The Banshees of Inisherin.

The Banshees of Inisherin. 

A film review & discussion by Kate O’Brien. 

This film was directed by Martin McDonagh. It was released in October of 2022. 

Spoilers Ahead – Consider yourselves warned. 

I will also say now that I believe this review and discussion may be slightly more serious in tone, simply because of the themes that are explored in The Banshees of Inisherin. 

I found this film very moving. I found it very emotional. I was crying silently while sitting on my sofa and then a few moments later, another scene had me chuckling. I’ve heard some people say that they dislike this film, some said they found it too long, or boring, and I understand that. I will say now that I would consider this film to be one of those films that you either really enjoy, or you really hate. Personally I loved it. I thought it was extremely thought-provoking, and full of some really beautiful, and subtly poignant performances. 

I’ll admit, I’m probably slightly biassed, but I thought that the cast was brilliant. 

I’m already a fan of Colin Farrell’s work, but I think this could go down as one of his very best roles. I thought his performance was beautiful, and I will be discussing a key scene later on in this review. 

The film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as Pádraic and Colm. Set on the fictional Inisherin, an island off the west coast of Ireland, at the end of the Irish Civil War in 1923, this film follows Pádraic in his devastation when he learns that Colm does not want to be his friend anymore. 

I want to pause here for a moment so that I can talk about this idea. This idea of an entire film being about the breakdown and loss of friendship, particularly the friendship of two grown men, is what drew me in and made me want to watch this film in the first place. Friendships can be essential relationships. We see so many stories about romantic relationships, about family dynamics, but friendships are a really interesting dynamic. You can have lifelong friends, and these people can become as close as family, making new friends, especially as an adult can be challenging, it can also be really exciting. It can be difficult to maintain friendships, especially when you move beyond school or college because you’re no longer in the same place every single day. It is hard to see people when you live far apart, or if you have conflicting work schedules, or if you’re trying to balance family life with work life, friendships can silently slip into the background and this can be very sad. 

The idea of living in a remote place, where everyone knows everyone and every day is the same and having a lifelong friend tell you that they just don’t like you anymore, is a concept that I think is brilliant. At its core, that is what this film is about. Colm tells Pádraic that he just “doesn’t like him no more.” Pádraic has not done anything to him. He has not said anything to him. He has not offended him in any way, but Colm has decided he just does not want to be friends anymore. It is so simple, and yet, this core idea allowed The Banshees of Inisherin to explore some really poignant themes. 

Pádraic lives with his sister Siobhán. Siobhán is played by Kerry Condon and I must say that she played this part wonderfully. They live a quiet, lonely life in Inisherin. Their parents have passed away so the pair only have each other. Pádraic is kind and well-liked. He is a hard worker. He loves his little donkey Jenny and to Siobhán’s dismay, he even lets her inside their small cottage. 

He is not a perfect person, but he is honest and kind. Colm says he is dull and dim, and Pádraic worries that he is in fact dull and dim, but ultimately he is a kind, earnest man. 

Colm is a musician. He lives alone with his dog and he has decided that he would like to spend the rest of his days peacefully composing music. Colm wishes to leave a legacy. He wishes to be remembered when he is no longer on this earth. This longing to be remembered is what prompts him to tell Pádraic that he does not want to be friends anymore. Colm’s character is challenging to write about because I am conflicted. In the beginning, I thought that he was being rather harsh, but I could understand where he was coming from. Everyone has a right to live their life in the way that they see fit. Colm has decided that he has about twelve years of life left and he would like to spend them peacefully. He has the right to decide he does not want to be friends with Pádraic anymore, we all have the right to decide who we spend our time with, but as the film went on, I found myself deeply disliking Colm as a character. I find him arrogant and rude, and very mean at times. I think he is a great character in terms of discussion, his actions and his beliefs open up the themes explored in this film. His actions prompted a brilliant discussion when the film was over so I do think his character serves an excellent purpose, but I don’t like this kind of character. 

I need to mention Barry Keoghan because he stole this film in my opinion. He played the role of Dominic Kearney, the son of Garda Peadar Kearney (A police officer for any readers not from Ireland.) Dominic is a character who I would liken to Sammy in Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers. 

He is the kind of character who never really had a chance. Dominic is not the brightest torch, he does not always say the right thing. Sometimes he can be infuriating because of how badly he puts his foot in his mouth, but he has no malicious intentions. He tries to be a friend to Pádraic. He tries to help him through the devastation of the loss of Colm’s friendship. He has a schoolboy crush on Siobhán and he earnestly admits this to her even though he knows that she will never return his feelings. This scene between these two actors was beautiful. My heart went out to Dominic when he confessed his feelings because you could see it all over his face that he already knew he would be rejected, and the way Kerry Condon played Siobhán in this scene was so lovely. She was so kind and so gentle, and she let him down with such grace. She did not laugh or scoff at him, she did not recoil. She just very simply, and very kindly told him that she doesn’t feel the same way. It was a really touching scene. Dominic is abused by his father, and this seems to be a known secret in Inisherin. People feel sorry for Dominic, but his father holds all of the power. I found Keoghan’s performance incredibly earnest and endearing. My heart went out to Dominic and I was devastated by how his arc played out – I’ll return to this in a later point. 

