Film Review: My Feral Heart (2016)

Every so often, a British film-maker delivers a low-budget independent film that far exceeds the output of the famous directors and massive Hollywood studios. ‘My Feral Heart’ is a fine example of that. Directed by Jane Gull, and starring Steven Brandon, this film won fourteen international awards, yet is little-known in this country. Thanks to BBC 4, I was able to watch it, and I will say from the start that it is exceptional.

This is the story of Luke, a young man with high-functioning Down’s Syndrome. He lives with his mother, and he is her carer. He feeds her, goes out to get the shopping, even bathes her and dresses her. He is completely devoted to her. Then one morning, he finds her dead in bed, and his routine life is shattered. Despite his obvious capabilities, the fact that he has Down’s Syndrome means the authorities will no longer allow him to live in the family home.

Against his will, he is taken to live in a care home, with other young adults who have learning difficulties.

At least the staff are kind to him, especially day manager, Eve, (Shana Swash) who takes a shine to him and allows him an element of freedom. Luke uses that freedom to go shopping for the care home, and to wander the rural district of Essex where he now lives.

Some men arrive to look after the gardens of the care home. They are offenders, sentenced to do Community Service instead of prison time. One of them, Pete, (Will Rastall) befriends Luke, and also becomes close to Eve.

On one of his countryside explorations, Luke finds a young girl caught in a snare trap. He takes her to safety in a old barn. She is filthy, uncommunicative, and scared. He brings her food and clothes, washes her, and visits regularly to look after her. She is the Feral girl who gives the film its title.

We discover that Pete is a hunt saboteur, part of a group who go out and disrupt fox-hunting in the area. As Luke loves animals, he asks Pete if he can go. Worried about Luke’s condition, and other medical problems, Pete refuses. But Luke follows him anyway, and becomes involved. Going to check on the feral girl later, Luke cannot rouse her, so carries her back to the care home to get help.

With no spoilers, that’s about it. A short running time of less than ninety minutes, no car chases, no police sirens, and no sex. A small film about people on the margins of society, doing their best to get by in a world where they are almost invisible to outsiders.

It is just fantastic, believe me. It will break your heart with its honesty.

Filmed on location in Essex, beautifully photographed and sparingly directed with skill, the film is anchored around a truly remarkable performance from Steven Brandon in the lead, (he really has Down’s Syndrome) with a completely believable portrayal of Eve from Shana Swash, and every other member of the cast on top form.

If you can find it, please watch it. I will never forget it.

Some Science Fiction films

Another film post, reblogged from 2013. David and Keith have seen it, but I think few others have. Science Fiction this time.

beetleypete

What is Science Fiction? It can be argued that this means different things to different people, and with justification. I will deal with those films that take a futuristic view of events, and try to imagine what life might be like, in an alternative reality, or in centuries to come. I will try to avoid ‘monster’ films, but will include robots, and space travel. Some of these are incredibly famous films, and I could not justify omitting them from this short list. If you think you know them well, have another look, and discover something you might have missed.

Things to Come. Written by H.G.Wells, and directed by Alexander Korda, this 1936 film spans a huge time period, from 1940, through to an imagined 2036. It is famous for its predictions; of the destruction of cities by massed aerial bombardment, the use of chemical and biological warfare, and post-apocalyptic…

View original post 1,178 more words

Guest Post: Krish Mayani

Today I am featuring a post from Krish Mayani, who blogs at https://theconfessionsofarandomblogger.com/
His subject is the abusive control known as ‘Gaslighting’, and he explains it with reference to the film of that name.

WHAT IS GASLIGHTING?

So by now you all probably know my tradition of sitting up until 2 a.m. every night watching trashy reality shows and true crime documentaries with my mom. However, the other night we decided to be classy and watch something more sophisticated for a change.

So instead, we decided to watch ‘Gaslight,’ a 1944 psychological thriller starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Angela Lansbury.

