What The Favourite can teach us about female representation in popular cinema

Women’s stories can be very different from men’s. But are women themselves? Popular female storytelling in film, particularly in the hands of men, is so often disappointingly predictable and narrow: strength is translated in the main as physical, motivation stems from trauma. When a director – with the best intentions – dismisses the impact of gender, race or sexuality, saying they don’t want it to get in the way of telling a human tale, it’s so often a recipe for disaster. At worst, women are written as walking mouthpieces for their issues; at best, their behaviour is still so often tightly laced into restrictive stereotypes.

Enter The Favourite, equipped to change the game with a nuance and subtlety that contrasts gleefully with its coarse dialogue and visually arresting style. Continue reading →

The pain chronicles part 2: back to the future

I should have called the last part ‘requiem for a disc’, shouldn’t I? If you’re joining me for the first time here and you really like extended medical stories about back surgery, do I have a 3,500-word treat for you! Otherwise, if you a) already read that, b) don’t care or c) just want to get straight to the stuff about how I live with pain now, two surgeries later, as well as yet more extended medical stories then do settle in.

I’ll start with a list of things that I used to do without thinking, and which now give me pause. This is not for sympathy, but relatability for those with a list of their own – and a chance for those with no list to maybe register how life might look different for that friend, relative, colleague or random stranger on the bus. Continue reading →

The pain chronicles part 1: surgery for a slipped disc

The most common question I get asked about my back problems is “how did you slip your disc?”. And I usually reply: “I stood up”.

Over the years I’ve told bits of the story, always in person, to individuals. I want to write much more about how I deal with pain now, what it means now. But to do that, I find I need to explain the history first. And it’s a good medical story. Who doesn’t love a good medical story? Continue reading →

2019: A new year, a new word

Usually I know what my word of the year is likely to be a good month or so before I get to writing my posts on the matter. This year inspiration has gone right to the wire; it only really hit me a day or so ago.

It’s my seventh year of choosing one, and you can read about years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 here (I don’t think I wrote about 2014’s Creativity or 2013’s Decisiveness). I still feel largely pleased with my year of ‘Do’, but I’m conflicted because the things I thought I would have done, I didn’t – and other things I didn’t expect to happen, did.

I don’t like to make excuses. Scratch that, I love to make excuses, but I know they don’t fly. When I think through last year’s mental To Do list, it’s mixed results. Continue reading →

Three Christmas wishes for my eight-year-old daughter

Child!

Oh, Child. I feel I should start this with an apology (and not for calling you pet names that drive you mad, because that’s still slightly funny). 🤷🏻‍♀️

I’m sorry you inherited my anxious tendencies. I still remember when it first became obvious my cunning plan to not be myself around you had failed: when, as a toddler, you started to charmingly call out “Be careful, Mummy! Be careful, Daddy!” from the back seat of the car.

Oops. Continue reading →

Why I still don’t know what I’ll do when I grow up

I’m no longer inspired by people who always knew exactly what they wanted to do.

Well, to clarify: I am inspired by their work, and their passion, and sometimes even by some of their process. But given than I’m 38 and I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do “when I grow up”, I no longer seek out stories that start with “I told my nursery school teacher that I was going to be an actress”. Continue reading →

A Hallowe’en ode to Practical Magic

There’s been a wave of Twitter chats recently around favourite bad films (Kong: Skull Island), unpopular opinions (The Lion King is mediocre animal Hamlet with mostly bad tunes) and the like. It’s a great platform for the random and reactionary. But one film kept bafflingly coming up as a “guilty pleasure” with astonishing regularity: Practical Magic.

Now, we all know why that is. We know that it doesn’t actually matter on any level whether it’s a good romantic comedy or not (it is), if the script is smart (mostly), the performances are on point (yup) or the structure makes sense (eh, more or less). What matters is that it’s a women’s film, and we can easily dismiss womeny things that men couldn’t possibly be interested in like love and magic and, um, being beaten and strangled by your insane abusive ex. Actually, it really is a women’s film. Continue reading →

It’s time to bin attendance awards

In any group of parents, no matter what age or experience, nothing seems to get the garbage fire rage burning quite as warmly as the subject of attendance awards. This is not, to be clear, about legal action taken by a local authority against a parent failing to get their child to school regularly. These are the certificates and treats and weekly newsletter trackers and termly celebrations insisted on by schools around the country to improve their attendance figures (regardless of whether they need improvement or not). Continue reading →

Three things I learned from Luca Guadagnino at BAFTA Guru Live

I’ve never wanted to direct films.

Watch them? Definitely. Write them? Eventually (I’ve always envisioned it being an adaptation of prose, not being a habitual screen- or scriptwriter, although a good friend and I have been batting around a TV series idea for ages). Write about them? All the time, whether I’m asked to or not.

But I’m not a filmmaker. Which is why when I first became aware of the BAFTA Guru Live sessions, I wasn’t sure if I really should grab a ticket. I mean, they’re open to everyone and you don’t need to give any reason for attending, but I felt a directing masterclass might be more for filmmakers than writers. Still, I simply couldn’t resist nabbing one while I had the chance.

So, as a different flavour of creative, was it worth me going along? Unquestionably. Continue reading →

The not-40 before 40

What is it that makes us think that round numbers are somehow significant?

We seem compelled to mark them in some way; to say I am still alive as if getting through a decade is specifically more significant than any other period of time. And I’m as susceptible as the rest; I approach my fortieth, which is in the pleasingly rounded year 2020, with a feeling that it marks an inevitable turning point in my life. I’m not waiting for it to get stuff done – in fact, my year of Doing has already borne personal fruit – and I’m not expecting it to be all sunshine and roses; there is no stage of a woman’s life that doesn’t come with a patriarchy shit sandwich.

Yet in my mind, it has acquired some important punctuation. Continue reading →

Theatre review: A Monster Calls at The Old Vic

I’ve done a lot of crying over this story.

First on a train as I pulled into a local station, red-eyed, having feverishly rushed through the last few, devastating pages of the book on the way home. Then at the London Film Festival, where I can only assume that the last twenty minutes looked as beautiful as the rest because I was viewing it through some sort of blurry waterfall. So I have history with A Monster Calls.

Still, I had to wonder how the the creative team setting up shop at The Old Vic was going to cope with the mixture of mundane school settings and storytelling flights of fancy. Continue reading →

Film review: Teen Titans GO! to the Movies

 

There’s a terrible rift in our household. A Civil War, if you will. You see, I’m Marvel. And my kid is (whisper it)… DC.

It’s tricky. And since neither one of us has a mother called Martha, that line of resolution is closed to us. But if there’s one space where I’m willing to let divided loyalties lie it’s in front of the TV for a family viewing of the hilarious, anarchic show Teen Titans GO! So when we were invited along to a preview of the big screen outing for the Justice League’s biggest fans, it would have taken a feat of superhuman strength to hold us back. Continue reading →