IT WAS THE 2ND WEEK OF high school when I first heard the guitar music filtering into the hallway. I was a freshman and still getting the lay of the land in the large school building, compared to my small elementary school. Making a mental note of my surroundings, I promised myself I would find where the music was coming from. The following week during my study period, I asked for a hall pass and made my way through the school hallways listening for the music. It was faint and unrecognizable, lingering just enough in the air like morning mist to lead me towards it. I soon found myself in an unfamiliar part of the school, in front of a slightly ajar door without a room number. As I slowly pushed the door open the guitar playing stopped. I froze for a moment but decided I could not run away now. Stepping into the room I saw a blonde-haired guy sitting on a desk with one leg crossed over the other and a guitar resting in his lap. He was the first to speak by saying hello to me. I said hi back and told him I had heard the music playing and wanted to find out where it was coming from. He asked if I played an instrument and I told him yes, the piano. From there we started talking all things music, from classical to pop music. HE WAS A SENIOR WHICH TOOK me by surprise because I had heard seniors would not be caught dead talking to lowly freshmen. Music was our connection and I found myself hanging out with him playing music every week, since they did not take attendance in study hall. Having a senior as a friend was fortuitous because it gave me inside access on how to maneuver through the school year. He gave me a rundown of which teachers were cool, what foods to avoid in the lunchroom, what bathrooms were safe to use, among a variety of other tips and warnings. I did not have to go through a typical trial and error period of discovery that was filled with risk, especially for freshman. Little did I know how valuable his info would be for me. My years in high school were traumatic, filled with bullying and abuse; I could only imagine how worse it would have been if I did not know what I already knew due to him. Though we only had one year together in school before he went out of state for college; for all intents and purposes he was a mentor to me, just like the main character in this dramatic crime film. HAVING LOST ALL HIS MONEY, NOT able to even buy a meal John, played by John C. Reilly (Stan & Ollie, The Sisters Brothers), was leery of the stranger who suddenly appeared and offered to buy him a cup of coffee. No one does something for free without wanting something; what did this finely dressed man want with John? With Philip Baker Hall (Boogie Nights, The Last Word) as Sydney, Gwyneth Paltrow (The Avengers franchise, Thanks for Sharing) as Clementine, Samuel L. Jackson (Shaft, The Hateful Eight) as Jimmy and Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Hunger Games franchise, The Master) as a young craps player; this film festival winner was filled with a tour de force of acting. The cast was outstanding as they slowly made their way through the script. Seeped in mystery and emotions, I enjoyed the unintentional retro vibe coming off this over 20-year-old film. Due to the authenticity of the dialog, I stayed engaged with the story; a story that seemed familiar to me from other gambling films, yet still had some surprise to it. I can see where young writers would use this film as a teaching tool on how to write real characters.
3 ¼ stars
THIS WAS THE WAY I WOULD WATER my relative’s lawn. First, I would do battle with the reptilian garden hose that was coiled up onto the side of their house. Grabbing at its brass, pointy head I would pull it while walking backwards down the length of the house, until I made it to the front yard. From this point I would drop the green coils of its body on the ground while I continued to pull at the rest of its body; I needed enough length to get around the front bushes and out into the center of the lawn. Once this was done, I would attach the muzzle a/k/a oscillating sprinkler to its head and place it down on the lawn. Running back to the side of the house to the snake’s lair, I would find the water handle it was guarding and turn it on. I was already dressed in my bathing suit; so, I was ready to do battle with the spray of venom the snake was unleashing across the lawn. I would run and jump thru the wall of water the sprinkler was spraying up into the air as its head moved from side to side. My goal was to plant my feet firmly on each side of the wagging head then use my hands to push down the spewing venom water, until the palms of my hands could cover the sprinkler’s mad head. Once my hands reached the head, I knew I had won because of the gurgling sounds and the water pooling out into a puddle on the lawn. This was the way I helped water the lawns. GROWING UP IN AN APARTMENT BUILDING, the only time I could help water and cut a lawn was when we were visiting a relative’s house. I was thrilled to play with the water hose, sprinkler and lawn mower whenever I was at one of my relative’s houses. With the lawn mower, I would plot out the path I would take, always based on some geometric or symmetrical pattern. Outline the lawn into a square that kept getting smaller as I got closer to the center or make diagonal stripes across the grass; these were just a couple of patterns I would make with the lawn mower. This was my way of helping a relative. Some of my friends had to help with things that were not nearly as fun. I had one friend who had to wash and wax the family car every other week; another friend had to keep the front and back yards clean after the family dog had been outside. I sympathized with them whenever they complained about their job. As I have been sitting and thinking about the work my friends and I had to do to help our families, it pales in comparison to what the young girl had to do in this animated, family drama. AFTER HER FATHER WAS ARRESTED THE ONLY thing Parvenu, voiced by Saara Chaudry (Let’s Go Luna!