Bar Bahar or In Between (Film) Review

Fuck knows what our theme is anymore but who cares because next week we start the best month of the year: Halloween! So there will be tonnes of movie nastiness all over the blogs soon – but let’s not jump the gun quite yet, as we sign off September with a feminist delight.

*Minor spoilers*
*TW: rape*

Bar Bahar (or In Between) (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

Three Palestinian women living in an apartment in Tel Aviv try to find a balance between traditional and modern culture.

My Review

Leila (Mouna Hawa) and Salma (Sana Jammelieh) are progressive Palestinian girls who live and party hard together. They also look fucking cool smoking all the time – add this film to the Hot Women Smoking Hall of Fame STAT.

When their old flat mate’s cousin Noor (Shaden Kanboura) comes to live with them, they are bemused by her traditional get up and values. Leila soon starts dating Ziad (Mahmud Shalaby) while Salma gets to know Dounia (Ahlam Canaan).

Smooookin’

Noor is also involved – she is engaged to controlling fiance Wissam (Henry Andrawes) who hates the fact she now resides in Tel Aviv and that she insists on getting a job after they’re married, rather than staying home, barefoot and pregnant as scripture recommends. A fucking dickhead in other words.

The women slowly start to bond, first Salma and Noor over a hypnotic dance party in the front room, then the three of them when something awful happens to Noor at the hand of the man who supposedly loves her. Let me tell you here that the scene in which the girls tend to and comfort Noor is extremely touching.

Wissam believe that Noor has been corrupted by her forward-thinking roomies and refers to them charmingly as whores. When they find out what he’s done to their friend, they hatch a plan to rid her of him once and for all – which is a relief because she has never loved him and seems to be coming round to a less-traditional way of thinking.

I haven’t love a trio this much since We Are The Best

While Noor tries to deal with the fall out of what Wissam has done to her, Salma struggles with her family’s attitude towards her sexuality – and Leila confronts Ziad who appears to be ashamed of her and reluctant to introduce her to his family. And all the while the women grow closer and make me fall in love with each of them a hundred times over.

Will each of our heroes chose the right path for themselves, despite the consequences they may face?

My Thoughts

Man, I really liked this. It starts of kind of slow and I wasn’t sure for a split second – but then the girls start to bond and it was game over for my heart. This is all about sisterhood despite their differences, despite their circumstances – proof that kindness towards our fellow sisters is universal and it’s beautiful.

“Hi, I’m looking for Seymour Butts…”

Written and directed by Maysaloun Hamoud, it examines the contrast between traditional and modern cultures – and honestly, the men are so secondary in this – they’re just obstacles in our trio’s way.

That said when Noor calls off her wedding and comes clean to her dad, he’s a total sweetheart and tells her not to shed a tear on her horrible ex-fiance. That was a feeling moment too. I definitely recommend this, it was empowering and fun and lovely – now where’s my fucking sequel?

My Rating

4/5.

What did my angel think of this one? Would she dance in the front room with it or hide it from her family? Find out here.

The Witch (Film) Review

Or: Stone the Crows!

This week features a film we’ve both already seen but I feel like we come back to it a lot, much like The Babadook in discussion and certainly in comparison to other movies. Since it’s free for all month and there’s no way I could complete with last week’s joyful pick, I figured this might be fun to review. Or perhaps fun isn’t quite the term. Try harrowing, haunting, ominous AF.

*Spoilers*

The Witch (2015)

IMDB Synopsis

A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession.

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My Review

New England in the 1630s and William (Ralph Ineson) and his clan have just been booted from their home due to differences in religious opinion. Basically, William interprets The New Testament one way and every one else another. The fam – William and his wife Katherine, son Caleb, daughter Thomasin and the twins Mercy and Jonas – relocate far from the plantation and build their own basic farm in the woods.

