December 5th, 2022

The Swimmers: I was encouraged by my Mom to check out this Netflix release. I am glad that I watched this. The story surrounds a family in Syria in the early 2000s. Dad was a swimmer himself and was teaching his girls, in many ways like Richard Williams with Serena and Venus, about being a champion and going to the Olympics. The goal was to swim for Syria in the Rio Olympics. In March 2012, fate stepped in with ongoing Civil War within the country. Remarkably with armed soldiers in the streets, military jets flying overhead, the girls continued with their training and their studies. Dad was committed to keeping the girls focused. The strife escalated, with a dramatic incident during a swim meet. The girls decided that they would flee Syria with a goal of going to Germany. Within Germany there was a program of family reunification for minors 18 years and younger. The girls with promises of continuing the training decide to take the unknown path of fleeing their country. Once in Germany they would seek the family to get back together again. The story continues.

I remember seeing news items during this time where the number of people leaving Syria was massive, and that people were losing their lives taking perilous journies in overcrowded boats to seek their salvation. At the end of the movie we are told that there were approximately 6.9 million people displaced since the beginning of the conflict, from a country that had a population of 21 million before the conflict began. The need for humanitarian aid hasn’t gone away. Many Syrians are still seeking asylum. To me it was interesting that Germany became the focal point, and they took on an enormous global burden.

The performances here were all very good. The scenes highlighted the gravity of the overall situation, and focused our attention on two engaging and different sisters (both in real life and in the story) who show the challenges of this very difficult time that still continues to this day. What has the world done to address the return of these people to their homeland? What CAN the world do against a country that splits their population and demands exile? The movie is well done and you cheer for these young girls. The acting is convincing, and the young actors involved are really good. I won’t divulge further what happens, but this story is obviously bigger than sport. I am certain that other world wide stories, like eventual stories that will come out from Ukraine will show other parts of the world, and in a time of preparations for holidays and end of year celebrations, the challenges that we have here in Canada are small in comparison to others in the world who are fighting for their very existence.

The Crown Season 5: I finished this season and felt that it was an inconsistent season overall. Some of the stories were slow, not revealing too much. I did not remember this whole debate about the Monarchy and the Royals, as between the weddings and the celebrations for the Queen and her longevity, it always seemed that there was plenty of support for her and the Royal family, especially William and Harry. I follow on with my initial thoughts about Elizabeth Debicki as Diana. Although way taller than Diana, the facial features and how she embodies her in the dress, mannerisms and voice are just remarkable. I am less enthused by Domenic West as Charles. The new King in reality cannot like this portrayal of him as this whiny King-in-waiting, looking to encourage Mommy to give up the crown. It’s not a good look when he meets with the Prime Minister without her knowledge and speaks of younger, more progressive men moving things forward. One would hope if this is all true, and there is much debate that it isn’t (which is very likely), that at his age now that he has toned that down some, and not as anxious to be impacting William’s birthright.

At the same time, the hairstyle for Camilla is spot on. Jonathan Pryce as Philip is not as effective for me, nor is Imelda Staunton. There is a scene with Charles and Diana post divorce where he just stops by, which I cannot imagine had ever happened. The story with the El Fayeds is not as compelling either. Diana was a target, and never had any peace it seemed, in many ways like Marilyn Monroe, who was also on film with a possibly more fictional story earlier this year. I do think that the people recognize Camilla more now, and that Charles has found his inner peace with the woman who clearly he has loved his entire life. The metaphors of the Brittania and other symbols range throughout the season, as relections on the Queen. William is seen as having challenges with being put in the middle of his feuding parents, while clearly being closer to Mom, he is uncomfortable with being her person to share her romantic life with him. Overall, in a series that has been excellent from the beginning, this season was not as strong for me. The final Season 6 will be coming, and we will have well covered ground with the death of Diana and the subsequent marriage of William and then Harry and maybe even seeing Andrew’s fall from grace with the scandal with Jeffrey Epstein.

Time Traveller’s Wife Series: I finsihed this series as well this week. I don’t have a lot more to add other than I am not seeing how much more that they can stretch a two hour film with side stories. Much of the movie addressed the whole idea of a child, and those challenges. Whether such child would have this same issue as the father. Only in the last episode of the series was this highlighted as a sticking point for the couple.

November 28th, 2022

The Wonder: Florence Pugh has been busy. Already this year she was in the Olivia Wilde release with Harry Styles entitled Don’t Worry Darling. The 26 yo English actress was brought initially to my attention in her role in the bizarre psycho-drama Midsommar back in 2019. This Netflix release is a period piece set in 19th Century Ireland, with Pugh playing an English nurse being asked to observe a young girl who is said to have not eaten anything for three months. The scene is set for these two strangers.

As a nurse, when first told the tale of this young girl, she doesn’t believe it. Arriving in the town, there is a religious leader as well as a local doctor who direct her only to observe for a fortnight. The locals are looking for independent verification of what is happening in the town. The local people have already started to visit the young girl at her remote farmhouse thinking that something very spiritial is happening. We learn over time that there is a desire for this to be true. The family of the young girl had a boy who died earlier at a young age. The Mom is very determined that her children will go to heaven. Our nurse prefers to deal with science rather than religion.

Our nurse meets up with a reporter played by Tom Burke who is looking to write a story debunking the whole situation. To him, the girl is lying and the family is somehow finding a way to get nourishment into the girl. He wants the nurse to assist him. Things happen slowly. Predictably with the nurse watching the girl’s health deteriorates. Our nurse has her own reasons to ensure that her life isn’t for nothing. The solution to the problem is an interesting one.

I like Pugh. I think that she plays authentic and genuine characters. She seems to get put into situations in her films to date that have her character observe strange occurences and she needs to put them together. This is the most realistic situation and the most sad with a very young girl who has been led to put her own life on the line for those around her with obvious competing interests that have their own motivations. The Academy may like this movie more than the movie-going public. For me as someone who isn’t religious at all, I don’t see why anyone would be looking to sacrifice themselves for the sake of an unknown after-life. I certainly have no idea why a parent would be looking to carry on these attitudes at all.

The Time Traveller’s Wife: Back in 2009, Rachel McAdams starred with Eric Bana in an adaption of the Audrey Niffenegger book. It was okay. The story is a curious one with a man who is a time traveller, which means that suddenly and without warning he can disappear to another time. HBO decided to make this a new series starring Rose Leslie (from Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey – also Kit Harrington’s wife) and Divergent’s Theo James.

Female viewers will enjoy the fact that time travel doesn’t allow clothing to go through, and so the frequent time traveller Theo is buck naked time and again. He has no issue showing off his backside time and again in each episode. So why did this series have to be made? This is six episodes, and so much longer than the 1:48 running time of the original. They seem to be exploring more deeply into the trauma in the life of the young Henry. An event that at whatever age he is, he goes back to time and time again. In this version there are mutliple Henrys that can appear at the same place and the same time. Which would seem to be odd, and certainly flies in the face of what Doc stated in Back to the Future. Time travel provides all sorts of challenges, one of which is that Clare at a very young age learns that Henry has a wife named Clare. She is then fixated on him. You add time by adding the complexity for Henry having a girlfriend when Clare comes onto the scene and announces that she will be his future wife. Odd, really, that he wouldn’t already know this. Clare as a teenager then has an uncomfortable experience in a middle episode where she seeks assistance from an older Henry to avenge her honour.

Do Leslie and James have chemistry? This is crucial of course in a story that wants you to feel that this is a couple that is destined to be together. Maybe moreso than McAdams and Bana. But that isn’t all that difficult. Bana was and is a little too straight laced, showing less emotion than is likely needed for that outward romantic connection. In this instance there are various versions of Henry who can be identified by their haircuts mostly. They are quite poor haircuts which don’t reflect the times in the least. Leslie brings her fiestiest game to the relationship, in her best “you know nothing Jon Snow” way. Maybe that was the point. Clare needs to show more that she is aware of her situation, embraces it, and helps to shape Henry popping in and out of her life. Henry is an angry young man wondering why his defining moment as a young boy is something that he cannot seem to impact. I will continue to watch and see where they take this series. Hard to imagine that there is enough material to deal with a Season 2. But stranger things have happened.