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!

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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.

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Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

For months, I have had this 2016 movie in my Watch List on Amazon Prime, at the recommendation of my  daughter Elissa. She not only enjoys films, like I do, she has a good idea of what I will like and appreciate in a movie. Late this afternoon, I pulled up this based on a true story film. I woke up this morning, saying the word “Fey”. It was time to watch the movie. 

Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot stars Tina Fey, Martin Freeman, Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfred Molina, Christopher Abbott, Stephen Peacocke, and Nicholas Braun. This biographical comedy adventure was directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and carries an R rating for language and sexual situations. The run time is 1 hour and 52 minutes. 

In 2006, Kim Baker (Fey), a New York copywriter with a desk job, accepts a three month assignment in Afghanistan, covering the war. Although an experienced journalist, she is not emotionally or physically prepared for the realities she finds in war torn Kabul. 

Kim has a team that accompanies her on all assignments, and includes a secuity man, Nic (Peacocke), Tall Brian (Braun), her cameraman, and Fahim (Abbott), her young and wise Afghan translator. She befriends Tanya Vanderpoel (Robbie), a correspondent from London, and Iain MacKelpie (Freeman), a Scottish photographer. 

Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Kim quickly learns how to thrive, based in Kabul and following the news, wherever interesting stories are unfolding. She is allowed to interview Marine General Hollanek (Thornton) and his men, and accompany them on patrol. And her direct, honest approach to people wins her friends in high places, such as Ali Sadiq (Molina), one of the most influential men in the country. 

When asked why she took the assignment in Afghanistan, Kim shares that her life was in a rut. She had a mediocre job, and a long relationship with an uninspiring man. She had ridden the same stationary bike for thousands of miles, and comparing that to her life, she realized one morning that she was going nowhere. It was time for dramatic change. 

Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

The three months stretches into years. Kim grows to love her new home and her colleagues and the Afghan people. She feels especially drawn to help the women, who are beginning to seek political and domestic change. However, the people back in the US have grown tired of war news from Afghanistan. Kim gets less and less airtime, which pushes her to take more risks to find bigger, better news stories. 

Kim must decide if there is a balance between pursuing the news and taking risks. And, what is the ultimate cost of risking it all? 

Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
I loved this fast paced film. Tina Fey was one of the producers, and she pursued the rights to the film after reading Kim Barker’s book, Taliban Shuffle, about her real life experiences in Afghanistan. Although liberally laced with humor, there was also a darker, underlying grittiness, due to the nature of the circumstances, that gave the movie a punch of reality. 

I am accustomed to Fey playing the comedian, but she excelled in this story of a woman discovering who she is and what she has to offer to the world. I admired her gutsiness and determination, and her willingness to move beyond her comfort zone and embrace change and growth. 

Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Kim Barker, on whom the movie is based. 

And, I appreciated the message that sometimes we can take a life lived beyond too far. Going after the adrenaline rush of bigger experiences, we can lose sight of the cause we are fighting for, even when the cause is greater personal growth. 

I am grateful my daughter recommended this movie. It is the kind of film that stays with me for a few days, while I ponder it and let it speak deeply to me. And, I can now recommend it as well. I give Whiskey Tango Foxtrot two thumbs up!

Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

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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: King Arthur Legend of the Sword

The trailer for this film caught my attention months ago. From childhood, I have loved the stories of Camelot, of Arthur who became king, and his knights of the round table. I didn’t have an opportunity to see the movie before leaving on my trip. When I returned, I was sure I had missed the latest version of King Arthur. I was delighted to discover the movie was still playing at a local theater. 

Movie Review: King Arthur The Legend of the Sword
King Arthur Legend of the Sword stars Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, and Eric Bana. This action adventure drama was directed by Guy Ritchie and carries a PG-13 rating for sequences of violence and brief strong language. It has a run time of 2 hours and 6 minutes. 

The story begins with a fierce battle between King Uther Pendragon (Bana) of Camelot and the dark mage, Mordred. King Uther defeats Mordred, using his sword, Excaliber. But the victory is short lived. Uther’s power hungry brother, Vortigern (Law), stages a coup, taking the crown by force. Before his death, King Uther sends his young son away in a boat, to the city of Londinium. 

The boy Arthur is taken in by the women of a brothel. He grows up on the streets, fighting, stealing, hoarding away what money he scrapes together. As a man, Arthur (Hunnam) has learned to survive by his fists and his wits, street smart, with a good heart beneath a tough exterior. 

