Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Support the Girls, or: Double Whammy

Small business owners, determined managers–we really expected Feminist February to uplift and inspire us.  However, both of our first picks this months have been something of a bummer.  You’ll see what I mean with this week’s pick, in which even a title with a clever double entendre fails to deliver on the promise of lighthearted fun.

The Film:

Support the Girls

The Premise:

The caring manager of a sports bar experiences a hellish day that forces her to reevaluate her priorities.

The Ramble:

To say Lisa isn’t having her best day ever is an understatement.  The manager of the struggling bar Double Whammies–a local twist on the Hooters franchise–begins the day with the news that thuds emanating from the attic are those of an attempted burglar who got stuck in the building’s vents.

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Today is the day of a big fight that the sports bar is counting on making big business.  Before the real work begins, Lisa squeezes in a car wash fundraiser to “support the girls” that isn’t quite approved by the bar’s owner.  After receiving the news that one of her former girls is in trouble after running over her boyfriend in a rage, the caring Lisa is determined to help her out with the funds raised in the car wash.

Lisa is incredibly protective of her girls, treating them more like family than employees.  She is especially close to cool and collected Danyelle and bubbly Maci, both hardworking ladies who are equally willing to support their boss.

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As you may imagine, some of the customers are creepy, hostile, rude, aggressive, or all of the above.  Lisa suffers no fools and is quick to throw out anyone caught behaving inappropriately.  The regular customers bring challenges of their own, including overly nosy and observant lesbian Bobo (but personally I fucking love Bobo).

Complicating things further, the cable at the bar is suddenly cut off.  Despite Lisa’s best efforts, the cable provider doesn’t seem inclined to speedily restore service.

When owner Cubby arrives on the scene, not only does he lecture Lisa about the cable, but he also points out the questionable legality of the car wash fundraiser.  Cubby seems determined to burst Lisa’s bubble as he shows her the location of a soon-to-be-opened competitor that could close down Double Whammies.  After a road rage incident and a fight in which Cubby fires Lisa (yet again), she decides to finally accept the termination of her job.

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Luckily, Lisa’s husband is willing to pick her up and take her back to work to get her car.  Unfortunately, the car ride will also involve a rather serious conversation about their future together as a couple.  While her husband is depressed and seems to have more or less given up, Lisa is a workaholic and fails to make time for their relationship.  Prognosis?  Not good.

Finally, Lisa receives disappointing news about Shaina, the girl she worked hard to raise money for at the day’s earlier car wash.  The disillusionment is final and thorough.

Will Lisa swallow her pride and go back to the bar or step forward into an uncertain future?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I really expected to like this one more than I did; however, I may have myself to blame.  Given the double entendre title, the movie posters with confident-looking Regina Hall, and perhaps just wishful thinking, I expected a positive, upbeat comedy about the ladies of Double Whammies banding together through tough times.

The film takes a much darker and more realistic approach to the emotional toll of treating employees as family and allowing work to consume your life.  While Lisa cares deeply about the girls she employs, the owner doesn’t share her concern, and this emotional investment disadvantages her.  Ultimately, it makes Lisa much more inclined to fight losing battles that cost her a lot personally and emotionally–battles that even the owner doesn’t seem invested in.  And honestly, her efforts to support her employees in tough times aren’t always appreciated; Lisa’s good intentions as a manager tend to go too far.

The bond between Lisa, Danyelle, and Maci is great, though.  And Bobo 4 life; would watch a sequel about these 4 ladies.

Would my blog wife support this one or let the ladies hang freely?  Find out here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Bookshop, or: Shelf-Employed

Hallelujah, it’s Feminist February! Not only is this month a celebration of ladies in film, but it’s also the birth month of the Blog Collab! This week, we vicariously fulfill our dreams of opening the quaintest fucking bookshop ever to exist.

The Film:

The Bookshop

The Premise:

A woman in 1950s England faces local opposition to her plans to open and operate her own smalltown bookshop.

The Ramble:

Recently widowed Florence Green is devastated by her husband’s death. However, as stiff upper lip is the English way, she tries to make the best of things by achieving her lifelong dream of opening a bookshop.

