BOOK REVIEW: EMILY REYNOLDS – A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO LOSING YOUR MIND

 

English freelance journalist Emily Reynolds was a teenager when she first developed bipolar disorder. It proved a hard diagnosis because it took around a decade of visits to health-care professionals and a cocktail of different medications in order to settle on the right ones. While on this journey, Reynolds researched and read the books that were available about mental illness, but she was unable to find one that resonated with her own unique condition. A Beginners Guide to Losing Your Mind is a result of Reynolds filling this gap.

 

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201703/225677

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FILM REVIEW: HELP US FIND SUNIL TRIPATHI

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Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi is an excellent documentary and cautionary tale. It tells the story of a Brown University student who went missing in 2013 and how he was wrongly accused of being one of the Boston Marathon bombers. The film is a sensitive one about an amazing character and a sad indictment of social media and how a vocal few could turn into digital vigilantes and participate in a crazy witch-hunt.

The film is directed by former CNN journalist, Neal Broffman and written by Heather O’Neill. It is a story with lots of layers and depth. At the start we meet the family and friends of Sunil “Sunny” Tripathi. We learn that he was a kind person, talented musician and an intelligent student. He loved playing the saxophone and learning about philosophy. A beautiful portrait of him is developed through a series of home videos and photographs.

Sunil had difficulties at university and many believe he was suffering from depression. In March 2013 he left his apartment in Providence and he vanished. His family and friends launched a search party and reached out to people through social media and traditional broadcasters in order to find him. Sadly, this was largely to no avail.

On April 15 2013 the Boston Marathon bombing occurred and Tripathi’s elder brother and sister were there supporting a friend. Shortly afterwards the FBI released two blurry photographs of the suspects. An individual on Reddit falsely accused Tripathi as being one of the individuals in the pictures and all hell broke loose. The family were harassed by hungry journalists seeking an exclusive and the internet turned into the Wild West full of racist taunts and threats. The individuals online made huge leaps and presented unsubstantiated claims as fact and basically tried to punish Sunil even though we are supposed to treat individuals as innocent until proven guilty.

The filmmakers were unable to interview any of the people who wrongly accused Tripathi so this film can be a tad one-sided. But they do interview two representatives from Reddit and the users who made those hateful and ignorant comments have their writings shown in graphics that punctuate the film. The bloodthirsty journalists who left voicemails in the early hours of the morning are also represented through the audio they left on the Tripathi’s phones.

This story ultimately shows us the real Sunil Tripathi. He was an innocent, articulate and loving young man who was unfairly subjected to mob mentality and digital vigilantes. This is ultimately an emotional, thoughtful and important tale that will leave you frustrated and sad about our broken system and the internet in general.

Originally published on 15 September 2016 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/suff-review-help-us-find-sunil-tripathi-usa-2015-an-emotional-thoughtful-and-important-documentary/

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FILM REVIEW: MADAME BOVARY

Madame-Bovary

 

Madame Bovary is a pleasant film but it’s an unnecessary adaption. The iconic novel by Gustave Flaubert has been adapted multiple times for film and television over the past few years. But what distinguishes this latest offering is that it is the first one to be directed by a female (Sophie Barthes (Cold Souls)). Here, the story focuses on the female protagonist’s perspective but the result is often a little too slow, nuanced and flat as far as period dramas go.

Our very own, Mia Wasikowska stars and absolutely shines as Emma Bovary. She is a conflicted woman and a heroine that is sometimes a little difficult to relate to. She has humble beginnings as the daughter of a farmer but her hopes and expectations are very high when she marries a small town doctor (Henry Lloyd-Hughes).

Married life is not bliss as far as Bovary is concerned. Her husband proves to be rather boring and safe even though he is also quite logical and practical. What Bovary is left with is a sense of longing for something more. She embarks on some extra-marital affairs with the handsome Marquis (Logan Marshall-Green) and a sweet and ambitious young law clerk (Ezra Miller who proves to be an interesting choice). Bovary also attempts to fill the void in her heart and existence by buying too many pointless things from the manipulative and shrewd Monsieur Lheureux (an unrecognisable, Rhys Ifans).