Before diving into discussing the themes of this film, I want to talk about the backdrop of the Irish Civil War. I believe this setting is crucial to the film. I don’t think that this film would be the same without the heaviness of war going on in the background. The island is safe. It is far away from the mainland. We see the bright flashes of shots being fired from across the sea, but the Civil War is on the mainland. We are given this idea that Inisherin is a place that belongs to itself. It is removed from the frontlines. If you wanted to,  I’m sure you could pretend the Civil War was not happening, but news from the mainland is always a source of curiosity. There is a present fear lurking underneath it all, and I think this is essential to the film. Life is changing. People are fighting. People are dying. People are reevaluating what they want and what is important to them. The tensions and the dangers and the fighting is likely what caused Colm to reevaluate his time and the meaning of his life in the first place. I don’t think the film would have the same impact without this setting. 

Let’s discuss the themes of this film. I believe that the themes of this film are ideas of friendship and loss. Ideas of legacy and exploring one’s sense of self. Ideas of loneliness and departure, and ideas of the importance of being remembered vs the importance of being kind. I also think that there is a King Lear quality to both Pádraic and Colm. Pádraic really struggles to accept that Colm does not want to be his friend. He desperately wants things to go back to the way they once were. He cannot understand or accept Colm’s rejection, and his desire to be friends again becomes more and more desperate as the film goes on and he becomes more and more frustrated. 

At times viewers may think “My God, just leave the man alone,” but it is not that easy to be rejected for no reason at all. It is also clear to see that this sense of loss and the grief that Pádraic feels causes him to suffer with depression. He is lonely and he is hurt, and nothing can fill that void. 

The loneliness gets worse when Siobhán moves to Dublin. Siobhán has nothing left on Inisherin. She loves her brother but her life is empty and lonely. She decides to do something for herself and take a library job in Dublin. The scene where she gets on the boat is a lovely moment. She is wearing a bright yellow coat, which visualises how hopeful she is as it is such a bright colour. This is a great example of how visually stunning this film is. It is full of wide shots of very scenic landscapes. The island feels broad and open, yet sparse all at once. 

Siobhán is nervous but excited as she leaves and even though she is sad to leave Pádraic behind, she knows that this is something she must do. Pádraic tries his best to be happy for her, but at night he cries in his bed and wishes she would come home. The emptiness of Pádraic’s days are really emphasised, which only adds to his desperate need to make up with Colm. 

Colm’s arc is also one that slowly descends into madness. At the beginning of the film, he seems to be the sensible one even if he seems a bit harsh. He just wants to play the fiddle and compose a song, and as the film goes on he becomes increasingly angry and frustrated that Pádraic cannot seem to just leave him alone. He tells Pádraic that every time he bothers him again, he will take his shears and chop off a finger. Pádraic thinks that he cannot be serious, but Colm was extremely serious. When yet another attempt at reconciliation goes awry, Colm does indeed take his shears and he chops off a finger. He leaves the finger at Pádraic’s house. The film keeps moving and Colm loses all of his fingers. This is where I would liken his arc to the arc of King Lear as Colm is a man who is so obsessed with his own ideas, with his own self-importance, that he is actively destroying himself to make a point. He can no longer play the fiddle, and this is not Pádraic’s fault. Colm’s decision to actually chop off his fingers in order to prove that he is serious is no one’s fault but his. He did not have to go so far, he did not have to be so violent, but he is obsessed with leaving a legacy and being remembered. Being the man who cut off limbs to prove a point is a sure way to make sure that you’re remembered. 

I want to talk about a key scene. There is a moment where Pádraic is furious and he decides to confront Colm in the pub. Colm is sitting with Peadar, Dominic’s father who is excited to go to the mainland to witness an execution. Pádraic confronts Colm, he demands to know what is going on. This is when Colm tells Pádraic that he is dull. He is dim, and his conversations bore him. Colm wants to be great, he wants to be remembered. He is a music lover and he wants to be like Mozart, he wants his music to be played centuries later and he won’t build that legacy if he is having dull conversations with Pádraic. Pádraic tells him that he is not nice. He used to be nice, but now he worries that he was actually never nice at all. 

