Movie Review: Alpha

My mom, sister Linda and I slipped away for a couple of hours for an impromptu movie night. We are animal lovers in my family, therefore we found ourselves drawn to the film that portrays the discovery of man’s best friend. Grab some popcorn, the healthier kind please, and enjoy this movie review of Alpha.

Movie Review Alpha

Alpha stars Kodi Smit-McPhee, Johannes Haukur Johannesson, Natassia Malthe, and Spencer Bogaert. This adventure film, directed by Albert Hughes, carries a PG-13 rating for scenes of peril, and has a run time of 1 hour and 36 minutes.

Set in Europe, 20,000 years ago, the movie opens with the men from a small tribe closing in on their prey. Once a year the men, led by Chief Tau (Johannesson), trek for days to a distant hunting ground where huge shaggy bison roam. The tribe’s survival during the harsh winter depends on their success.

Movie Review Alpha

This year, for the first time, Tau’s son Keda (Smit-McPhee) and his friend Kappa (Bogaert) accompany the men as part of their rite of passage into manhood. Keda’s mother (Malthe) is reluctant to let her son join the hunt.

“He leads with his heart, not with his spear,” the mother says of her teenage son, when Tau declares that it’s time for the boy to learn to lead.

It’s a learning journey for Keda. His father instructs him on the art of making fire, goads him into attempting his first kill for food (Keda refuses) and points out the Big Dipper constellation in the sky. “It points toward home,” Tau tells his son.

Things go awry when the tribe encounters the bison. As the hunters drive the herd over a cliff, Keda is caught on the horns of a charging bull and flung from the cliff as well. Unconscious on a narrow rock ledge, beyond the reach of his tribe, Keda is left for dead by his grieving father.

Movie Review Alpha

Keda is not dead, but he is alone in a magnificent and challenging landscape. Injured and frightened, the boy begins the journey home, one painful step at a time. On the way he is surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves. Keda knifes one wolf as he scrambles up a tree.

The next morning, only the injured wolf remains. Keda’s heart does indeed lead him. Rather than kill the wolf, he muzzles him and carries him to a cave where both can heal. A relationship forms, between the boy and the wolf, as they learn to trust and respect each other. Will they be able to help each other reach the safety of the tribe encampment before the winter snows begin?

Movie Review Alpha

This turned out to be a beautiful film, visually rich with outstanding cinematography. The simplicity of the story, which could be classified as a blend of coming of age meets a boy and his dog, lent itself well to the unfolding journey.

The actors spoke in another language, requiring subtitles on the screen. I read that it was a made up language and also that they spoke a Native American dialect. Either way, it didn’t detract from the story. I found the language to be beautiful. Short sentences or singles words were used primarily while facial expressions and hand gestures conveyed more.

At the heart of this charming film is a young man who discovers his own unique strengths while developing patience, perseverance and loyalty to the wolf who journeys with him. The two play together, hunt together, and curl up before the fire together in the cold. Each night Keda looks for the Big Dipper. Each day the pair trudges northward.

An uncertain boy left the camp. A young man returns home, with a surprising companion. Alpha is a feel good movie that allows the viewer to leave with a smile on the face and a warmth in the heart and the strong desire to hug a dog.

Movie Review Alpha

Movie Review: The Girl on the Train

I enjoyed a Sunday evening movie night, watching a film I meant to catch on the big screen. I am grateful for online viewing options, DVD rentals, and free movies at the Joplin Public Library. That means I can always find a film I missed. I checked this one out of the library.

The Girl on the Train stars Emily Blunt, Luke Evans, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Allison Janney and Edgar Ramirez. This suspenseful thriller, based on the novel by Paula Hawkins, was directed by Tate Taylor. The film is rated R for strong language, sexuality and suspense, and has a run time of 1 hour and 52 minutes.

Recently divorced, and struggling with alcoholism, Rachel (Blunt) commutes to Manhattan every day on the train. Although she feels that everything important to her has been ripped away, she still has her imagination and her ability to sketch. She spins a story around a young couple, Scott (Evans) and Megan (Bennett), that she sees daily as the train rumbles past their home.

