God’s Own Country (Film) Review

Here at Collab HQ (it’s more of a state of mind than an actual place given that we’re camped on separate continents), we love to devastate ourselves. Sometimes we favour fluff just to get over the utter weep-fests we’ve put ourselves through.

Although this week’s movie might not have had that exact effect on me, it did leave me with a heavy lump in my chest. It was a movie I felt profoundly and I’m so glad we finally got round to it. Thank you Netflix for coming through.

*Spoilers*

God’s Own Country (2017)

IMDB Synopsis

Spring. Yorkshire. Young farmer Johnny Saxby numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker for lambing season ignites an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path.

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My Review

Johnny (Josh O’Connor) lives with his dad and gran on a cattle farm in Yorkshire. Rural life is fucking tough, his father isn’t that well and Johnny dulls his pain and loneliness with booze and secret liaisons with boys down the local (I feel ya, Johnny). Delivered home puking most nights by furious cab drivers, Johnny’s folks just think he’s irresponsible and don’t understand him at all. This just exacerbates his feeling of isolation and when he does bump into friends from his past, he’s bitter because they’ve moved on and left him behind.

When it becomes apparent that the farm will need more help during lambing season, they hire Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) who quickly becomes a god send, much to Johnny’s irritation. The pair doesn’t hit it off immediately and Johnny burns bridges in the first few days by referring to Gheorghe as ‘gyppo’.

While Gheorghe pretty much just gets on with it, even around the awkward energy between Johnny and his family, he doesn’t take kindly to Johnny’s racist attitude and nips it in the bud quickly. One weekend, away from the farm but very much on farming duties, the boys come head to head and the friction that’s been building between them explodes. What begins with a fight, ends in rough sex in the mud.

After this encounter, the two barely speak about it though there has been an unmistakable shift between them. Later that night, they fuck again, this time with a little more tenderness.

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Back at the ranch, the sex continues but it also becomes more than that. Johnny invites his lover to share his bed in the farmhouse but he declines, preferring to stay in the caravan.

As Johnny and Gheorghe get closer, Johnny’s father suffers another stroke and the future of the farm is placed in Johnny’s calloused hands. When he discusses the prospect of Gheorghe staying on and permanently running the farm with him, Gheorghe expresses some concerns, namely living and working together simultaneously.

This sends Johnny into a tailspin and he acts out enough to send Gheorghe packing. Gheorghe also suffers some predjudice in the pub which doesn’t help.

Johnny’s nan Deidre (Gemma Jones) blames him for fucking up again and wonders how they’ll manage now. When Johnny goes to see his father about the future, he’s surprisingly understanding and gives his blessing for Johnny to do what he needs to to be happy – can you guess what that is?

Will Johnny do the right thing and make a success of his future finally? What do you think?

This film is gorgeous to look at but it’s all in the glances our lovers share, in the secret looks and the slightest of gestures. It’s in the loneliness, the isolation and the ache of not being able to be open to who they are – until they can be open with each other and I really felt it all.

The performances are heartfelt, while the pace of the film is quite slow which I didn’t mind. Not once did this feel like a slog and I think there’s a skill in that kind of film making. The movie very subtley addresses the topic of homophobia but more so in the fact that it isn’t talked about and everything has to be secret. While I don’t remember any out and out prejudice, this is only because Johnny’s not out publicly.

It was heart-warming to learn that perhaps Johnny’s family knew more than he thought about his ‘secret’ and that in their own sweet way they just wanted what was best for him. As for Gheorghe, we get little insight into his own life in Romania, something I would have liked but I understand wasn’t strictly necessary.

All in all this is a nice love story that felt authentic – and yes, it almost finished me.

My Rating

4.5/5.

What did my love think of this one? Would she take it down the local for a fumble or toss it out with the cold bath water? Find out here of course.

Motivated May

I am hereby renaming this coming month Motivated May and vow to post at least three times a week for the month.

I have so many book reviews and half-completed drafts in my folder that I’d love to finally publish – plus, it won’t hurt me to have a think about the posts I write for a while. Film reviews are great and I love doing them with Jill but I have more in me, I swear.

In other news, I’ve started a film blog over at Thursday Night at the Movies where I talk solely about films I’ve seen in the cinema. It’s going pretty well and encouraging me to go to the theater as much as possible and see things I might not normally. Have a glance, if you’re into it.

So, a busy month ahead, which is good because I’m never happier than when I’m watching movies, blogging and podcasting.

See you soon!

Girl Gang: Stephen King Character Edition

Inspired as always by the brilliant Meghan Lightle and her Avengers Girl Gang, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the mighty female characters of Stephen King’s books. While some of his books are decidedly female-ccentric, it isn’t always the girls that get the glory. I’m here to round them up for my own personal girl gang needs.