Shortly after their arrival, Katherine (Kate Dickie) gives birth to her fifth child, baby Samuel. Shit hits the fan when Thomasin (the really v. good Anya Taylor-Joy) is playing peekaboo on the outskirts of the woods with the baby when he disappears. Off camera we, the viewer, learn quickly of Samuel’s fate (it ain’t a good scene, man) but the family do not and there are varied opinions as to what has become of Samuel – witch or wolf being the two options.

Katherine is devastated and spends her days crying in bed as any mother would. William, sick of nothing growing in the farm, determines than in order to survive, the men will have to learn to catch their own food. He takes his son Caleb hunting and while alone he tells him that he sold Katherine’s silver cup to buy hunting supplies. Sadly the hunt does not yield much and family life is even more tense.

All the while the twins spend an abnormal amount of time goading the family goat, Black Phillip (voice by Daniel Chaudhry). We’ll come back to him later.

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So the finger of blame is pointing squarely at Thomasin. When Katherine finds her cup missing she insinuates that Thomasin has something to do with its disappearance too. Sure, everyone blame the baby-loser. William and Katherine argue into the night about sending her away to serve another family.

Side note: Let’s be real this isn’t a cheery yarn.

Tired of the misery and wanting to do something to help his family, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) sneaks out into the darkness to try his hand at hunting again. Thomasin follows him and demands to go along or she’ll grass him up to their dad. While in the woods the pair are separated (Thomasin is knocked unconscious), the dog is ripped apart by unknown forces and Caleb has an encounter with a seductive witch. Once again Thomasin is forced to return home without a sibling and the family is fraught.

When Caleb turns up later, delirious and naked, Katherine is convinced that witchcraft is at play (you think?) and prays over Caleb. Unfortunately, our boy is not long for this world and shuffles off, not before throwing up an apple and presenting a beautifully serene monologue. In the melee, the twins get upset because they can’t remember the words to the Lord’s Prayer and accuse Thomasin of being a witch. In retaliation, she tells her parents about their incessant chatter with Black Phillip.

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Cursed cursed image

To shut them all up William locks the remaining children in the goat pen with the big man himself. Later they witness an old witch drinking the blood from another goat.

I shan’t spoil the ending but there are more fatalities, some fantastic Black Phillip dialogue and a distressing breast-feeding scene which I can feel deep inside my core when I close my eyes. Let’s just say by the end all the paranoia and the ominousness pays off.

Witches. Witches everywhere.

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My Thoughts

I couldn’t love this more. It’s such a great example of a powerful modern horror and it ticks all my personal boxes. Everything about the way it looks, from the blue-tinged filter to the stark landscape works in its favour, while the tall trees framing the farm land add to the feeling of being forever watched. I actually feel cold and uncomfortable watching this – and I like it.

All the performances are spot on but Anya is incredible here, all doe-eyed and on the cusp of womanhood. The conclusion is deeply satisfying and stunning, I think. It makes me want to shed my undergarments and join a coven.

In terms of theme, The Witch explores the concept of persecution against women (but of course), female empowerment, black magique, puberty, familial ties – so many topics and its open to your own interpretation too. So make of it what you will but check it out please, I love.

My Rating

4/5.

What did my favourite witch make of this? Would she dance naked with it around the bonfire or feed it to Black Phillip? Find out here, obvi.

The Art of Loving (Film) Review

Free for all month and we start June with this biopic of awesome polish gynaecologist Michalina Wislocka, a sex campaigner who rocked the sex lives of polish women forever. My new favourite heroine basically.

*Spoilers*

The Art of Loving. Story of Michalina Wislocka (2017)

IMDB Synopsis

Michalina Wislocka, the most famous and recognized sexologist of communist Poland, fights for the right to publish her book, which will change the sex life of Polish people forever.

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My Review

Michalina Wislocka was a well-respected gynaecologist and massive influence over the sex lives of women living and loving in Poland under communist rule. An activist for sex ed for all, we meet her (played perfectly by Magdalena Boczarskaat the beginning of this biopic as the author of a new book entitled “The Art of Loving”.

