I didn’t know about the Last of Us until my husband told me about it, and of course from the intense hype from critics and viewers alike. I haven’t played the video game, but watching the first season definitely has me intrigued.
I usually don’t focus on TV series in my blogs or in the practice of film therapy in general, but I thought I would focus on a particular episode of Season 1- Episode 3.
As with most episodes, it was deeply poignant and stirring, and elicits a multitude of emotions across all scenes. As viewers, we are becoming invested in the main characters, Joel and Ellie, but this episode does not focus on them. Rather, it concentrates on two contrasting men. This unique episode shows us what is possible to transpire during a chaotic and uncertain time in the world for all types of relationships- families, friendships, loves, and even acquaintances.
We witness the unfolding of a romantic relationship and intimate partnership; an honest portrayal of two humans finding each other amidst tragedy. Bill, played by Nick Offerman, is a complex character who, from the arrival of Frank (played by Australian actor Murray Bartlett), opens himself up to vulnerability. He takes the courageous risk by being vulnerable with another person he was not expecting to meet. It reminds me of the quote I love from a book that had a big impact on my life, ‘The Way of the Peaceful Warrior’ – “The peaceful warrior's way is not about invulnerability, but absolute vulnerability — to the world, to life, and to the Presence you felt.’’ During a scene involving a piano, there is a palpable ‘Presence’ that both Bill and Frank experience in each other’s company. They each discover what was dormant in each other. They are two very different characters with seemingly very different lives until they meet each other in the unique social circumstances they find themselves in.
I don’t think anyone can review this ep without mentioning the dinner scene. I will, but I also do not want to give away spoilers. All I want to say it how tragic and wholesomely human this scene is, amongst any scene I’ve seen in any series or film. It demonstrates in however many minutes the scene goes for, the genuine love, affection & respect the two characters have for each other and the relationship they have created. It reflects the simple scenes we watch prior to this one, which really capture the essence the loneliness, depth, truth, and passion we observe in the leading up to this.
One of the following scenes where Joel and Ellie return to their home is also powerful, resonant and evocative of the beauty we witness in previous scenes. I felt such a variety of emotions watching this episode, as with many of the eps in this series so far. This one stands out to me as such a masterfully filmed and acted piece of storytelling and filmmaking.
Another element I want to praise this series on is that in every episode, it seems like an entire story within it, which can even be viewed apart from others in a way, as we consistently meet relevant characters within their own individualised and constructed world, and who try their utmost within a fraught society where all humans can do is still find each other and survive.
If I could describe this movie in a few words, it would be:
Mischievous. Hilarious. Insightful. Whimsical.
Yes, other words like: nostalgic, empowering, quirky and subversive would also do it justice I believe.
I was totally part of Barbenheimer – I did watch both movies in one day and loved both!
I’m not surprised that Barbie was the most anticipated movie of 2023, and is pretty much smashing box offices all over the world.
As many reviewers have already commented, it’s a film that’s highly self-aware and feminist.
I’m so glad that cinemas are being flocked to again post- global lockdowns, as I’m really convicted in the power and passion of the cinematic experience, and the universality of it.
I love what Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach, Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, and pretty much everyone involved in this movie has achieved with it. I recently watched the BBC interview with Greta and Margot (one of the very few interviews I chose to watch about the movie), and was so happy to hear and see just how authentic Margot as the producer and lead actor wanted the movie to be.
As many viewers and critics are saying, Ryan Gosling as Beach Ken is the standout of the movie…and I have to agree. His musical solos are extremely amusing, and I do believe that he put his heart and soul into it all, while simultaneously not taking himself seriously at all. He just had fun, as much as everyone else did too. I even loved the narration of Helen Mirren (but who wouldn’t?!)
In this movie, we discover the youthful intelligence and ferocity of Sasha’s character, played by Ariana Greenblatt. I also really liked seeing American Ferrera’s character Gloria. It was honestly great to see her again in a film. The portrayal of Ruth Handler, co-founder of Barbie, was awesome and heartwarming to see.
My favourite scenes have to be some of the musical numbers, Gloria’s rant about being a woman, and Barbie’s interaction with an ageing woman.
The latter was honestly very beautiful.
I found the themes of seeking approval and acceptance from another, self-sufficiency, and subjugation to be essential in the story, and I’m so glad to see it done in such a clever way.
The existence of Time Mum and Anxiety Mum were also little gems of hilarious profundity and pretty genius 😉
*In her character arc, Barbie pretty much does everything I work on with my clients in my private practice and professional work:
Taking courageous risks, doing intensive inner work, releasing control, communicating with radical honesty & of course, choosing to live authentically. I love this fact. *
The matriarchy of Barbieland was a joy to watch, as much as the upturning of the status quo in one world, and profound questioning around mortality. I LOVE how there’s Weird Barbie, President Barbie, Physicist Barbie, Dr. Barbie, Lawyer Barbie, Journalist Barbie, Diplomat Barbie, and even Mermaid Barbie! Even going beyond these titles and professions, the camaraderie and empowering support of each Barbie towards each other are what truly make Barbieland.
