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 →

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 →