Movie Review: King Arthur The Legend of the Sword
Although he doesn’t consciously remember who he is, he has troubling dreams that haunt him. Fate intervenes. The sword Excaliber is revealed, embedded in a stone, when the sea inexplicably recedes. No man has been able to free the sword from the stone. Vortigern seeks advice from the sirens in the lake beneath the castle. They tell the dark hearted king that his nephew Arthur lives and he must be destroyed so that the sword can come to Vortigern, increasing his power. 

Young men about Arthur’s age are brought to the kingdom, to try pulling the sword from the stone. Arthur is arrested in Londinium, and brought to the stone. Before a crowd of people, including Vortigern’s henchmen, the Blacklegs, Arthur frees the sword, signifying his right to the throne. 

Movie Review: King Arthur The Legend of the Sword
Vortigern must kill Arthur to obtain the sword, and ultimately, supreme power. Arthur must remember who he is, whether he wants to or not, to be able to wield Excaliber. He is assisted in his journey of remembrance by a female Mage (Berges-Frisbey), sent by Merlin, and King Uther’s former general, Bedevere (Hounsou).

As they prepare to battle Vortigern for the kingdom, the trio assembles a group of common but noble-hearted men who are willing to sacrifice everything to put the rightful heir on the throne. 

Movie Review: King Arthur The Legend of the Sword
I loved this movie! It is the kind of epic adventure, with a hero’s transformative journey at the heart of it, that so inspires me. This is the genre of movie that spoke to me so deeply as a child, and continues to enthrall me. 

And I appreciated the fresh telling of a familiar story. Guy Ritchie, known for his two Sherlock Holmes films, brings his characteristic style to this classic tale. And it works. At least, it did for me! The characters’ clothing has been updated, a slightly modern twist that creates a wonderfully sensual and rugged look. The dialogue is sharp and surprisingly funny at times.

Movie Review: King Arthur The Legend of the Sword
The scenes are beautifully choreographed, whether they are depicting battles or the angst of self discovery, and behind all is an outstanding musical score. Jude Law deliciously portrays the dark and villainous bad uncle. However, this is Charlie Hunnam’s film. He shines as the reluctant young man who should be crowned king. 

I read that King Arthur Legend of the Sword is intended to be the first installment in a six part series. I hope that is true. I can’t wait for more of the Arthurian legends to come to life on the big screen, under Ritchie’s creative direction. 

Movie Review: King Arthur The Legend of the Sword

Movie Review: Lion

Today I finally secured a copy of the last Best Picture nominated film on my list. Although I watched movie #8, La La Land, again last week, I didn’t do a second review. You can read my original movie review for this fun musical HERE.

This evening I settled in to watch Lion.

Movie Review Lion
Lion stars Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Priyanka Bose and Abhishek Bharate. Garth Davis directed this biographical drama, based on the book by Saroo Brierley. The movie is rated PG-13, for adult themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 58 minutes. Lion was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Original Musical Score, Cinematography, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress for Kidman, Best Supporting Actor for Patel and Best Picture. It did not win in any categories.

Young Saroo (Pawar), is a five year old boy living in a small rural village in India. He often helps his brother, Guddu (Bharate), scrounge for food and coins in empty trains to help support his impoverished family. Saroo’s single mother, Kamla (Bose), is a laborer who struggles to provide for her three children.

Movie Review: Lion
In spite of their dire living conditions, or perhaps because of them, Guddu and Saroo share a close brotherly bond. They find joy in swimming together in the river, catching rides on trains and walking along the railroad tracks.

Against his better judgement, Guddu takes his little brother along for a nighttime job, working in a field. Little Saroo can’t stay awake, so Guddu leaves him at the train station, several stops from their village, and tells him to stay there until he returns. Saroo wakes up disoriented, and wanders onto an empty train, where he falls asleep again.

Hours later Saroo awakens to find the decommissioned train speeding down the track. The boy is alone and locked inside the train. Several days, and almost 2000 kilometers later, the train finally stops in Calcutta. Saroo, who doesn’t speak or understand Bengali, lives for a couple of harrowing months on the streets of that teeming city. He doesn’t know his last name or his mum’s name, and no one recognizes the name of his village. Saroo appears to be another homeless street kid. He is finally placed in an overcrowded orphanage, where he is adopted by an Australian couple, John (Wenham) and Sue (Kidman) Brierley.