I enjoyed societal and philosophical concepts being touched on like: Existentialism, Consumerism, Capitalism, Humanism and Anarchy. We delve into the human condition quite deeply – who would’ve thought we would do this in a film about Stereotypical Barbie??
All in all, the cinematography, set design, costumes, music, characterisation, scenes and themes came together so well, and it was a truly nostalgic, cinematic trip into the mythology and iconic nature of Barbie....and being Human.
Now is really the time to return to the movies!
''EO may be one of the greatest movies ever made about the spirit of animals, as much as we can know it.’’ – Stephanie Zacharek, Time Magazine
My husband and I love animation. Sometimes we watch animated films that we both love, when one of us feels the strong and magical urge to see another beloved film like Toy Story, which we’ve both seen way too many times!
One night we decided to see ‘The Magician’s Elephant’, which I’m really glad we did.
I notice that the movies I’ve been reviewing have mostly been based on books (yet this one I wasn’t aware of being the case initially). I read a bit more about the author, Kate DiCamillo, who has penned multiple children’s fiction books and won quite a few awards for her creations. Based on this film alone, I can see why.
Family, friendship, and even marriage, are all themes in this visionary and inspired film; with human connections and relationships, the main focal point and driver of meaningful messages conveyed throughout. We witness diverse perspectives, through diverse representation of characters, and we do so in a world filled with awe, mystery, and a tangible joy which eventually arrives.
‘’Belief is a great and invisible thing’’ is a quote from the film, and one which encapsulates it.
We bear witness to the convicted beliefs of a soldier being upturned, a boy who essentially believes in impossibility be affirmed, and the beliefs of an entire town be questioned and challenged. As another quote from the film and book says, ‘’How will the world change if we do not question it?’’
What I really enjoyed about this family adventure was the concept of the three impossible tasks the protagonist had to succeed in, in order to obtain the outcomes that he desired. This miraculous orphan boy who maintained high idealism; even with the harsh, non-believing attitude of the man who raised him, is a fantastic role model, demonstrating remarkable courage and compassion with the dilemmas before him. I wanted to go on the entire treacherous journey with him, and see him overcome, and yes- pretty much prove everyone wrong!
Along with the cinematography and visual effects, I found the voice acting to be wonderful, especially by Noah Jupe who played Peter, the protagonist. The characters of Peter, his soldier carer, sister, husband and wife neighbours, fortune teller, magician, king, and countess (plus others) were as equally endearing as the elephant herself, who evoked a mystical hope and sense of trusting faith, despite the odds against her freedom. Her friendship with Peter was endearing and heart-warming to watch.
On more than one level, family separation and trauma/PTSD were important components of this film, creating a realism, and focus on teamwork & partnership, and eventually, reunification. We also are reminded that we can create our own loving families, and that we can come to believe once more. The colour and magic in this film are ‘’beyond the unbelievable’’ (as appears in the trailer), and it truly shows and tells that -
‘’Extraordinary things are possible, if you believe.’’
I realise that I’ve been giving pretty much every film I’ve been reviewing about 3 stars or more, and this one won’t be any different 😉
This science fiction drama produced and starred in by Brad Pitt; is an introspective, understated and boldly beautiful film. It shows the very lengths we go to in order to find and rediscover ourselves- in Brad Pitt character’s case, all the way to Neptune.
He travels all the way to this planet with the goal of finding his estranged father, and ends the journey, with a renewed sense of life, connection and self-understanding. The film is subtle and at its core; internally focused, as it features the detached relationship between father and son, yet the intimacy longed for by the protagonist. He is essentially a reclusive loner and initially does not want to rely on anyone else but himself. He also suppresses his emotions and is seen as an unbelievably calm person, lacking in emotional openness, which also makes him distant and detached from his wife, who he later reconciles with (sorry, spoiler!)
The transformation that occurs within the protagonist makes him more radically honest, embark on a journey of intensive inner work, release control and extreme mastery of himself, and allows him to take internally courageous risks by showing his vulnerability. He lets go, and embraces the struggle and crisis he experiences throughout this film’s course.
His pain mainly comes from the early abandonment of his father, perfectly played by Tommy Lee Jones. Brad Pitt said in one press interview, that he and James Gray, the film’s director, wanted to express notions of masculinity, and that a more dynamic, changed definition of it can exist, so that men can have better relationships with themselves and with their loved ones.
His character increases in self-awareness and recognises his deepest pains.
The standout scenes for me were:
This film reminds us of our very need for each other and humanity. That we all, deep down, seek genuine connection. All of this is set against the backdrop of a stunning space-realism and spectacular cinematography which is intriguing, nuanced and gorgeous.
As Brad Pitt himself said about the movie, it is ‘’a journey of the soul, of the self.’’
I give this one 3 out of 5 stars (‘’to the stars!’- meaning of Ad Astra)
If there is a renowned film series that is inclusive of the main life themes/skills I focus on in my work, Harry Potter is one which stands out. As with many people I know, this series (books and movies) have been an essential and nostalgic part of our childhoods and adolescence. For one of the most successful film franchises ever, and running from 2001 to 2011 (not including the Fantastic Beasts prequel franchise), I believe that it deserves all recognition as a pioneering, inventive and imaginatively ground-breaking piece of art.