It is obvious that Bovary will eventually become undone by this self-destructive and pleasure-seeking behaviour as this only offers temporary relief of her depression. Things spiral out of control to become a tragic romance story. But this film does take a lot of time to get there and it really only picks up in the final act.

Madame Bovary attempts to remain faithful to the source material insofar as the costumes and settings feel authentic. There have been some changes made to the plot with the most noticeable difference being the omission of Bovary’s child from the story and the shift away from the husband’s perspective. A drawback is that all of the actors use a hodgepodge of different accents from English to American and French. This does leave things feeling rather muddled at times and this is tough because it also feels like a story spanning multiple years has been shoe-horned to fit a period that feels like months.

The film does succeed by having a wonderful score and the sparse dialogue only adds to the intense and lyrical feel overall. There is a lot of silence and close-ups on offer, which lends it a personal and intimate touch. But for all of the positives of this film (not least some good performances from the ensemble cast) this period drama only feels like a decent one and at times this can be chalked up to something being lost in translation.

 

Originally published on 5 June 2015 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2015/06/05/sydney-film-festival-review-madame-bovary-usa-germany-belgium-2014/

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FILM REVIEW: SERENA

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Serena is an adaptation of a Ron Rash novel that at times is considered even too strange to be fiction. This period drama starts off as a sumptuous, romantic tale set in North Carolina during the Depression. It is a slow burn to begin with but in the final act it turns into a bizarre melodrama where a suspension of disbelief is not just recommended but essential.

The film is directed by Susanne Bier and sees Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) working together again. The former plays George Pemberton, an ambitious entrepreneur who is building his own logging empire. The latter plays the eponymous lead character, a spirited and independent woman who was never going to sit on her laurels, much less sip tea in society or do needlework.

The two characters have a whirlwind romance and the actors also share a noticeable chemistry. Upon meeting, Pemberton says, “I think we should be married” and in the next scene they are. When Pemberton brings Serena to his home and introduces her to the business (where he also declares that she is equal to any man there) this upsets his business partner, Buchanan (David Dencik) who appears to harbour feelings for the boss. Tragedy then strikes but the various subplots involving a corrupt sheriff (Toby Jones), a business manager (Sean Harris), a crazed logger (Rhys Ifans) and the mother of an illegitimate child (Ana Ularu) feel very forced and convoluted.

There is no denying that Serena is a pretty picture. There are lots of sweeping shots of misty mountaintops and forests and the costumes boast the flash and pomp of the era. But this style cannot redeem a film that began as a realistic-enough period drama from descending into full-blown madness or a preposterous melodrama of epic proportions.

The themes in Serena are interesting- from betrayal to obsession and jealousy via greed, many human follies are examined. But despite some great power plays plus corruption, lies and tragedies involving love and loyalty, this film simply isn’t as good as it should have been.

In all, this disturbing tale seems to skip over some aspects of the plot while granting too much time to other elements. The result is something that at its worst is banal and strange and at its best is just plain ordinary. This movie may have boasted some fine produce for ingredients but something got spoiled in the cooking.

 

Originally published on 28 November 2014 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2014/11/28/film-review-serena-usa-france-czech-republic-2014/

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FILM REVIEW: THREAD OF LIES (ELEGANT LIES) (우아한 거짓말)

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Death is often tragic. But it’s even sadder when a young person has died from their own hand. Korean film, Thread Of Lies (우아한 거짓말) deals with this taboo issue in a soft and tender way. It also slowly reveals the tragic set of circumstances surrounding the lead character’s passing and does so with a great sense of emotion and feeling.

The film is directed by Lee Han (Punch) and is based on a novel by Kim Ryeo-ryung called Elegant Lies. The story follows Hyeon-sook (Kim Hee-ae), a widowed mother of two teenage girls. As a single mum, she works at a supermarket and often struggles to make ends meet. But she does find comfort in her youngest daughter, 14-year old Cheon-ji (Kim Hyang-gi).

