Tag Archives: Lesley Manville

World on Fire Character Review: Jan Tomaszeski

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. When one’s country goes to war, no one is immune from it’s cold touch. On World on Fire, Jan Tomaszeski (Eryk Biedunkiewicz) is the youngest of three children.

His life is relatively normal, until the Nazis invade Poland. With his father, older brother Grzegorz (Mateusz Wieclawek), and older sister Kasia (Zofia Wichlacz) fighting for their country, Jan is sent to England with his brother-in-law, Harry Chase (Jonah Hauer-King). Left with Robina (Lesley Manville), Harry’s domineering mother, he is a stranger in a strange land. Clinging to the memories of his family and the hope that they are still alive, Jan is faced with a challenge that only occurs during war time.

Children, we are told, are resilient. They have the ability to bounce back emotionally and psychologically faster than adults. But that does not mean that the scars of the experience completely disappear. Though Jan is still quite young, there is something in him that keeps him going. Which I happen to think is an inspiration to us all, regardless of age.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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Best Movies of 2020

  1. Soul: Though it is marketed as a kids movie, the subtext of appreciating life feels appropriate and potent this year.
  2. Mulan: The live-action reboot of the 1998 animated film Mulan rises above its predecessor, making it fresh and relevant.
  3. Emma.: Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Jane Austen‘s eponymous heroine, Emma Woodhouse, introduced as clever, rich, and handsome. Directed by Autumn de Wilde, this adaption is entertaining, funny, and a lovely addition to the list of Austen adaptations.
  4. The Trial of the Chicago 7: The film tells. the story of the 7 men accused of being responsible for the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Though it is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it feels very 2020.
  5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire: This LBGTQ historical romance between a young woman and the female artist hired to paint her portrait is sweet, romantic, and powerful. It proves once more that love is love is love.
  6. Ordinary Love: Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are your average middle-aged couple. When she is diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they both must deal with the rough road ahead.
  7. The Assistant: Jane (Julia Garner) is an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-esque powerful movie producer. She starts to notice things that don’t sit right with her.
  8. I am Greta: This documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as she advocates for the world to pay serious attention to climate change.
  9. Mank: Gary Oldman plays Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in a performance that is nothing but Oscar bait.
  10. #AnneFrank-Parallel Lives: Narrated by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells not just Anne’s story. It follows other young women who survived the Holocaust. Parallel to the stories of the past, the viewer is traveling with another young woman as she visits different countries in present-day Europe.

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Filed under Books, DisneyPlus, Emma, Fairy Tales, Feminism, History, Hulu, Jane Austen, Movie Review, Movies, Netflix, Politics

World on Fire Character Review: Robina Chase

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. Losing a spouse is difficult by itself. Losing a spouse when your children are young is immeasurably harder. On World on Fire, Robina Chase (Lesley Manville) has lived most of her adult life without her late husband. Raising her son, Harry (Jonah Hauer-King) alone, she has ambitions to see him do great things in life.

But like many young men, Harry and his mother do not see eye to eye. She is almost relieved when he takes a job in Poland as a translator. But that does not mean she approves of his choices, especially when it comes to women. Lois Bennett (Julia Brown) is a local girl who Harry has been seeing for some time. After breaking up with Lois, Harry’s new girlfriend is Kasia Tomaszeski (Zofia Wichłacz), a young woman with who he met in Warsaw.

When Harry returns home after the invasion of Poland, he is not alone. He has come with his young brother-in-law. Robina is not happy with her new charge or that Lois is carrying her future grandchild. But the coming war and the changes to her life will open this woman’s once cold heart after years of tucking it away.

To sum it up: Robina is a woman changed by circumstance. First, by the early death of her husband, and then by the changes brought on by the war. It is through those changes that she reveals the loving, giving heart underneath the formerly cold exterior.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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World on Fire Character Review: Douglas Bennett

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. From the outside looking in, fighting in a war is heroic and glamorous. But anyone who has looked death in the eye knows that it is not as glamorous or heroic as it appears to be. Those who come home, if they come home in one piece, face internal battles that will last for the rest of their lives.