I recall watching the Sydney Symphony Orchestra playing one of the films in the Sydney Opera House with my best friend, and we were truly overwhelmed and joyous, experiencing the music live alongside the true magic of the film. I am highlighting this point, as even just the music itself is recognisable worldwide, and captures viewers from all walks of life.
If there is anything the Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows do VERY well, it is taking audiences on an epic journey; not just without, but within. Harry’s character development alone is memorable, and being the principal character, makes his path immersive, relatable and vital. I consistently felt like I grew up with the characters of the Wizarding world, as JK Rowling and the film’s screenwriters truly evoked the deep spectrum of human emotions, means for catharsis, and a reflection on the human condition (Muggle or not). What is extraordinary about this series is how we become so connected to the story; and so much so, that I don’t know of anyone who has seen the series only once in their lives (I for one have seen each film possibly more than 5 times).
Even if I were to simply name characters and their alignment with each of the life skills I work on with my clients, it would simply (but not only) be:
Voldemort aka. He Who Must Not Be Named, the Death Eaters and Dementors seem to signify the shadow sides of humanity (literally called ‘Dark Forces’). Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry and the Ministry of Magic symbolise human systems and bureaucracies that exist and which we all know far too well.
I will never forget Dumbledore’s words to Harry, ‘’It’s our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.’’ Every film presents essential choices that need to be made, as well as Harry finding the courage and integrity within himself; with the support of those close to him, to make these choices.
While it is the least box-office grossing film of them all, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is actually my favourite film (followed by Goblet of Fire), as I find that from this particular film, darkness begins to imbue Harry and his friends’ paths, which creates intrigue, empathy and even anger/despair at certain systems, injustices and events during the film’s course.
I found that each director had their own unique visions for the films, which still flow understandably and cohesively into the next. Pretty much all of the films are critically acclaimed and I believe, rightfully so. All are complex and clever ‘meditations’ on family, friendship, love, trauma, having a higher purpose, and belonging.
Without going into too much of filmic language, all components of the film’s production, including the cinematography, art direction, costume design, score and visual effects are noteworthy and immensely rewatchable.
As JK Rowling posted once on Twitter, ‘’All these people saying they never got their Hogwarts letter, you got the letter. You went to Hogwarts. We were all there together.’’
4.75 stars to Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff & Slytherin! 😉
Here’s to another review of a film based on a novel (with possible spoilers).
The movie from 1999, The Deep End of the Ocean – is an undeniably moving character study of family ties.
It delves into all types of family relationships, especially marriages, siblings and parent’s relationships with their children. As an only daughter of a single mother, this film truly touched me, as it demonstrated the issues of neglect, emotional abandonment, nervous breakdown, guilt, reconciliation, marriage issues, suicide, trust, and sibling love. It showcases the raw complexities, frustrations, resentments and disappointments that individuals experience within their families, but packaged in a truly extraordinary situation.
As the trailer said, ‘’the struggles that make us stronger’’, and I will always remember the unforgettable line in the film (as they show radical honesty), ‘’I need you to love me’’, and the profound apologies given to certain family members and other characters in the film.
As usual, Michelle Pfeiffer is outstanding as the lead, with Treat Williams’ portrayal of the devastated and protective father; also, believable and heart-wrenching. The boys who play both brothers when they are older, are so remarkably authentic in their angst, uncertainties and aching fears. Whoopi Goldberg’s cop character is a deeply human, compassionate, understanding, and frank one, which adds even further to the open conversations, and necessitated empathetic approach to such a life crisis and circumstance for unparalleled grief, despair and a sense of helplessness.
All unfolding events lead and transpire into the understandable familial tensions and major conflicts throughout the film, which also create a gateway for healing, inner growth, and the inevitably beautiful transformation of minds, opinions, hearts and personal perspectives.
I’m not yet a parent but this film will stick in my mind, as a memorable and worthy depiction of the real worries and concerns of raising a family, and of sustaining a unified marriage.
After watching ‘The Deep End of the Ocean’, I thought to myself (and perhaps you can ask yourself similar questions):
I give this poignant film 4/5 stars.
This is a movie I watched twice prior to reading the book. It was a deliberate choice I made as I wanted to experience this unique adaption on the big screen for myself. For such a controversial film story which numerous critics did not enjoy, I found it to be an immersive and moving tale; one that I was glad Reese Witherspoon decided to produce.
What I liked about the film is that it spans across multiple genres: legal drama, thriller, romance, and a coming-of-age mystery. And it does so in an arguably profound way. For a lover of all things profound, I appreciated the ways the story was told in all the ways it could, as a movie, and with the admitted limitations of a movie.
Information will be updated, including monthly film reviews in relation to therapy.
I am open to diverse types of films in our work together. Horror is actually my favourite movie genre :) But perhaps we can stay away from gory horrors generally and psychological thrillers/violent action, if they disturb you. There are numerous film genres we can choose from. For example: