FILM REVIEW: LOVING

 

Loving is a film that shares a few things in common with A United Kingdom. They are both based on true stories and at the centre of each film you have a married, interracial couple who just want to live together as husband wife and leave the politics out of the bedroom. Loving is a beautifully-shot and subtle drama about one inspiring romance.

The film is named after the real-life couple, Mildred and Richard Loving. Ruth Negga is really sensitive and expressive in her Oscar-nominated performance as Mildred and she shares a noticeable chemistry with our very own Joel Edgerton who plays Richard. These two actors should be commended for their respectful and convincing performances.

The Lovings were married in Washington in 1958. They married here because they feared they would encounter problems by getting married in their home-state of Virginia. The latter state still had a draconian law that was a relic from a bygone period (where slavery was the norm) that banned mixed-race couples from marrying. The couple were dobbed in to the authorities and eventually arrested.

Mildred and Richard Loving were released without having to serve prison terms because they agreed to leave their home-state and extended families in order to live elsewhere. The pair initially agreed to this proposal and lived in Washington. But they eventually returned to Virginia because they were homesick and they just wanted to live a quiet life and not bother anyone.

The couple that were the inspiration behind this film were also rather reluctant civil rights activists and stars. Richard Loving was a man of few words. Joel Edgerton dons a blonde buzz-cut and portrays him as a quiet and devoted construction worker who has a keen interest in drag-racing. When asked what he wants his lawyers to say in court in the couple’s defence he simply responds, “Tell the judge I love my wife.”

The Lovings were also rather reserved and dignified throughout the entire ordeal. Mildred would write to the then Attorney General, Robert Kennedy seeking an intervention and eventually the American Civil Liberties Union took their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967. Director and writer Jeff Nichols’ (Mud) script does not take cheap shots and nor does it play up the melodrama, the courtroom tactics or other histrionics involved in this case. Instead, Nichols leaves the audience to witness the quiet moments of tender domesticity between these two lovebirds as their love grows and they build a house, family and life together while also tackling the U.S. bureaucracy.

Loving is not a film that is filled with beat-up drama or other unnecessary bells and whistles, instead it is quiet meditation on true love, courage and commitment. This story about racism and politics remains an important one today as the government continues to try and wield power over who can marry (to think that Australia still does not have gay marriage is utterly deplorable). Loving is ultimately a subtle and nuanced domestic drama that is a study in the true power of love.

Originally published on 12 March 2017 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/sxsw-film-review-through-the-repellent-fence-usa-2017-uses-art-to-make-an-important-political-statement/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

Visit The Iris’s homepage at: http://www.theiris.com.au

BOOK REVIEW: BRIAN WILSON & BEN GREENMAN – I AM BRIAN WILSON

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God only knows where pop music would be without Brian Wilson. The genius writer of many of The Beach Boys greatest hits has had a profound effect on popular culture. I Am Brian Wilson (his second autobiography; his first was published in the nineties) is a complex and forthright account of his life in music.

This book is written by Wilson along with Ben Greenman. It’s a story they claim is about music, family, love and mental illness. Wilson is often quite candid about his troubles whether it be his former drug-taking, the schizophrenic voices he hears in his head, the panic attack he experienced before a plane ride in 1964 or the major depressive episodes he has experienced over the years and the “treatment” he received by a domineering, quack psychologist by the name of Eugene Landy.

I Am Brian Wilson jumps around in time and it is by no means a comprehensive or linear account of his life. Instead, thoughts and ideas are weaved together based on themes and it doesn’t matter to Wilson that one event may have taken place in the sixties and the next memory may have taken place today. In this respect it’s an honest and chaotically-human piece. You also get the sense that you could imagine Uncle Brian in his armchair (a place he calls “the command centre”) recounting all of this to you. Or you could imagine Wilson sitting on a psychiatrist’s couch and doing the same thing. This is all deeply personal and often quite heart-wrenching stuff.

Wilson’s prose has a very gentle and familiar quality that often feels quite childlike too. He describes the famous people he knows rather casually and often with little introduction (for example: Paul McCartney is referred to as “Pablo” while Bob Dylan is met in an emergency department). I Am Wilson goes into some detail about the artist’s upbringing with his late brothers and bandmates Carl and Dennis Wilson and the abuse they experienced at the hands of their abusive and authoritarian father, Murry. Friend, Al Jardine and cousin, Mike Love (the other original members of The Beach Boys) are also described but the latter is painted as a stubborn, opinionated and litigious bad guy who had his own idea about what The Beach Boys should be and this was often incongruous to what Wilson believed.