Cheon-ji is a bookish girl who is studious and rarely complains or asks for anything. She is the opposite to her cool and popular elder sister, Man-ji (Ko Ah-sung). On a seemingly normal school day, Cheon-ji commits suicide and doesn’t leave a note behind. This sends her mother and sister reeling into a tidal wave of emotions like grief and anger, as they question if they could have saved her by doing things differently like being nicer to her or paying her more attention.

The mother and daughter are soon forced to move to a rundown apartment where they meet Choo Sang-park (Yoo Ah-in) who knew Cheon-ji and she confided in him. He also doubles as the butt of a running joke about his long, rocker hair style. Man-ji, meanwhile, grapples with her loss by attempting to learn more about her younger sister.

Man-Ji discovers that the youngster was depressed. She was also bullied and manipulated by her only friend, a popular girl named Hwa-yeon (Kim Yoo-jung). In one heart-wrenching scene, Hwa-yeon deliberately contributes to Cheon-ji’s alienation from their schoolmates as the former invites the outcast to her birthday party, but makes her arrive late and then picks on her with the other girls via text message. The saving grace in this sad situation is that a series of notes from Cheon-ji are eventually found hidden in five different balls of wool (knitting had always been her favourite hobby).

Thread Of lies slowly reveals its story through a series of non-linear flashbacks and episodes. It remains impartial as it shows how a number of the characters were complicit in Cheon-ji’s death. It is subtle and a very realistic portrayal of high-school friendships and while tragic, it also resonates and is engaging. The performances from the strong, predominantly female cast are solid and low key as they add to the emotion, tension and mystery of this tale.

As the story unfolds, more and more layers are revealed like an onion to show a complex person who was depressed, troubled and treated cruelly. Ultimately, this is an excellent film that is beautifully shot. It’s also a detailed human drama that acts like a punch to the heart and will leave you sitting on the edge of your seats, wanting to know exactly what happened to Cheon-ji. In short, it’s magnificent.

 

Originally published on 22 August 2014 at the following websites: http://www.theaureview.com/asia/film/thread-of-lies-%EC%9A%B0%EC%95%84%ED%95%9C-%EA%B1%B0%EC%A7%93%EB%A7%90-south-korea-2014

 

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FILM REVIEW: CAMILLE CLAUDEL 1915

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Poor Camille Claudel. The famous artist would create a lasting legacy of sculptures and drawings that are still important and relevant today. But she was also one tortured artist. Camille Claudel 1915 attempts to capture all of these emotions and feelings. It’s also a French biopic that is a claustrophobic chronicle of three days in her sad life.

Claudel sounds like an interesting character but this film doesn’t really capture the essence of all this. She had a long affair with fellow artist, Auguste Rodin and had an early, creative period. But she would eventually end this relationship after Rodin refused to leave his wife. Despite this, Claudel acted like the woman scorned and descended into madness and despair. Her family would put her in the remote institution Montdevergues, near Avignon in France.

Director, Bruno Dumont (Twentynine Palms, Outside Satan) uses these solemn grounds as the setting for Claudel’s story. The three days are based on letters she sent to her younger brother, Paul Claudel (Jean-Luc Vincent). It’s questionable whether Camille actually belonged in such a place. She was angry at Rodin and was paranoid that people were out to poison her. But in the film she is often portrayed as being lucid and holding a sense of contempt for the arguably more handicapped in-mates (who are played by actual disabled people in the same way as the nurses are real-life nuns and staff members).

Juliette Binoche does an excellent job as the lead character. She is subtle and convincing as the artist who is forced into a painful situation. It’s a tedious life in the institution and her only beacon of hope is a visit from the brother who can have her released. But Camille is a lot like Angelina Jolie’s character in Changeling- the more she argues for her sanity, the more the institution seems determined to restrain her.

