It hasn’t been the greatest September, and apart from a change in my human surroundings there’s really nothing much going on, at least not worth mentioning on here anyway. To distract myself from all the movies I was looking forward to watching as soon as I possibly could and the fact that almost all of them played at TIFF, I reviewed a movie that wasn’t even on my list. My heartbreak in terms of missing out on TIFF this year was worse than ever and I resorted to living vicariously through many a critics’ twitter feeds. You could say this was a coping mechanism and a poor one because it did nothing but reinstate that my heart is always, and always tied up in writing and my academia has unscathingly beat it in terms of priority.
A quick disclaimer: I haven’t read the book. Even if I had I’m pretty sure my review would be mostly objective and have maybe one paragraph seamlessly merging both and stating if they worked independently or not. I’m really that easygoing.
As always a few technical details before we jump right in. White Bird In A Blizzard, directed by Gregg Araki and based on the book by Laura Kasishke, starring the likes of Shailene Woodley, Eva Green and Christopher Meloni. I went into the movie completely blind about the plot and as much as I hoped that it would surprise and thrill me, it did and didn’t.
In the year 1988, a single child named Kat (Shailene Woodley) is left on her own devices when her mother (Eva Green) mysteriously disappears. Kat’s father (Christopher Meloni) visibly taken aback with this disappearance does everything he needs to co-operate with the search for his wife but to no effect. Kat’s life takes a different twist and the lack of her boyfriend’s interest in her further fuels her discontent. I can’t quite put my finger on any adjectives that can fittingly justify Kat. I mean I can name a few but they are ultimately contradicted and this is why I never related to Kat at all, despite the dysfunctional family et al. Kat’s character development is flawed and confusing. I feel like either the script writers completely misinterpreted what it’s like to be 18 and hung out to dry with no sense of direction to your life, the mother you may or may not have respected or looked up to bailed on you or the director purposely aimed at this kind of shoddy representation. This is what confuses me to a point of extreme frustration and the reason I write this is to figure out what I feel about this movie. We know now that I didn’t enjoy it but we’re slowly getting to why I didn’t.
Not knowing the genre of the movie three-quarters into it I felt as dazed as Kat did in the frigid nightmares she had about her mother asking for help amid a snowstorm. Kat’s therapist concludes that dreams don’t mean anything and Kat quickly starts to feel disdain for the therapist. I will say if I was paying to talk to someone about my feelings, I wouldn’t necessarily be hoping to uncover a divine interpretation of my thoughts or feelings but Kat’s therapist might be the worst representation of a person doing a job they weren’t ever meant to do. The only other therapist I can think of that pissed me off so much was the one in Donnie Darko. Why am I even glossing over these trivialities? Maybe because there were so many angles to this story that felt forced. I can see how a novella might have essentially brought out more to these scenes that on the reel felt like a complete drag.
What can I say about Kat’s boyfriend though and how much he resembled guys that some of my closest friends dated. It’s eerie. The grungy, dumb as a pole, messy and unkempt hair a given kind of a boy that girls like Kat put up with for reasons that are the biggest secret in the world, in my opinion. So, Kat goes from being so into Phil to really just wanting someone she can go to bed with – that someone being the older detective on her mom’s case. Kat’s character up to this point seems completely fine that her mother may never be found. She watches her dad continue to be the man he used to be and moves on to college. On coming home she finds that he has a girlfriend and takes no objection to it whatsoever.
So in keeping this review spoiler free, I can only say this much that at the stage when Kat really starts to show signs that she cares her mother is gone, that she needs closure you have no connection with her at this point at all. All of the last fifteen minutes or so are rushed, dramatic, supposed to induce levels of thrill and suspense moments. The only thing that climax did for me is genuinely catch me by surprise.