Unfortunately, she faces a hell of an opposition from the communist party, the censors and the church because of her frank talk and non-academic way of phrasing things so everyone can understand them. Plus the mostly male objectors just don’t care much about women’s pleasure (who knew?). As she battles to get her tome published, without sacrificing any of its vital content (including the chapter on the female orgasm), we learn how she became the great woman she was.

TAOL takes us from current day (the seventies) back to the birth of Michalina’s forward thinking ways during the war and to her first marriage to a biologist that ended in a long-term love triangle with her best friend Wanda. Wanda is brought into the domestic mix so that Michalina doesn’t have to shag her husband, whom she loves dearly but doesn’t fancy (or rather, she finds sex painful). The relationship comes to a head (pnar) many years and two children (by different mums) later when her husband decides he loves Wanda and Wanda angrily demands the right to be loved too.

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Following the bust up of her family life, Michalina throws herself into her work and research and this eventually brings her to meet a new lover. Sex becomes a thing of pure joy and opens up a whole new world to our heroine. While the relationship is ultimately doomed from the start, it’s valuable lessons certainly contribute to Micalina’s success.

Will she get this damn book published and see it reprinted a further billion times* in her lifetime?

I really enjoyed this film, which marries serious subject matter with a wry sense of humour. Boczarska is magnificent as Michalina. She plays her part with relish and is completely believable as a warrior for women’s sex rights. It’s also poignant as fuck when she finds out her old lover has passed away years later. 

I’m quite cross with myself that I didn’t know more about this incredible woman before now and I definitely recommend this film, which in parts sort of reminded me of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017) – must be because of the threesomes!

SZTUKA KOCHANIA  - © Fot Jaroslaw Sosinski / Watchout

My Rating

4/5. Sex-tastic!

What did my sex pot think of this? Would she censor the fudge out of it or send it a lifetime supply of johnnys? Find out here.

*Not actual figures.

The Fits (Film) Review

Welcome to March Madness (a week late, sorry) – basically an excuse to do whatever the fudge we want, like we’ve ever needed an excuse.

*Spoilers*

The Fits (2015)

IMDB Synopsis

While training at the gym 11-year-old tomboy Toni becomes entranced with a dance troupe. As she struggles to fit in she finds herself caught up in danger as the group begins to suffer from fainting spells and other violent fits.

My Review

There’s been a bit of a trend over the last couple of years for films that don’t bother to explain themselves. They are what they are and what you make of them is up to you. The Fits definitely falls into this camp. This dreamy, sometimes nightmarish amble through adolescence and friendship is at times fascinating, even brilliant – and just a tad boring.

Toni is a quiet, hard-working child dedicated to her boxing training and helping out her older brother at the gym he also trains in. One day she becomes enamored with a female dance troupe. To begin with she watches them from afar but eventually, with the encouragement of her brother, joins the squad.

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The main draw of this troupe seems to be their unswerving confidence and although this does not appear to come naturally to our silent protagonist, she puts the work in to improve her dance skillz – and even make a friend or two.

Things take an unusual turn when one of the dance leaders suffers an unexplained seizure. It’s shocking but as she recovers quickly and without consequence, it is soon forgotten. Until the next girl suffers ‘the fits’- then the next. Slowly but surely this phenomenon spreads through the group and Toni and her pals fear becoming the next victim. Fear, however, soon turns to something else. The fits come with a certain badge of honour and most of the girls want to be part of the rising hysteria.

It soon becomes clear that Toni is being left behind because she hasn’t suffered an attack yet, will she lose her grip on everything she now holds dear? Or will life just kind of take care of business for her?

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My Thoughts

This isn’t really your average beginning, middle and end movie. It’s more of a happening, a feeling – a rumination on puberty and of coming of age in a sometimes hopeless place. Royalty Hightower is enigmatic and lovely as our heroine. Toni barely speaks so dialogue is light and to bring such heart to a character through facial expression and mannerisms is impressive, particularly at such a young age.