A very long Google search later, I discovered that the psychological manipulation term ‘gaslighting’ actually originates from this movie! I don’t know about you, but I think it’s so incredibly cool that an actual clinical psychology term originates from a Hollywood, Golden Age, romantic thriller.

I was so incredibly captivated by the film’s plot and cognitive themes, that I just knew I had to write a blog post about it!

Today, I’m going to be discussing and analysing the film, as well as talking about the psychology of gaslighting and how you can protect yourself against it. However, I am not a therapist or a psychologist, and therefore everything I will be speaking about is from my own personal opinion, experiences and research.

SYNOPSIS

Fourteen year old Paula Alquist lives with her aunt Alice Alquist, a renowned opera prima donna in a quaint London square. Paula’s mother died when she was very young, with Alice being her only surviving family.

That is, until Alice is murdered in the middle of the night during a robbery gone wrong. The perpetrator was in search of her famous, valuable jewels; until the robbery was interrupted by Paula awakening in the middle of the night.

The murderer is never found.

Now truly alone, Paula is sent to Italy to become an opera singer, just like her aunt.

The film then fast-forwards a couple of years to a now adult Paula (Ingrid Bergman). After a 2 week whirlwind romance with Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer); a man she has just met; she marries him and he convinces her to move back to the London townhouse that her aunt left her; the site of her murder just a few years ago.

However, as soon as they arrive at the house, Paula begins to notice a slew of strange occurrences. Picture frames taken off the wall and hidden, sentimental possessions that suddenly and randomly go missing, and most importantly, gas lights that dim randomly without any apparent interference with the house’s gas supply.

Gregory slowly begins to convince her that she is the one removing the picture frames. That she simply loses their precious possessions because of her growing irresponsibility, and perhaps most maddening- that she is imagining the dimming of the gas lights.

Is she careless? Is she a kleptomaniac? Is she simply insane? What other explanation is there? Why would anyone lie about the sound of footsteps late at night and picture frames being removed without any explanation? There’s simply no motive. Right?

But thank goodness for her husband Gregory! She may be slowly but surely losing her mind, but at least she still has her husband. At least he’s there to help her. Her constantly replenishing pool of “sanity.” In fact, she needs him doesn’t she?

Paula is slowly being psychologically terrorised and driven insane by her ominous menace of a husband, all the while being convinced that he’s doing her the biggest of favours. That he is simply a blessing for ‘tolerating’ her many many faults and mental incompetencies.

The question on everyone’s minds- will she be able to fight a psychological battle with her husband that she doesn’t even know she is in? However, the more important question here is why? Why is he doing this to her? There is absolutely no reason to do such a cruel thing to a person, your wife much less.

Is there a reason?

There seems to be something far more sinister at play here.

PAULA’S PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE

Soon after their arrival at the townhouse, Gregory presents Paula with a brooch, a valuable family heirloom that he claims has been in his family for years. First, he tells her the story of how the brooch “belonged to my mother, and before that to her mother, and now it belongs to you.”

He then lectures her about the importance of not losing it, as she is “inclined to lose things.” He then promptly steals it back from her, leaving her with the gut-wrenching feeling that she has indeed lost the brooch. Not only was he right about her tendency to lose things, but he was also so understanding when she told him.

However, as picture frames begin to disappear from the walls, with them later being found by Paula, he begins to berate her for her kleptomaniacal tendencies. She has no memory of ever taking the pictures of the walls- why would she? However, who else could it be? The question she begins to ask herself is no longer if she did it. But why she did it. She has no memory of ever taking them off the walls, so why is she subconsciously stealing the picture frames?

Gregory makes elaborate and extensively-detailed plans to go to the theatre, but just before they leave, Paula discovers a new facet of her ‘mental illness,’ and is forced to stay home. She believes that she has ruined their night.

However, one night, Paula is invited to a musical concert by old friends of her aunt, and decides that she absolutely must get out of the house, even just for a night, even if she must go alone. However, Gregory decides that he must accompany her.