I will diverge here just a bit to explain why this “being caught by surprise” is something so important to me. I know someone who watches movies and anime and loves the subtleties, the story arcs, the little details and the idea behind the bigger pictures almost the same way I perceive them. So when we watch anything together, it’s usually a fun ride. However, he feels like he’s reached this point where he has cracked the code behind every kind of movie there is. This for me feels like a very impressive feat. I know, for a fact, that I’m no where close to that level. More importantly, he makes me wonder, do I want to be? Halfway or even sooner through a film, he’s usually got a good grasp of the possibilities, I daresay he’s managed to shortlist the one outcome, too. Whereas I on the other hand, leaning ahead, face in my palms, tapping feet, am way too engrossed to even bother thinking ahead afraid I’ll overlook something. So when a curveball hits the screen I am usually smack in the path and I’ll tell you this, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love that I can still enjoy something without already knowing how it might end, that my mind is not (yet) attuned to pick up things that fast and thereby ruin my viewing experience. I remember initially feeling a little less about not being able to grasp these things as easily as he could, but then I wouldn’t have this blog and I wouldn’t ever need to write about a movie in order to figure it out. This lacking is a blessing.
I do not suggest White Bird In A Blizzard primarily because the movie made me uncomfortable and sort of queasy and I am still not sure why. It’s slow and far from compelling and even for the suspense genre that I had no idea about until an hour into it, White Bird In A Blizzard is odd, gloomy and confusing in the way that it doesn’t leave your mind for days after you’ve watched it. No one really needs that.
Take poetry. Take music. Add over-saturated, vivid, vibrant cinematography. What is not to love about this beautiful mélange?
So often poetry translates into imagery in our minds that is often difficult to do justice on the main screen. Poetry is art. To do anything more with it often feels like a disservice to it. However, The Color of Time makes me feel otherwise. I am so whelmed at this point that I want to go back into the dream-like cocoon the film built around me and never escape.
Poetry written with a honey-glazed rhythm, spoken modestly, shot like a dream, plays like a heartbroken yet optimistic tribute to life. Those are the words that come to mind if I want to sum up The Color of Time in a single sentence. Directed in parts by twelve directors, pieced together in a haunting, back and forth manner – like our memories. The Color of Time is a compilation of Pulitzer Prize winning poet C.K. Williams’ beautiful poems and a peek into human memory and the moments that define us.
Starring James Franco as the present day poet we are taken way back into his life at various stages of growth, the instance he started noticing the world around him, his experiences with love, loss, the women in his life at various stages, his mother (Jessica Chastain) and his struggle with his art. The film does not work on a solid movie-like plot but brings out the underlying message about how C.K. Williams found his calling as a poet. It is hard to say that The Color of Time is a very original and insightful movie and that nothing like it was ever imagined or made before. It is, in parts, very reminiscent of one of my all-time favourite movies, The Tree of Life. But don’t get me wrong, I’ll watch every film that’s made that is inspired by it. However, I know some critics that find these parallels (Jessica Chastain gracefully walking around on vast expanses of grass and sunlight pouring in through the trees, through her beautiful hair and her ever perfect features) mildly annoying. I get that but I’m not one of those people and The Colour of Time works for me as is.
Having not read anything by C.K. Williams before I was happily taken to find that his poetry is my kind of poetry. I don’t write poetry very much at all any more but it comes to me sometimes and tugs at my sleeve for it to be written; I’m always wary of it because I know that writing that writes you is often the dangerous kind of writing. What I took from this movie, why it mattered to me so much right away was the fact that I was able to relate easily to what C.K. Williams felt in those particular memories of his previous years.
I know for a fact that I’m not the only one and that the urge for writing develops unknowingly inside you when you are very small. However, what I also know right down to my bones is the aloofness, the queer sense of being amiss from your physical self that comes with it. The relative ease with which you can subtract yourself from your current situation and piece sentences in your mind is often a limitless luxury. And who can tell on you, really, especially if you’re a child.
C.K. Williams grew up in a very reclusive time and he reflects on memories that change you, forever. A fleeting embrace, the touch of someone’s palms, the rush from running and the lack of interest in the things your parent might want you to do. I want to say that James Franco is simply James Franco in this movie and I don’t mind that at all. It feels like a better progression to his character in his self-produced movies (Palo Alto, anyone?). Mila Kunis, who intermittently features as the present day love of his life, the mother of his child, has no greater role to play except being beautiful in that ephemeral way where you want nothing more than to spend the rest of your life loving her.