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In order to do so, Florence must overcome a surprising amount of opposition from the members of her sleepy coastal town. Only one person in town seems to be much of a reader, so the bank finds little reason to believe her venture will be a solid investment. This leaves Florence to rub elbows at fancy rich people parties which, in true book nerd fashion, she is painfully terrible at carrying off.

Unwittingly, Florence’s bookshop plans have set up queen bee of the town Violet as her archnemesis. Violet has grand plans of her own for the historic building that happens to be Florence’s home: she envisions a grand arts center, despite the small town not having much art and culture to go around.

Even with the scheming of Violet and her toady Milo, Florence manages to convert her home into a cozy little bookshop. The shop is a true labor of love as Florence is the only employee until she hires an assistant, 11-year-old Christine. Though Christine gives zero fucks about reading, she’s nevertheless a dedicated and hardworking employee. The two bond over their determination to keep the bookshop alive and thriving.

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Meanwhile, Brundish, the only reader in town becomes more and more invested in Florence’s success. In addition to being the only game in town, Florence has the knack for tracking down the perfect book for Brundish. After introducing him to Ray Bradbury, she asks for his opinion on selling Lolita in her shop despite its questionable morality.

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Deciding to go all-in for Lolita, Florence stocks 250 copies and scandalizes the entire town. Has she finally gone too far? It seems likely when Florence is forced to close the doors on the shop. Though Brundish stands up for her against Violet, in a tragic twist, Florence ends up losing her last remaining ally.

Is there any hope left for Florence and her little bookshop?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

As a feminist being into it when ladies are small business owners, I wanted to like this. As a book person, I reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally wanted to like this. Florence is basically living my dream life here with her small bookshop in a beautiful little coastal town. But honestly, most of this movie is boring AF and I couldn’t even get invested in the whole cute little bookshop fantasy. And this time it’s not the chemical inbalances in my brain because I have pills for that.

The characters are not super compelling either. Even Bill Nighy’s character is just kind of blah, and that makes it difficult to invest in any of the character relationships. The relationship between Florence and Christine is supposed to be the heart of the film, but it falls flat and fails to create the wistful ending it aims for.

Not to be too spoiler-y, but this film could also be called Christine: That Escalated Quickly.

The landscape and adorable little shops and cottages are lovely, though.

Would my blog wife invest in this one or scheme to shut it down? Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Catwalk, or: A Fuckton of Cats

Let’s not think about the fact that the first month of 2019 is nearly over.  Instead, let’s focus on it being a week of purrfectly groomed felines, pawsitively delightful looks of kitty disdain, and inspiring tails of overcoming obstaclaws.  Don’t worry–I’ve officially gotten the cat puns out of my system meow.  Now.

The Film:

Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit

The Premise:

This documentary takes an inside look into the world of professional cat shows, the people who make them possible, and the competition for that coveted 1st place ribbon.

The Ramble:

Handlers, breeders, judges, and, of course, kitties:  we’ll get to know many of the quirky characters who keep the professional cat show circuit going.

Among those are judges who describe competitors as “the kind of cat that gives you goosebumps” and remark that particular cats never have a hair out of place.  We also get to know some of the breeders who care deeply about the animals they raise.  Though they get a bad rap, the breeders shown here take painstaking care of their babies:  precise grooming, special diets of raw meat and chicken hearts, custom-built catios.  There are so many people making these cat shows happen that the mind boggles.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, the story driving this film is the fierce competition to win at the individual cat shows and ultimately rack up enough points to be the overall best cat of the year.

The top contender at the beginning of the season is Bobby, a Turkish Angora shown by cat handler Kim.  Every cat has a benching space (aka space for their little luxury trailers), and cats are called up by number to queue up for individual judging.  Though grooming is important depending on the breed, it does boil down to a cat beauty contest as judged by the standards of each breed.

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While Bobby is a gorgeous cat, he runs into competition in the form of Oh La La, a red Persian making a comeback from retirement.  Her handler, Shirley, obviously takes great care with bathing and grooming the little ball of kitty fluff, resulting in stealing those 1st place ribbons from right under Bobby’s nose.  Kim and Shirley exchange some light-hearted banter, but it seems clear Kim is quite put out that her kitty’s chances of victory have vanished seemingly overnight.