After a nervous breakdown at this public social event, caused by yet another one of Gregory’s tricks, he convinces her that she is not “well” enough to be in public anymore, effectively isolating her from the already extremely small social circle she has around her.

The following events only escalate in psychological torture and abuse. He tells her that objects in her hands are not really there. He tells her that her mother died in an insane asylum, paralleling her current ‘symptoms,’ and later threatens to have her institutionalised.

He constantly reprimands her for her behaviour, asking her why she lies, steals, and claims to see things that aren’t there without reason, leading to her desperately trying to know the answers to these questions herself.

If not bad enough, as the gas lights constantly flicker (he switches on the lights in the attic), he convinces their maid to lie to Paula as well, telling her that she is seeing things.

An intricately planned descent into insanity and paranoia; and for what? I’m not going to tell you why. Watch the film! I’ve given you enough spoilers!

WHAT IS GASLIGHTING?
Gaslighting (noun)- is an abusive psychological manipulation tactic that when planting seeds of doubt (using denial, misinformation, misdirection, and contradiction amongst other techniques) in the victim’s mind, can make them question their own memory, judgement and perception; severely altering their sense of reality.

As we saw in this context, Gregory gaslights (verb) his bride in an attempt to gain access to her house. He manipulates certain elements of her environment, which makes her question her own sanity by distorting her reality. When Paula asks her husband to verify her perception of these changes, he insists that it’s all in her imagination. he then isolates her from the world and prevents her from having outside communication, making her dependence on him even stronger.

Make no mistake, gaslighting isn’t limited to romantic relationships. It can and has been used in varying degrees of extremity in politics, friendships, parent-child relationships, and even professional workplaces.

THE EFFECTS OF GASLIGHTING

1. THE VICTIM BEGINS TO DOUBT THEIR OWN THOUGHTS

The gas-lighter has distorted the victim’s reality to such a great extent that they can’t trust their own memory, judgement and perception of the world around them.

2. FEAR AND SILENCE

Every time the victim voices their opinions or view of a situation, they are convinced that they are wrong, and that they might even need professional psychological treatment.

This not only leads to fear- what is real and what is not? However, it can also lead to repressed thoughts and opinions. If every time you speak, you are convinced that you have viewed a situation wrongly, you later convince yourself that you should just keep your thoughts to yourself, lest you further ‘upset’ your gas-lighter.

3. ISOLATION

The victim is now completely and utterly dependent on their gas-lighter- a source of reason and sanity. So, either as another manipulation tactic or by internal revelation, the victim is slowly isolated from their friends and family. The victim is convinced that the outside world wouldn’t understand- they would be judged, or worse, pitied.

However, when feelings of isolation and entrapment later begin to seep in, the victim now has no one left to rely on, apart from their abuser. This ensures that the gas-lighter remains in power. There is no one left to rescue the victim.

4. DECISION MAKING ABILITY

The victim has now been convinced that they are insane.

They can no longer trust their own judgement. Therefore, even the smallest of decisions, like what shirt to wear have to be approved by their abuser. As their decision-making ability dwindles, the gas-lighter now has full control.

HOW TO EXTINGUISH GASLIGHTING

I’m sure I know what you’re thinking right about now. “Gaslighting sucks be careful.” Okay! However, what do you do if you’re already in this situation? How do you escape? For lack of a better word, how do you extinguish the gas light?

STEP 1- RECOGNITION

Gaslighting depends on secretly distorting the victim’s reality. However, it’s very difficult for someone to alter your perception of reality if you are aware that this is happening to you. Before accusing someone of gaslighting you, first make sure that the situation is actually gaslighting. It isn’t always so easy to recognise.

Try to find repetitive patterns of undermining, contradiction, manipulation and deception in this particular circumstance. What is the intention behind these tactics? Is it really gaslighting, or are they just voicing their opinion? Do they care about you, or do they want to control you? Find the motive.

STEP 2- EVIDENCE

Now that you know that you are being gaslighted, it’s time to collect evidence. Not only are screenshots, pictures, and written accounts helpful for legal purposes; if the situation is extreme; but it can also help reinforce your view of the situation.

It’s sort of like “retracing your steps” in a way. Just because you now know that you are being manipulated, doesn’t make you immune to the effects of it. Every time your view or outlook of a situation is altered or even flat out denied, you have your own evidence to look back on if you need the mental reinforcement.

STEP 3- DEVELOP YOUR OWN SUPPORT SYSTEM

As we spoke about earlier, one of the main manipulation tactics of a gas-lighter is isolation. Both so that you can’t escape their control, and so that you can’t have your outlook and version of events authenticated.

However, and I once again say this only because I don’t necessarily know the extent of the situation, I would also suggest figuring out your finances as well. Sure, family and friends are an amazing support system. However, we can’t just ignore the financial aspect of it as well.

Money is important. If you have to, you need to be able to escape this abusive situation at any given time.

Can you imagine going through all the work to finally discover that you’re being gaslighted, only to realise that you still have to rely on the abuser for financial support?

Thank you for reading! Especially if you managed to read through all that!

Let me know if you’ve ever seen this movie, and if you’ve ever had an experience being gaslighted by a friend, romantic partner, parent or even at work.

You can check out my last few posts here:

World Poetry Month- The Second Issue
Mirror Superstitions
My Irrational Fears
World Poetry Month- The First Issue
Borrowed Poems From An Anonymous- ‘Destiny’ and ‘Today?’
Until Next Time.

Some uncomfortable films

Another 2013 film post. Only Eddy and my cousin have seen this one.

beetleypete

I have to get straight in with a warning here. These films are described as uncomfortable, as this is the type of viewing experience you can expect. Some are downright nasty, and all will make you uneasy at some point, and you may even turn them off. They contain scenes of sexual violence, mass-murder, casual killings, and portrayals of madness. So, watch at your peril, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Why recommend them in that case? Despite the above disclaimers, I feel that they all have something to offer; about society, or war, or human endurance. Some are studio productions with a star cast, others made on a budget, with little-known actors. All are well-made, with performances of intensity, and sincerity, from all those involved. Without exception, none of them are feel-good films, and all will leave you with unpleasant memories. A lot like real life then…

Henry:…

View original post 1,274 more words

Some British films

Another old film post from 2013. Only Eddy has seen this one.

beetleypete

Working my way around European Cinema, I almost forgot the UK. The long tradition of film-making here has been diluted over the years, with the demise of many famous studios, and leading actors and directors ‘defecting’ to the USA. There is still a vast amount to choose from though, and here are five to think about.

Brighton Rock. The first, and best film treatment of the Graham Greene novel. This 1947 film gives the young Richard Attenborough the role of the psychotic Pinkie, a juvenile gang-leader , arguably one of his best ever performances. Filmed for the most part on the streets of post-war Brighton during the summer, it serves as a fascinating social documentary as well, portraying those times, the vehicles, and the style of dress. With a cast of well-known British character actors supporting Attenborough’s menacing central lead, this is a great example of the sort of British…

View original post 770 more words

Some unusual films

I am reblogging this film post from 2013. Only Eddy and Sophie seem to have ever seen it, and it really does contain some great film recommendations.

beetleypete

I use the term ‘unusual’ to define subject, plot, or treatment. This is subjective of course, and you may not agree. Most of these films will be familiar to avid film watchers, or those who might be called ‘film buffs’. They are not mainstream though, far from it, and at least four of them could justify the tag ‘Independent film’, with all that this implies. As always, I will stand by any film that I recommend, and suggest that you try something a little different. I have a long list of these, so more to come later.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle. This downbeat crime drama features screen tough guy Robert Mitchum, in one of his later starring roles. Made in 1973, when Hollywood was turning out much glossier fare, here we see a different side of America. The seedy heart of Boston, dilapidated buildings, run-down housing, and small-time crooks…

View original post 1,000 more words

Film Review: Peterloo (2018)

Based around a real historical event that happened in Manchester in 1819, British director Mike Leigh directed this superb drama looking at the plight of the working classes following the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, in 1815. Assembling a large cast of some of the best British acting talent, and searching the country for authentic locations, Leigh delivered a long film (Two hours and thirty minutes) that is rich in historical accuracy and period detail.