-TV, Holly Hobbie-TV), could do to help the family was the one thing that could get her killed. And that was to go outside of the house alone. With Soma Chhaya (Poltergeist, Degrassi: Next Class-TV) voicing Shauzia, Noorin Gulamgaus (RoboCop, A Simple Favor) voicing Idrees/Sulayman, Laara Sadiq (The Invisible, Eight Below) voicing Fattema/Old Woman and Ali Badshah (Shazam!, Aladdin and the Death Lamp-TV movie) voicing Nurullah/Talib security man; this film festival winner was not a children’s film. This was an intense, at times riveting, story. Though I appreciated the animation, it was the script that sold me on this movie. Set in a Taliban controlled Afghanistan in the early 2000s, the scenes were a mix of harsh reality, fantasy and family life. I cannot recall a recent animated film that displayed such power from the spoken word. I try to avoid making comparisons, but I do not know how any child could still complain about their household chores after seeing this remarkable picture.
3 ½ stars
IT DROVE ME CRAZY HOW SHE could idolize such a person. Because of it, I had a hard time trusting her. She was his administrative assistant, so I could cut her some slack for being loyal. However, he was such a self-centered individual who only cared about himself to the point where he inflicted harm on the company, we were all working for, that I could not respect him or her. How did she not see this, I always wondered? He would have her place orders for his accounts before he even had a confirmation from the customer; there were several times the customers did not place their orders and we wound up getting stuck with the product and having to pay for it. I found his behavior appalling because with each order placed, he would get a commission; it did not make a difference if we got paid for the order or not. I was positive she had to know or at least figure out that some of his orders were bogus. The worst thing he would do was place an order to ship out but redirected it to a different account that was not credit worthy, claiming he had the wrong account number. Sometimes we could get the order back; but a lot of times we would have to use a collection agency to retrieve the item or payment. IN MY DEALINGS WITH HIM THERE were times I 100% knew what he was telling me was not true. No matter what I would say to him he always had an answer ready, with many of them putting the blame on some other employee. I would then check with the other employee to verify the facts and more times than not the employee had no idea what I was talking about. This would turn into a vicious cycle of he said/she said on his part, to the point where I would become confused and frustrated. I could not understand how upper management could allow such behavior to continue that was damaging to the company. And that is the thing I had the hardest time understanding; why would an employee allow harm to take place against their employer? Besides the financial hit, there was the matter of the company’s reputation being harmed. Imagine a customer getting an invoice for something they did not order; wouldn’t you question that company’s operations and motives? I know I would and would feel less trust towards such a company. Trust is an invaluable asset that a company should never allow an employee to damage. It was unbelievable what was being done to trust in this dramatic, political thriller. INGRID JESTER, PLAYED BY FRANCES McDORMAND (North Country, Moonrise Kingdom), could not understand why her fellow activist went for a drive through Belfast without telling her. For that reason, she refused to leave until she found out what happened to him. With Brian Cox (Remember Me, Troy) as Kerrigan, Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Lord of the Rings franchise) as Paul Sullivan, Bernard Archard (Krull, The Day of the Jackal) as Sir Robert Neil and John Benfield (The Best Offer, Speed Racer) as Maxwell; this film festival winner had a documentary feel to it at times; that is how good the acting was from the cast. The story was intense, and I thought the pacing was for the majority close on the mark. For me, I felt the script did not go deep enough with the suspense and emotions. There were moments where it seemed as if the scenes were void of dramatic depth. I noticed this especially with Francis’ character. The twists and turns that took place in the script kept me invested in what was taking place and I was to some degree experiencing a level of anger due to what the main characters were experiencing.