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Emily Perkins (1990) ~ Sophia Lillis (2017) ~ Annette O’Toole (1990)

Beverly Marsh

“I’m not afraid of you!”

Our Bev is a fighter and no mistake. A victim of childhood abuse at the hands of her father, she grows up to fulfill her creative dreams but still has to deal with the weak bullshit of men throughout her life. The only girl in the Losers Club, I feel like Bev could do with some girl power in her life, not that there’s anything wrong with the dynamic of that original squad (icky adolescent orgy aside).

Bev isn’t afraid to get stuck in when it comes to bullies nor stick up for what is right at all costs, and these are qualities you need in a friendship circle. Plus, she’s a ginger like me (in the book and most recent adaptation).

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Timothy Hutton and Amy Madigan (as Elizabeth Beaumont) in George A. Romero‘s The Dark Half (1993)

Elizabeth Beaumont

In The Dark Half, Elizabeth is a plucky and resourceful character who has to deal with an awful lot of upheaval when her author husband Thaddeus takes on his supernatural killer twin, George Stark. Stark is best described as other-wordly and not altogether human, born of the page created by Thad himself. When she finds herself caught in all the drama of Stark’s ‘birth’ (read the book), Elizabeth remains level-headed and pragmatic. She’s a mother lion ferociously protecting her twin cubs (twins run the family, what can I say) and she doesn’t suffer fools.

In all of Thad’s scenes I wanted to read more about Elizabeth, who deserves more than just a supporting role. More female central protagonists please, Mr King!

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Chloë Grace Moretz (2013) ~ Carrie cover ~ Sissy Spacek (1976)

Carrie White

“It was time to teach them All a lesson, time to show them… a thing or two!”

Okay, so Carrie is a little bit freaky deaky but she’s a talented telekinetic and how fun would that be? You could have her tip cups of coffee over mansplainers all day long with no come back.

Plus, how much did Carrie just need a damn good friend to stand beside her and say, You’re fine babe just as you are and these high school days, they mean nothing in the end? I’d take her under my wing and I’d just have to be sure I never upset her.

(Admittedly, the movie version of Carrie White seemed a little fluffier than the book version).

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Shelley Duvall (1980) ~ Rebecca De Mornay (1997) ~ Wendy Torrance fan art

Wendy Torrance

Mrs T is slightly irritating but she’s also a damn survivor and that makes her okay in my book. She’s quick to pick fault in her husband Jack but to be fair he’s not the nicest dude (in the book more so – he breaks his son’s arm even before he goes insane in The Overlook).

I think we’d get on because I know what it’s like to be in a relationship that has you walking on eggshells (past, don’t worry) and I kind of dig her kooky wardrobe. She seems like fun when she’s not stressed out.

Who’s in your gang?

UPDATE: A friend on Twitter pointed out that she’d choose Rose Madder and Dolores Claiborne for not putting up with any shit from men and I realised I’d forgotten to add Rose to my list.

Dolores I’m sure is a worthy contender but I haven’t read her story yet, and can barely remember the film. So shout out to these two women who are welcome to join the gang anytime! 

East Side Sushi (Film) Review

As a die-hard fan of grittier movies, it is sometimes nice just to tune into something gentle and pure. This movie is a marvel in its simple plodding but also evil because now I can’t stop thinking about crispy salmon skin and california rolls.

*Spoilers*

East Side Sushi (2014)

IMDB Synopsis

Single mom Juana can slice and dice anything with great speed and precision. After working at a fruit-vending cart for years, she decides to take a job at a local Japanese restaurant. Intrigued by the food, she learns to make a multitude of sushi on her own. Eventually she attempts to become a sushi chef, but is unable to because she is the ‘wrong’ race and gender.

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My Review

Juana (Diana Elizabeth Torres) hasn’t exactly got it easy as a single mother living in Oakland, Cali. She lives with her widowed pop and daughter in modest surroundings, forever trying to make those pesky ends meet with a series of jobs that amount to little. One of those jobs is running a fruit cart which one evening gets held up at gunpoint.

Majorly fucked off and tired, not only of the injustice of being robbed but also of the shitty part-time hours she’s scrabbling around for at a gym, Juana takes a chance on a Help Wanted sign in the window of a Japanese restaurant, Osaka. Due to her extensive kitchen experience, Mexican Juana is quickly offered an interview but her pop is a little wary of his daughter taking this direction. Why would she want to work with Japanese food? And what will she bring home after her shifts?

Uh, only the best food ever invented, Dad. No biggie.

Regardless of this mild negativity, Juana gets stuck in and finds that she really takes to it like a duck to… a Japanese dish? Juana falls not only in love with the cuisine itself but with the challenge of getting really fucking good at making it. There might even be a spark between her and Aki, the head chef (Yutaka Takeuchi) who is infinitely patient and also pleasingly impressed with everything she does.