It does border on dull a few times but there might be method in that madness because when I got to the climax I was blown away. It’s surreal, it’s stunning and it brings everything back together. It’s all a metaphor, innit? I recommend if you’re into this kind of dreamy film-making and aren’t afraid to unpack it all yourself.

My Rating

3/5.

What did the queen of the dance troupe in my heart think of this one? Would she leave it to her own devices in an abandoned corridor or film it on her iPhone? Find out here, obvs.

Princess Cyd (Film) Review

The last film of Feminist February and as far as I’m concerned we’ve signed off with a bang. A slow and subtle Indie bang but a bang nonetheless.

And, last week’s bland sniffle-fest aside, I think this month has been a success.

*Spoilers*

Princess Cyd (2017)

IMDB Synopsis

Eager to escape life with her depressive single father, 16-year-old athlete Cyd Loughlin visits her novelist aunt in Chicago over the summer.

My Review

We begin Princess Cyd with a 911 recording played over the opening credits, depicting the death of a woman while her child is in the house. This is a blunt introduction to the character of Cyd Loughlin, who we meet 16 years later as a young adult.

Cyd has been sent by her depressed father to stay with her aunt Miranda, the novelist sister of Cyd’s late mother. Miranda has not seen or heard much from Cyd since she was a small child and since she lost her mother so is a little nervous about how things will go. She’s also very comfortable in her own routine.

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When Cyd first arrives, both the women are very polite and although there’s some nervousness, Cyd is curious and asks a lot of questions. While Miranda is an open book, some of the topics broached take her outside her comfort zone. She embraces this though and starts to relax in her niece’s company. Cyd challenges Miranda’s religious beliefs, her sex life and the way she leads her solitary (but not lonely) life. This shakes Miranda up, forcing her to look inward.

Cyd is quite taken with the idea of Miranda and her friend Anthony (James Vincent Meredith) getting it on but Miranda insists this isn’t on the cards. Anyway, Anthony is sort of married.

And while Cyd is settling into her new (temporary) life in Chicago, she meets Katie in a coffee shop and there’s an immediate spark. During a literary gathering at Miranda’s home, Cyd also bonds with Ridley (Matthew Quattrocki). She disappears into a bedroom with him and this causes some mild consternation between our new housemates, even though she doesn’t bang him.

Miranda swears she’s not going to be the person who nags Cyd about her life choices but when Cyd makes a snarky comment about her aunt substituting sex with food, Miranda lets her have it.

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It is not a handicap to have one thing, but not another. To be one way, and not another. We are different shapes and ways, and our happiness is unique. There are no rules of balance. ~ Miranda Ruth

Katie meanwhile finds herself in an awful situation at home and is rescued by Cyd and Miranda. Miranda is kind and understanding, something both young women need and she welcomes Katie into the fold without question. Cyd and Katie get closer and closer; as do niece and aunt. Basically, this is what life looks like without the interference of arsehole men. Even nice ones are not needed here – and as Cyd prepares to go back to her own life, Miranda has her own decisions to make.

What will she decide?

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My Thoughts

Ultimately, this is the sweet tale of a young woman reconnecting with her mother through someone who knew and loved her too, while fulfilling her own need. It’s about the craving for maternal love and it is a love story in many ways, just one of your unconventional, familial ones.

The performances are realistic, warm and convincing – and all three women are likable. At no time is Cyd the destructive mess you might expect her to be, though she has a fucking right. She might be direct at times but she means well. She seems wiser than her sixteen years.

Don’t come into this expecting a rip-roaring ride, because you definitely won’t get that. What you will get is a beautiful rumination on adolescence and learning to do you.

My Rating

4.5 – Gentle and sweet.

What does my very own princess think of this one? Would she let it stay the summer or send it back to daddy? Find out here.

Until next year my pretties #feministfebruary.