Colin Farrel delivers a brilliant performance. It actually moved me to tears. He says that he may be dull, but he is nice, he says his sister Siobhán is nice and he’ll remember her. He remembers his parents, they were nice. He asks Colm what does it say about him if he would rather sit with Peader, a man who beats and molests his own son than him? Colm is unmoved by Pádraic’s words, he says that no one will remember Siobhán because she has not done anything great. He wants to be great. It is a mean and nasty thing to say and I was cheering for Siobhán when she corrected Colm and told him that Mozart toured in the 18th century, not the 17th as he had said. 

If he is going to so arrogantly proclaim that he wants to be like Mozart, he should at least get the century right. 

This is why I disliked Colm, despite appreciating how his role functioned in the story. I do appreciate how his arc has allowed me to explore some very poignant themes. I don’t like the way Colm decided that his longing to be “great” gives him the right to treat people poorly. He so arrogantly declared that Pádraic is dull, but as Pádraic rightly pointed out, he was happy to still sit beside a man who brashly and brutally beats his own son. I can tell you which man I would rather sit beside, and I’ll give you a hint, it certainly is not Peadar. 

There was absolutely no need to be so nasty to Siobhán and declare that she is not important enough to ever be remembered. All of Colm’s actions are focused on the after. He wants to be remembered when he is gone, he wants to leave a legacy, but he never stops to think about the way he is behaving in the present. His actions and his words are causing grief and pain in the present, and this idea that he suddenly had about wanting to be great does not surpass the importance of treating people with kindness and respect. I can appreciate that if this happened then there would be no film, but I am discussing this character in depth, so I will say that there was no reason as to why Colm could not have still been friends with Pádraic and treated him kindly. He could have drank with him less. He could have told Pádraic that he does not want to drink every day, he could have said that he wants to spend more time on his music. He could have still composed his song without being so extreme – however if he did this then there would be no plot, but hopefully you understand the point that I am making. 

Peadar is furious that Pádraic announced the way he abuses his son to everyone at the pub. He plans to kill him. He intends to beat him severely, but on his way to Pádraic’s house, he is stopped by Mrs O’Riordan.

 I am calling Mrs O’Riordan the banshee of Inisherin. Banshees are an important part of Irish folklore. They are said to be female spirits who announce when to expect a death, as they shriek or wail. If you hear a banshee wailing, someone will die soon – so the legends say. 

Mrs O’Riordan is an old woman in the village who always wears black. She is a mysterious figure who seems to just observe all that is going on. Colm writes a song entitled “The Banshees of Inisherin.” Pádraic says there are no banshees on Inisherin. Colm says he thinks there are, only they don’t wail. They stand back watching everything, quiet and amused. It is a great description and it is one that fits Mrs O’Riordan perfectly. 

Mrs O’Riordan interrupts Peadar when he is on his way to beat/kill Pádraic. She brings him to the lake and when Peadar looks into the water, he is looking down at the body of his son Dominic. He is lying faceup, dead in the water. His eyes are wide open and around his neck there is a hook. In Dominic’s first scene, he is showing Pádraic this hook, saying that it is a great hook that can be used for hooking all sorts of things. Peadar seems to be filled with emotion when he sees his dead son, although we never get verbal confirmation that he regrets mistreating him. 

Dominic’s death broke my heart. I wanted more for him. I wanted him to find happiness. I thought his arc was one of a lifetime of sadness. He never had a chance. Again, Barry Keoghan’s performance was fantastic. It was subtle, and quiet, and so devastating. It is a complex part and it could have easily been a really annoying one. This young lad who always seems to put his foot in his mouth could have been a character that we dreaded seeing, but instead Keoghan played Dominic in a really nuanced way. He does want to be Pádraic’s friend, he does try to help, he does say the wrong thing a lot, but he is kind. He is trying. He just wants some warmth and some love. He is devastated when Pádraic lets him down, he says that he thought Pádraic was different, but he is just like all the rest. There was a deep sadness to Dominic and Keoghan portrayed that beautifully. A part like this could have slipped into the background but Keoghan’s portrayal of Dominic stood out and it stuck with me for a long time. 

The thing that brings things to a head is when Pádraic’s donkey Jenny dies because she choked on one of Colm’s fingers. Pádraic is devastated and he is furious. He says that it is time to make things even. Colm has gone too far. He tells Colm that he is going to burn down his house while he is in it. He tells Colm to leave his dog outside, because he has nothing against his dog. 

Jenny’s death highlights how out of line Colm’s actions are. His actions and his obsession with leaving behind a legacy has hurt and killed a living thing. He has caused extreme despair in Pádraic’s life. Colm goes to confession, and he asks if God cares about little donkeys. 

The priest says that he fears God doesn’t care about little donkeys. Colm says he fears that is where everything went wrong. This is a fantastic line, it is a really poignant moment. Colm wins me back slightly in this moment because he realises that he has done wrong, and he is genuinely sorry about what happened to Jenny. He realises that his longing to leave a legacy was not worth hurting Pádraic this much. 