Movie Review: Lion
Saroo adjusts to living with his new family, learning to speak English, and slowly the memories of his life in India receed. Until he reaches adulthood.

Older Saroo (Patel) is a bright, privileged young man who has a girlfriend, Lucy (Mara), and a career ahead in hotel management. But memories begin to stir, fragments from his past that bring a flood of emotions and create an ache in his heart for his first home and his first family.

Using dogged determination and a new online program called Google Earth, Saroo begins a painstaking and obsessive five year search to trace his steps back to his home village. He doesn’t want to appear ungrateful to his adoptive parents. But he is haunted by the awareness that his family in India never knew what happened to them and that they have searched for him, screaming out his name daily.

It’s been 25 years since he got lost. Can Saroo find his way home? And what might he find, if he does?

Movie Review: Lion
What a heart touching, and heart rending, film. I deliberately avoid reading reviews or articles about the Best Picture nominated films, so I can watch with an open heart and mind. Therefore, I didn’t know how this true story was going to conclude. I’m not going to reveal the end here either.

I can reveal that this is a powerful and poignant look at the strong desire we all have to find our way home. And in connecting with our place of origin, we rediscover ourselves, and come to know ourselves at a much deeper level.

Movie Review: Lion

As a real life adoptive mother, Kidman brought compassion and authenticity to the role of Saroo’s new mom. Patel was beautifully haunted as the older Saroo. And I was totally undone by young Pawar, who portrays the boy Saroo. Child actors can be so impressive. Pawar was amazing. He reminded me a little too much of my great nephew Kaleb, who is almost five.

The lost children of Calcutta broke my heart. The film’s credits informs that 80,000 children go missing in India each year, and 11 million children live on the streets. What staggering numbers. For the release of this film, the foundation #LionHeart was launched in collaboration between the production companies of this film, See-Saw Films, The Weinstein Company and The Charity Network. It will provide financial support to those millions of children living on the streets of India.

Movie Review Lion
I’ve completed the Best Picture nominated films for 2017. They all spoke to me in some way, deepening my appreciation for life or moving me to compassion for the brokenness of so many people. My top three favorite movies out of the nine nominated were La La Land, Hidden Figures and Lion.

Once again, I am grateful for this yearly tradition. Without it, I would miss some excellent films. They help me to grow, expand my heart, and cause me to see myself and the world through fresh eyes. And that is a powerful return for my investment of spending time watching movies.

Movie Review Lion
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Movie Review: Moonlight

With thunderstorms in the area all day, bringing heavy rains, it was the perfect afternoon to watch another Best Picture nominated film. I prefer to save the Oscar winner in that category until last. However, when I visited the DVD rental store, only Moonlight was available. So Moonlight it was, film 6 out of 9.

Movie Review: Moonlight
Moonlight stars Mahershala Ali, Alex Hibbert, Naomie Harris, Ashton Sanders, Janelle Monae, Trevante Rhodes, Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome and André Holland. This drama, rated R for language, sexuality and violence, was directed by Barry Jenkins and has a run time of 1 hour and 51 minutes. Moonlight was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Ali, Best Supporting Actress for Harris and best Music-Original Score. It won in Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.

Chiron, known as Little (Hibbert), is a young boy growing up in a rough neighborhood in Miami. He lives with his single mom, Paula (Harris), who drifts in and out of Little’s life in a drug and alcohol induced haze. Other than his friend Kevin (Piner), Little has no one to help him navigate through challenges such as bullying at school, being left on his own, and feeling different.

Movie Review: Moonlight
A rescuer shows up, literally, as Little is hiding from his pursuers in an abandoned house. Juan (Ali) forms a frienship with the quiet boy, filling the role of father for Little. Juan and his girlfriend Teresa (Monae) provide stabilty and a sense of family for Little. He opens up enough to ask Juan questions, including how would he know if he was gay. Juan tells him, “You will know when you know.” 

Little is slowly gaining confidence in himself and in Juan and Teresa, until he finds out Juan is a drug dealer, selling to his mother. Both Little and Juan are devastated by this revelation.

Movie Review: Moonlight
The second segment of the film follows Chiron (Sanders) as a troubled teen. His relationship with his mother continues to deteriorate, Juan is gone and although Chiron occasionally visits Teresa, he is more and more isolated until he reconnects with his childhood friend Kevin (Jerome).  Sadly, shortly after their relationship begins to grow again, Chiron feels betrayed by Kevin. This sensitive, thoughtful young man snaps, with horrific consequences.