In 1816, conditions for the working classes in Britain were terrible. Rich landowners and factory owners paid tiny wages for long hours at work. In the cotton mills of Lancashire, that work was very dangerous, and done by all age groups, including very small children. Most families barely had enough to put food on the table, and the imposition of the Corn Laws banning imports of corn forced up the price of bread to unaffordable levels.

There was also no representation for normal people, as only landowners and nobles were allowed to vote in elections. With King George III incapacitated by mental illness, his foppish son The Prince Regent was in control of the country, and his lavish lifestyle caused outrage at the time. The Reform Party sought to achieve better conditions for the working classes, with the right of one man, one vote, and proper contracted and safe working conditions. But government agents and spies infiltrated the meetings, as they feared a revolution like the one that had happened in France, in 1789.

The story follows one family, and their friends and neighbours. Returning home with PTSD after his harrowing experience at the battle of Waterloo, son Joseph can find no work. His mother sells pies to make enough money to feed the family, and the rest of his relatives work long hours in the local cotton mill. All are interested in the Reform Party, and attend meetings urging protest against their living conditions and lack of voting rights. Very soon, they come under the watchful eye of government agents, as the film starts to build to the climax in 1819.

Despite this being a ‘worthy’ film, full of long speeches, and a lot of regional dialect used, I never found its pace too slow. I was completely invested in the life of the family, helped by a wonderful performance from the excellent Maxine Peake as the mother. When the Manchester reformers ask a famous orator to come and address a public meeting, they have to use the large site of St Peter’s Field in Manchester, as it is to be the largest public gathering ever seen in the north of England. There will be no violence, and no weapons carried. Families will dress in their best clothes, and march to the field together, accompanied by musicians, and carrying banners and flags.

They choose a Monday, a working day, as their absence from their jobs will also serve as a protest to the wealthy owners, and the Magistrates who dominate their lives with an iron hand. This worries the government, so the local Yeomanry and Cavalry detachments are mobilised, in case of civil unrest. Once the famous orator begins to speak, the Magistrates instruct the military to disperse the crowd. What followed was later described in the newspapers as ‘The Peterloo Massacre’, using the idea of Waterloo to impart the scale of the slaughter on the day.

Around thirty people were killed instantly, many of them women, children, and babies. Over seven hundred people were injured, by swords, bullets, bayonets, or being trampled by horses. Many of those would later die from their injuries, and some were so badly injured they could never work again.

This is not a film for everybody, but as historical dramas go I thought it was outstanding. A wonderful cast, great script, and authenticity throughout.

Here’s a short trailer.

Film Review: Searching (2018)

I was looking for something to watch the other night, and saw this was showing on a film channel, Film 4. I went online and read two reviews, deciding it seemed to be worth watching.

And it was.

**No spoliers**

For one thing, I didn’t really recognise any of the cast. And there was something else. With very few exceptions for some scenes, the whole film is played out on computer screens, smartphone screens, television screens, and over telephone calls. It feels right up to date, with characters communicating by text message, and on other messaging platforms. Switching between screens to check maps, with many different screens often displayed at the same time. Face-time conversations, video calling, and so many other things all too familiar in this modern world.

Please don’t let that put you off. It works, and works very well. All the images and texts are clear, easy to read, and not at all confusing. And it creates a feeling of helplessness and tension that would not have worked nearly so well in a conventional format.

The Kim family is an American/Korean family doing well in California. David and Pamela have good jobs, their daughter Margot is talented, and shows promise as a pianist. But tragedy strikes (early in the film) when Pamela is struck down with terminal cancer, leaving David to bring up his daughter on his own.