To Rachel, the attractive couple are living the perfect life. They have a beautiful home, in a neighborhood she once lived in. They appear to share a deep and passionate love. Two houses down is Rachel's former house, where her ex-husband Tom (Theroux) now lives with his new wife Anna (Ferguson) and their baby daughter.

Rachel can barely look at that house. All that she longed for…a loving relationship and a child, the furnishings and security…is captured within that home. And none of it is hers. All she has is a spare bedroom at a friend's house and this beautiful story she has created about strangers she catches glimpses of as she rolls by.

But one day, as the train passes Scott and Megan's house, she sees something that shatters her idyllic story and upsets her reality. Megan is kissing another man on the backyard deck. Rachel feels that infidelity as keenly as she felt it in her life when she discovered that her husband was having an affair.

Drunk and in a rage as she returns home, Rachel exits the train near her old neighborhood, with the mixed up intentions of warning the husband that his wife is being unfaithful. The night becomes a blur to her. She awakens the next morning with an injury to her head and no clear memory of how she got it.

Rachel finds herself in the center of a dark and dangerous story she could not have imagined. Megan is missing. Detective Riley (Janney) has a list of suspects that includes Rachel, Megan's husband Scott, and her therapist Dr. Abdic (Ramirez).

The case hinges on what Rachel can remember, and what she saw, really saw, the night Megan disappeared.

This was an excellent crime thriller. Well written, with a flow that only revealed bits and pieces of the truth at a time, I found myself on edge and leaning forward toward the screen as I watched the story unfold. Emily Blunt gives a stark performance as a woman who has lost everything due to her addiction to alcohol. But there is so much more to her than that story. I hurt for Rachel, watching her struggle. I cheered for her, with every painful step she took to reclaim her life.

At the heart of this drama is the truth that things are often not what they seem. People have backstories. They have wounds that go so deep that they struggle to ever heal completely. Instead, their personalities form around those gaping holes in the soul, affecting their future lives and their future relationships.

What did Rachel see, from the train window? The answer is crucial in solving a crime, and just as crucial for Rachel's healing. This movie was a good reminder to me, to look beyond what my eyes see, to find the person hiding beneath surface behavior.

What do I see, as I move through my day, rushing by, not in a train, but carried along just as rapidly by the busyness of life? That's a good question for me to answer!

You can purchase the DVD or the novel by clicking the links below:

I am an Amazon Affiliate and may make a commission on items purchased through my links, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for considering making a purchase of these items, or any other items, through my Amazon links!

A Lavender Night

I have had the movie, Ladies in Lavender, on my Amazon Prime Watch List for a while. It is an older film, released in 2004, starring two of my favorite actresses, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. When I came across the DVD for rent at the library, I checked it out.

I didn’t intend to write a review for this charming film, due to the age of it. However, always open to possibilities, I found myself inspired by it, nonetheless. An idea came to me as I watered the garden late this afternoon. The delicate scent of lavender tickled my nose as I brushed against the plants in my apothecary garden. The movie seemed to suggest a lavender theme as the perfect setting for immersing myself in the story.

After a light dinner, I brewed a cup of tea, made from a sprig of lavender freshly plucked from my garden. As the tea steeped, filling my kitchen with its tantalizing aroma, I made banana and wild blueberry nice dream. This simple treat is perfect for these hot muggy nights. And it is so easy to make.

I purchased ripe bananas on sale at the market, cut them up yesterday, and froze them in bags containing four of the sliced fruits each. Tonight I combined a bag of frozen bananas with two cups of frozen wild blueberries in the food processor. In a few minutes I had cold and creamy banana blueberry nice dream. I added a small amount of lavender infused water to my cold treat, giving it just a hint of additional flavor.

With my tea, my treat, the movie and Young Living lavender essential oil in my diffuser, my lavender themed evening was underway.

And what a wonderful evening it was.