Some of the anecdotes in this autobiography are worth the price of admission alone. Wilson’s description of meeting The Eagles’ Don Henley is particularly hilarious. There’s also the fact that Wilson once asked Bono for a diet coke, which proves pretty funny. But I Am Wilson is not just about silly little throwaway moments, this book also has real heart. Wilson describes his first marriage to Marilyn Rovell and the births of his biological daughters, Carnie and Wendy. Wilson acknowledges that he was an absent father but this is not the case with his current wife Melinda Ledbetter and their five adopted kids. Wilson gets rather misty-eyed when talking about Melinda because he claims she saved him from self-destruction (and this story is one that is told in the film, Love & Mercy).

This book also includes an in-depth look at Wilson’s song-writing and lots of his views and reflections on music. Wilson admits to being influenced by Phil Spector and The Beatles and is honoured that McCartney counts “God Only Knows” as one of his favourite songs. This memoir is ultimately a forthright look at music-making with Wilson describing his bands past and present as well as his work with session musicians, The Wrecking Crew. All of these things mean that this autobiography is essential reading for fans of The Beach Boys and Mr Wilson in particular.

I Am Brian Wilson is a multi-faceted look at the troubled virtuoso artist and Beach Boy. This memoir is also released at around the same time as Wilson’s cousin, Mike Love releases his own autobiography. The two will have different views on their lives as California boys singing about cars, surfing, girls and the sun but one things for certain, Brian Wilson’s brutal honesty ensures that his story has a modest and sensitive charm. This ultimately means that Wilson’s autobiography is a brilliant read and one that should make you stop and smile.

Originally published on 15 January 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-i-am-brian-wilson-is-a-charming-music-memoir-guaranteed-to-make-you-smile/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

BOOK REVIEW: TRICIA STRINGER – A CHANCE OF STORMY WEATHER

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A Chance of Stormy Weather was originally self-published in 2004 by Australian, rural romance writer, Tricia Stringer. It was also one of her most requested books, as some readers thought it was good at distilling what life in the country is really about. This fictional story is not Stringer’s best work but it is still a well-written and pleasant-enough novel.

This book is about the marriage between a Sydney girl named Paula and a farmer from South Australia named Dan. The two had a whirlwind romance and got married not long after they initially met (and why this was the case is not properly explored.) This then sets things up for a fish-out-of-water tale as the book takes in the events that surround their first few months of marriage.

Paula is a naïve city girl when it comes to her new life. She doesn’t know much about the country (even basics like what kind of meat mutton is allude her) and she’s not used to driving along dirt roads. Paula is sometimes a difficult character to warm to. She is pretty idle when she initially arrives at her new home (granted some of this could be chalked up to the culture shock that she experiences) and she is sometimes quite silly (it’s hard to believe that she was burned in a previous relationship only to rush into the arms of another man.)

Dan on the other hand is an easier person to like. He’s a hard-working guy who’s trying to forge out a living and be self-reliant. But he is also hiding some secrets from the past, most importantly the present status/nature of his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Katherine. There is also Dan’s meddlesome aunt, Rowena who is always on hand to offer her two cents worth and Paula’s parents are occasionally present to interfere with their daughter’s relationship under the guise of “meaning well.”

A Chance of Stormy Weather glosses over some important elements in the main characters’ romance (as well as their lives before they met one other) and it is ultimately a rather predictable story of a fish out of water. It’s also a book where the characters are not the most endearing or easy to warm to. Stringer has a fine reputation for telling engaging stories about the lives of individuals living in rural Australia and while this book seems to tick some boxes well, there was also room in this vast country expanse for some additional improvements.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-a-chance-of-stormy-weather

DVD REVIEW: POH & CO SEASON 2

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Poh & Co. is a cooking and reality TV show starring Poh Ling Yeow, the former runner up of MasterChef Australia and the presenter of Poh’s Kitchen. This program has a homely, old school feel. In it Yeow spends time cooking and laughing while in the company of her family, friends and Scottish terrier dogs in suburban Adelaide. The result is a helpful and unpretentious series that is not dissimilar to River Cottage Australia.