2 ¾ stars
IT WAS A DOG AND A FALCON that steered me towards wanting to be an animal doctor. The dog was a relative’s pet and she was the first animal adopted into my extended family. She was a sweetheart who was always happy to see me. Anytime I was visiting my relative, I would always take the dog out for walks. She had a red colored ball that she absolutely loved to fetch, that I would spend nearly all my time throwing for her. This may sound odd; but whenever I was with her, I felt at peace. Yes, I know how that must sound but I was at my calmest when I was with her. She was the origin for my love of animals. I also think the comfort I had around her made me more receptive when it came to other animals. One of my summer camp counselors was a falconer. One day he brought a falcon with him. Where some kids were hesitant and shied away from the falcon, I only wanted to get closer and pet him. When he spread his wings out to their full length, I thought for a moment I was in the wild. He looked magnificent while perched on my counselor’s arm, wings wide and head turning to look at all of us kids. THOSE TWO ANIMALS STARTED MY JOURNEY in studying to be a veterinarian. Though I did not get to the finish line, I never lost my love of animals. When I transitioned to a different major I wondered what would have happened if I had never encountered my relative’s dog or the falcon; one single event in time and a whole life can get steered down a particular path that had not been in your conscious prior. I remember a man I used to work with in a warehouse who wanted to be a fashion designer. Seeing his mother create her own outfits started him down his path. From having her teach him how to sew, to going to fashion school to getting a job at a fabric wholesaler where I met him; everyday he would come to work wearing something he had sewn himself. With row upon row filled with bolts of fabric, he felt he was working in heaven. I asked him once if there was anything else, he had wanted to be when he was growing up and he said yes. But after seeing what his mother could do with a needle and thread, he was hooked (pun intended). I admired his determination, just as I admired the determination of the main character in this biographical, dramatic family film. GROWING UP IN A COAL MINING town meant there were only 2 choices high school students had waiting for them by the time they graduated; either earn an athletic scholarship to go to college or work in the coal mines. For Homer Hickam, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger, Donnie Darko), those choices were waiting for him until he looked up into the sky and saw something that no one had ever seen before. With Chris Cooper (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Adaptation) as John Hickam, Laura Dern (Marriage Story, Little Women) as Miss Riley, Chris Owen (The Mist, American Pie franchise) as Quentin and William Lee Scott (The Butterfly Effect, Pearl Harbor) as Roy Lee; this film festival winner based on a true story had an inspiring story that was wonderfully told through its script. Even at such an early age, Jake already was displaying his formidable acting skills. The whole cast was terrific and with the story set in the 1950s, there was an overall good homey feeling throughout this movie. Despite the predictability that was built into the story, I found this entertaining picture touching and inspirational. It also proved it only takes one event to change one’s life.