Frances Ha (Film) Review

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“Ahoy, Sexy?” ~ Frances

Welcome to the second best Collab month of the year: Feminist Film Month! And what better way to kick it off than with a film starring one of my all-time fave women in film? The original double G. What a gal.

This movie could possibly be one of the best representations of the hipster cliche too and I only 80% covet the exact same life for myself. (83%).

To the review!

*Spoilers*

Frances Ha (2012)

IMDB Synopsis

A New York woman (who doesn’t really have an apartment) apprentices for a dance company (though she’s not really a dancer) and throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as the possibility of realizing them dwindles.

My Review

Dance company understudy Frances (Gerwig) is in a long-term friendship with Sophie, her BFF and roommate (Mickey Sumner). Things are blissful until France’s boyfriend buys two hypoallergenic cats and asks her to move in with him. Her reluctance to let Sophie down derails the relationship for good and Frances returns to their grainy best friend montages with barely a backward glance.

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Patty Cake: the most hipster of hipster sports

Things change though when Sophie suddenly decides to move into an artists’ house in a different neighbourhood. Gradually she begins to spend her time with other people, including her boyfriend Patch (Patrick Heusinger) and some girl called Lisa (who’s a cunt apparently).

In turn, Frances moves in with her new friends Benji and Lev (Michael Zegen and my boy Adam Driver). Lev is a casual womaniser, while Benji is more to Frances’ speed, a decent Sophie replacement, especially after the two women have a blazing row about Patch.

In the aftermath of their fight, Frances finds herself not really dancing (aka working) and flitting between apartments. For a while she lives with another dancer, who doesn’t share her passion for rough and tumble play-fighting like Sophie does.

When Frances finds out secondhand that Sophie is moving to Japan with Patch, she starts to lose her grip – and on a whim decides to visit Paris for two days. Thus begins one of the most lonely weekend breaks I’ve ever seen committed to the big screen, as Frances tries to hook up with an old friend but keeps missing her and explores the city of lights alone.

During a phone call with Sophie, who’s finally called to tell her the news about Japan, it seems as though the women work it out but Frances’ optimism is manufactured to make Sophie feel better and it makes me want to sob uncontrollably.

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The little matchstick girl, but with books

Back in NYC, Frances loses her position as apprentice with the dance troupe but is offered work in the office instead. She declines and takes off to her old university for the Summer to be a camp counselor (or something similar). Here she bumps into Sophie and Patch of all people and it soon transpires that the pair are back in the US for Patch’s grandfather’s funeral.

Sophie and Frances have a drunken heart to heart in which Sophie admits she isn’t going to marry Patch (the two have gotten engaged) and that she hates Tokyo. She vows to leave Tokyo – and Patch – to return to New York for good and live in the same neighbourhood as Frances but in the cold light of the next morning, she loses her resolve.

After this, Frances slowly starts to pull her own life back together, first accepting the job at the dance company and then taking advice from her former boss, by choreographing her own show. The show is a modest success and Frances receives positive feedback. She finally finds her own apartment and there’s even a hint of romance on the horizon for  her and old friend Benji.

Things are looking up but will she ever get her friendship with Sophie back on track? I’ll leave that for you to find out.

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What Insta filter is this?

My Thoughts

What a zingy script this film has. Frances’ relentless riffing is joyous and clever but also hugely relatable to anyone who has ever felt wildly out of control of their own life. (All of us at one time or another I’m willing to bet).

There are so many quotable lines from this film that it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite. I’ll list a selection at the end.

My favourite thing about this film is that it’s a love story between two friends. Men come and go but the real focus is whether Sophie and Frances will make it. I love it for that. There’s a tragic inevitably to everything too – that whole concept of being left behind while everyone moves on and grows up, it’s terrifying.

All in all this is one of my favourite films and I can even dislike it for how cool and pretentious it could appear to some people. It’s just beautiful and hopeful  and smart. So there.