The Color of Time is a vintage, soft-spoken, visually eccentric and thoroughly overwhelming movie. It has some really good moments but others that you may have seen elsewhere before and might not do much for you. However, if you love wordplay built on loss and lament, love and longing, basically just life go ahead and dim the lights, settle in by yourself and give this film a watch.
I’ve often said I’m not big on the comedy genre in movies and that it takes a very sharp, witty and often satirical take on humour for that genre to seemingly appeal to me at all. I feel like lately I’ve been stepping out of my usual indie movie flavours and experimenting with a random dash of humour and getting rewarded for my courage.
Appropriate Behaviour is a humorous, at times audacious yet thoroughly amusing take on several issues ranging from being an immigrant in modern day New York to living with a queer sexual orientation, coming out of the closet, dealing with heartbreak, growing as a person and simply being in your 20’s and what that entails. While all of this could easily be made into a five season long television show on HBO with a studded star-cast and a strong soundtrack, Desiree Akhavan – the writer, director and lead actress in the movie successfully wraps it all up in about 80 minutes.
Starring as Shirin, an Iranian immigrant living in NYC, Desiree effectively puts forth the bubble of her world as a bisexual young woman simply trying to get by. The movie flows back and forth to her relationship with a white girl named Maxine – that is, to be honest – doomed from the start. Post this devastating break-up with Maxine, Shirin is a big, hot mess. Shirin, although very spontaneous, upbeat and perky is a sensitive person under all that and wants Maxine back so bad.
The underlying reason for the break-up that Shirin can’t seem to shake off is the fact that she couldn’t come out of the closet and tell her parents. Her Iranian parents, with Iranian values and an Iranian straight elder son, set out to marry a girl from his medical profession. Shirin terms it as older child syndrome where the older kid wants to be perfect for his parents and do everything right but deep down is simmering and could one day pull out a gun in a public place. Shirin made me laugh and reminded me a little bit of me and that made my day.
Shirin’s the obvious centre of this story and even though the movie felt so familiar – I later figured out why – she does a stupendous job at keeping you gripped start to finish. She has a strong camera presence, lovely set of expressions, much grace in her acting and a whole lot of gumption that makes you love her but also sometimes pity her.
The issues Shirin faces trying to find in Brooklyn – an apartment, a decent job, the right partner – will strike a chord of commonality in anyone, in any part of the world. What I love is how Appropriate Behaviour doesn’t dwell too much on a particular problem, doesn’t poke humour too hard at say a scene between her potential employer and herself wherein he reacts to her Iranian origins in the most clichéd way imaginable. It’s refreshing when comic elements are in the slights and not all over the place in that metaphorical slapstick manner. It’s even more appealing when characters try to keep their sense of humour even in their darkest days.
Appropriate Behaviour is clearly an achievement as a debut film and is definitely a movie worth watching with your bunch of friends on a Friday night sleepover. If you’ve watched Blue Is The Warmest Colour (and loved it as I did) you will find that Appropriate Behaviour is actually a superfluous take on that same film. I don’t know if this comparison has been drawn by anyone else before but certain scenes, dialogues between the lead lesbian couple and arguments brought back distinct flashes of that movie in my mind. Which makes it tough for me to love Appropriate Behaviour as much as I would like to. Nevertheless, a movie that grips me from start to finish, resonates with my personal understanding of human nature and sneaks in a good few laughs is definitely a depiction of good cinema.
I sat down last evening, thinking to myself that I need to go back to watching movies and writing about them. Sometimes I push myself. I force myself to put on reviewer’s glasses and absorb everything. Even before I reach the halfway point in a movie – the part where things should be making sense, the part where you think you know how you’ll end your review, the part where a critic’s eye becomes almost unnecessary – what I mean is, the process becomes effortless. And my god do I love that. You’d imagine a change of surrounding would do so much more for your writing. But my inspiration is a big ball of wool that I can’t quite unravel. I’m getting there. Undoing knots a few layers at a time.