3 ½ stars
WHILE WAITING IN THE CHECKOUT LINE, there was a floor show taking place two aisles over from me. There was no way getting away from it, so I along with the other shoppers stood quietly amused while the child performer was in the middle of his soliloquy. I am sure all of us have experienced such a performance within our families and friends; but the one taking place at the grocery store was over the top melodrama. The little boy was pulling out all the stops, being a true “drama queen.” He was carrying on about a box of cereal and a candy bar. I assumed his mother denied his request to buy him one or both items. Weeping with tears rolling down his face I was able to make out part of what he was saying between his sobs. He was telling his mother that he never gets anything and all he is asking for is one candy bar. I had to chuckle when he told his mother he would share the cereal with her if she bought it. When she still declined, he wailed out “Noooooo” and fell to the floor. She told him to get up then turned to the shoppers around her and apologized. Each person gave a slight smile with a nod of their head; there was nothing to be done. You had to feel for the mother because a performance like that, I am sure, was not going to be a one-time event in her life. I USED THE TERM “DRAMA QUEEN” to describe that little boy because I use that term for both male and female, since I have experienced my share of adult drama queens. If you have never experienced one just stand near a customer service counter and you are bound to see one in action at some point. When I took a part time job for the holidays, part of my responsibilities was working the customer service desk. Most of the customers were polite and understanding, but there were a few who would carry on how their event was ruined or they looked like a fool or my favorite, when I would tell them the delivery date of their order and they would go into this operatic aria how that was not acceptable ending with, “I was ruining everything!” It always astounded me how they would make a scene and blame me for something out of my control. I always wanted to tell them this was not a life or death situation, but instead kept calm and quiet. The reason I mention all of this is because I felt I was experiencing another melodramatic opera by watching this dramatic, adventure fantasy. WHOEVER COULD PULL THE SWORD EXCALIBUR out of the stone would become king of the land. Though almost every knight wanted to try, there were some who had other ideas on how to rule. With Nigel Terry (The Lion in Winter, The Emperor’s New Clothes) as King Arthur, Helen Mirren (Collateral Beauty, The Good Liar) as Morgana, Nicholas Clay (Sleeping Beauty, Evil Under the Sun) as Lancelot, Nicol Williamson (Robin and Marian, Spawn) as Merlin and Paul Geoffrey (The Thomas Crown Affair, Wuthering Heights) as Perceval; this film festival winner was such an over the top production to watch, that I felt like I was living in a different time. Dated by today’s standards, I still was enthralled with the size of the cast, the melodramatic classical musical score and the overall cheesiness of the script. The story is a familiar one that has been done before, but this production felt like an opera to me. And the extra kick of it all besides seeing a young Helen Mirren was to see an equally young Patrick Stewart and Liam Neeson, before they became who we know them to be now. It was such a trip down memory lane to see the big production values of movies from the 1980s; I had to wonder if people were more inclined to be over the top dramatic back then as well.
2 ½ stars
FROM AN EARLY AGE, I WAS ENTHRALLED with the written word. I was one of those kids who was a regular at our public library. Where most people would check out one to 4 books at a time, my usual batch of books totaled eight to twelve. However, during the summer months, I was known to check out 20 books at time, using a wagon to transport them home. One of my babysitters was an avid reader who started teaching me words that I was not being taught in school. Taking out the lettered tiles from a boxed game, we would turn all of them face down then mix them up. Next, we would split the tiles between us and turn them face up. The object of this made-up game was to create as many words as you could with the tiles picked. Obviously, she could have easily out listed me each time; but she always kept herself in check, along with helping me with my tiles. It did not occur to me until much later that she did not want me to ever feel defeated. When I made as many words as I could, she would move my remaining tiles into unfamiliar words for me. We would then get a dictionary to look up each word. This game was one of my favorite ones to play. AS I WAS LEARNING ALL OF THESE new words, I had one semester where I had a teacher who was a horrible speller. At first, I thought they were joking and trying to test the students, but it was not the case. They were simply bad when it came to spelling; it was a good thing they were not teaching us English or literature. The irony of it was right after that class I had a class where the teacher was constantly telling us the origin for many of the words, he spoke to us. None of us really cared it turned out; though, I still have a memory that the word candelabra comes from a Latin term that literally means candle tree and the word hippopotamus comes from the Greek word for water horse. In the classroom there was a massive dictionary that the teacher kept at the side of the room on a ledge. Whenever a student did not understand or mispronounce a word, the teacher would have them walk over to the dictionary to look it up. Obviously, this was not enough preparation if any of us wanted to enter a spelling contest and especially if we wanted to go up against the students in this amazing documentary. THE NATIONAL SPELLING BEE HAS BEEN around since the 1920s, but since the 1990s the contest has been dominated by one group of Americans. What was their secret? This film festival winning picture was written by first timer Chris Weller and director Sam Rega (League of Millions, Miami Noir: The Arthur E. Teele Story). With appearances by Sanjay Gupta (Anderson Cooper 360-TV, Monday Mornings-TV) and Hari Kondabolu (All About Steve, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell-TV) among others, I was impressed by this movie. Since I have never sat and watched the telecast of the contest, I was surprised by the competitiveness and intensity that was on display. There was a mix of older and younger students that added levity and insight to their passion or maybe I should say desire. When I started watching this documentary, I thought I was going to witness parents who were dominating and strict, with only one thing on their mind—the contest. There were a couple of scenes that felt a bit repetitive; but overall the kids’ stories were so engaging and entertaining that I found myself getting anxious whenever a contest was in progress. This was a cinematic treat that provided me sustenance; I better look up the word sustenance, to make sure I am using it properly.