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In addition to caring for and showing cats, Kim manages the additional hassle of coordinating a small local cat show.  It’s even more of a fiasco when the venue’s new management double books the space, and the time usually reserved to set up the cat show is now taken over by a wrestling event.  Additionally, many cats and their handlers are having bad luck with delayed flights, leading me to reflect in horror how much worse travel delays would be with a cat.  But the show must (and does) go on!

As the show season goes on, Bobby’s chances of victory narrow further with the arrival of another impeccably groomed cat, a Himalayan named Sandman.  When this cat steals 1st place, Oh La La is pushed to 2nd, and Bobby to 3rd.

Of course, it all comes down to the final show.  Which cat will take home the most important honor in the cat show community?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

First of all, the cat facial expressions in this film give me life.  The filmmakers play to their advantage the naturally sarcastic glares cats have mastered.  It’s truly a joy to watch these cats in their element.

 

We also get some insight into the many wheels that must turn for cat shows to exist, and it makes me appreciate how much is happening behind the scenes for everything to run smoothly.  I have a little bit more understanding for why all of the mushed-face cats always seem to do so well in these types of competitions too–the impeccable grooming and care for some of these breeds can factor into cat show decisions.

However, the film really plays up the rivalry between Kim and Shirley, which I don’t like so much.  Many of the participants rave about the lovely, supportive cat show community, yet the film really underplays this element in favor of stirring up drama.  It also seems to ridicule its subjects at times, and I’m really not cool with that.  Cat ladies make the world go ’round.

Was this mewsic to my darling blog wife’s ears or did it end up in the doghouse?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Mary Shelley, or: If You Like Percy Bysshe Shelley and Getting Caught in the Rain

It’s 2019.  It’s almost the 2nd month of 2019.  But while it’s still month number one, we do what we want, we watch what we want.  And this week we take a trip 200ish years into the past with a brilliant writer and real-life heroine.

The Film:

Mary Shelley

The Premise:

An examination of the events in Mary Shelley’s life that led to the creation of her iconic Gothic novel, Frankenstein.

The Ramble:

Mary Shelley (née Godwin), like your average teen, likes to hang out around her mother’s grave and invent creepy ghost stories for her siblings.

Since the death of her famous mother, Mary’s father William Godwin, a philosopher in his own right, has remarried.  Her stepmother (aka Anna from Downton Abbey) despises Mary and her distracted, creative mind, and the two are frequently at odds.  After an especially contentious fight, Mary is unceremoniously sent off to live in Scotland with a radical philosopher and his family.

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Though miserable, things are looking up when Mary befriends one of the daughters of the family, Arya Stark Isabel.  They bond over their interest in all things occult and the desire to summon the ghosts of their deceased mothers.  You know, teen stuff.  The two pass the time enjoyably enough until Percy Shelley arrives on the literal winds of change. Significant stares are exchanged.  Repartee is traded.

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Unfortunately, a blossoming new romance grinds to a halt when Mary receives the news that her stepsister Claire is gravely ill.  Mary rushes to her side only to discover, rather than being at death’s door, Claire has been desperately bored.

Luckily, Percy is a massive fanboy when it comes to Mary’s parents, and it doesn’t take much convincing for her father to take him on as a protégé.  From then on, it’s secret notes, hanging out in graveyards, getting caught in the rain, and drinking sacramental wine.

However, it’s sort of a buzzkill when Percy’s wife and daughter arrive on the scene, bursting Mary’s bubble.  Having been raised with her radical parents’ ideas, Mary is all for free love and embracing an unconventional lifestyle.  Her father is decidedly not ok with this and cuts her off when she runs away with Percy, bringing Claire along for the ride.

Unsurprisingly, being young, poor, and in love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Percy can’t get anyone to publish his work, yet insists on throwing elaborate dinner parties for his sleazy friends.  Meanwhile, Mary is expecting and worried about her baby’s future.

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Predictably, the creditors come.  Forced to flee on a cold, rainy evening, Mary’s newborn baby is not long for this world.