The second season has nine separate parts and it tracks Yeow and her friends as they realise their dreams of opening a café in Adelaide’s Central Markets as well as their taking over a commercial kitchen. This space allows Yeow to come up with new ice-cream flavours and to expand their market stall with the help of her best friend, Sarah Rich. The latter is now married to Yeow’s ex-husband and manager, Matt Phipps, but this is not mentioned at all in the program.

Yeow seems incredibly happy and busy with her new husband, Jono Bennett and all of the things they have going on. The two have a large garden in their backyard and this series includes some home renovations like designing a feature wall inside and a glasshouse in the yard, as well as an urban beehive to top things off. Another guest on this series is a fellow MasterChef alumnus, Andre Ursini as well as Yeow’s mother and Aunty Kim plus a bunch of eccentrics from the markets.

Poh’s recipes seem like a good mix of different flavours. She likes combining different ingredients and techniques in an uncomplicated way. A real highlight is the rainbow cake she makes for a children’s party because it looks like it belongs at a mad-hatters tea party. Other recipes include her mother’s laksa, tea-smoked duck, crème caramel, kimchi and American-style smoked ribs, to name a few. The food is mouth-watering and a pure feast for the eyes. It was disappointing however, that this DVD contained no special features.

Poh & Co. is all about having fun with gorgeous food in the presence of friends and family. This vivacious artist and chef is an absolute joy to watch. She makes things fun and her outlook is rosy, even when her life seems quite busy and chaotic. In all, this program is a low-key one full of great advice and food and it’s one where dreams become reality and new ideas are hatched and can run free. Wow!

Originally published on 24 July 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/poh-co-series-2-dvd-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com/

BOOK REVIEW: LEAH FLEMING – THE LAST PEARL

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A pearl can be an interesting symbol. Some people are superstitious and think it brings bad luck if worn at certain moments. And at the very least in different levels of light this thing can shine and change colour in front of the naked eye. In Leah Fleming’s novel, The Last Pearl we are presented with some characters that change colours like pearls in that they are like real, multi-facetted gems in some instances while others bring bad luck and sadness to the people around them.

Fleming has written numerous books including The Captain’s Daughter andThe Girl under the Olive Tree. Her latest novel is a well-researched one that is set in the 19th century and takes in stories from Scotland, York and Iowa over a period of around twenty years. It follows three main characters who are motivated by a desire to better themselves, sometimes with good intentions (like doing relatives proud or supporting the family) and others with evil ones (as they’re motivated by pure greed and lust).

The story begins with a young, Scottish lad called Jem Baillie. His father is a pearl fisherman and the two discover a large, exquisite pearl they name, “Queenie.” This rock is to be set aside so that one day it will pay for Jem’s education. But Jem’s father falls ill and passes away and his mother makes the mistake of selling the pearl for a pittance to a rogue buyer. Jem is mad and vows revenge.

In York Greta Costello had lived a comfortable life until her father passes away. She takes on different jobs, working at a Quaker household and with a local jeweller who teaches her the art of pearl stringing. These jobs are abruptly cut short and the naïve Costello is faced with a difficult decision that is not dissimilar to Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice. Costello must decide whether she should marry the wealthy Eben Slinger in order to secure comfort for herself and her family or whether she would wait for a man that truly loves her. The choice she ultimately makes has long-standing ramifications because things are not as rosy as they initially seem.

The Last Pearl is a beautiful and delightful gem of a book. It’s a complex slice of historical fiction where different stories are woven together to produce a dense family drama. This novel tackles the themes of love, loyalty, greed, hatred and loss. Some characters will make you laugh and love them while others will make you want to cry, and then there are some still that will make you want to hit them in anger and frustration. This book is a rare, emotional one that shakes you out of inertia and causes you to feel just as the characters do in a most stark and visceral manner. Brilliant.

 

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-the-last-pearl

BOOK REVIEW: JENN J MCLEOD – THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SEASON

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The Other Side of the Season is a mysterious, Australian novel set near Byron Bay. It’s the fourth book by Australian author, Jenn J McLeod and it’s basically like an onion. As you read the prose it’s like another layer is slowly stripped away to reveal something more and slightly different. The Other Side of the Season is a heart-warming tale that proves that there are often multiple sides to a story and that each perspective is often as valid and as important as the other.

The book begins in the present day with a strong woman named Sidney who is looking to escape her mother’s house in the Blue Mountains. Sidney found herself returning home to live with her Mum after a long-term relationship break-up. This character is named after the artist, Sidney Nolan and she is looking at discovering some information about the past. Sidney is a relatable and rich character who has never been told much about her extended family so she decides to go on a journey with her younger rapscallion brother to get some answers.

The second major thread in this novel has the reader immersed in a quaint town called Dingy Bay in Northern NSW in the late seventies. The main characters in this story are two young brothers, a 17 year old aspiring artist named David and his elder brother Matthew. The pair work on the family’s banana plantation. David is in love with the girl next door and Matthew looks poised to run the family business but one day a tragedy strikes and the decisions the characters make will have long-standing ramifications that shake their simple, rural lives.

McLeod has done a fantastic job of creating very real and interesting characters and revealing many facets of their lives so we know exactly what makes them tick. She also expertly weaves together two very different stories set in opposing periods in time. In the end the reader is offered a very vibrant, detailed and lush tapestry of life, love, family and friendship and a story that is told with a nostalgic view of the past and present. This novel is one that will tug at your heartstrings as it is so emotional. It will also make people stop and cherish life and realise that the choices we make are often more complicated than they initially seem and that you really shouldn’t live your life filled with regrets.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-the-other-side-of-the-season

BOOK REVIEW: KELLY DOUST – PRECIOUS THINGS

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Oh you pretty things… Kelly Doust’s debut novel is a celebration of all things precious. It’s a rich, historic fiction book that intricately threads together the stories of the owners of a beaded coronet. This fashion piece is like a cat with nine lives because over the course of the book we learn that it has lived in different countries and continents and has enjoyed being reinvented as a choker, headband, collar and artwork.

Doust has previously written five non-fiction books about craft and fashion. For Precious Things the author tapped into her love of vintage clothing by offering a vibrant account of the different people that wore the collar and their own individual stories. This begins with a woman that is about to get married to a man she barely knows in Normandy and then to death-defying acts with a trapeze artist at a circus. There are dancers in Shanghai and an artist’s muse and model in Italy and eventually it was used by a different model during a now-famous magazine shoot. The main thing is the piece belonged to some very strong, independent and important women through time.

The flashbacks are evocative and lush but there are also a lot of different stories and these could have been fleshed out a little more or at least visited more than once (in some instances). It is often the case that the reader may find themselves getting into the groove of a particular voice or character only to be drawn into a new life of the collar or into the present day. The current owner of the collar is Maggie, an auctioneer working in London and juggling the busy demands of family, a career and being a loving wife and mother. Her character is the one that features the most prominently through the book.

Kelly Doust should be applauded for coming up with such a creative idea and for crafting such an ambitious novel that threads together so many different elements. In addition to all of this, Doust has also managed to capture one important common thread and that is the insatiability of the human spirit and how love and family should prevail and be considered more important than our wants and desires. This novel is for anyone who has ever looked at something and thought, “If only it could talk” because it offers a very vivid, romantic and imaginative tale that celebrates life, love and lust through the ages.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27429391-precious-things

BOOK REVIEW: QUINN, THE ROTTWEILER – A STORY OF A DOG DEALING WITH CANCER

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Quinn, the Rottweiler- A Story of a Dog Dealing with Cancer is a charming little book about a beautiful canine. The story is told from Quinn the dog’s perspective and is a nice, feel-good tale in parts (at least when you consider Quinn enjoying his new and happy life with Maryly Turner and her pets). Quinn was originally named Chong and was forced to live outside or in a shed and was regularly chained up. But once he was adopted by Turner (after his previous owner could no longer care for him) his life took a turn for the better.

The story of Quinn leapt off the page. You could imagine this dog with a big smile on his face and wagging his tail as he enjoyed meeting new people and animals and sleeping on a warm bed, eating treats and going for rides in the car. It is sad that Maryly – who was recovering from cancer treatment at the time – would discover a lump on Quinn’s foot that would prove cancerous. We follow Quinn’s treatment as he has painful surgery and chemotherapy and we can feel real empathy for what he endures.

This book is ultimately a warm and big-hearted story that should help us understand our pets that little bit more. It’s a great tale that shows the power of family and family and their ability to help and support others, through the good times and the bad. Quinn is an inspirational character that at times reminded me of Oddball and he is one that readers will come to fall in love with.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7543053-quinn-the-rottweiler

BOOK REVIEW: JOSEPHINE MOON – THE BEEKEEPER’S SECRET

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The Beekeeper’s Secret marks a slight departure in style for Australian author, Josephine Moon. In her third novel the writer has once again put together a vibrant and easy-to-read story about love, loss, family and friendship but this time around also manages to thread in some extra twists of suspense and mystery to the tale, as well tackling some dark and topical subject matter.  This was ultimately an enjoyable book boasting some well-realised characters and hopefully this is not the last that readers will hear from this diverse and intriguing lot.

The story stars a kind-hearted and well-meaning former nun named Maria Lindsey. The latter likes nothing more than her solitary life tending to her honeybees and making honey-based products that she can sell at the local markets in order to raise funds for an orphanage in Cambodia. Maria is a likeable character who is also harbouring a number of terrible secrets. She is plagued by a sense of guilt and feels like she needs to continue in her quest for atonement.

Tansy Butterfield is a successful 30-year-old interior decorator and the estranged niece of Lindsey. She is suffering a mid-life crisis because she must reconsider her feelings and make some big decisions with respect to child-rearing and following her husband overseas. At the same time she also wants to establish a relationship with an aunt she’s never met and knows nothing about. If that’s not enough, Butterfield also has a tight-knit immediate family and they are battling a number of their own issues like loss of faith, infidelity, sick children and regrets about the past.

Moon’s story was a little slow to begin with but it really hit its stride in the middle and towards the end. The characters are rich and realistic ones like those found in Marian Keyes’s novels and the story is an interesting and relevant dramedy that contains added messages, meaning and metaphors thanks to the vivid descriptions of honeybees. In all, this book shows a dysfunctional family negotiating their way through rights, wrongs, cover-ups, lies and betrayals in a story that is like a pot of amber gold and a rather sweet family tale.

 

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28509498-the-beekeeper-s-secret

BOOK REVIEW: DANI ATKINS – OUR SONG

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Dani Atkins may not be the world’s most famous author but her third novel, Our Song, looks poised to change that. This emotional, family drama is a slow-burning and nuanced tale that looks at fate, friendship, love and other dilemmas. It’s a poignant tale that will give you cause to sit back and reflect and this will happen long after you’ve finished the book’s final words.

The story is about two women and former friends who are suddenly hit by individual tragedies. Ally is the mother of a gorgeous, seven year old boy named Jake and wife to the kind-hearted and sweet, Joe. The latter finds himself in a sticky situation early on. Joe discovered a young boy in distress who had fallen into a frozen lake while attempting to save the family pet. Joe is an admirable man and he saves the kid and the dog but he also falls into the frozen water himself and is rushed off to intensive care.

David is Ally’s old flame and a jet-setting, rich man who is now married to the equally ambitious, Charlotte. The former is about to surprise his wife with a surprise trip to New York but he is struck down with a mysterious illness in a department store. David winds up at the same hospital as Joe and the doctors soon discover that David has a very serious heart condition.

Our Song has a great premise- it throws two strong women in the same waiting room as their husbands are in intensive care, lying in limbo with different ailments. Atkins has done an excellent job with the characterisation and telling of the story. She expertly weaves together flashbacks and scenes in the present day, which cover Ally and David’s courtship and break-up as well as when David and Charlotte get together and when Ally meets and falls for Joe. The story is a little simplistic at times but it is not lacking in sentiment or feeling. There are also a lot of rich details offered in the prose so the reader gets a good sense of the different individuals, especially when the same scene is retold from the other person’s perspective.

This novel is a well-told, beautiful and moving one but it does have some minor flaws. Part of the plot is predictable (but thankfully there are enough twists thrown into the mix to keep things interesting). The other issue is that sometimes the level of coincidence will require a major suspension of disbelief, which is a shame as the characters themselves feel rather authentic. But despite these small quibbles, the story is a veritable rollercoaster that is jam-packed with different emotions and lots of drama and tension. In sum, it will ultimately tug at your heartstrings and make you stop and realise how important your own loved ones are in the grander scheme of things.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-our-song

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