Category Archives: Film

Noughts & Crosses

It was good. What am I saying? It was great. Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses on BBC 1 was just as I’d have wanted it to be. It doesn’t quite follow the plot of the book, but the feel of it is right. And that’s what matters.

Sephy and Callum are perfect, as are their respective parents and siblings with all their flaws. Jude is promising as the terrible man he becomes [at least in the book]. As with the novel, even when you know that black and white people have swapped places – from our reality – you still have to work at seeing what’s going on. The brown plaster scene was illuminating in its simplicity.

I hope the next episodes will be as fantastic as the first one. It’s about time we had a really great dramatisation of one of our best YA novels.

The Lammisters

I suspect Declan Burke’s new novel would make a good film. In fact, I have no way of knowing that it’s not already happening. Set in Hollywood, slightly under a hundred years ago, it would be appropriate. And I do enjoy humorous films.

The Lammisters is completely different from Declan’s other crime novels, which – mostly – take place in Ireland, featuring inept and sometimes bad characters, but usually also very funny ones. If they talk too much, it’s because they are Irish.*

Here, though, is a narrator who uses a lot of words. Long words. Fancy words. Complicated sentences. Footnotes. That sort of thing.

Not being as well read – or educated – as the Guardian’s Laura Wilson, I don’t know Laurence Sterne, although I have heard of him. I gather it is his style that Declan has gone for. The review in the Guardian was very positive, which is well deserved. To my mind, all his books ought to have got a mention there.

It’s a period I like a lot, and coincidentally it’s the second of two crime novels set in that period that I had lined up over Christmas; one on each side of the US. (More about that tomorrow.) And the cover is fabulous.

Declan Burke, The Lammisters

* Apologies for the stereotyping…

The Bookwitch and Pullman screen adaptations

This time twelve years ago I was full of the latest Philip Pullman adaptation on BBC television. It was The Shadow in the North, and I loved it. I loved it so much that I persuaded the Guardian to let me blog about it for them. There was a lot to like, and I went on and on.

The Shadow in the North - Guardian blog

And now? I still like the various televised Pullman books. But the recent His Dark Materials I have almost managed to push from my mind. Not actively, but I’ve been surprised at how little I’ve thought about it. I never went back after the first two episodes, preferring to do other things when the Resident IT Consultant sat in front of the television for another six Sundays.

I’d happily watch the Sally Lockhart films again, not to mention I Was a Rat. ‘All’ we need now is The Tiger in the Well. Except I guess Billie Piper is too old. The Tin Princess might work, though, as Sally is older in the last book. And dare I say it? There was meant to be another book or two, or so Philip said a long time ago.

Little Women

I was about eleven, maybe twelve, and I thought it was a stupid title. Unga Kvinnor it was called in Swedish. But it was a gift – most likely from the Retired Children’s Librarian – and in those days I combed the shelves at home for possible books to read, so I read it. Despite the title.

It didn’t take many pages before I was hooked and I loved it and I read everything about the March girls, like generations of other young females.

Little Women

We went to see the film this weekend and on the way home Daughter and the Resident IT Consultant ‘fought’ over who’d get to read it first. It’s probably a reflection on them having enjoyed the film… As did I. The director, Greta Gerwig, is quite possibly a genius.

Starting at the end made a tremendous difference. If nothing else, it created a sort of Schrödinger’s Beth; you never knew whether she was still alive, or not. At times it was a little hard to be sure where in the story we were, although the length of Jo’s hair helped.

I hope lots of young readers will see this film, and not just us oldies who know what to expect. I hope it means they will read the book, and that it will change many lives. Apart from my early dislike of the title, I grew up at a time when classics got the attention they deserve. Now, I suspect most younger readers stick with new fiction [because there is so much of it]. Emma Watson has helped, by hiding/leaving copies of the book in London, as well as thousands across the UK as a whole.

Find it, read it, and leave it for someone else to discover.

Louisa May Alcott, Unga kvinnor

The Hate U Give

You might have noticed me mentioning Angie Thomas a bit recently. Before Saturday’s event with her, I wanted to read her books, and ended up reading the second one and watching the film of the first book on DVD. I thought this would be efficient use of my time. One problem now is that I liked the film so much that I might need to read the book too.

Having read On the Come Up, I felt that The Hate U Give exactly mirrored Angie’s writing. I almost sat there nodding my head in agreement with everything, as though I was reading the book. Knowing how most films are not exactly like the novels they are based on, I should probably treat the film with a little pinch of salt. And then read the book.

The Hate U Give

A refreshingly black film, I was aware that I don’t know much at all. I’ve no experience of the lives the characters lead, and it was often hard to hear what they were saying. But that’s me, not them. Just as fans of the books like the fact that the characters speak like them, that goes for the film as well.

The Carter family live in a poor, black neighbourhood, but ambition for their children means that all three are sent to the mostly white school further away. As the main character Starr says, she’s another person when she’s at school. She has to be. And Starr does it so well that none of her friends have an inkling what her real life is like.