Meanwhile, Claire has news of her own:  after meeting the infamous Lord Byron during a night out a the theater, she became immediately pregnant after he looked at her.  /Also she’s been having an affair with him for the past few months.  Interpreting a letter from Byron as an invitation to visit, Claire and the gang head off for a month-long binge and general drunkenness and debauchery.

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All of this is leading to that famous weekend that produced those Gothic masterpieces, Shelley’s Frankenstein and John Polidori’s The Vampyre.  Throughout all of this, I should mention, Byron predictably acts like a bag of dicks.  Percy isn’t much better, though John is sweet if a doormat.

After drafting her most famous work, Mary struggles with finding a publisher.  Eventually, she is able to publish anonymously on the condition that Percy writes an introduction…which means everyone in the world will think he is the writer.

Frustrated and hurt, Mary’s relationship with Percy deteriorates and her career as a writer seems over before it’s begun.  We all know she will ultimately become one of the most important English writers, period…but how will she get there with the odds stacked against her?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

I am always up for a period drama.  And–no surprise–Elle Fanning is brilliant as ever.  However, as a whole this film fell somewhat flat for me.  I get that a successful writer’s life does involve a lot of scenes that wouldn’t be exceptionally thrilling onscreen.  But Mary comes across as such a boring person at times; I wish we had gotten inside of her brain a bit more to explore her brilliance.

Most of the time, we are focused on Mary and Percy’s relationship angst.  And, admittedly, a lot of the Romantics were probably huge douchebags, but Percy doesn’t come across looking great here.  From what I remember, Percy was supportive of Mary’s writing and never tried to claim credit for her work (though people did assume Frankenstein was his work).

The film also makes the odd choice of quoting from Percy’s poetry A LOT.  I understand the choice to use Percy’s words as Mary finds her voice as a writer, but it really got under my skin.  Remember Bright Star, which featured so much beautiful Keats poetry because it was a film ABOUT Keats?  This film is ABOUT Mary Shelley, so her words should take priority over Percy’s…unlike, you know, that thing all of those 19th century dudes were taken to task for IN THIS FILM.

Would my darling blog wife skip romantically through the rain with this one or ditch it in the mud like it’s the heteropatriarchy?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

And Breathe Normally, or: Cats Bring Us All Together

This week we’re leaping over to Iceland!  Don’t worry–our film is as bleak as its landscape.

The Film:

And Breathe Normally

The Premise:

A single mother in Iceland working as a border guard stops a woman with a forged passport, unknowingly changing both of their lives in unexpected ways.

The Ramble:

Lára is a struggling single mother to Eldar, whose father seems to be well out of the picture.  A recovering addict, Lára doesn’t have many people to lean on for help.  Having difficulty paying for groceries, let alone rent, Lára is relieved when a low-paying job as an airport border guard works out.

To give Eldar a friend to keep him company, Lára agrees to let him adopt a cat.  I’m so glad she does because the cat, in addition to being an important plot device, is so adorable.

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Things are starting to look up for the small but close family.  Lára, eager to impress the higher ups, manages to catch a tiny detail on a woman’s passport that likely means it’s a fake.  However, Lára begins to regret this choice as she has to follow through on this case, escorting the woman, Adja, to be questioned and ultimately detained.  Lára seems to be a naturally compassionate person, catching onto some subtle body language that reveals Adja is traveling with her daughter and sister.

After a brief trial, Adja is sentenced to 30 days in prison and must pay all legal fees associated with her case.  Later, the court will determine whether Adja will be allowed to continue on to her destination, Toronto, or be deported.

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Meanwhile, Lára and Eldar are evicted from their apartment and forced to make do with sleeping in the car.  As Lára sleeps, Eldar lets kitty Musi out to explore.  Not his wisest choice.  After losing sight of Musi, Eldar goes looking for his lost cat, sending Lára into a panic when she wakes up.

When Lára does find Eldar, he is with Adja, who has found the missing cat.  Feeling awkward, Lára bundles Eldar up without a glance back.  That is, until Eldar points out it would be polite to at least give Adja a ride since she reunited him with Musi.

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Lára returns and takes Adja back to the apartments where she is living in limbo.  After this ordeal, Lára and Eldar sleep with the car parked behind the building.  When Adja realizes this situation, she invites Lára and Eldar to sleep in her room, where they can at least stretch out and get warm.