3 ½ stars
I DID NOT SEE THEM UNTIL AFTER we were seated for dinner. They caught my eye because of what they were wearing, identical matching outfits. We were guests at a wedding, and I knew the two of them were not related to me. I had to assume they were a mother and daughter; the little girl looked like she was 5 to 7 years old. They were seated at a table nearby, in seats that were directly in line with my field of vision. Their dresses were made of a soft fabric like crepe or chiffon, with a pattern of autumn colored leaves all over it. With capped sleeves and a rounded neck, they each had a gold necklace around their neck that had a single dropped pearl dangling from it; in their pierced ears there were matching pearl earrings. I tried not to stare but the more I caught glimpses of them the more I found them fascinating in a creepy sort of way. Now I do not want to come off as disrespectful but seeing them dressed and acting the same made me uncomfortable. I have never been one to fall in line to fit in with the majority; I prefer people expressing their individuality and being different without feeling like they must conform to a certain set of “rules.” Watching these two with they identical hair styles and makeup just seemed so weird to me. AFTER THE WEDDING EVENT ON MY DRIVE home, I spent some time thinking about that mother and daughter and my uneasiness with them dressing up to match each other. Having had some friends whose parents tried to raise them to be the same as their parents, I have always questioned the motivation behind it. Why did a mother or father want to have their child be just like them? Was it because that is how they were raised or maybe they wanted their child to be perfect, at least whatever they considered to be perfect? What I believe is children should be raised to be self-thinking, independent beings. Having spent many years feeling like an outsider, one could argue that has contributed to me wanting everyone to freely express their individuality. It is funny; I am remembering an incident with a friend who refused to go out to dinner with me until I had changed my clothes. He did not like what I was wearing, thinking it looked ridiculous on me. Because I did not want to argue I went ahead and put on a different shirt and pair of pants. I needed some of the gumption and fight the main character had in this film festival winner. WAKING UP TO FIND OUT SHE was sent to a place that was going to change and mold her to fit into a certain society, there was only one person Uma, played by Emma Roberts (The Art of Getting By, We’re the Millers), knew who could do such a thing; it was her mother. With Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$, Dumplin’) as Chloe, Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell) as Yu, Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver, Bloodshot) as Amarna and Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil franchise, Shock and Awe) as The Duchess; this fantasy, sci fi thriller had some lofty goals. Visually, I enjoyed watching this picture; the sets and costumes, especially Milla’s, were wonderful. The cast was well-suited for the roles and worked well together. Unfortunately, I was able to figure out what was going to happen due to the script; it was a mashup of a few previous films in the same genre. There were some scenes that worked, but then others lacked focus. If this had been released (or maybe it was) at the theaters I cannot imagine it doing very well. However, seeing it at home made it more palatable for me. If nothing else, I certainly understood the message that was trying to be conveyed and commend the writers and director for trying to create something original. It was a shame it did not quite get to its high aspirations.
