he plays creepy, scary characters. Here, he’s a timid and shy guy that has trouble reaching out to women, and instead of being creepy or inappropriate merely keeps to himself. So there’s a nice quietude in his character in juxtaposition with all the horrific realities of Leo’s situation. Watching Mikkelsen an Zlatko Buric together in the video shop is a treat, so different from their interactions in Pusher. They have good chemistry. But Mikkelsen really takes us into Lenny, and you can’t help rooting for him to finally push through to meet that girl he’s interested in.
Finally I cannot forget Levino Jensen playing the character of Louis, the violently racist brother to Louise. This guy is actually endearing in the early parts, even if you know he’s a bit of a hard ass. He just has this affectionate quality to him when with his sister particularly. Then there’s a switch, as Leo oversteps his boundaries and abuses Louise. Afterwards, we see Jensen break out in the character, making Louis into an intimidating person despite his stature. That’s the mark of a solid actor, when the physicality is second to the pure, intense emotion they can bring to a part. Jensen is such an actor, which I honestly didn’t expect. But he adds plenty to the film with his performance.
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As opposed to other works from Nicolas Winding Refn, Bleeder is a simple piece of cinema. That’s not to say it’s dumbed down. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. It is raw and to the point, it is brutish, bloody nearing the end and always compelling. This is a close view of violent men; not in the movies, but in real life. Whereas Lenny ends the film embracing a corporeal romance, something palpable and not only the world he loves in the movies, Leo winds up falling into a real life event and story which mirrors the best, bloodiest pieces of cinema out there. It’s perhaps this final hideous act of violence involving Louis and Leo that forces Lenny towards finally stepping into the world, outside the camera’s frame, and finding a life that doesn’t only involve the fictional space of film.
This is a great movie that does not get enough credit. It’s honest and open, while also having an almost surreal aspect in its more intense moments. Refn will always divide people, but I wil always find him interesting, even if I come across something eventually that I don’t like. For now, it’s all good, baby!

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 13: “The Same Boat”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 13: “The Same Boat”
Directed by Billy Gierhart
Written by Angela Kang

* For a review of the previous episode, “Not Tomorrow Yet” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Twice as Far” – click here
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This episode opens with Carol (Melissa McBride) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) confronted by members of The Saviors. Then the group calls out to Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) and the others. They command over the radio, essentially opening a hostage negotation for the two women. Off in the distance, Rick says “well trade” and then needs confirmation Carol and Maggie are fine. Things go on from there, a little rocky on The Saviors’ side, but steady enough. Then The Saviors put bags over Carol and Maggie’s heads for transport.

A nice grim opening leads way to the women being taken to a facility, most likely a slaughter house as we can see KILL FLOOR written on the ground; the only perspective we’re allowed, as Carol and Maggie go through their kidnapping. Impressive directorial choices at the start of this scene, which forces us into their POV until finally inside.
While the others try and plan their next course of action, Carol steadily hyperventilates, looking terrified. McBride is an amazing actor, and the character of Carol’s become one of my favourites of any television series. But one of the leaders of the group, Paula (Alicia Witt) confronts Carol wondering: “Are you actually afraid to die?” They toss Carol rosary beads, which she holds onto tight.

This group, particularly the women, is tough, they seem hardened more than most people. Paula’s slightly scary. Her demeanour is of a broken woman, but one with a lot of power. She and Maggie go back and forth over life, the meaning, babies, et cetera. It’s clear the good faith of Maggie meets its match against Paula, and whatever horrors she’s seen personally along the way.
Paula says a “scout crew” are coming. Meanwhile, their group is breaking down a bit when the man Carol shot before being captured starts to lash out. He hits Polly, then Maggie gets a hit in. Finally, Paula pistol whips him to calm things down. A nice, exciting few moments, also a bit perilous when thinking of Maggie’s unborn child. Carol gets a good few kicks before the pistol whipping then lays there awhile. Something is certainly coming.
Another parallel aside from Carol and Paula is Maggie and Michelle (Jeananne Goossen). Michelle’s got a situation happening with her boyfriend, and so there’s a certain amount of her which resonates with Maggie. Yet they’re on opposing sides, different interests.
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More negotiation over the radio. Rick tries his best. Although, Paula’s clearly set in her ways, a determined person. Then there’s Carol who attempts to talk. Instead of her usual fighting nature. Except after a little while, she asks for a cigarette. Paula continues telling Carol she’s “weak” and unable to stick to her “own principles.” Then goes on about her life before as a secretary, her family, and how in the end she had to kill to life; “I stopped counting when I hit double digits,” she says re: her murder record.
Again, we’re seeing Carol and the rest of the group as what they’ve become, like everybody else: killers. Though they’ve definitely got better hearts in certain cases, Rick and the survivors still kill, they did last episode in relentless fashion. So while they think of themselves as better or more moral than others, they’re no better than most of the survivors of the zombie apocalypse.

Paula: “Are you going to kill me?”
Carol: “I hope not

Once a supposed deal with Rick begins to turn wheels, Paula and her haggard old lady friend head out leaving Carol by herself. Naturally, using the rosary beads, she gets free, and then releases Maggie. “We have to finish this,” says Maggie sternly. Some sort of crisis is happening for Carol in her head. It’s as if she’s lost her nerve. Meanwhile, Maggie is tougher than nails, and she picks up all the slack; even smashing one woman’s head into jam. A bit surprise for Paula when she comes back to find a bloody scene in the room where she’d last left Carol.
The two escapees come across a walker trap left for them. But Paula shows up firing bullets. She taunts Carol: “You have no idea, the things Ive done, what Ive given up.” This starts a big fight that ends when Carol shoots Michelle in the head for nearly slicing open Maggie’s stomach. Eventually, Carol kills Paula, too; something we knew had to come. The fighting survivor in Carol will only take so much, even if it wounds her inside.
Still, she and Maggie lure more Saviors to the kill floor where they’re lit on fire and locked in a room. Can we really still totally root for Rick, Carol, Maggie and the others? Are they still the good guys? Not according to Michelle from her conversation with Maggie earlier.

Out into the daylight Carol and Maggie go. They meet up with Daryl, Glenn, Rick and the rest. “Theyre all dead,” Maggie says with a fragile shake in her voice.
At the finale, Rick asks Primo (Jimmy Gonzales) to talk. He claims he’s Negan. Then Rick goes ahead and shoots the man in the head, as Carol watches on gripping her rosary beads until her hand drips blood.
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An exciting chapter in this sixth season. One that asks more questions about the nature of morality, as well as questions whether we can stay fully on the side of Rick Grimes & Company, while they rip and tear their way through the post-zombie apocalyptic landscape. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan is sure to be a horrifically savage counter-balance to this group when he comes. Stay tuned with me for “Twice As Far” next week.

Beautiful Black Cinema in Mother of George

Mother of George. 2013. Directed by Andrew Dosunmu. Screenplay by Darci Picoult.
Starring Danai Gurira, Isaac de Bankolé, Anthony Okungbowa, Bukky Ajayi, Yaya DaCosta, Klarissa Jackson, Ishmael Omolade, Roslyn Ruff, Chinaza Uche, Florence Egbuchulam, Mutiyat Ade-Salu, Atibon Nazaire, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, & Susan Heyward. Parts and Labor/Loveless/Maybach Film Productions/SimonSays Entertainment/Fried Alligator Films.
Rated R 107 minutes.

We all – meaning those of us with any sense – know that the mainstream Hollywood system largely ignores stories about people of colour, apart from the civil rights pictures and slave narratives. It’s obvious, if you take the time to look at it. Rarely do we just simply get to look inside the culture of others aside from the perspective of white people, at least when it comes to the mainstream films in the West. Even more rare is a film starring solely black people.
So Mother of George is a unique piece of cinema for a film set in the U.S. Although, it is most certainly a Nigerian film. The story is all about the cultural expectations within a Nigerian neighbourhood in Brooklyn, involving a married couple. Plus, Nigerian director Andrew Dosunmu leads the movie, as well as adds his unusual style to the mix. It is a refreshing story, Dosunmu presents it gorgeously with the added help of cinematographer Bradford Young, and the main performances of Danai Gurira and Isaac de Bankolé root the drama in such a wonderful yet tragic humanity.
Ayodele (Isaac de Bankolé) and Adenike (Danai Gurira) are married in a grand traditional Nigerian ceremony. Ayodele has been in America a little while, whereas Nike is newer. She’s still trying to adjust, stuck in the old school role of wife at home her husband works during the day. She tries to get a job cleaning, though, this angers Ayodele whose culture demands of him masculinity; part and parcel of which is providing for his wife and not needing her to work. Between the culture clash and her marriage, Nike has a million different things on her plate.
Meanwhile, her mother-in-law is pressuring her – in their culture it is proper for a woman to get pregnant soon after the marriage, and unfortunately Nike and Ayodele can’t seem to get pregnant, though. When the situation becomes more and more dire, with Ayodele refusing to go against traditional, conventional methods, and his mother insisting he take another woman, Nike soon makes a decision which will have huge repercussions for her, her husband, and everyone around them.
The first thing you’ll notice is the extremely rich, vibrant colour palette of the film. Bradford Young brings a unique and beautiful look to Mother of George. Some of his other work includes Pariah, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, as well as most recently A Most Violent Year and Pawn Sacrifice. Young’s visual flair through the lens adds a true gorgeous quality to every single frame of the film. Added to that, Dosunmu has a different style of direction, which I’ve seen some people say detracts from the performances and the screenplay. Not at all, I say. In fact, the way Dosunmu and Young capture everything together in their respective ways it draws me tight. I felt as if I were right next to Nike (Gurira), going through the motions. The tight frames on the characters helps their world absorb into you, the colours reach out and touch you. There’s never a moment where I felt outside of the story, or the characters, even if the film moves at a slow pace much of the time.
Brings me to another portion of the movie I love: the screenplay. The script doesn’t have much dialogue throughout, which places a special significance on the performances. At the same time, the lack of massive pieces of dialogue lends itself to a film with a main concern for aesthetic and tone. With a lot of subtle, quiet scenes, the actors are left carrying so much of the weight – like a complete counterbalance between style and performance.
Isaac de Bankolé, whom I knew originally from Jim Jarmusch films specifically (as well as the impressive White Material from director Clair Denis), plays a very strong, if not fairly flawed character in Ayodele. He portrays the vulnerability and masculinity, both tied together most of the time, with such an ease. You feel for the man while also wishing he might let go of a little of his boisterous pride, instead it pushes his wife to a point of no return. Bankolé is a reserved and thoughtful actor whose presence is large in this film.
But mainly, it is Danai Gurira I love here. She is a strong and powerful actor. Her presence is equally enormous, if not more so than Bankolé. Gurira is tough, she is also flawed, but above all she bears the weight of a relationship on her shoulders. The way she has to navigate the trappings of her Nigerian culture, stuck between what she wants and what is expected of her, it is a difficult life. Gurira brings out Nike’s pain, her desire, everything with such a subdued and commanding performance. She and Bankolé work very well as a couple onscreen, their chemistry helped their relationship seem natural. Further than that, Gurira presents a woman who struggles to both adapt to living in America and adapt to marriage, plus its requirements, all the while – even in her rash decisions – making us feel for her every step of the journey.
There are not enough films set in the U.S. which celebrate the other cultures among Western culture. It is a melting pot, even if the cities become, at times, broken into ethnic enclaves. Still, this is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of two worlds coming together, as one woman tries to hold her own together. A 4&1/2-star film that succeeds because of Bankolé and Gurira acting their hearts out, as well as the combo of director Dosunmu and Young’s cinematography. Everything in this film speaks volumes, from the wonderfully sparse screenplay to the vibrancy of the visual style. All these elements are so important to Mother of George. This is not the conventional black narrative we’re offered in mainstream Western films, but as I said, this is totally a Nigerian film regardless of its Brooklyn, New York setting. We need to see more of this, and hopefully with all the talk of diversity re: Oscars in 2016 we may see a shift; somehow, some way. Studios need to take the chance and tell more stories like this one, affording different cultures a look, giving them an avenue to touch peoples hearts and minds. This is a piece of art, not simply a movie. Mother of George should be seen by everyone, especially those who love powerhouse acting and a unique sense of visual storytelling; all of which you’ll find here, in spades.

The Walking Dead – Season 2, Episode 9: “Triggerfinger”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 9: “Triggerfinger”
Directed by Bill Gierhart
Written by David Leslie Johnson

* For a review of the previous episode, “Nebraska” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “18 Miles Out” – click here

The brief opening of this episode sees Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) overturned in her car. Crashed. Pregnant. And worst of all, walkers are trying to get in at her.
Cut back to the bar where Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Hershel (Scott Wilson) remain. They decide to leave after the encounter with two men, which left the same men dead at the end of Rick’s gun. Only a vehicle shows up before they can make it out; people exit calling for Dave and Tony, the two now dead corpses on the floor. It’s obvious now they were part of a bigger group, probably trying to find another group to push out of an encampment. The human threat in this new post-zombie apocalypse world is very clear, and getting clearer.
Meanwhile, Lori tries to get herself out of the smashed up car before a walker breaks through the windshield and takes a bit out of her, as well as the unborn baby in her belly. A frightening moment as is, but add to the fact Lori’s pregnant then it becomes even more scary. Luckily, she is a bit of a bad ass and manages to kill the zombie in the window then escape onto the road. Where more walkers find her.
Back at the ranch, Shane (Jon Bernthal), Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and all the rest are sitting down for a meal. When Carol (Melissa McBride) calls for Lori, they all discover she’s nowhere to be found. Andrea (Laurie Holden) mentions seeing her earlier, Carl (Chandler Riggs) can’t remember the last time he saw his mother. Everyone gets fairly worried damn quick. Carol tries enlisting Daryl (Norman Reedus); he’s not having any of it, sick of being the go-to-guy for heading out on the search. Above all else, Shane is adamant on going to find Lori. Even if it’s on his own.
In the bar, Rick finds himself, Glenn and Hershel pressed down on by the group looking for Dave and Tony. Eventually, Rick tells the men outside their friends “drew on us“. It’s evident they had to do what needed to be done, but the guys outside don’t seem keen on just walking away. Soon enough gunfire breaks the air and things are more tense than ever. Guns blazing, Rick, Glenn and Hershel do their best to make it out alive.
The situation changes when one of the men trying to avenge Dave and Tony doesn’t get away with the others. He’s partly impaled on a fence, but Hershel and Rick don’t want to leave the boy. He’s only a young guy and neither of them want to leave the kid to be eaten. Hershel suggests maybe they ought to “put him down“. Instead, they decide to try amputating part of his leg; the only way out. Although, in a sticky situation Rick hauls the leg up and off the fence and gets them back out on the road.

Hershel: “You want me to cover Glenn?”
Rick: “You missed all that gun training. It couldve come in handy now.”
Hershel: “Nah, I can shoot. Just dont like to.”

Shane finds Lori out on the road, bleeding and injured. She wants to find Rick and does not want to go back, so Shane lies telling her they’re all home at the farm again. Uh oh; he’s going to regret that. You’d think he might do anything possible to get her back, or win her over, something. Rather than that Shane’s digging himself more holes.
The tenuous relationship between Carol and Daryl continues on. He’d rather be alone and off on his own. He feels unappreciated and yells at Carol. She’s seen worse than that; her now dead husband was a vicious, brutalizing bastard. The way Daryl lashes out says more about him than anyone else. But in a moment when Carol flinches we can see him shift a little inside, and Daryl perhaps understands he’s overstepping boundaries.
When Lori figures out Shane lied there is more anger, more fighting. In front of everyone, Shane lets out the fact Lori is pregnant, which shocks everybody. Particularly Carl (Chandler Riggs) who feels left out not knowing about his potential new brother or sister. Afterwards, he is happier about knowing of the baby and being included in everything: “Big brother Carl, thats pretty cool, huh?” he remarks.
More than that, we see continually how Shane cannot let her go. He’s going to cause more issues, just wait. He and Lori have more confrontation once everybody leaves the room. She’s tired of his lying, from the first lie he told about Rick, to this one. And so on. The anger in her cannot be overcome now, Shane has nothing to fall back on. “What happened with Otis happened because I love you,” Shane says to Lori. After which she tells him she told Rick about their relationship.
In other news, Beth (Emily Kinney) is still catatonic. Comatose. Andrea (Laurie Holden) tries to comfort her sister Maggie (Lauren Cohan), whose worry is strong for both Beth and her father Hershel. Everything before the Greenes is falling apart, from the farm to their family, to the world. It is excruciating to see them go from sheltered to worldly, in a matter of a few episodes. They’re slowly becoming more like Rick and the other survivors.
Dale is still worried about Andrea. She can’t see the true nature of Shane, doubting in Rick at the same time. I wish she’d finally understand that Dale is only looking out for her, he isn’t trying to bang her. Sure, I have no doubt he’d have sex with her if she wanted to, but that’s not why he cares. He bonded with her, and her sister. Andrea just feels too scared of this new world, of everyone in it.
Not long after, Rick, Glenn and Hershel arrive back at the farm. They’ve still got the injured young man in tow, Randall (Michael Zegen). This is another source of contention for Rick and Shane, as well as Rick and some of the others. Nobody wants an outsider in their camp. Yet Rick and Hershel want to fix him up and help him out. Others are not so sure. Hershel finally has words with Shane, too. Long time coming.
Maggie and Glenn talk again. He’s afraid because of what their love does to him. He hid in the bar because he thought of her, his love for her. It made him weak. Sadly. Here’s to hoping this won’t tear them apart. The love should lift him up, not make him less strong. Furthermore, Maggie is slightly upset by Hershel leaving, getting drunk, especially considering the state of her sister. Everyone and their relationships are in shambles now, for the current moment.
The more Rick and Hershel do things their way, the more Shane dissents. He tries to latch onto Andrea saying “I shouldve left with you when I had the chance” and talks about how the situation with Randall may bring on more destruction, war, “something worse“. Is their bond headed anywhere? Or will Andrea soon figure out how vicious and brutal Shane is? I’m not sure she will. At least not until it’s too late.
In their tent, Lori tells Rick that Shane believes he is the father of her child. This is only more stress and tension for Sheriff Rick. Lori tries to tell her husband Shane is “delusional” and scaring others. She also shares her thoughts about what Shane did concerning Otis. This situation is quickly becoming out of control, with Shane transforming into a monster. When Lori puts a thought in Rick’s head, he realizes how dangerous Shane is, and what may have to be done to put an end to that danger.
Excited for the next episode, “18 Miles Out”. Lots of new developments, lots more tension and wildness to come.