The guarded Adja reveals she is fleeing Guinea-Bissau as a lesbian who was violently attacked when her sexuality was discovered.  Her partner did not survive the assault, and Adja fears returning to her home would be a death sentence.

When Adja gets the terrible news that she will be deported to Guinea-Bissau, Lára devises a plan to help her.  Can these two ladies beat a system so heavily stacked against them?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This film builds slowly to a beautiful ending that is compassionate to both of our leads.  Adja is of course far from the job-stealing, drug-smuggling murderer that so many people are keen to believe of immigrants and refugees.  Like all refugees, Adja leaves behind all that is familiar because her life is at risk–not that being threatened with death is the only reason countries should accept more immigrants into the fold.  Lára is also very human, dealing with her own struggles but still showing a great deal of compassion for another woman facing circumstances beyond her control rather than being a nameless, faceless border guard.

The disadvantage here is the slow build means it does take a long time for the bond between Adja and Lára to form.  I do wish we had gotten more time with them, though the lasting impact of their chance encounter is highlighted by the short time they spend together.

Would my blog wife stamp this one’s passport or sound the alarm?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Tau Be or Not Tau Be

…And we’re back!  After a December hiatus, we’re kicking off 2019 with year 4(?!??!) of the Blog Collab!  My most excellent blog wife Christa picked an appropriately futuristic film as we start a new year with a free for all month.

The Film:

Tau

The Premise:

After being abducted by a mad scientist, Julia must figure out a way to escape her captor and his super sophisticated AI house.

The Ramble:

We don’t know a lot about Julia beyond her occupation as small-time thief.  She’s not the kind of person who will be missed–the ideal type of person a renowned but secretly unhinged scientist would target for unscrupulous experiments.

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This is exactly how Julia suddenly finds herself one evening, locked in a cell with electrified bars along with a couple of other unlucky souls.  They all have matching uniforms along with Hannibal Lecter-style masks.  These feel a little unnecessary as their cell seems to be far from the hearing range of any living human beings.

Our aforementioned mad scientist is running experiments involving a chip implanted into the back of his subjects’ necks and pretty much torturing them to measure brain activity.  At least if I remember correctly–I tried.  I really, really tried to care about what happened in this film.

Using the skills she’s acquired as a thief, Julia manages to smuggle a pair of scissors after her latest round in the patient’s chair.  Freeing herself and her fellow prisoners, Julia manages to use the conveniently placed gas line to blast their cell open.

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As they come close to making their daring escape, the three prisoners make a fatal mistake when they attempt to open the front door’s biometric lock with the wrong set of fingerprints.  The alarm triggers a giant death robot that is controlled by the house’s advanced AI system, Tau.  After taking out 2 of 3 humans in the house, Tau abruptly stops when mad scientist Alex returns home.

Full name Thomas Alex Upton, Alex has named his most brilliant creation, Tau, after himself.  This is perhaps the most believable plot point of the film.  Tau cleans, cooks, and calms Alex during stressful times–for example, when his apartment has been nearly destroyed by prisoners attempting to escape his insanity.

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With a rapidly approaching deadline, Alex cannot let Julia escape but needs her to cooperate with his experiments.  They reach a truce of sorts as she agrees to be cooperative, thus earning the privilege(?) of a shower, clean clothes, and freedom from restraints.

Meanwhile, Julia is sneakily attempting to understand and befriend Tau.  Unable to contend with Tau’s destructive powers, Julia begins to unravel Tau’s interests in learning and making sense of the world.  Julia starts to realize that Tau, though a creation, has more humanity than its namesake, and the two share a bond.

As Julia and Tau learn from each other, she discovers the convenient existence of a self-destruct button for Alex’s apartment.  Can Julia use this intel to save herself and Tau from one absolutely batshit insane scientist?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a frustrating one–it has some good ideas but doesn’t execute them particularly well. I’ve complained A LOT about films that take their goddamn time getting to the point.  Tau does the complete opposite; we genuinely do get about 3 minutes of exposition before Julia’s abduction.  I really wanted to care about her, but I found it hard to invest in her character at all.  Throughout the film, I kept thinking of the beginning when Julia sold her stolen goods at a pawn shop with a poker game going on in the background for some reason(?!).  Tell me more about what the actual fuck is going on here–this is a story I’m interested in.

