Tag Archives: movies

Suburban evils


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Just finished Blind Crescent by Michelle Berry, a tale of a group of families living on a suburban cul de sac that follows well on the bizarre family relationships of August:Osago County. Initially in this story, you feel a bit like the suburban site is safely enclosing the residents, but decay is creeping ever closer. There’s risk outside, in the form of a sniper taking out random drivers, and there’s risk on the crescent in the form of a strange new resident and the shifting relationships of the families.
Unlike August, the characters do move, evolve, grow, learn about themselves.

For me this defines what is so much better about books than movies. The interior lives of the characters are explored in Blind Crescent, not so much that we feel we know everything about them, but enough so that each character becomes interesting to us, someone we can care about, feel for. In “August”, we get to know characters (mainly because of some excellent acting), but no one seems to change or develop or even question their motives. In each story there is suffering and angst, but in Berry’s story, the angst serves a purpose. The characters genuinely care about each other in their way, they learn to care more, they re-prioritize.

The book is excellent. At the end, although troubles still remain, you feel as if some sort of resolution is pending. The writing is luminous yet effortlessly so – you don’t pause, a la Stella Gibbon in cold comfort farm to star a sentence for its quality. Instead, you are inexorably drawn forward into the story, nailed to your seat by the details and heart in every sentence. You realize immediately that you are in the hands of a great storyteller and relax, let the story take you.

And then be forever grateful you have left the suburbs behind.

August:Osage County and the familiarity of dysfunctional families


Just back from this film, and I have to tell you it is a “high-residue” one, according to my family’s categorizing system.

Things like James Bond movies, adventures, most comedies – they’re fun, low residue. You watch them, forget them. You might remember one line, one scene. “Silence of the Lambs”, a mid-residue one. You remember the horror, the sucking of the lips. Other stuff slips away.

This one will stay with me, though. At first glance, August:OC seems like one of the long lasting set of dysfunctional family movies, with scarce humour and a certain grindingness about the endless anger and bad behaviour of everyone involved. Drug abuse, alcohol abuse, years of unsatisfactory conversations and relationships. Generations struggling with the baggage.

But then it grips you. The stories, though gruelling and very challenging for the audience (I heard a lot of gasping as the family secrets were let out, one by one, like goat droppings in the sand) – but the acting and the actors made the movie worth the endurance test. This family leads and has led a hellish series of lives. I can’t help but wonder how I would have turned out after such events. And yet, and yet, in so many ways they are the typical family, trying for the best for their kids, losing themselves along the way, making mistakes, picking favourites, keeping back what should have been said, making deals with one another. It is all both intensely familiar and chillingly strange.

As we were leaving the theatre, several women were chatting and smiled up at us. “Great movie,” they said, “highlights the weirdness in all of our families.”

That it did. I saw scenes my mother wouldn’t have been out of place in. I had a flashback to my wedding day. I revisited places I’d lived in myself – not the whole terrible mess of this family, but certainly little peeks through the blinds at them.

I think I’ll be unpacking this film for a few days yet.

So, not necessarily a pleasant movie, but a thought-provoking one, incredibly well-acted. Worth the viewing, though you may not want to take your family members with you…