In World on Fire, widower Douglas Bennett (Sean Bean) is veteran of World War I. Dealing with the lingering effects of PTSD, he would do anything to avoid Britain getting involved in another war. But his attempts are unfortunately futile. Watching both his son Tom (Ewan Mitchell) and daughter Lois (Julia Brown) getting involved what would ultimately become World War II, brings back memories that Douglas would rather forget. They are made worse when Tom, who has joined the Navy, is briefly MIA.

But in spite of this darkness, there is still a little bit of light in his life. An unexpected friendship with a young refugee who is staying with his daughter’s ex-boyfriend’s mother, Robina Chase (Lesley Manville) and the news that Lois is pregnant allows Douglas to realize that it is still possible to hope that the future is bright.

To sum it up: Douglas is a man who has seen enough to know that war is not what it seems to be. But he lives in a world that for any number of reasons, does not see what he sees. It is not a surprise that given his circumstances, his PTSD is exacerbated. But to his surprise, he is able to find something to make him feel good. That gives him the opportunity to believe in the future and more importantly, believe in hope and humanity.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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World on Fire Character Review: Lois Bennett

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

Love and loss often compels us to act in ways that we would otherwise act. On World on Fire, Lois Bennett (Julia Brown) is initially introduced to the audience as an idealistic young woman living in England at the start of World War II. Though she has a day job, her true passion is singing. At night, she performs at night clubs with her friend, Connie Wright (Yrsa Daley-Ward). She is also happily in love with Harry Chase (Jonah Hauer-King), in spite of his upper class mother Robina’s (Lesley Manville) misgivings.

But life is not all sunshine and roses. Lois lives with her hot-headed brother Tom (Ewan Mitchell) and their widowed father Douglas (Sean Bean). Douglas is a veteran of World War I. Still dealing with PTSD decades after returning home, he is against Britain getting involved in another war.

After she and Harry break up, Lois joins the ENSA and the war effort. When she finds out that he has returned to England with a young boy who is his brother-in-law, she is furious. When they meet, one thing leads to another and they sleep together.

Upon finding out that she is pregnant, Lois decides to keep the baby. But, she does not tell Harry and rejects financial help from Robina. At a local army base, Lois meets Vernon Hunter (Arthur Darvill). She initially rejects him but eventually agrees to marry him.

Starts at 3:43

To sum it up: There are two ways to deal with loss, especially loss that is associated with romantic love. We can wallow in self-pity. Or, we can find a way to move on from that loss, even if it is difficult. What I like about Lois is that she does not let the breakup with Harry stop her from living. That strength I find to be inspiring and powerful.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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World on Fire Character Review: Harry Chase

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire.  Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

War has a way of making those who live through it grow up quickly. Youth and inexperience, simply due one’s experience, gives way to maturity brought on extraordinary circumstances. On World on Fire, Harry Chase (Jonah Hauer-King) is a young man at the beginning of World War II. He is idealistic, romantic, and eager to see the world. He is also dating Lois Bennett (Julia Brown). Their relationship ends when he is offered a job in Poland.

A talented translator, he takes a job in Warsaw and gets involved with Kasia Tomaszeski (Zofia Wichlacz). All seems well until the Germans invade. Harry knows that the only way to save Kasia’s life is to marry her and get her to England. The question is, how will he explain all of this not just to Lois, but to his mother, Robina (Lesley Manville)?

At the train station, Kasia does not get on the train with Harry. Instead, she shoves her baby brother into the train car and watches as the train leaves the station. Back home, Harry has to faces a brokenhearted Lois and his mother, who is shocked by the presence of the boy he is traveling with. After a one night stand with Lois, she gets pregnant. But she does not tell him that they are to become parents.