The film was an enchanting period piece, highlighting the beauty of love at any age. Two spinster sisters, played by Dench and Smith, rescue a young man who is washed overboard off of a ship during a storm. As Andrea, played by Daniel Brühl, recovers from his injuries, the sisters discover that he is a gifted violinist who was on his way to America for a chance to hone his musical ability.

The older women save Andrea…and the young man reawakens their hearts, reminding them…and me as I watched the story unfold…that true love gives itself away, and always offers freedom to others.

What a hauntingly poignant film, that redefines the meaning of a happy ending. I was teary eyed by the end, and wanted to applaud. I smiled instead and vowed to carry the deeper truths with me for a while.

I enjoyed my lavender evening. Feeling curious about the benefits of lavender, I looked it up and discovered that it has a soothing, calming effect on the body. Lavender improves sleep, lessens anxiety, slows the aging process and is a great healer of the skin.

The Latin word lavender literally means wash and may refer to the infusions made with the plant in early times, or to the aroma that washes over the senses.

Going deeper still, I learned that the purple color of the flowers are associated with the crown chakra, which is the energy center located at the top of the head. The crown chakra is associated with higher purpose and spiritual connectivity. The vibration of the crown is the highest vibration in the body. Lavender is thought to heal and raise our vibration to the highest possible level. This aromatic herb, therefore, strengthens my connection to the Divine.

And that, I now believe, was the purpose of my lavender evening. My day began with heightened energy around my crown chakra and a powerful connection to the Divine. That was unintentional on my part but a very deliberate invitation, apparently. And inspiration led me full circle, ending my day with lavender…and a heart overflowing with love and a body humming with high vibrational energy.

I am grateful.

To create your own lavender evening, try out these products, and message me if you would like to purchase Young Living Essential Lavender oil.

I am an Amazon Affiliate and may make a commission on products purchased through my links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for considering making a purchase of these items, or any other items, through my Amazon links!

Girls’ Movie Night

I’m posting briefly this evening, and late, because I am at a party…a grandmothers and granddaughters sleepover! The night kicked off with Aubrey and I meeting my sister Linda and her granddaughters, London and Aralyn, for dinner at the mall food court. 

After Chick Fil A meals, we settled in with the girls at the nearby theater for a showing of Despicable Me 3. 

Girls' Night at the Movies
This third installment in the Despicable Me franchise stars Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Nev Scharrel. The animated adventure film was directed by Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin and Eric Guillon, and has a run time of 1 hour and 30 minutes. Despicable Me 3 carries a PG rating, for action sequences and some rude humor. 

Gru (Carell) is back in this humorous adventure, now a devoted family man with a crime fighting wife Lucy (Wiig), and adopted daughters Margo (Cosgrove), Edith (Gaier) and Agnes (Scharrel). While adjusting to marriage and parenthood, Gru and Lucy suddenly lose their secret agent jobs. 

Girls' Night at the Movies
As they consider career options, Gru receives a surprising summons from an unexpected source. Gru learns that he has a twin brother Dru (Carell), and that the boys were separated as infants when their parents divorced. 

Dru is a mirror twin to his long lost brother, with opposing characteristics. He is cheerful, optimistic, emotionally expressive…and  he has a full head of hair! Not all is at it seems, however. Gru discovers the family secret, and he and his brother set off on a wild escapade against an evil foe named Balthazar (Parker), who is definitely stuck in the past! 

Girls' Night at the Movies
We all enjoyed this charming and hilarious film, featuring familiar characters, a new villain and those oh so lovable yellow minions. Since this was a girls’ night out, I asked everyone what they enjoyed most about Despicable Me 3. 

 London (age 7): I liked the part where Gru and Dru stole the diamond from Balthazar.  

Aubrey (age 8): The whole movie was fun…and I liked the last diamond scene too. 

Aralyn (age 3): I liked the big robot who said, “I’ve been a bad boy!”

Gigi (Linda): I liked when Gru lost his clothes and ended up wearing pink bubble gum and he floated by the birthday party where everyone was singing. 

