Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Party Girl, or: Librarianing Too Hard

Ah, librarianship.  My glamorous profession, full of neatly ordered shelves of books, incredibly vague reference questions, and…parties with stripper cops?  Obviously it’s free for all month on the blog, and obviously we’re rounding out the month with a modern library classic.

The Film:

Party Girl

The Premise:

’90s New York party girl Mary’s eyes are opened up to the exciting world of librarianship after a run-in with the law.

The Ramble:

After being arrested on multiple counts related to the club she’s running out of her New York apartment, Mary relies on her godmother, Judy, to bail her out.  Judy, who witnessed the shenanigans of both mother and daughter, is taking no nonsense.  To earn some cash (and pay Judy back for bail), Mary begins working with her godmother, a librarian.

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Though Mary hates the job and is scorned by her coworkers, she is stubbornly determined to prove to Judy that she can follow through.  In the evenings, Mary is still keeping up her party girl reputation and is working to get her DJ roommate Leo connected with a promoter.  Meanwhile, her ex Nigel (Liev Schreiber???) is trying to win her back, and gay bff Derrick is determined to track down his one night stand dreamboat, Karl.

As Judy tries to bond with Mary by inviting her to dinner, Mary is more concerned about meeting up with falafel cart owner and aspiring teacher Mustafa.  However, after a fight with her godmother, Mary forgets all about her date, opting instead to get shit-faced and conquer the Dewey Decimal System once and for all.

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After a few days and some extensive research help, Mustafa forgives Mary for standing him up.  When things heat up in the stacks, Mary forgets to lock up the library properly, and some out-of-print books are destroyed by rain.  Judy, also ticked off about the sex in the library thing and tangentially going on a rant about literacy, decides this is the last straw and fires Mary.  Add to this an eviction notice, and Mary has hit a decidedly low point.

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Deciding to do what she knows best, Mary throws a massive party (which has a rather cringey Middle Eastern theme).  This seems to be a sign that Mary should embrace her reputation as a party girl and become a promoter, but she’s still haunted by visions of Melvil Dewey.

Is it possible for this party girl to become a librarian and keep dancing ’til the dawn?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’m torn between a 3.5 and a 4 rating–because this film appreciates librarianship and all of the different paths people take to the profession, I’m rounding up.  Mary is anything but the stereotypical librarian, and this is a strength; she applies the Dewey Decimal System to Leo’s records and takes a creative approach to answering reference questions.  Also Judy’s rant about the undervaluing of the library field and Dewey’s misogyny is so on-brand for librarians.

Beyond librarianship, we must absolutely acknowledge the incredible style of Parker Posey’s character here.  While her fashion sense takes a lot of cues from the ’90s, her bold style is in its own category.  I’m really obsessed with a green skirt suit that makes a couple of appearances.

There are some ways this film hasn’t aged well:  Mary has some weird fetish-y Middle Eastern fantasies, and she throws the f word around a couple of times–the one that is a horrible slur.  But honestly, while this is very much a slice of life of ’90s New York, it has a freshness that makes it feel quite recent.  Mary is a more complex character than we’re initially led to believe, inhabiting identities in disparate places in a way that few female characters in film can even 20+ years later.  And this film was so ahead of the game when it comes to falafel and chickpea-based foods in general.  I approve.

Would my gorgeous blog wife party with this one or find a falafel truck elsewhere?  Find out here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Isn’t It Romantic, or: Gratuitous Karaoke Moment

Last week’s film, which also has a title in the form of a question, was a romantic movie that failed to stir any love in our hearts. This week, our film promises to follow romantic conventions too, even as it picks them apart. Will that be enough to win over our cynical leading ladies (bloggers)? Two guesses.

The Film:

Isn’t It Romantic

The Premise:

Ambitious career lady Natalie avoids romantic entanglements until she’s trapped in a romantic comedy and must find love to escape.

The Ramble:

While growing up with an extremely jaded mother who was quick to shoot down her dreams of finding love, it didn’t take long for Natalie to become wholly disillusioned with the entire concept.

A successful, career-driven architect, Natalie has talent but lacks confidence. Everyone at the office takes advantage of her, easily persuading her to do their jobs and minor errands. Luckily, Natalie has two supporters at work: her assistant and bff Whitney (a hopeless romantic who spends most of her days watching rom-coms) and work buddy Josh (who believes in Natalie and very obviously likes her as more than a friend).