Movie Review: Moonlight

The film’s final segment finds Chiron grown, going by the nickname Black (Rhodes) and living a much different life in Atlanta. What dreams he had have been replaced with harsh realities. Black has made himself into a new man, a hard man. And yet he is just as alone in his life as he always has been, until his old friend Kevin (Holland) calls unexpectedly, offering an apology along with a glimmer of hope.

This was an incredible film, very much in alignment with the majority of the Best Picture nominated films. It was beautifully filmed with an amazing musical soundtrack. And it was heavy, bleak, dark.

These movies this year have made me ache with compassion, and Moonlight was no exception. I felt especially protective of young Chiron, when he was called Little. He possessed such promise, had such a sensitive heart and spirit. And there was no one to help him grow into that promise. He longed to be different from his schoolmates. But his differences only brought him pain and grief.

Without guidance or the freedom to live fully as himself, Chiron lost his way, and ultimately became the very person he did not want to be. His journey was heartbreaking to me. It is crushing to realize that there are so many children and youth like Chiron, struggling and alone in life. Rather than fighting against what I was feeling, I stayed open and allowed the tangle of emotions to pass through my heart and sort themselves out.

Moonlight was powerful and painful and sobering. Was it the best of the nine? I don’t know yet. I’ll let you know after I watch the remaining three movies.

Was it thought provoking and heart expanding? Most definitely.

Movie Review: Moonlight

You can pick up your copy of Moonlight below:

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Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea

Late this afternoon, as thunder rumbled and rain pelted the windows, I had the pleasure of watching movie number three on my list of Best Picture nominated films. I was especially interested in this movie because Manchester by the Sea was the first film distributed by a streaming service…in this case Amazon…to ever be nominated in the best picture category. 

Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler and Lucas Hedges. Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, this drama is rated R for strong language and sexuality and has a run time of 2 hours and 16 minutes. Manchester by the Sea was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Affleck, Best Supporting Actor for Hedges and Best Supporting Actress for Williams. It won twice, with Casey earning Best Actor, and with an Oscar for Best Screenplay. 

Lee Chandler (Affleck) returns home to Manchester after receiving word that his brother Joe (Chandler) has died. Long estranged from his family and the community he grew up in, Lee intends to settle his brother’s affairs and be back in Boston in a week. 

Plans unravel when he learns that Joe made Lee sole guardian of his teenage son, Patrick (Hedges). At a loss about how to reconnect with his nephew, Lee struggles with this overwhelming responsibility. As he attempts to help Patrick through his loss, Lee finds being in Manchester brings him face to face with painful reminders of his past, including his ex-wife Randi (Williams). 

Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea

Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea

Can Lee find healing near the sea as he fights his personal demons, or will he continue to flee? 

Manchester by the Sea is a frank and gritty look at life when the journey is impacted by horrific tragedy. Casey Affleck offers one of the most moving and honest portrayals of a broken man that I have ever seen in a film, and deserved his Oscar. I lost count of the number of times my eyes filled with tears. 

Although it has been described as a depressing movie, I have to disagree. Manchester by the Sea certainly delivers an emotional punch, yet it feels so authentic, so realistic, that it creates an empathetic ache around the heart. 

Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea
This film is a glimpse into a life suspended by pain and given over to resignation. Lee embodies a journey interrupted and the choice to withdraw from the flow of life and instead watch it pass him by. He gets by, far from being able to offer anything to anyone, simply waiting for his existence to be over. 

And yet.. and yet…life continually offers the chance to re-engage, to heal, to truly live again. And so it is with Lee. His heart has been so barricaded against feeling anything. The one person who might be able to chip away at the wall is his nephew, who in dealing with his loss, just wants everything to stay normal and remain the same. 

Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea refuses to allow a love interest or a friend to rescue Lee, and I appreciated that. This is very much a man’s solitary journey and ultimately, the only person who can save Lee, is Lee. 

Don’t expect a traditional transformation or neatly framed happy ending. Instead, treasure the small shifts, the stirrings, the bits of thawing around a heart frozen by grief and guilt. Manchester by the Sea doesn’t so much warm the soul as it shines a light into the dark regions of it and offers hope. 

This Best Picture nominated film is worth a thoughtful viewing. Well done, Amazon. I am grateful for the amazing vision of this company, and I look forward to seeing what they offer next. 

Movie Review: Manchester by the Sea

Pick up your DVD of Manchester by the Sea here, or rent it on Amazon:

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