Yaya (Cindy): I enjoyed the family relationships as stronger connections were formed…Gru and Lucy as a couple, Lucy learning to be a mom to the girls, and especially Dru and Gru as they forged a brotherly bond. 

Girls' Night at the Movies
As fun as Despicable Me 3 was, that was just the beginning of our girls’ night. Snacks were secured and pjs donned. Gigi and Aralyn have gone to bed. As I write, Aubrey and London are curled up on an inflatable mattress in the living room, whispering together and watching a DVD. A Dog’s Purpose has just started. I’ll watch the movie with them. Mostly though, I’ll enjoy watching these two cousins interact with each other as they discuss the movie, giggle and chat. 

It is definitely a girls’ movie night!

Girls' Night at the Movies

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van

I picked up the DVD of this British film at the library last week. On this night that feels like a Saturday rather than a Monday, being on the eve of a holiday, I settled in to watch The Lady in the Van. 

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van
The Lady in the Van stars Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Gwen Taylor and Jim Broadbent. This biographical comedy was directed by Nicholas Hytner and is based on the memoir of Alan Bennett, who also wrote the screenplay. The film is rated PG-13, for a brief unsettling image, and has a run time of 1 hour and 44 minutes. 

Alan Bennett (Jennings) is a writer, newly moved into a genteel neighborhood in London. He finds his life rather dull and gleans most of the material for his plays from his relationship with his mam (Taylor). 

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van
Into his neighborhood, and his life, comes Miss Shepherd (Smith), an older homeless woman who lives in her van. Moving down the street, she parks her van in front of various houses, taking up residence until something displeases her. Then she moves further down the street. 

She parks her van across the street from Alan’s home. From the window of his study, he can’t help but be intrigued by this woman who seems querulous and fiercely independent, and yet fearful of questions and calling too much attention to herself. 

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van
The pair enter into a friendship of sorts. He checks on her daily and she shares snippets of her story. Alan notices that a mysterious man (Broadbent) approaches the van occasionally, which upsets the occupant. When Miss Shepherd runs afoul of parking regulations and has an unsavory encounter with a couple of unruly young men, Alan offers an unexpected invitation: move the van, which Miss Shepherd has painted bright yellow, into his driveway. 

Alan suggests that the easily agitated woman remain in his driveway for three months, until she decides what she wants to do, and where she wants to go. 

Miss Shepherd remains as Alan’s unusual guest for 15 years. During that time, he learns more about who this dynamic woman is, and who he is as well. 

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van
I loved this charming film, and all the more because it is based on real people and events. I remembered as the movie began that Maggie Smith was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role, in 2015. She didn’t win, but she should have! She so beautifully portrays a woman whose whole world is reduced down to living in self imposed confinement. Miss Shepherd was poor, due to the lifestyle she chose. But I discovered, along with Alan, that she was intelligent, interesting and had hidden talents. 

Life presented difficult challenges for Miss Shepherd, and she handled them in the way that seemed most safe to her…she went into hiding. 

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van
In many ways, Alan was hiding his true self too. I liked the clever way that Alan’s character was split in two for the film. Jennings played both roles…Alan the writer and Alan who lived life. Since Alan didn’t engage in life much, his writer self had little to create with, beyond his relationship with his mother. And yet, Alan started with where he was in his life. He wrote and performed plays, monologues about his oft forgetful and unintentionally humorous mam. 

As the years passed, Alan helped a woman whose life had been shaped by fear and regret. And she helped him to step outside of his comfort zone and into life. Watching their journeys, I understood the need to see beyond another’s exterior…the noxious smells, the argumentative attitudes, the disengaged and closed off hearts…to the soul of a person. 

The mind can be so fragile, so fractured by the hurts accumulated over a lifetime, but the spirit can remain strong and indomitable. May I look always for the spirit within those I encounter, and see beyond the persona thrown up to protect. 

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

My sister Linda and I declared this evening a movie night. For our viewing enjoyment, we selected the latest installment in the DC series that is leading to the formation of the Justice League. We were excited to see Wonder Woman. 