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Things take a dramatic turn when, attempting to recover her purse from a mugger, Natalie is knocked unconscious. When she wakes up in a beautiful hospital with gorgeous doctors who find her confusion charming, it doesn’t take long for her to realize she’s somehow been transported to a romantic comedy. Even worse, this is a PG-13 rom-com: no sex, no swearing, and definitely no nudity.

When trying to escape her personal nightmare, Natalie is hit by billionaire Blake’s stretch limo. Whereas Blake is an obnoxious client who sends Natalie on errands to bring him coffee in reality, in this version of the world, Blake is well-mannered and clearly interested in Natalie. Realizing she may have to play by rom-com rules to escape, Natalie believes she’ll need Blake to fall in love with her and agrees to a date filled with all of the rom-com tropes.

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With the help of her gay best friend Donny, who manages to appear when most convenient, Natalie will definitely have the support and over-investment in her love life we’d expect from a rom-com.

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Meanwhile, at work, Natalie finds Whitney has become her archnemesis, who is determined to sabotage her before the big presentation, whatever that may be. Fortunately, Josh is still around to help Natalie navigate her strange new world. This won’t last long as, when Josh saves model Isabella from choking, he is wrapped up in a whirlwind romance. After only a few days as a couple, Isabella and Josh host a fancy party at a beach house in the Hamptons–a party that is, in fact, a surprise wedding!

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What happens when it turns out Blake isn’t such a nice guy after all and Natalie becomes determined to stop the wedding? Might karaoke play a rather important role in all of this?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Not going to lie, this film earned a lot of points with me for its soundtrack, and even with its clichés, I love the Whitney Houston karaoke number. At the same time, the (gratuitous) karaoke scene also brought to mind Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s recent rom-com parody episode. CEG overall has an awareness that this film does not, undermining stereotypes successfully in a way that IIR doesn’t, exploring the emotional depth of its characters, and creating moments that offer genuine surprise and nuance.

IIR tries half-heartedly to do this with its opening scene in which Natalie’s resistance to romance is explained by her relationship with her horrible mother, who tells her love is a fairy tale that she doesn’t deserve (implicitly because she’s fat). There are a lot of problems here, but the one that leaps out to me is the implication from this scene that you have to be psychologically damaged to reject the possibility of (extremely heteronormative) romance in your life.

Let’s go back to the lack of self-awareness of this film. It makes me cringe that Natalie comments on the whiteness of rom-coms, yet our only character of color is Priyanka Chopra’s Isabella (who identifies as a yoga ambassador, which would require its own post to unpack). Adding one person of color to your film, workplace, etc. is NOT diversity.

Natalie is wryly funny at times, but it’s aggravating how many times she falls in ways that rely on the hilarious(?) optics of a fat body thudding to the ground. Don’t get me started on her “friendzoning” (barf barf barf) her bff Adam DeVine, whose face has always seemed very punchable to me. He’s just so mediocre that his success makes me angry.

There are also a lot of issues with the film’s attempts to take apart the gay best friend stereotype. While Donny is played by a gay actor (I Googled it), it feels more as if the audience is laughing at him than with him. There are some funny observations about this rom-com staple, like the fact that Donny is unemployed yet somehow financially secure, and dedicates all of his time to improving our heroine’s love life. This film is good at exaggerating, but it doesn’t do particularly well at anything else.

That being said, I did get some genuine laughs from this. Rebel Wilson is quite charming here, though I wish she were a bit more sharply funny and subversive too.

Would my blog wife join in a karaoke duet with this one or leave it to wither away in fantasy rom-com land? Find out here!

a woman with long hair lies next to a woman with short hair
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Yes or No, or: Honestly, Just Make a Decision

Pick a film about young love, they said.  It will be a refreshing romp with no cringey stereotypes about Mexican-Americans, they said (looking at you, Peppermint).  This is how we ended up with a film with significantly fewer racist vibes, but with way more indecision, teen angst, and heavy-handed gender norms.  Don’t get me wrong–there are some sweet moments in this week’s film, but I also would’ve welcomed just a touch of Jennifer Garner’s take-no-prisoners decisiveness for our leads here.

The Film:

Yes or No

The Premise:

A college student who is initially horrible to her tomboyish roommate is conflicted when she begins to develop romantic feelings for her.

The Ramble:

Pie is a college student who wears a lot of cute skirts, is close with her mom, and cares for a pet fish (named “Really” for some inexplicable reason).  Though she has a fun group of friends she rolls with, Pie can’t keep a roommate–she’s constantly annoyed by lights, sounds, and the lifestyles of her roomies.

When Pie meets her new roommate Kim, their relationship seems doomed to go from bad to worse.  Kim is a tomboy, and is very masculine in dress and appearance.  A true Millennial, Kim doesn’t like to label herself and has varied interests:  she cooks, plays ukulele, and grows plants in the dorm.

a woman sits at a desk writing while a woman in the background looks up at her from a book she's reading

Though Kim is a laid-back and considerate roommate, Pie is uncomfortable with her appearance and non-traditional gender norms in general.  Pie is super rude, making obnoxious comments about Kim looking like a boy and even drawing a dividing line in their shared room to keep their spaces separate.  But is Pie’s strong reaction to Kim’s style really about an extremely repressed attraction to her roomie?  Spoiler:  YES.

In return, Kim is basically the sweetest human being to live and too pure for this world.  Kim constantly brings Pie desserts from her aunt’s restaurant, shares the food she makes in the dorm, and even tidies up Pie’s side of the room.  When Kim sees Pie’s friend Jane crying in class after being dumped, she offers her a handkerchief.  This causes an aggravating love triangle that continues throughout the film, but is still a nice gesture.

a woman holding a pink pillow looks into a room while another girl watches her in irritation

Kim and Pie’s relationship finally reaches a turning point when Pie’s side of the dorm floods in a storm.  To make matters worse, the power goes out–and Kim is incredibly afraid of the dark.  While Kim bunks down on the floor and lets Pie sleep in her bed, Pie lights so many candles that it’s a fire hazard and distracts Kim from the dark.

two women dressed in white sit on the floor in front of a bedframe that holds many candles

Just as Pie and Kim are getting close, Pie’s boyfriend Van shows up out of the blue.  Or, rather, a boy Pie insists isn’t her boyfriend but effectively is.  Pie repeatedly dodges plans to go out with Van in favor of Kim, but before you feel too bad for him…he later manages to lose all sympathy when he says some nasty things to Kim about the natural order.

Meanwhile, Jane is increasingly attracted to Kim–a feeling which is very much unreciprocated.  It’s so awkward to watch, and there are times when I wanted to scream at Kim to just tell the poor girl she’s just not into her.  At all.

After an incredibly uncomfortable double date with Pie/Van and Kim/Jane, our two leading ladies get into a major fight.  You’d better believe there’s a really sweet make-up scene and FINALLY some action.

two women with wet hair hold each other's faces

Though Pie is ready to call Kim her girlfriend in secret, she’s not ready to make their relationship public.  When Pie’s mother comes to visit, she’s keen to hide her romantic feelings for Kim and doesn’t respond at all when her mother goes off about women who dress like men.  Hurt, Kim abruptly leaves, returning to her family’s farm.  Will Pie embrace her love for Kim or is it too late for this romance to blossom?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

OH MY GAWD, the angst.  The ANGST in this film.  It gets so tiresome watching Pie act like an asshole, be conflicted about her feelings, hurt Kim, and then make up with her.  I tried so hard to be sympathetic to Pie as she was experiencing feelings for the first time that her horrible mother told her were unnatural.  And I acknowledge that I am a shallow, food-motivated human, but Kim did nothing but give her cake–doesn’t that deserve at least a basic level of courtesy?

Also, poor Jane!  It hurts to see her throw herself at Kim all the damn time and, while obviously Kim doesn’t owe her affection, it would have saved a lot of pain if she’d just been upfront that she isn’t attracted to Jane.  There’s even a joke(?) about Jane’s suicide in this film, which is in extremely poor taste IMHO.

However, Kim as a character is everything (minus the whole Jane situation).  She’s so sweet and has not a malicious bone in her body even though people are pretty shitty to her throughout.  While she admits she’s attracted to Pie eventually, she doesn’t expect her to reciprocate.  She continues to do nice things for Pie because they’re friends and she’s, IDK, a nice human being.  Taking notes, bros of the world?

And I will admit the chemistry between our two leads is so good, and the sexual tension is intense.  This film seems to take a lot of cues from a K drama, drawing out the romance in those subtle touches and significant stares.  Effective this may be, but at a certain point I just wanted our leads to hook up already.

Would my blog wife bring this one slices of cake or move on with a firm no?  Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Peppermint, or: So Vanilla

I love any month when we do what we want on the blog–which to be honest, is every month.  This time around, doubly so.  It’s free for all month, so be prepared for a series of film selections connected only by our unpredictable impulses.  First up is a film that makes me glad my impulses typically involve watching bad movies and eating cheese rather than going on murderous rampages.

The Film:

Peppermint

The Premise:

After witnessing the murder of her family, a woman seeks vengeance against the drug cartel responsible.

The Ramble:

Present day:  a badass Riley North fights with and ultimately kills a gang member in his own car, leaving him for police to find.  She asks before he dies if he remembers her…

Flashback to Riley’s happy home life 5 years before.  Riley is a busy mom working full-time and trying to dodge her passive-aggressive neighbor.  After no one comes to her daughter Carly’s birthday party, the family goes out for pizza and fun at the local carnival.  Seem like a fun night out, eh?

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What Riley doesn’t know is her husband Chris has been exploring alternative sources of income, including serving as a getaway driver for the robbery of Mexican drug lord García.  Having discovered that Chris is considering messing with García, a hit is put out on him…a hit that is carried out at the carnival.  In a matter of moments, Riley has lost her family and suffered a serious gunshot wound to the head.

Upon waking from a coma, Riley is able to identify the perpetrators of this crime, but Diego “Guillotina” García’s influence prevents any consequences for his crew.  Having bought the judge, district attorney, and some of the police force, García ensures the killers go free.  Riley, understandably distraught, loses it in the courthouse and is remanded to psychiatric care.  After managing to escape custody, Riley disappears…for 5 years anyway.

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5 YEARS LATER…

Mysteriously, those involved with the murder of Riley’s family and the sham trial have all shown up dead.  It would appear Riley has used the past few years productively, accumulating identities and becoming skilled in hand-to-hand combat, weaponry, and explosives.

As García’s cartel puts a price on Riley’s head, the police attempt to find her and bring her into custody.  Riley seems to be taking out the gang one by one, first taking out a PIÑATA STORE that serves as a front for the operation.  SERIOUSLY.

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Next stop:  giant secret warehouse full of drugs.  Will Riley have the chance to complete her vengeance or will the cops get there first?

The Rating:

1/5 Pink Panther Heads

I don’t know what to say except I hated this.  Jennifer Garner is pretty badass taken at face value, but it’s problematic AF that 95% of the people she’s killing are Mexican-American.  She even hangs the corpses of the 3 gang members responsible for her family’s deaths from a Ferris wheel, as if no one who made this film had any clue about the racist tradition of displaying the bodies of victimized black and brown people?!?!?!  This film just feels like one giant hate crime.

In addition to all of the racist stereotypes this film employs, it’s also just a badly set up revenge film.  I watched Riley see her entire family murdered and felt no pity for her.  There’s also a weird impersonality to the murders, so it’s difficult to get any sense of satisfaction as Riley seeks vengeance–it’s definitely horrific that Chris and Carly died so senselessly.  Yet drug cartels senselessly kill many other, ahem, non-white people all the time.  It’s not a great look that Riley’s entire family is murdered and she still doesn’t care a whole lot about other victims of gang violence.

Add to this that the entire dialogue of this film is a bunch of police drama clichés put together, and it’s downright painful.  This is a film that’s much more vanilla than peppermint.

Would my blog wife take this one around the Ferris wheel or rain down bloody vengeance upon it?  Find out here!

two women holding cats and runner-up ribbons stand next to another woman holding a cat and grinning broadly
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.

a woman standing in a screened-in catio tries to get the attention of several Maine Coon cats

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.

a fluffy white cat lying on a sofa enjoys scratches from a human hand

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.

a woman stands behind a very fluffy orange Persian cat, fluffing its fur

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?  Read her post here to find out!

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!

a woman in the uniform of a border guard talks to another woman in an airport
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.

a woman stands at the window of a pet adoption center next to a boy holding a cat

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.

a woman sits in the backseat of a car driven by two border guards

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.

A woman sits next to a young boy at a bus stop. They are smiling at each other.

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?  Read her review here to find out!