He makes the best of it, and is a loving and caring father to Margot. He allows her some freedoms, but also continues to nurture her piano talent, and provide a safe and comfortable home for his daughter. One day, she calls him to say she is staying over with a group of friends at study group, as they need to work on their school project. David tells her to call him the next day.

But she doesn’t. And she doesn’t answer his calls either. He is soon very worried, and contacts the police. Fortunately, the case is assigned to missing persons specialist, Sergeant Rosemary Vick. She is dogged and determined, and promises to find his daughter. Meanwhile, David takes to social media and technology to help. He gets into Margot’s Facebook, Laptop, Messages, bank records, and everything else she has been using.

And in the process, he discovers that he hardly knew anything about his daughter at all.

Leaving it there to avoid spoilers, I will add that this is a great little film, and the small budget is never apparent. Tension is highly wound throughout, and almost nothing is what it seems. In the central role of David Kim, John Cho is simply excellent. I completely believed that he was the father of a missing girl. Everyone else in the cast handles their part well, with special mention for Debra Messing, as Sergeant Vick.

BUT WAIT! There’s a delicious twist, one that I didn’t guess at all!

Highly recommended.

Here’s a trailer.

Film Review: Songbird (2020)

As far as I know, this film is curently only available on Amazon Prime.
At least that is the only place to find it in the UK.
**No spoilers**

A film about the Covid-19 pandemic, set in the year 2024. When it is now known as ‘Covid-23’.

This is a ‘worst-case scenario’ film, where the virus is not contained, so the people are contained instead. Filmed in a near-future version of Los Angeles, the theme is dark, and so is much of the action. There is an authoritarian government that keeps the population locked down by force, and anyone who shows symptoms of the virus is removed to a ‘Q-Zone’, and left to their fate.

Rich people still manage to beat the system. Buying fake ‘Immunity’ passes, and doing more or less what they like. And there are those that have natural immunity, allowed to work outside delivering parcels, or supervising the military-style teams that enforce the rules. Every person must do a temperature check on their phones by a given time every morning. Show a high temperature, and the removal squads arrive. Fail to register your check in time, and the removal squads arrive.

There is also a new version of ‘track and trace’. Did you talk to your neighbour? Have you been inside their home? If so, we smash your door down and off you go to the Q-zone, like it or not.

But of course, there is romance, albeit a relationship carried out over a very smart smartphone. And there is some hope, in the regions beyond the Q-zone that offer a form of sanctuary.

The film borrows many ideas from those like it. We have seen films set in pandemics before, and films where terrified ordinary people are inside, living in fear of zombies, or repressive governments. The film-makers wisely stayed away from making things too smart or too sci-fi. This is a world we can all recognise, with similar technology that is just slightly beefed up from what we have at the moment.

Casting is very good when it comes to the villains. You will recognise Peter Stormaire as Emmett, the man in charge of the removal squads. Suitably creepy and ruthless. Then the rich crook, Griffin. He is played by Bradley Whitford, who was so good in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. There is a surprisingly mature turn from Demi Moore as Griffin’s wife, conflicted by her desire to protect her sick daughter. But the younger cast members were all new to me.

So, not a great film. Entertaining enough, and certainly as ‘current’ as it gets. It might be the first film about the Coronavirus pandemic, but we can be sure it won’t be the last.

I should mention that I had to watch this film on a 10-inch tablet. I’m sure it looks better on a big screen.

Here’s a trailer.

Short Film: “This Time Away”

My friend Antony sent me this delightful short film, starring one of Britain’s foremost actors, Tim Spall.

Set in the near future, Spall plays Nigel, a lonely and bitter widower. Retreating into a life of alcolholism, and determined to be alone, Nigel happens across a small robot that befriends him.

With a short running time of just thirteen minutes, and a delightful twist at the end, this is high-quality film-making that will leave everyone feeling better for watching it.