Wonder Woman stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock and Elena Anaya. The fantasy adventure was directed by Patty Jenkins. It’s rated PG-13, for action sequences and violence, and has a run time of 2 hours and 21 minutes. 

Diana (Gadot) is raised on an island of warrior women, known as the Amazons, hidden from the world by Zeus. Fiercely trained in combat by her aunt, Antiope (Wright), and fretted over by her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Nielsen), Diana grows up believing it is her destiny to protect mankind from the war god, Ares. 

Movie Review: Wonder Woman
Movie Review: Wonder Woman
When a pilot named Steve Trevor (Pine) crashes into the sea near the island, Diana encounters her first man. He brings news of a mighty world war that is destroying millions of lives, and of an evil woman, Dr Maru (Anaya), who is developing bioweapons that will have catastrophic effects. Against the wishes of her mother, Diana leaves with Steve, bearing a shield, a magical lasso and a sword she refers to as the “god destroyer”. She believes if she kills Ares the war will immediately stop. 

Away from Themyscira, Diana discovers that humans are more complex and the world more strange than she imagined. Dr Maru, also know as Dr Poison, is working a sinister plan with Germany’s General Ludendorff (Huston). While in England, meetings led by Sir Patrick Morgan (Thewlis) are underway to negotiate an armistice with Germany. 

Fearing resolution will come too late, Steve and Diana gather a group of experts and head to the front lines, searching for Ludendorff, whom Diana believes to be the god Ares in disguise. Sameer (Taghmaoui) is a spy who specializes in languages. Charlie the Scotsman (Bremner) is a skilled marksman. And Chief is a smuggler. 

Movie Review: Wonder Woman
The team must stop a threat that is greater than anyone realizes. As they battle to save the world, Diana discovers who she really is and what she is capable of. 

I enjoyed this movie so much! As a child, I read all the Marvel and DC comics, so I was familiar with Wonder Woman. However, as a wee girl and then a teen, I was never particularly drawn to the only female character among a host of superheroes. She seemed like the token girl to me. I’m curious if I missed her courage and “wonder” when I was a child or if that was an accurate perception. 

Regardless, I found plenty to admire about Gal Gadot’s fresh portrayal. This was indeed an epic adventure and she wasn’t a token female. I loved Diana’s convictions about her purpose in life. She never wavered on her desire to offer to humanity by destroying evil. Even as she discovered more about the mankind she had vowed to protect, and learned who she truly was, she never backed down from living out of those desires. 

Movie Review: Wonder Woman
There was humor to balance the action sequences, and a fun performance by Chris Pine. And at the core of the film, and Diana’s journey, lay the realization that we are all of us a mixture of light and dark. We choose, daily, which we will surrender to…the Light or Darkness. In the end, says Wonder Woman, “It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.” 

I am so looking forward to seeing Wonder Woman own her space in the Justice League!

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Movie Review: Love & Friendship

I declared tonight a movie night, feeling the need for a little nurturing self care. Comfy clothes on, wrapped up in my late father’s Harley Davidson throw, a cup of hot Scottish tea in hand, I settled on a Christmas movie. But moments into the film, I stopped it. The movie I had picked out didn’t feel right, not tonight. 

Instead, I selected another movie from my Watch List on Amazon Prime, Love & Friendship, a historical comedy, if such a genre exists, based upon the novella Lady Susan by Jane Austen. Written early in Austen’s writing career, this delightful little book wasn’t published until 50 plus years after her death. 

I was intrigued, being a fan of Jane Austen and of the many screen versions of her books. I have never read Lady Susan so I was unfamiliar with the story. As I began the movie, I knew I had made the right choice. 

Love & Friendship stars Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Morfydd Clark, Tom Bennett, Justin Edwards and Stephen Fry. This period piece that is classified as both a comedy and a drama, was directed by Whit Stillman. The movie carries a PG rating, for adult themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 32 minutes. 