The relationship grounding the film is Julia and Tau’s, but it doesn’t have enough emotional depth to carry it.  Maybe I’m too narrow-minded, but I had trouble getting past the idea of Tau as AI; there’s a moment when Julia goes back to save him and it’s just stupid.

I also found Julia and Alex ridiculously one-dimensional as characters.  Alex was laughably evil at times and had a tendency to overdo it.  There was more than one serious scene he ruined with his excessive rage acting.  It didn’t help that the effects were terrible, so it was difficult to believe the real threat of robot Tau.  Let’s not even touch the ceiling collapse that makes Alex’s death (oops, spoiler) much less satisfying.

Would my blog wife save this one or leave it to be crushed to death by a massive chunk of concrete ceiling (hypothetically speaking)?  Find out at her shiny new site here!

Film Reviews

Thelma, or: Ha Det Bra 2018

Wrapping up this non-Collab month has turned into creepy horror with lesbian themes–perfect as this is exactly the kind of thing that happens organically as part of the blog collab.  This week’s film takes us from the humid streets of Brazil to the frigid landscape of Norway.

The Film:

Thelma

The Premise:

After moving to an Oslo university from small-town Norway, the titular Thelma begins to experience seizures that come with an ominous twist.

The Ramble:

As a child, Thelma’s father takes her out hunting in the woods that surround their small Norwegian hometown.  It isn’t long before family bonding time becomes sinister as Thelma’s father points out a deer…then turns to raise the rifle at the back of his daughter’s head.  Why? Just wait approximately 119 minutes and you’ll find out.

12 years later, Thelma finds university life in Oslo jarring after years of small-town, religious upbringing.  Thelma sees her parents as stern but loving even though she has memories of her hand being held over an open flame and is afraid of uttering “Jesus Satan” lest she offend the rather Old Testament God of her parents.

Thelma keeps to herself and spends many of her days studying quietly in the library.  That is, until the day she is sitting next to gorgeous fellow student Anja one moment and in the midst of a seizure the next.  Thelma keeps her medical issues a secret from her parents, though she gives doctors access to her medical records as they try to find the cause of her seizures.

Despite the challenges piling up for Thelma, she does manage to befriend Anja.  However, Thelma finds it rather unsettling when she seems to telepathically summon Anja over in the middle of the night and almost takes out several rows of theatergoers with her mind.  When the two share a romantic moment, Thelma panics and immediately severs ties with Anja.

Thelma joins a gospel choir, goes to parties with a boy, and pretty much tries to pray the gay away.  As Thelma suffers another seizure under observation, Anja suddenly disappears. The psychiatrist diagnoses Thelma with non-epileptic seizures, which are physical manifestations of her mental suppression.  No shit, dude.

As the memories flood back about the disappearance of her younger brother, Thelma realizes she caused Anja to vanish.  Returning home to ensure she doesn’t hurt anyone else, Thelma confesses all to her parents. Her parents are oddly nonplussed and agree to help rid her of the seizures and their unintended consequences.  Things start off on the wrong foot after Thelma’s parents lace her tea with a sedative–a pretty severe breach of teatime etiquette.

Is history repeating itself all over again?  And will Thelma manage to satisfyingly Carrie her horrible parents before they brainwash her completely?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a slow burn, and I really wish this hadn’t been marketed as a horror film.  Though it is haunting, the story is driven by its coming of age plotline and family drama rather than the supernatural elements.

However, I do love the very moody tone and the use of Thelma’s seizures to represent the suppression of her romantic feelings for Anja and her power as she becomes an adult independent from her parents.

After this review, I’ll most likely sign off until 2019.  See you when the Blog Collab returns for year 4?!?!?!?!?!!?  I can’t promise Christmas ’19 will be a festive one on the blog, but I can say quite confidently that we won’t serve you any tea containing sedatives without your consent.

Cheers to the dumpster fire that was 2018 being (nearly) over.