The film is very minimal, there are sparse visuals and the greyish colour hue only adds to the tedium of this prison. There is also very little music and background noise. Instead, there are long pauses where the silences prove deafening and things only change when this is offset against long, wordy monologues of dialogue. Instead, much of the story is told on Binoche’s face with Dumont favouring close-ups and creating something equally authentic, unsettling and demanding in the process.

It’s arguable that the full story of Claudel’s life is actually crystallised in the events that pre-date these three institutionalised days. These are also the more exciting and important moments in her life- but these have largely been tackled before in the eponymous film starring Gérard Depardieu, released in 1988. The two are very different beasts as the current one was mostly improvised and this character is so much more tragic. The doom and gloom make it difficult to warm to Claudel, especially as her life is so boring and repetitive. But Binoche – to her credit – has done a good job with the material in helping create such a mature, emotional and melancholy character.

Watching Binoche’s pained exterior in the film is a lot like how you would imagine life was like from Claudel’s perspective in her most lucid moments. At times it’s pretty and tranquil but for the most part it is dark and plain exasperating and troubling. It’s terrible that she was never able to return to her work but perhaps even more tragic that this missed opportunity of a film fails this woman who has suffered enough to account for several lifetimes.

 

Originally published on 17 June 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/reviews/sydney-film-festival-camille-claudel-1915-france-2013

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LIVE REVIEW: RUBY WAX IN SANE NEW WORLD – SYDNEY WRITERS’ FESTIVAL @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE (22.05.2013)

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Few people can do comedy well. Lesser people still can be seriously funny. And for some, the idea of taking a serious topic and finding the comedic element is completely absurd. But thankfully, Ruby Wax managed to achieve all this and more during her show at the 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival.

It had been 12 years since Wax had last been in town but it was worth the wait. The comedian known for working with Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders certainly proved to be one flamboyant character. For starters, you get the sense that she thumbs her nose at any kind of authority. So there was never a chance that this was going to be your run of the mill festival piece. Instead it was more like a one-woman show that was one part cabaret, mostly comedy and with a twist of dancing thrown in for good measure. Her hour-long set was filled with anecdotes, facts and her trademark, witty one-liners.

The statistic goes that one in four people are or will be mentally ill. Wax knows exactly what this is like first-hand because she became the quote “Poster Girl for mental illness” a few years ago. She says that she had trouble switching from being the clown to getting back to normal life. It wasn’t like the audience member sitting there smiling for no apparent reason. This was serious stuff because Wax in effect shut down and it would take her some time and work to recover.

For the first part Wax was her typical, vibrant self, at times the brash raconteur filling the room with her larger than life personality plus plenty of laughs and fun just like our very own, Kathy Lette. At other moments she was rather thought provoking because she’d ask the audience questions like “Does anyone here know how to act like an adult? A married couple? A mummy?”

It’s difficult to imagine someone as ebullient as Wax getting depression. But one thing we did learn is that the disorder doesn’t discriminate when it comes to victims. Wax’s own mother had fought her own demons over the years but was often told she was just experiencing the “change of life” (never mind that her menopause lasted 87 years). And then there was Wax’s “helpful” friend who told her that all she needed to do was “Perk up!”

If nothing else this show helped to dispel two common myths in society. One- that women cannot be funny. And two- that all mentally ill people need is a back rub and a good lie down. Wax had been funny (irrespective of her gender) and did pose the interesting point- why is it that you illicit sympathy when you have illnesses in other parts/organs of the body but not when it’s the brain?

Wax ultimately struck a fabulous balance between sarcastic asides, her acerbic wit, personal anecdotes and physical comedy (lots of stuff you just can’t do justice with in print). Her salsa dancing re-enactment of when she was institutionalised was priceless. Imagine a class run by an ex-Marine and former Chippendale (I’m not making this up) wearing a canary yellow crop-top and matching pants. Sure, we got a half hour Q&A between this funny lady and Women Of The World Founder, Jude Kelly afterwards, but it was this scene that stayed with people as they left the venue. Because THAT was seriously funny!

Originally published on 24 May 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/writers-festival-ruby-wax-in-sane-new-world-sydney-opera-house-22-05-13

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