Set in England in the late 1700s, Love & Friendship tells the story of Lady Susan Vernon (Beckinsale), recently a widow, and totally without funds. She is not, however, without intelligence, wit and beauty…and the ability to manipulate others. Determined to find husbands for herself and for her reluctant teenage daughter, Frederica (Clark), Lady Susan moves both of them into Churchhill, the magnificent estate of her brother-in-law, Charles (Edwards).

Lady Susan charms the gentlemen, no matter their age or marital status, and invites rumors and scandal, everywhere she goes. Her sister-in-law, Catherine (Greenwell) is very distraught over her uninvited houseguests, especially when Lady Susan appears to have captured the attention and heart of her handsome younger brother, Reginald (Samuel). 

Her only confidante and ally is the American, Alicia (Sevigny), married to an upstanding older gentleman, Mr. Johnson (Fry). It is through her comical and frank conversations with her friend Alicia that Lady Susan’s motives are exposed. While she attempts to play matchmaker between her daughter and the rather silly but wealthy James Martin (Bennett), the past threatens to catch up with Lady Susan, foiling all of her carefully laid out plans. 

This was a wonderful Jane Austen adaptation. The dialogue and characters were very much in Austen’s style…witty, engaging, likable. I was reminded of another of her films, Emma. The difference is that while Emma appears to be conniving and manipulative, she has a good and sincere heart that is always concerned with the welfare of others. 

Not so with Lady Susan. Her plotting and scheming is all centered around her own needs and gains, without regard for the well being of others. Initially I waited for the goodness in Susan to be revealed, as it is in many of Austen’s characters in her other stories. Once I realized Lady Susan was exactly as portrayed, I relaxed and simply enjoyed the tale. 

For enjoy it I did. The clever dialogue, comedy, and over-the-top dramatics created a highly entertaining film that kept a grin on my face. The period costumes were gorgeous, and the stately homes and English countryside created the perfect backdrop for this little known Austen work, allowing the story to come alive. Love & Friendship was exactly what I needed tonight. 

By movie’s end, somehow all had sorted itself out, and Lady Susan played the unique role of both the villain in the story and the heroine. I loved that. And now, I must read the novella. 

Which Movie for Movie Night?

I felt drawn all day to settle in and watch a movie tonight, after everything else on my to do list was crossed off. Amazon Prime has an abundance of films to choose from, and I have a selection across the genres, saved in my Watch List. 

The only problem was, which film would I watch? I couldn’t decide. 

Therefore, I took the decision out of my hands, and let the Divine choose for me. For one who used to fear the seemingly randomness of life, I’ve come to appreciate the deeper truths found in allowing life to unfold, as it will. What used to appear as randomness now offers significance and insight and guidance to me. 

On slips of paper, I wrote down six of my saved movie choices, folded them up, and dropped them into a bucket. This was a fun way to choose a movie for movie night. I let the movie pick me. 

Stirring the folded bits of paper, I closed my eyes and drew out tonight’s film:

I Capture the Castle was the first movie I looked at when I opened the Amazon Prime video app on my phone. Apparently, it was the perfect film to view. 

I Capture the Castle stars Romola Garai, Rose Byrne, Bill Nighy, Tara Fitzgerald, Henry Cavill, Henry Thomas, Joe Sowerbutts and Mark  Blucas. This 2003 British film, based on the novel of the same title by Dodie Smith, was directed by Tim Fywell. The movie is rated R, for brief nudity and sexuality, and has a run time of 1 hour and 53 minutes. 

This was indeed the perfect movie for tonight. Quirky and poignant, the story is told from the perspective of the 17 year old protagonist, Cassandra Mortmain (Garai). Her eccentric, and poor, family has lived for years in a picturesque but run down castle in England. Cassie’s reclusive father (Nighy), a writer with one penned novel that did moderately well, has not been able to produce a sequel. Money is scarce, and then nonexistent as writer’s block imprisons him. 

Cassie’s stepmother Topaz (Fitzgerald) inhabits her own artistic world, her younger brother (Sowerbutts) runs wild and her sister Rose (Byrne) feels as imprisoned within the castle as her father does within his writer’s study. Rose desires to escape her life, preferrably by marrying a wealthy man who will take her far away. 