My Rating

5/5. Ace of base. A real joy of a film from start to finish.

Feminist Rating

4.5/5. ‘Cos it’s about a central female friendship complete with a wonderful reading/knitting scene. Would have been 5 if Sophie had dumped her boyfriend.

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“Hey, Sophie – you’re a ledge-end!”

Fave Quotes

Benji: Are you still undateable?
Frances: Oh yes, very undateable.

Frances: Don’t treat me like a three-hour brunch friend!

Sophie: It’s just this apartment is very… aware of itself.

Frances: But your blog looks so happy.
Sophie: I don’t think my *mom* would read it if it were about depression.
Frances: My mom would.

What did my good lady wife think of Frances Ha? Would she film it flatteringly in B&W or move to Tokyo to get away from it? Find out here.

 

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train (Film) Review

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train (2017)

IMDB Synopsis

After their mother ends up in jail, two sisters turn to train robbery in order to support their family.

My Review

Sometimes life hands you your arse on a plate and says “Eat up, chump” and you’re forced to just get on with it – knife, fork and all. Other times there’s a perfect solution to your arse problem just staring you in the face and that problem might lead you outside the law but no other fucker’s going to help, are they?

This is what happens to our titular characters when their mother loses her shit at work and ends up in clink (I hear you, gurl). Driven to breaking point by something that isn’t clear yet, mum Marigold (Danielle Nicolat) is actually quite happy behind bars, thrilled that every meal comes with salad on the side and that she can enjoy yoga classes on the regs.

Right?

Her daughters, Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) and Laney (Rachel Crow) however, aren’t having such a pleasant ride. Money is tight, they’ve a young brother to bring up and their dad (David Sullivan) is fucking useless. Who knew, eh? They’re also just normal teenage girls navigating a brutal school system with regular worries about popularity, friendship and college applications, as well as having to juggle a social worker and her regular visits. What are the girls to do?

Well, I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that Deirdra decides they should rob the trains that pass the back of their house to make some cash. Laney isn’t immediately convinced but agrees nevertheless. And the girls starting kicking arse as train robbers. Of course they do because if you want a job well done, you do it yourself.

Unfortunately, it’s not long before they attract the attention of a heavy-handed cop (Tim Blake Nelson) and things look set to take a turn. Meanwhile, Laney is competing in her high school beauty pageant and falling out with her jealous BFF, while Deidra is distracted by college demands and keeping the family together.

What’s wrong? Never seen a train before?

DALRAT is a sweet film that addresses some serious issues such as police brutality, poverty and crime as a means of survival in a light way. Although, when Laney is apprehended by violent cop Truman at the pageant, it actually turned my stomach so close to the bone it is. Truman is a bastard but also a great character and wonderfully representative of an over-zealous brand of twisted justice – and I truly relished his demise. FUCK DA POLICE, MAN.

The girls are great and adorable but they’re also resourceful, smart and cool – and you’ll just want them to get the fuck out of this nasty situation they don’t deserve and back on their respective paths. Meanwhile, Marigold’s justification for her meltdown is a little corny but it should hit you right in the feels. What? I got some sand in my eye.

Even dad pulls it out of the bag in the end but it’s the girls that save themselves as girls are wont to do and that’s what makes this a feminist piece. There are a couple of whiffs of romance but not really and I like that in a film about teenagers. It’s refreshing that the central characters have bigger fish to fry.

All that said though, this movie is probably not very memorable and I’m not sure if that’s because it does have a slightly light YA feel to it. I mean, I’m all for good YA material but I think my tastes have developed for much darker things. I would like to have explored some of the themes a little deeper  so that is my only criticism. I wanted more and heavier.

“What? Just casually chilling with these boxes.”

My Rating

3/5. There are worse (and better) ways to spend Sunday afternoon but I would say it’s worth a watch.

What did Jillian thinking of this one? Was in on the right tracks for her or…? Find out here. Obviously.<3