Returning Europe, he joins the battle at Dunkirk and then goes back to Poland to find his wife. Their joy at being united is all too brief when they are surrounded by German soldiers.

Starts at 3:04

To sum it up: Harry’s character arc is an interesting one. He is not completely naïve, but his perspective comes from the relatively comfortable left he has led up to this point. The war changes all of that. He still retains some of that idealism. However, he learns to fight for what he believes in and who he loves, and what it takes to lead.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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Ordinary Love Movie Review

Breast cancer, like all cancers (and all diseases) knows no boundaries.

In the new movie, Ordinary Love, Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are well, an ordinary couple. When Joan is diagnosed with breast cancer, they must find a way to soldier on, in spite of the challenges that the disease puts in their path.

Some of the best love stories are not set in faraway fairytale-like setting or in romantic novels. The best love stories are simplest, a couple who sticks together against all odds. I appreciated that this movie is short on the drama and long on the narrative. I also appreciated the perfect chemistry between the lead actors. However, the film does not hit home as much as I would have liked it to be. There were points in the film when I was almost bored, ready to move on with the story.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Phantom Thread Movie Review

As a general narrative, the May-December romance can either be predictable and boring, or the audience walks into the theater thinking they know what they will be watching and is then surprised by out of left field choices made by the writer or writers.

In the new film, Phantom Thread, the never married middle-aged brother and sister duo Reynolds and Cyril Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis and Lesley Manville) are the faces one of the most respected fashion houses in 1950’s London. Their clientele are the whose who of society. Reynolds is meticulous in everything that he does. He also has a string of young lovers/muses who often come and go in a blink of an eye.  Enter Alma (Vicky Krieps). Working as a waitress, Alma and Reynolds’s meet cute is at the restaurant where she works. She soon abandons her life for a life with Reynolds. Reynolds finds himself in love, but also learns that Alma is not afraid to call out his bullsh*t when she deems it necessary. She also turns his once carefully ordered world upside down.

What I especially liked about this movie is that writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson does not allow his characters to remain as 2D caricatures that have been seen far too many times. Instead he has created characters with shades of gray who are far from perfect. I also liked that the ending was not cut and dry. The ending was far from the typical ending of a romantic drama and left open quite a few questions about the character’s future that in another writer’s hands, would have been tied together just a little too neatly. While the film is a little slow, it is definitively worth a trip to the movie theater.

I recommend it.

Phantom Thread is currently in theaters. 

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Maleficent The Magnificent: Maleficent Movie Review

*-This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie.

Maleficent is magnificent.

The 1959 animated Sleeping Beauty movie, the source material from which the screen play is taken from is twisted in a delightful and intricate manner.

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a fairy, who develops a friendship and then a teenage romance with a human called Stefan (Sharlto Copley). But Stefan is ambitious. The dying king announces that the man who kills Maleficent will crowned king upon his death.  Using their relationship to his advantage, Stefan cuts off Maleficent’s wings to gain the throne.

Years later, Stefan is now king and parent to a brand new baby girl. At her christening, she is being blessed by the three fairies Flittle (Lesley Manvile), Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton) and Thistlewit (Juno Temple). Seeking revenge, Maleficent curses the new princess. After the curse, the princess (played as a teenager by Elle Fanning) is taken away from the castle, Maleficent watches over the child with a strange maternal instinct with the help of her servant Diaval (Sam Riley).

I loved this movie.  While I find the Disney princess movies from that era of Sleeping Beauty to be one note, black and white and not how I want to spend my movie watching time, this movie takes these characters from one dimension to three dimensions.  Maleficent is not just a villain just to be a villain, she is hurting from Stefan’s betrayal and uses that hurt to justify her actions. I’m not normally a fan of Angelina Jolie, but she is magnificent and perfectly cast in this role. The special effects were just enough to enhance the story, not used to cover up a hole in the screenplay.

I highly recommend this movie.

 

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