The cast is rounded out by Stephen (Cavill), who having lived with and worked for the family for years, is simply content to be near Cassandra…and Simon (Thomas) and Neil (Blucas), American brothers who have arrived to claim an inheritance from an English uncle. The castle that the Mortmains occupy belongs now to the brothers. 

As the story unfolds, romance blossoms, but in very mismatched ways. And those who feel caged in, whether by their own choices or not, discover the way to freedom, and the costs. 

I very much enjoyed this randomly selected movie. The eccentricities appealed to me, as the family members expressed their creativities in a variety of unique ways. I adore cleverness, and this movie delivered it in abundance. I especially identified with Cassandra and her father, writers both of them. 

The father’s isolation and writer’s block were born from a deep sense of failure…not in his writing, but in his life. He closed his heart against the pain, and in protecting his heart, he closed to the flow of creativity. One of my favorite quotes from the movie is his:

“What good are words on a page? What good is anything if a man can’t open his heart and let himself out?” 

Powerful words, that I have embraced. What good is anything, if can’t open my heart and let myself out? This has been my journey. This is still my journey…keeping my heart open, refusing to close to protect from pain, and letting myself out. 

I Capture the Castle was a great little film. I loved that it ended, not tidily and happily ever after, but in a way that reflects the messiness and unpredictability of life. Isn’t that how life is…beautiful and messy, amazing and challenging…and isn’t that what allows us to grow?

Movie Review: Love’s Kitchen

I’ve admitted it before, I adore movies about cooking. While far from a chef myself, I am drawn to the culinary arts. When this British film from 2011 popped up on Amazon Prime, I added it to my watch list. After a late night showing property, this evening was the perfect time to enjoy a fun flick with an emphasis on cooking. 

Love’s Kitchen stars Dougray Scott, Simon Callow, Claire Forlani, Peter Bowles, Simon Hepworth, and Gordon Ramsey. This comedy romance was written and directed by James Hacking. It has a PG-13 rating, for brief sexuality and language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 33 minutes. 

Rob Haley (Scott) is an up and coming London chef, when tragedy strikes, leaving him a widower with a young daughter. His once brilliant career spirals downward as he struggles to remember who he is and why he ever enjoyed cooking. A harsh and critical review seems to announce the end of Rob’s days as a chef. 

However his friend, TV chef Gordon Ramsey (played by himself), encourages Rob to start again, start fresh, at a quiet little pub in the country. Rob’s wife had been in the process of purchasing the pub, called The Boot, before her untimely death in a car accident. 

Rob purchases The Boot and moves into the attached living quarters with his daughter and a small staff of supportive friends who are determined to see him succeed again. Rob is determined too. He is ready to return to his love of cooking. 

All is ready at the new gastro pub, but diners are not exactly lining up at the doors. Until American food critic Kate Templeton (Forlani) stops by for an impromptu visit. Because of his last negative review, Rob is not gracious toward critics. But one heartfelt review from Kate, praising her lunch at The Boot, has people eager to try the delicious British fare. Even TV personality and food critic Guy Witherspoon (Callow) is intrigued and sets up a day to shoot an episode at the pub. 

Unfortunately, not everyone is happy with the new chef in the village. Kate’s English dad (Bowles) resists change. He wants the quiet town to remain that way. And Kate’s old boyfriend James (Hepworth) experiences a flare of jealousy, causing him to team up with Mr. Templeton in attempting to rid the village of the new chef. 

Things are certainly heating up, in the kitchen and in the town. 

This was a fun film, and the perfect way to wind down my day. I’m a fan of Scottish actor Dougray Scott. And I loved Simon Callow in Phantom of the Opera and Claire Forlani in Meet Joe Black. It was great to see three of my favorites together in a movie. 

I appreciated the humor and the interesting themes in the film. After his loss, Rob became a man who hid in safety. His creativity was stifled and sacrificed as a result. Love’s Kitchen is a story of transformation…of a run down little pub into a classy, gastronomical delight, and of a fearful man beaten down by life into a gifted chef in his glory. 