2 1/3 stars
ONCE YOU GET SHOVED DOWN INTO that dark place it is hard to convey any of your feelings to anyone. I not only have seen this but I have experienced it. There was a boy in my class that was naturally quiet. I could count on one hand the amount of times I heard him speak in class. Honestly, I cannot say whether he was a good or poor student; he did not stand out which in itself was okay. The first time I had an inkling something was not right was in the locker room. He was in the same row as me, so I was a witness to what had happened to him. While changing out of his gym clothes, two students came up from behind and shoved him into his locker (he was slight of build) and slammed the door shut. As the two students guffawed at their antics a student a few lockers over told the two to knock it off and to go back to their lockers. The student walked over to let the boy out of his locker. Tentatively stepping out, he thanked the fellow student and continued dressing. I kept glancing over to see if he was okay but his expression never changed; it was sort of like a blank stare while he kept looking into his locker as if he had lost something in it. I DREADED THE TIMES WHEN THAT student was not in class because I was the next likely one to be targeted by those bullies. It is a horrible thing to say, I know; but the two of us were on the bottom end of the pecking order that made up our boys’ gym class. It was as if each of us on the low end had this mentality of “every man for himself.” No one amongst us would ever bring it up in conversation and speaking for myself, I never talked about it to anyone. Even with my friends who were in the same class, I would not bring it up. I cannot tell you why that was the case; I only know there was a sense of shame and embarrassment attached to the abuse and bullying each of us had to endure. When I hear in the news about a student committing suicide, I have to say I can understand the reasons why when the act is a result of bullying/abuse. At that age I feel students do not have all the skill sets to cope with such an act of violence so they retreat into themselves. An example of this can be seen in this dramatic, film festival winner. ONE-YEAR MELINDA SARDINE PLAYED BY Kristen Stewart (Personal Shopper, Charlie’s Angels), had lots of friends and was doing well in school; the next year, no one is talking to her and her grades are failing. How did one year make such a difference? With Elizabeth Perkins (Must Love Dogs, This is Us-TV) as Joyce Sordino, Allison Siko (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit-TV, CryBaby Lane-TV movie) as Heather, Robert John Burke (Tombstone, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) as Mr. Neck and Steve Zahn (War for the Planet of the Apes, Rescue Dawn) as Mr. Freeman; watching this movie was an eye opening experience. Seeing a young Kristen Stewart, I can now appreciate what directors see in her. For such a young performer with sparse dialog, she easily was able to express her emotions and feelings. Despite the script being predictable, my attention to the story did not waiver. Maybe because I could identify with some of the scenes, I found myself feeling closer to Melinda’s story; and speaking of the story, it was an important one that needed to be told. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits that was as equally important.
THERE WAS ONE FAMILY THAT LIVED on the block who had a Dad that was of great interest to the kids in the neighborhood. On the outside he looked like the other dads; he drove to work everyday at the same time most of the other adults were leaving their homes for work. He told corny jokes to his children’s friends and he barbequed in the backyard. But what was of most interest to us kids was this man’s profession. Rumor had it he worked for the government, some type of secret agency. I cannot recall when the rumors started but I was extremely curious about him, hoping he was some kind of spy. Now there were other parents in the neighborhood who had jobs that sounded interesting to us kids. There was a parent who owned a restaurant somewhere down in the heart of the city; another parent was an artist who would use photographs as a base to create small and large oil paintings for customers. But there was something about this one Dad that kept most of us kids engaged in trying to figure out what he really did for a living. We would get together at times to try and piece together any clues one of us might have seen or heard throughout our day. At one point we decided he must be a double agent because someone heard him speak in a different language. After several years that father and his family sold their house and moved away; none of us ever found out if he was a spy? HAVING A PARENT WHO HAD A COOL or interesting job was a big plus when growing up. There was one kid whose father was a city bus driver. Any time he was the driver of the bus I was taking, I felt special; as if I had something no one else on the bus could claim. I know one of the reasons I felt this way was because I did not have to worry about someone picking on me; I knew I had a protector during my trip. Out of the parents’ jobs I knew, this one meant the most to me because it was something I could see and feel he was doing something for me, namely protecting me from bullies. There were other parents who had interesting jobs and maybe their occupations meant something special to other kids, but outside of the one dad we all thought was a spy, the bus driver was my favorite. I am sure if the parents in this documentary lived in my neighborhood, all the kids would want to know what they did for a living. WHENEVER THE CHILDREN OF KAREN AND BARRY Mason accompanied them to work, they never understood why they were told to never look up, to look straight down at the floor. Written by Kathryn Robson (Parrots Heads, Rip Rip Hooray!) and written and directed by Rachel Mason (The Lives of Hamilton Fish, Singularity Song), this film festival winner provided me with a fascinating movie watching experience. This was due to the different elements that made up the script. There were several different aspects to the story such as historical, generational and family. I immediately found Karen and Barry likeable as they talked about how they got into their line of work by happenstance. With interviews coming from a variety of sources such as Larry Flynt of Hustler magazine and former employee Alaska from RuPaul’s Drag Race, seeing the family dynamics in the mix of this was wild. I also appreciated the message about acceptance, love and providing for one’s family. All that was missing from this biographical movie was getting interviews from some of the neighbors and kids’ friends. After finishing this picture I did wonder how this family would have fared living on my block.