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Unfortunately, the restaurants big boss Mr. Yoshida (Roji Oyama) isn’t stoked about Juana having ideas above her station because she is Mexican but I suspect more so because she is a WOMAN. He bans her from being out front, insistent that she was hired to work the kitchen and in the kitchen she will stay, away from the actual sushi cheffing action. Even though she’s bloody good and the restaurant has started serving several of the fusion dishes she has invented.

Nothing Juana says or does will swerve Mr. Yoshida’s traditional way of thinking, even when Aki gets involved. Especially when some of his (male) customers make comments about keeping the restaurant authentic. In the end, Juana loses her cool and quits the job. She also applies to be a finalist on reality TV show Champions of Sushi. Can you see where this is going?

Will our determined young sushi ingénue win the competition and therefore get offered her rightful place behind the sushi bar at Osaka or what? Will she flip one sticky rice covered middle finger up at the patriarchy at the same time?

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My Thoughts

Although this movie might not set your world alight, it is a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon and if I’m honest, there was something really satisfying about it. It would definitely fit well into Feminist February because Juana is a dreamy character with an impressive work ethic and a thirst for learning who takes on the stuffy ideals of her boss head on. She doesn’t quit and isn’t afraid to follow her dreams and I frankly loved her for it.

An aside but this film in its themes reminded me a little bit of The Ramen Girl. In it, an American girl (Brittany Murphy) gets stranded in Tokyo and ends up training to be a râmen chef. It’s lovely and I recommend that too. 

Juana is played by the beautiful Diana Elizabeth Torres who brings such a warmth to her character, and although there are no bodices being ripped or sexy times going down in the kitchen, there’s something good and genuine about the chemistry she shares with Aki. You root for them to get it on but it’s all implied and I liked that too. Juana’s true love is being a sushi chef and everything else is secondary.

I did find myself a little bit annoyed by her stubborn father at times but his reluctance to embrace a new culture did lead to the concept of tailoring traditional Japanese dishes to his very Mexican tastes and thus was the secret to Juana’s success.

Good pick, Jill.

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My Rating

3.5/5. I’m starving. 

What did Jillian think of this one? Would she order it up by the plate load or sack it on the spot? Find out here.

Weekly Digest

This week I am seriously digging:

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Atlanta, Season 2

The first season of Atlanta was so good, I feel like I’ve been waiting a life time for it to return. And now Donald Glover and friends (including the amazing Lakeith Stanfield) are back and it’s just as good as ever. Not only is deeply observational, it also has a lot to say about the state of the world, from the point of view of its mainly black cast.

It’s also funny as hell with some of the most off the wall scenarios (particularly episodes 1 (“Alligator Man“) and 6 (“Teddy Perkins“)). One of my favourites so far is episode 5, “Barbershop” which is pure perfection in its simplicity but is written so well and made me cackle all the way through.

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Killing Eve

I’m two episodes into this Phoebe Waller-Bridge co-written thriller and I’m frankly OBSESSED. Starring Sandra Oh, Fiona Shaw and always-flawless Jodie Comer as super-assassin Villanelle it’s already been pretty explosive.

Currently playing on BBC America it’s one of my most favourite current shows and I can’t wait to see how Oh’s Eve Polastri fares in her mission to uncover the identity of the woman knocking off several of the world’s most prolific people. What’s more this all feels very female and while we do meet your usual bullshit male bureaucrats, it’s very much the women who shine here.

Jillian, I think you will LOVE.

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This Jumpsuit (Above)

Look at this total babe in her orange kimono sleeved jumpsuit.

I can’t imagine myself looking half as good as this in it, however I still want to swan around in this in the warmer months, a straw bag swinging from one arm and my own statement earrings embellishing my ear lobes.

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Penguin Modern Collection

There are 50 books in the Penguin Modern collection and are only £1 a pop, so you can grab yourself some classics from the greats without breaking a sweat. So far I’ve got:

Fame by Andy Warhol
New York City in 1979 by Kathy Acker
Food by Gertrude Stein
The End by Samuel Beckett
Investigations of a Dog by Franz Kafka
Three Japanese Short Stories by Akutagawa and Others
The Breakthrough by Daphne Du Maurier
The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson
and The Custard Heart by Dorothy Parker

Not bad for under a tenner, eh? And they look amazing on the bookshelf or in my case, dotted around the flat.

What are you digging this week?

Anxiety 1, Voluptuous 0

I had a panic attack yesterday morning and had to come home from work. I lay down until it passed and then watched The Conjuring with a cup of tea and a banging headache. I’m off again today with the same headache but really it was frightening and I still feel out of sorts.

Even though I have an anxiety disorder, I very rarely have these attacks. I can remember two over the last year and they were scary bastards. This was no different – I felt like I was going to collapse and then I just felt an ominous feeling engulf me, like something really bad was about to happen. I felt like I had to flee and I couldn’t get out of the office quick enough.