I loved that the setting for the story was a pub…and a gastro pub at that. I just ate at a British gastro pub last Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed the food and the atmosphere. 

Most of all, I appreciated this movie because of the emphasis on cooking, on creating with healthy, wholesome food. Rob’s motto is “It’s about cooking real food with real heart.” I agree. I spent time today, cooking healthy, wholesome food in my own kitchen. 

I had to smile over a scene in the movie in which Chef Rob is instructing Kate in the proper way to hold a knife while chopping vegetables. I took careful mental notes. Ironically, while chopping potatoes today, I sliced into the side of my thumb and deep into the nail bed. It’s been 32 years since I last tried to pass out, but today, I very nearly did. Fortunately, Greg came to my rescue and the meal was saved. My thumb will be fine. I have it nicely bandaged up. 

Like Chef Rob, I desire to create visually appealing, delicious meals that nourish me, body and soul. I am inspired to do so by Love’s Kitchen. I want to cook with my heart…no thumbs included. 

Movie Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

I saw the preview for this movie five years ago, and I was intrigued. Some movie trailers spark interest while others stir my heart. This one fell into the latter category. Being a small British film, however, it never played on the big screen in Joplin, and I forgot about the movie. 

Until today. 

Checking possibilities for a movie night, this quirky film popped up as available on Amazon Prime. That stirring around my heart reminded me that I was drawn toward this movie previously. I knew I had found tonight’s selection…or more accurately, it had found me again. 

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked and Tom Mison. Directed by Lasse Hallström, this comedy adventure is based on the novel by the same name, written by Paul Torday. The film is rated PG-13, for brief language and sexuality, and has a run time of 1 hour and 47 minutes. 

Dr Alfred Jones (McGregor), a Scottish fisheries expert, is presented with the most unlikely of projects, the introduction of salmon into Yemen rivers, for fishing. Wealthy sheikh Muhammed bin Zaidi bani Tihama (Waked), the royal head of Yemen, desires to bring salmon to his country, and he has the resources to make it happen. 

The sheikh’s representative, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Blunt), approaches Dr Jones as an associate of the British investment company Fitzharris & Price. In spite of the impossibility of success, Fred reluctantly agrees to head up the project after meeting the sheikh and fishing with him in Scotland. The sheikh is a man of faith. He believes. 

With his salary doubled, and almost unlimited resources at his disposal, Fred brings together a team of specialists to build a dam, check the water in Yemen, and find a way to fly in 10,000 British salmon. As each goal is met, with Harriet’s help, he begins to believe this outlandish idea just might work. Regardless of the outcome, Fred feels more engaged and more alive, than he has felt in years. 

Harriet considers the project, and Fred, her saviors. Her boyfriend of three weeks, Captain Robert Mayers (Mison) is missing in action somewhere in the Middle East. As the project nears completion, tension rises in Yemen, as some feel the sheikh is westernizing their country. And tough, no nonsense Patricia Maxwell (Thomas), communications director for the Prime Minister, shows up with a surprise that she hopes to manipulate into positive press stories. 

Will faith and ingenuity be enough to bring salmon fishing to the Yemen? 

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I’m a big fan of Scottish actor Ewan McGregor, and I loved listening to him speak with his native accent. And I deeply appreciated the scenes with beautiful Scotland as the backdrop. Amr Waked captured my interest as the sheikh, with his out of the box ideas and the belief to carry them out. Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas gave notable performances as well. 

In spite of the movie title, and the project that was the focus of the characters, this was not just a movie about fishing for salmon. This was a movie about stepping out of comfort zones, dreaming big, and having faith no matter what other people thought. And it was about relationships…romantic ones and friendships and that most important kinship with self. 

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was about beliefs, and bringing cultures together by connecting people first. For the avid fly fisherman, there was enough fishing to create the desire to grab a pole and wade out into a river. I don’t want to cast a fly out into still waters, but watching this movie called to me nonetheless, and brought joy and a sense of seeing the bigger picture in life. I’m grateful this film found me today.