3 ¼ stars
WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW CAN’T HURT YOU is an idiom I totally understand. Being uninformed or ignorant of something means you do not have to worry or fret about it and I am all for that! For example, if I am feeling poorly I only want to hear someone’s advice if I ask them. I do not want someone to tell me I could have this or I might be suffering with that, because my mind will latch on to their comments and I will start wondering if I am indeed suffering from that infliction. There are already so many things in the world that are scary; why would I want to purposely add something more? What makes this more relevant is what the world is experiencing currently with the COVID 19 pandemic. Listening and reading all the stories that have been coming out has been overwhelming to say the least. I cannot remember what year in school we were taught about germs, bacteria and viruses; the unseen things that could harm us. As adults we understand the risks involved when trying to live our daily lives, but what about babies and young children? I cannot imagine how hard it must be especially now for a parent to explain to their young child why they cannot go outside to the park or go get ice cream. How do you tell them they cannot see what could harm them? EVER SINCE I SAW THE NEWS FOOTAGE of the water buffalo trying to save her baby from a crocodile, it has never left my memory. A baby water buffalo was at the edge of a river, sipping a drink of water. All of a sudden a crocodile popped up from underneath and clamped its jaws around the calf’s leg. Without hesitation the mother water buffalo charged the predator repeatedly until the crocodile let go of the calf. It was incredible to watch. That instinct to protect is something I have seen across the whole animal kingdom. Most humans have the same instinct; however, I have seen incidents where the adult did not have that drive or let me say the awareness of the situation. For the ones that acted on instinct, I was amazed as I saw an adult beat off a coyote that was attacking the family pet. In fact, recently the news showed a mother clinging onto the side of her car as a man was trying to carjack it with her baby still in the back seat. There are so many things we do not see coming but our instincts take over to save our loved ones. The mother in this mystery horror thriller is a prime example. WAITING FOR HER HUSBAND TO RETURN FROM the war Grace, played by Nicole Kidman (Bombshell, The Goldfinch), needed help with the raising of her children and the upkeep of the house. The servants she hired could not understand the special rules she insisted they follow because they did not see anything unusual about the place. With Fionnula Flanagan (Four Brothers, The Guard) as Mrs. Mills, Christopher Eccleston (Thor: The Dark World, 28 Days Later) as Charles, Alakina Mann (Girl with a Pearl Earring, Fungus the Bogeyman-TV) as Anne and James Bentley (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Nero-TV movie) as Nicholas; this film festival winner was the perfect spooky story to take my mind off the scary stuff going on around me. Nicole was such a strong force throughout the story; I was quickly pulled into their plight. I thought the directing and acting was a perfect combination in creating a tense story without any hi-tech special effects, creating an old-fashioned horror film. For me, watching this movie was a needed respite from the scary stuff that is currently going on around the world.