Starr is with a childhood friend when he is shot and killed by the police. Her whole life changes. She doesn’t know what to do or whose advice she should take, but eventually she realises she needs to stand up for her friend and do ‘the right thing.’

It’s a bleak situation, handled very well. As Angie said, she needs triumph to balance the trauma, so it’s not all negative. But to stay true to what so many black people face every day, this feels like a hopeless situation. You shouldn’t have to spend every day in fear of what the police will do if they ‘notice’ you. Except this is reality for millions in America.

THE HATE U GIVE

Starr’s family are not perfect, but they work together. Her dad has been in jail, and her mum is another strong mother, just like Bri’s in On the Come Up. There are friends, neighbours, an uncle, even the local crooks.

I rather wish they had not made Starr’s white boyfriend* look like a Republican senator-to-be, but other than that this film was pretty perfect. It’s certainly an eye-opener. The question is whether those who need to see it, will.

(Photo © Erika Doss)

*I understand that the original actor was dropped because he made racist remarks. That proves how necessary books and films like this one are.

More family women

Hindsight often makes me worry I shouldn’t have done that, whatever it was. Like two years ago, when instead of reviewing some suitably woman-ish books on International Women’s Day, I rambled on about Mother-of-witch. But with more hindsight, and a rereading, I came to the conclusion it was OK. As for her, she was more than OK.

Another two years earlier I wrote about her mother, my grandmother, whom I never met. It was the fact that she embroidered five identical stars for Christmas one year. I realise they probably made for fairly affordable Christmas gifts, but it’s still a lot of work, alongside all the day-to-day stuff women do. Mothers. She had five children, this grandmother I never knew.

While we’re on the subject of sewing, her second daughter, my Aunt Motta, was a pro, by which I mean she made a living sewing. And when she didn’t make her living by it, she sewed for the rest of us, plus a little hobby sewing, like the cushion you see here. It was made from the cut-off corners of the lace that edged 18 table cloths. Obvious, when you think about it.

The thrifty cushion

They could all sew. Well, perhaps not Uncle. But then not every uncle wore two red paper napkins tied round his waist (and nothing else). Careful what you get up to, as impressionable 9-year-olds remember the most astonishing things.

But this is International Women’s Day, so let’s move on from Uncle, however much fun he was. He was the one who got the education. Not because he was the eldest, or the cleverest, but because he was the boy.

The eldest child, another girl, my Favourite Aunt, was very intelligent and very capable. She left school at fourteen and started working in her home town’s textile industry. By the time I knew her she was 47 and worked for the textile union, where she ‘looked after the money,’ and rubbed shoulders with future Prime Ministers and other bigwigs in the leading political party. What might have become of her if she’d been able to continue at school?

The baby aunt quite possibly didn’t sew so much, but she certainly knitted, and brought up three cousins for me, and worked nights so she wouldn’t need a babysitter. And when Mother-of-witch needed childcare, she was there. She helped admit half the town’s teenagers to see films at the cinema where she worked, recognising friends of friends. Plus there were all the discounted coats I wore as a child and in my teens.

The thing about these four sisters is that had they got more of an education, they’d definitely have gone further. Not that there was ever anything wrong with where they did end up. We need people who make winter overalls for their nieces – especially if purple – and who has connections in the world of film, or who helps you wee by the side of the road. This kind of assistance should not be underestimated.

The Bookshop

Trailers, eh? I’ve been fooled once or twice in recent memory. Not that I go to the cinema all that often, but I did catch a couple of trailers for The Bookshop, liked them and thought I’d go and see the film when it came.

I’m almost certain it never came. Not here. And that’s interesting in itself. Why ‘trail’ a product you won’t be selling?

When Daughter was last here she assisted the old folk – that’s us, the Resident IT Consultant and me – by compiling a Netflix list of films, making them easier for us to find. And urged by positive noises on social media, we watched The Bookshop a few days ago.

The Bookshop

It had Bill Nighy in it. Not many films don’t, these days. I like Bill. He was good in this one, as well, even if he only ever has the ‘Bill Nighy’ setting. His face after reading Fahrenheit 451..!

The thing is, while it was a pretty decent film, it was nothing like the trailer had led me to expect. I don’t know the book by Penelope Fitzgerald, on which it was based. On the one hand it was another of the popular retro settings, travelling back to the 1950s, and a seaside bookshop being set up by book-loving widow is quite an attractive idea.

On the other hand, there was much nasty behaviour by her neighbours – made worse by today being 2019 – and she was far too kind and polite, as well as perhaps a little naïve. Her helper, played by Honor Kneafsey, was refreshingly observant and outspoken for someone so young.

And being me, I couldn’t help but pick holes in the authenticity of the retro-ness. But apart from expecting a different film, it was good. Not cheerful, so much.