Yesterday (and today) are the sunniest days we’ve had all year, everyone’s smiling and showing skin – and I’m home feeling sorry for myself. I know I’m normal but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Can’t I just live?

I feel daily as though there is a war raging inside me, one between the anxious me and the confident me. They’re such polar opposites with such vastly different attitudes and they butt heads constantly. Anxious me wants to break me with the self-doubt it sends coursing through my veins. I will never let her win but sometimes I’m not quick enough and I hear what she’s whispering – “You’re not good enough”, “Nobody likes you”, “You don’t deserve that”… oh, she’s a little cunt alright.

She’ll never get the better of me but sometimes I let her run the show, she is part of me after all. And while this is happening Confident me has a nap, posts Instagram memes and rallies against the patriarchy in her head (the patriarchy is responsible for consumerism and the unrealistic beauty ideals that keep us feeling like we’re never good enough). Confident me tries on jumpsuits and shushes Anxious me when she tells her (me) that I can’t wear that.

I’m tired and I’m feeling sorry for myself. My head hurts and I feel old and crabby. My skin needs moisture, my fringe needs a cut and everyone looks so effortless in the summer sun. I wish I was out there and I’m glad I’m indoors. I want company and I want to be left alone. Like I said, a constant battle, an eternal game of tug-of-war.

Hurricane Bianca (Film) Review

… or If You Can’t Love Yourself, How in the Hell Are You Gonna Love Anybody Else?

This week’s pick is mine and *disclaimer* it is self-servicing AF. As a disciple of Ru Paul’s Drag Race (and let me tell you, there’s nothing more extra than a new convert), of course I was going to get round to reviewing Hurricane Bianca eventually.

So without further fanfare, let’s get lost in Bianca Del Rio‘s world.

*Spoilers*

Hurricane Bianca (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

A New York teacher, who moves to small town Texas where he’s fired for being gay, returns disguised as a mean lady to get revenge on the nasty town.

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My Review

Poor old Richard (Roy Haylock) is having a shitty time of it. His teaching career isn’t exactly molding the future of the next generation, while his part-time entertainment gig has just crashed and burnt to the ground. His best friends Bailey (Willam Belli) and Stephen (D.J. ‘Shangela’ Pierce) love him dearly and are willing to bail him out but he’s had enough.

When he’s offered a teaching role in small town Texas, Richard packs up and leaves the Big Apple hopeful of a fresh start. Well, a new beginning is exactly what he gets but not quite in the ways he expects. For a start, the kids in his class are all arseholes. The halls are terrorised by mean bitch Deborah Ward (Rachel Dratch) and her fake ho daughter Carly – and the locals aren’t exactly welcoming either. Guess the school just isn’t ready for a gay chemistry teacher, eh?

Luckily for Richard he quickly meets kind-hearted radio DJ Karma Johnstone (Bianca Leigh), a trans woman who understands him only too well. She introduces him to the town’s LGBT community and when he is outed by the locals and subsequently fired for being homosexual, an idea is born.

Richard returns to the classroom as fierce bitch Bianca Del Rio (nobody knows she’s Richard in drag) – and boy are things about to change.

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Let me make something very clear TO YOU, Debbie. I’m fuckin’ this cat. You just hold the legs. ~ Bianca Del Rio

Bianca takes no prisoners and quickly makes an impression on the school, in more ways than one. She has a sharp tongue and a wicked way with words, plus she tells everyone that Cher is her cousin and Gaga is her best friend so they’ll like her.

There’s a loose story line about a mystery female teacher taking male students’ virginity and a Teacher of the Year competition but really this is a showcase for Bianca’s one liners as she licks her students into shape, tackles in-class bullying and tries to help her new BFF Karma with her family issues. All the while taking down that awful c**t Deborah.

Hurricane Bianca isn’t by any means a perfect movie but it is fun and I think Bianca Del Rio has real stage presence – and those dimples! While it could be funnier, there’s enough in it to make you want to watch and in the end its message is a good (if simplistic) one. Evil will not win and small-mindedness will not to be accepted.

At times it does turn very dark (Richard/Bianca is kidnapped by a bigoted neighbour) and that’s not an easy watch. Luckily in this instance it doesn’t come to anything more sinister but it probably does play quite close to the bone.

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The appearances by Del Rio’s fellow queens are joyful though. I’m a big fan of Shangela and loved seeing her on-screen. Alyssa Edwards is also wonderful as Ambrosia Salad. They might not be the most seasoned actresses but I don’t care, I want more Drag Queen movies please!

My Rating

3.5/5.

What does my QWEEN Jill think of Bianca? Would she leave her out in unstable weather or award her Drag Queen of the Year? Find out here.

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