Review: Far From the Tree

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Several years ago, when I was doing research on depression for my novel Home Field, my sister recommended The Noonday Demon, Andrew Solomon’s nonfiction book/memoir about depression. It sounds odd to say that I loved a book about depression and yet I did love that book, because it helped me to understand an affliction that I had seen wear down many friends and loved ones. It also gave me new ways of thinking about  the mind-body connection — if the mind and body can even be separated. Finally, it looked deeply into the question of nature versus nurture, and what effects environment and life experience have on health.

The Noonday Demon also introduced me to the voice of Andrew Solomon, which is erudite, peculiar, witty, and confiding. Like the best novelists, he has the ability to synthesize huge bodies of knowledge and research and to put it in the service of whatever story he’s telling. I was eager to read more of his writing after I finished The Noonday Demon and as it happened, his new book, Far From the Tree had just been published. I bought without knowing much about it, except that it was about parent-child relationships and that it was very long, over 900 pages.

What followed was on of the most indelible reading experiences of my life. Continue reading “Review: Far From the Tree”

Set It Up

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Some nights, you’re in the mood for a movie but not something that’s heavy. But you don’t want to watch TV because you want something that ends. Preferably in two hours. Something that won’t insult your insult your intelligence, and might possibly cheer you up. Because it’s been a hard news week. (It’s always a hard news week.)

Enter Set It Up, Netflix original movie that Netflix has probably already recommended to you if you watch sitcoms on its platform. I’m here to second that recommendation. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a fun, romantic comedy that is very happy to be one. The conventions are all in place: it takes place in New York City, and our star-crossed lovers work for vague, unnamed media companies. Actually, I can’t remember where the guy works. The girl, Harper, works as a Girl Friday for the editor of a sports news website. The guy, Charlie, also works as a personal secretary for, hmm, I can’t remember what his boss does. It doesn’t matter! This movie is not making any important observations about the modern day workplace and that’s okay. Continue reading “Set It Up”

Review: Leave No Trace

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In fairy tales, the forest is a dark, dangerous place, populated by wolves and other menacing creatures, but for Thomasin and her father, Will, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the forest is a respite, a place of quiet and calm. More than that, it’s their home. For several years, they’ve been camping in Forest Park, an enormous urban park on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. Although they have gone undetected all this time, they still do practice drills in case they should be discovered. In an early scene, Will critiques his daughter’s hiding place, telling her that her socks give her away. Actually, it’s Thom’s eyes that betray her: you can see her loneliness and her restlessness. As a younger kid, 24-7 camping may have appealed to her, but when we meet Thom, she is a young teen, full of curiosity about the outside world and eager to meet new people. The only thing that keeps her in the woods is her deep love and sympathy for her father.

Thom and Will are inevitably discovered, and Leave No Trace tells the story of what happens after: how they adjust to life in the world outside their forest. . .

(Read the rest at The Common)

Catching Up

So, we’re almost halfway through the year and, looking back on the past six months,  I haven’t seen quite as many female-directed as I’d hoped, but I’ve seen many more than I saw last year. I’m looking forward to catching up with a lot of movies this summer, especially those available on streaming services since I’m not big on summer blockbuster fare. If, like me, you’re looking for something to watch, please check out my list of 2018 Films Directed or Written by Women because I’ve been doing my best to keep it up to date.

There were a handful of female-directed/written movies that I saw this spring that I didn’t have a chance to review, so I’m going to do a little round-up here of four films: On Body And Soul, Becks, The Party, and The PostContinue reading “Catching Up”

Review: Outside In

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Outside In opens with the camera looking down on an ex-con, Chris, heading home for the first time in twenty years. Chris (Jay Duplass) sits in the back of a rain-spattered car window, eating a french fry with a dreamy look in his eyes. It’s probably the best thing he’s eaten in a long time. He will soon be delivered to a room filled with people awaiting his return. But there’s only one person he really wants to see: Carol, his old high school teacher, the person who fought hardest for his early release.

Carol is played by Edie Falco, and from the moment we first see her, she radiates goodness, intelligence, longing, and confusion. She’s in as much of a transitional period as Chris. She’s devoted years of her life to disputing Chris’s conviction, and in doing so, has discovered new reserves of intellectual and spiritual energy. She’s also become very close to her former student. She might be in love with him; he’s definitely in love with her. But she’s married, with a teenage daughter. And she’s still teaching at the high school where she first met Chris as an 18-year-old boy. So things are complicated. Continue reading “Review: Outside In”

Hooked by The Lure

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The fishermen never had a chance. Once they saw the beautiful faces of Golden and Silver, two young mermaids swimming in the bay, they were goners.

“Help us come ashore, we won’t eat you!”

First rule of fairy tales: If someone says they won’t eat you, it means they’ve thought about eating you, and they won’t be able to stop thinking about it until they’ve eaten you.

Continue reading “Hooked by The Lure”

Chilly Scenes of Winter

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Last weekend it was Mother’s Day, which meant that my husband made me breakfast and then I got to do whatever I wanted all day while he watched the kids. I took a yoga class, read for a few hours, and then, in late afternoon, I went to see Chilly Scenes of Winter at BAM. The screening was part of a film series, “A Different Picture: Women Filmmakers in the New Hollywood Era 1967-1980.”

I knew nothing about this movie except that it was based on an Ann Beattie novel that I’m pretty sure I read when I was a teenager, because there were a bunch of her novels in our home library. (I guess my mom went through an Ann Beattie phase at some point—isn’t it funny how, when you’re a kid reader, you end up going on the same reading binges as your parents?) Continue reading “Chilly Scenes of Winter”