I went back to my list “To Watch, And Probably Review” which at this point has over 63 movies. If only my ambition could translate into reality. Anyway, missing so many movies that got nominated for the Academy’s, I watched it halfheartedly. I declared that Boyhood should have won all the awards. I tweeted about what the stars wore on the red carpet (I’ll admit in retrospect, I’m a bit ashamed now) and the jokes that were cracked. I dismissed the awards and that they didn’t hold anything for me. Who was I kidding, I just wasn’t prepared for them like every year. So to redeem myself, I’m going in the ascending order of my list and somehow The Heart Machine happened to be the oldest record on the list. I will try my best to review the less heard of movies because at this point I’m too late to review the likes of Birdman, Selma, Life Itself, etc and say anything that you don’t already know.
Honestly, I was so afraid going into this movie. Somewhere at the back of my mind I knew exactly where this was going to take me when the first scene panned into perspective. Hazy, discotheque lights, a hum of music that is borderline annoying, strobe lights, bodies rubbing against each other (or what you may call a form of dancing?), and finally an ordinary looking man, sitting alone in this dimly lit, party place with a phone in his hand. Key word here being ‘alone’.
The man in question is Cody (John Gallagher Jr.), an average 20-something living in Brooklyn, at a crossroads in his life, working on commission basis which also sometimes means not really working at all. Cody comes across as a person with a fairly simple understanding of things and doesn’t have any shining characteristics that I can possibly outline to make him seem different from your regular 20 something year old. Cody is a part of the generation that relies heavily on the Internet for communication and information as a means of finding semblance in his life. He meets a beautiful, doe-eyed girl named Virginia (Kate Lyn Sheil) on an online dating website and after a pleasant initial encounter they plan to go steady with each other. What this movie emphasizes on, that I find a bit ridiculous is how Virginia being in Berlin and Cody in New York is such a huge, huge problem.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for long-distance-met-the-man-of-my-dreams-on-the-world-wide-web scenario. The Heart Machine weaves in a very great ambiguity about this distance that honestly makes no sense to me.
So Cody and Virginia have faith in their relationship and commit to each other. They share the normal Skype sessions and there is a lot that they talk over the internet that I don’t find many couples talking about when they see each other on a regular basis. We take for granted proximity, we assume that people will always be around and that that funny incident from earlier in the day can wait until there are more listeners. Long-distance relationships put that all in perspective.
Virginia on one hand has dirty secrets of her own. She’s far from faithful to Cody and has herself up for grabs on various other online media. There are hook-up apps and missed connections and somehow the ways and means of getting someone to come to you at any given time of day are endless. None of this feels like I’m spoiling anything for you. The timeline of the movie is not linear and that comes to light soon enough. So there’s no surprise when you find Virginia roaming streets that seem less like Berlin but more like New York.
I believe the movie being shown from the perspective of Cody may put all the harsh light on Virginia’s promiscuity. But for the life of me, I couldn’t stand him. I just couldn’t. Cody soon begins to doubt that maybe Virginia isn’t in Berlin. Instead of questioning and cross-questioning her, he stalks her social media to figure out for himself. He goes to obnoxious lengths and exhibits crazy stalker behaviour. All of this, for someone who he’s in a committed relationship with, Skype video calls daily, loves and you’d automatically assume, trusts.
And that’s why The Heart Machine frightened me. Love need not be synonymous to trust and like Cody puts it, “It’s the not knowing that kills me”.
I’m unsure about the message Heart Machine is trying to project. It doesn’t so much as warn about the perils of online relationships as much as determines that obsessing over someone you love and constantly doubting them is not healthy. That not always knowing things is okay and that the digital age is constantly trying to counter that. I fail to see why The Heart Machine could be compared to brilliant pieces of cinema such as Spike Jonze’s Her, the movie trailer is misleading and unlike Her there are no heart-wrenching moments, beautiful cinematography or likeable characters. The Heart Machine drags and lulls and tries very hard to not be a cliché and in the process ends up being exactly that.
I will say to its credit that the movie ends as it should and I wouldn’t change a thing about the ending. Yes, it’s tragic but nonetheless quite appropriate. Watch The Heart Machine keeping in mind it does not have much to its credit except that its an indie movie and that even if it doesn’t do great things for you, you won’t really be able to make yourself forget it.
<Insert Address here>
Dated: May 21, 2014
Subject: Here is something that needed to be said for a long time
It has been a long association and mingling we’ve shared here for the past 5 years. I write this not out of an obligation or a kind of dire longing to reach out to you; to make peace with you. That is all in the past and I am well aware that I’m so close to the end now none of it would make sense. I write this because like everything else I do, this feels important to me and I must catalog this before I forget how strongly I felt. Feelings are transient, it’s scary.
It’s strange that what starts off with a sense of foreboding, unfamiliarity and even fear of acceptance can turn into something that has a definite emotional shape and structure. I have spent days in your corridors and classrooms and felt like I was just another person among those walls. I felt like nothing about you could be made personal for me.
You are one of the most well-reputed and prestigious colleges my city has to offer. You have the brand-name, the University rankers, the brilliant and aesthetic infrastructure, a coveted placement cell and apparently the best faculty that could be asked for…is what I said before I knew you. You have the brand-name, the University rankers, the brilliant and aesthetic infrastructure, a coveted placement cell and apparently the best faculty that could be asked for…is what I still say but none of it feels like I’m praising you. An invisible demarcation was made in my mind the moment I stepped through your gates and got to know you, up close.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here, and for your sake I think I’ll back down a bit. I’ll tell you about my background so that you know where I come from and that I wasn’t always this cynical. That maybe I had wonderful experiences in my past study places and felt like the world could only offer me more and better. I was yearning and I was hungry for so much and you can’t imagine my disappointment when I saw what I was served. I have been starved ever since.
I finished my schooling from an all-girls convent school that was run by nuns and sisters devoted towards achieving the highest morals and principles among their girls. Although primarily a Catholic institution I learnt more about secularism than I ever could, anywhere else. Not even at home. Especially not at home. When you come from a family that makes you blindly believe and adopt certain practices, my school was where my mind was opened up to countless different possibilities and constant questioning. It was here that I developed my love for reading in the age-old library which I am told used to be a dorm back in the 19th century. My school itself is a heritage structure and I say with much pride, nothing short of the modern-day Hogwarts. Every day that I spent among those people and behind those desks helped me learn something new about myself. Intellectually, I was expanding so fast it was overwhelming. So you should understand that I came with some expectations. If not for something better (I doubt there ever can be), but for something good.
When I first heard about the ridiculous attendance norms that only you seem to put into practice, I wondered if that was what was setting you apart and giving you your so-called reputation. I was even a little intrigued as to how you could keep students engaged for 7-8 hours at a stretch. I learnt in the coming years, that it was never about what was actually achieved in those many hours. It was never the quality of education being imparted or anything gainful and productive that required that many hours of undivided attention. It was all about creating a façade; a kind of show for the rest of the world depicting how serious you were about maintaining rules and regulations when others weren’t. What did you achieve from that? The last five years of my life, I have slowly and grudgingly, even subconsciously dropped out things that I used to do on a daily basis. I had hobbies and I did things even when I was preoccupied with study load but because of your attendance criteria, I found myself backing off from everything else that was important, that I now regret ever putting down.
And this is not even the half of it. I’m not complaining that you require us to maintain a statutory level of attendance as high as 75%. In the first two years, I remember the rule which said that our attendance would be marked on a daily basis. So that literally meant that if I missed on an average 3 or 4 working days in a month for whatsoever reason I would be marked as a defaulter. Not just that, if I missed even a single lecture in a day, that would conveniently cross out my attendance for that entire day. Thank you for that, because that’s when I had to take extra care of my health. As you can see, more than any other thing attendance became the centric, most vital part of my college experience. And believe me when I say, I could divert completely and write a whole new blog on just that aspect altogether. But I will contain myself here and tell you that it was easily the most annoying part about you and on many occasions it drove me to a delirious insanity I’m ashamed to write about even to you, whose respect I’ve never demanded anyway.
Now that I’ve got the attendance burden out of the way, let’s pay some attention to what actually goes on in between bells. In the past 5 years, I can say with full conviction that I learnt the power of self-study. I learnt that most of the time it’s the best and only way to go. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not someone who likes being spoon-fed. I never asked for that. But I expected some kind of guidance. Something gainful that your professors could offer me which would make me understand my syllabus better. Every professor that I came across in every semester had a thought process I couldn’t ever grasp completely. They taught when they felt like. They wasted time when they felt like. Secretly even they thought that the attendance norms were completely stupid and wished for the class to be mostly empty so they could relax and put their feet up instead. Some of them were given jobs only because there were vacancies. Some of them were employed on probation basis and we were their test subjects. It’s odd because if there’s a severe dearth in your faculty, DON’T BOAST about it and mislead students who actually came from other parts of the world counting on the huge promises made by you. I spent a month in another college before I got admission in your college for my degree course, I know what I’m saying. There are several other colleges, not so high-ranked on goodness knows what meter, but they make sure that their professors are fairly capable. They ensure that if students are going to come to college, they won’t be wasting their time listening to an idiot yap about something they could gain absolutely nothing from.
Do you realize what such poor faculty has done to the class environment? Not one person is mentally present. As for me? I found a whole new recluse to sit and browse things on my phone. Read articles and important news stories. Text important people who made me feel like I actually have a life beyond this shit-hole. Even completing 483 levels of my guilty pleasure: Candy Crush Saga. My phone became an external organ of my body. Of course, you had a problem with that. You warned me several times about confiscation of cellular devices, but don’t you see it was my bane of survival. I wouldn’t have made it through without that. And for the record, it never got confiscated even once because, you know, I’m better than you.
Moving on to non-academic related topics, here’s where I thought I found my saving grace. For a short while at least. Many years later when I finally decided I wanted to interact with people and be pro-active in extracurricular activities, I figured why so many students couldn’t be bothered less about it even though it could make a good contribution to their overall personality (ahem, résumé). Ask anyone to define extracurriculars and they’ll most likely give you an elaborate explanation that comes down to things you do outside of the classroom, metaphorically and quite literally. Activities that require you to put your concentration in an area that most of the time you’re not going to be graded on but you indulge in all the same to meet like-minded people and expand your social clout. Also, competitions and various events that ultimately bring recognition to yourself and your college. Probably not in that order.
But here was the catch, doing anything other than sitting in your classrooms where the Attendance Sheet was lying passively on the desk meant I would be marked absent. The dreaded A in red ink across my roll number that couldn’t be undone. Now you would like to argue that attendance was always compensated to persons engaging in such clubs and activities. I’ll tell you what. Lies. That’s what it was most of the time. I was in the defaulters for the reason that I represented you at another college and we won a few events that we painstakingly worked for 10 hours straight for two whole weeks. Even the professor was a little confused about that when she met my parents and didn’t have anything to say to them at the defaulters meet knowing very well there was nothing to complain to them about because I wasn’t bunking class to indulge in other shenanigans.
Later, however, I heard about other ways in which attendance could actually be compensated after events so I and some other students took it upon ourselves to work it out. You went ahead and made another unsaid rule that only if we were winning and gaining recognition would our money and attendance be compensated. So either we put that on risk or much rather sit in class and do nothing. This was so pathetic it makes me laugh out loud now.
Most of the time, nothing we did felt like it was being appreciated. There was no motivation for anything. No wonder some of the brightest people I knew preferred fading in the background instead of putting in their time and sweat when they weren’t going to get even a little bit of convenience for seeing their efforts through.
I have often heard that it’s not a place that must be blamed but the people who comprise it, but sometimes it’s not easy to channel your love or hate towards so many people at once. It’s tedious and there are a few souls that are undeserving of your hate and are stuck in the system just like you. I met too many people and my feelings would be all over the place if I looked at you through the kind of people I met. There were the ones I couldn’t keep up with, the ones that disappointed me more than once, the ones I disappointed, the ones who were seething with deep-rooted insecurities that they couldn’t quite seem to hide, the ones that said they loved me but never knew how much I wanted to believe them, the ones that promised to stay, the ones that made no promises but stayed anyway, the ones who gave me memories that I couldn’t forget even if I wanted to, the ones who I met for brief instances and I wished I had known better, the ones I could’ve completely passed on meeting at all, the ones whom I learned from and looked up to, the ones I had shared interests with, the ones who struggled just like me.
I met so many people over the years but I realized that just like you, they, too were clearly maintaining a façade. I’m pretty sure that under different circumstances and surroundings everything could’ve played out differently. I had the most trying time understanding why it was so difficult to coexist with certain people and why my existence was such a bother to some others. I came to the conclusion that a place with double standards can only breed people with double standards and it made perfect sense. I may have met some wonderful people here but the experience played out in such an ugly, morose setting with you there in the background that I’m sometimes afraid even these good people might not last.
Many times, I will admit, that I was even driven to moments where I hated you so much it felt like a physical thing. I didn’t care that subconsciously or not I was almost eager to indulge in acts of vandalism. You took me in, changed me and spat me out as someone with razor-sharp edges and no room for redemption in my soul for anyone ever again.
I said this to my friend on graduation day as we stood aloof, watching the pink and blue strobe lights, the overly dressed crowd swaying to mainstream trance music, trying to make a celebration out of an experience I honestly wouldn’t mind passing up on, “I felt more emotion when I was promoted from primary section to the secondary section which was the adjacent building. This is apparently one of the most important days of my life. Am I supposed to feel something? Because I feel nothing.”
Looking back, I may have lied. I may have confused what I felt and also what I meant. After managing to get through something that had such a negative impact on me, there was no weighing it with the little good that I also somehow gained. In no better words, I felt deflated. I experienced a loss that I couldn’t understand, a loss I somehow refused to admit even to myself. I felt like I had developed a strong opponent over the years that I constantly stood up and battled against. I felt empowered every time I criticized you. When people agreed with me, it was the right kind of encouragement to continue my hate-relationship with you. You were an opponent I could never defeat and I secretly loved the wrestle.
Suddenly, I looked around and I knew that it was actually, finally, really…over. I would never be able to bring you up in conversations with the same intensity, same anger-glazed words again. I could, if I wanted to but like I said at the start of this letter, would it be as strongly emoted as it was back then? This dawned on me so suddenly that I couldn’t bear to stick around on that ground any longer. It was so strange that I was essentially expecting to feel appropriately nostalgic in my future about something I had disliked all along. This feeling made me mad and confused and I asked my friend if we could leave already and so we did.
Amidst all of this hate and venting of my anger, I will admit to you that I learned one important lesson. I learnt that hope can be found if you’re willing to lift the curtain and peep under, instead of staring at its dark, velvety surface and cursing the lack of things that could actually just be a step away. Maybe you’ve taught me how to be self-assured and self-dependent and that’s supposed to be a good thing, I guess. Although you have presented me with several setbacks, I found a few kindred souls who helped me through. They, just like me, were aiming to survive this ordeal. I’m glad that even in the worst of places, I wasn’t completely alone. Nothing, I must stress that a bit more, NOTHING will ever be as horrible and thoroughly exhausting as the things you put me through. I know that henceforth whatever I face in my future, I will be mentally armoured.
Thanking you in advance.
Let me go ahead and say this right at the start. This movie is as close to perfection as can be. I say it that way, because nothing can ever be truly perfect and perfection in itself is a subjective concept.
I’ll be honest this is why I really do Movie Reviews. When something like this comes along and I know that I can’t keep myself from writing about the movie and channeling my adoration into a blog that I can constantly go back, reread and absorb. That’s the prize in all of this.
Short Term 12 is a quietly compelling and brilliant movie. For some reason these are the near perfect movies that get conveniently forgotten. The unassuming genius of such movies is underrated and soon enough it disappears from most minds. Not mine, though. Short Term 12 stealthily touched my soul and changed me. I said that out loud while typing it and the Imaginary People in my head asked me, “How can a story change you?” But that’s the thing my friends, how can it not.
I’m so afraid that I won’t be able to do justice to this review but my desire to write about it is driving me insane. I’m simply whelmed. I will struggle to convey to you what this movie accomplishes and I will make my strongest attempt to make you understand what it is that Short Term 12 did, that other movies don’t. In between all of this, I will sway to the deep recesses of my mind and implicitly tell you things I fear are too personal.
The movie is set in a group care home (Short Term 12) for troubled adolescents and teenagers that is run by Grace (Brie Larson) and Mason (John Gallagher Jr.). Outside their job, Grace and Mason is a couple that lives together and is nearly indistinguishable from a married couple. They are essentially the ideal definition of a couple that loves each other in the rawest sense and have an understanding and connection far superior than most others. All of their scenes outside the facility have a beauty, a softness that is so genuine and endearing. They are not perfect and that is fine.
The entire movie is glued together by the outstanding performances of the actors and actresses involved. While anyone who has paid attention will easily say that Brie Larson who played the lead character Grace is simply amazing and at complete ease with what she’s doing in any scene. Be it at work where she can only provide a safe environment for kids so eager to self-harm and run away, or be it at home where she faces similar problems and can’t even get out of bed on certain days. At the start of the movie, I was unsure if she was the lead character. She somehow blended in and was not noticeable. But I was so wrong.
Enter Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), the punk teenage girl with dark eye make-up and scars on her wrist concealed by bracelets. While it could’ve been so easy to overdo that kind of a role, so easy to act whiny or try too hard to act natural, Kaitlyn effortlessly aces it.
Among all of this is John Gallagher Jr. who plays Grace’s fiancé Mason. He is the eptiome of nice and warm. He brings to the story a certain humour simply with his on-screen presence. He expresses himself with complete ease and his interactions with Grace are all too endearing. Mason is the Person Grace needs in her work life and love life.
I must make a special mention about Marcus played by Keith Stanfield, an almost-adult at Short Term 12 about to leave the facility soon. He adds to the movie that sullen feel of a destroyed young life that is so hard to retrieve. He singlehandedly executes one of the most twisted scenes in the movie and has tremendous potential with his facial expressions. My only wish was that there should’ve been more of him.
While all the other kids at the facility have problems of their own, they all seem to find some kind of odd kinship at the centre. They know they’re all there because of a certain kind of lacking in their lives. Something that came in the way of them attaining a normal childhood.
Various scenes in the facility showing interactions between the children and Mason and Grace are executed with such precise detail it made me wonder how such life-like scenes were even written. It came as no surprise when I found out that the writer and director Destin Cretton worked at a group care home and his personal experiences depicted in those scenes gives the movie due credibility. I’m sure other documentaries have been made on the subject of abuse, depression, overcoming a failed upbringing and an irresponsive family. I’m sure there have been others that were far more emotional and tear-jerking with hard hitting stories about the cycles of abuse and depictions of ‘what is the worse that could happen?’. Keeping in mind all of these things, it’s so easy to cut this movie short. To say that it merely skims waters that others have deeply immersed themselves in before would be an abomination. Short Term 12 has much more depth if you take a step back after watching it and ponder about it.
Short Term 12, overall, is a dark movie which picks up several issues of troubled childhoods and expands on them right from its core. It digs deeper into the psychological aspects of the characters and pulls out revelatory moments. It is rare to find a story that you can connect with whether you have or have not experienced something along those lines. I like movies that are cinematic and entertaining. I also like indie movies which are very intense and focus on emotions. But a movie such as Short Term 12…I’m unsure how I would categorize it. I would first say it is important and then humble and so incredibly introspective. It’s the kind of movie that puts you in the centre of something and makes you question your moral compass. It tells a story that makes you go back and think about yours and find hope in the face of it all. It made me want to think about certain actions and fundamentals that I so strongly held my ground in. I am reeling from a story that wasn’t about my life but makes me think afresh about mine. And even then some Imaginary People will still think a story cannot change you.
It’s amusing that I heard the Boyce Avenue cover before I heard the original. Such a beautiful cover with a melancholy feel to it.