Pádraic does burn the cottage down and he does take the dog, sticking to his word to not do the dog any harm, but he does not actually commit murder because Colm is alive and well standing on the beach the next day. He thanks Pádraic for looking after his dog and he apologises for what happened to Jenny, he says that he really is sorry about that. It seems they have come to a truce. 

The film ends with the two men commenting that it seems as though the Civil War is coming to an end, and along with it, it seems that their feud has ended too. 

This film moved me. I thought it was beautiful. It made me think about the importance of relationships in my life. I thought about how much I think it is important to be present in the moment, because if we are too focused on the after then we can miss things that are happening in the present. It is absolutely fine to want to do great things. It is fine to have passions, it is fine to want to leave a legacy, but arrogantly deciding that some people are not worth your time is not okay. Being kind and being a decent person is always important. People talk about “being kind,” online all the time, to the point that it can sound flippant, but it is important. I would rather be remembered as someone who was kind and warm, instead of being remembered as someone who was good at xyz, but not that nice. 
The Banshees of Inisherin is a beautiful, moving film that brings human emotions to the surface and lays them bare. In many ways, it is so simple, and yet it is a film that dives into very complex themes. It is a poignant story told by a talented cast. It is storytelling at its finest.

The Music Man: Even Con Men Can Sing.

The Music Man. 

A film review and discussion by Kate O’Brien. 

This film was directed by Morton DaCosta. It was released in 1962. 

I would call this film a classic, no questions asked. It is cheeky, it is funny, and Harold Hill is a character who you won’t forget in a hurry. 

If you enjoy films like Singing in the Rain and Meet Me in St. Louis, then The Music Man will be right up your alley. I love films like this. I don’t exactly know why. I love the costumes and I’m a big fan of musicals, but there’s something else about this kind of film that I really enjoy. 

I think it’s the element of pure escapism. This film is fun, it is bright, the songs are fantastic, and there’s enough conflict to keep the plot engaging, but overall it is just a lighthearted watch. Perfect for a rainy day. 

As always, there will be spoilers in this discussion. Consider yourself warned. 

Let’s dive into the plot. I think this film is very straightforward. The entire story revolves around Harold Hill. Hill is a charming con man and his biggest con to date is travelling around posing as a music teacher. He gets small towns all excited about the idea of a boys’ band. He sells band uniforms, instruments, sheet music, all with the promise that he is going to lead the best boys’ band these towns have ever seen. Here’s the catch, Harold Hill cannot teach music because he does not know how to play. He cannot read a note. That is how he makes his money. He cons the people of the town into spending a small fortune on their children and then he takes off. 

The film is set in Iowa, in the small town of River City. River City is the next stop on Hill’s list. 

He plans to con everyone in River City just like he has done many times before.

This time though, Hill is not so lucky because the Mayor is suspicious of him and spends the entirety of the film chasing Hill for his credentials. Hill also was not prepared to meet Marion, the librarian and piano teacher in town. Marion is not impressed by Hill’s smooth talking, she sees through him from the start. Hill certainly was not prepared to find himself smitten, but now he will risk ruining his schemes and getting caught so that he might have a chance at winning her heart.  

Marion is smart, stubborn, and knows her own mind. She has fallen victim to small-town gossip. Everyone has something to say about the fact that she inherited the library and the fact that she has not married yet. I will say, it is always slightly strange when watching films from a different time period as the age of when people married was significantly younger than what is common today. So it was slightly funny watching everyone treat this young woman as if she was far too old to ever find love. This is why context, especially the context of setting, is so important.

The other main character is Tommy. He is a teenager in River City. He is labelled a “troublemaker” by the adults of the town, again this is funny because we never really see him do anything bad aside from when he pranks one of his teachers. The prank in question being that he causes a loud noise at the school prep rally. Tommy is a good kid at heart. He has a crush on Zaneeta, the Mayor’s daughter, and throughout the film he helps Harold Hill dodge the Mayor and he ends up being front and centre of the boys’ band. 

Mrs Paroo, Marion’s mother, also features in the story. She is an Irish woman (the accent is questionable) and she is hopeful that Marion will find someone who makes her happy. While she hopes her daughter will be lucky in the land of love, she also encourages Marion’s independence and her love of literature. She also worries about her son Winthrop. Winthrop is a quiet boy who has a very prominent lisp. He struggles with his self-confidence because of this lisp, so Marion (despite her suspicions) and her mother hope that he will gain confidence if he joins Harold Hills’ boys’ band. 

In summary, this is a story about a con man in a small town. He thinks he is going to make a quick buck, but the people of River City pull on his heartstrings. He can’t con them. He ends up finding love and family in the place where he thought he’d find easy money. 

It is the perfect setup with the perfect combination of characters. 

The small town where everyone knows everyone. A confident, charming stranger waltzes in and ends up finding everything he didn’t know he wanted. A nosey Mayor who is determined to foil this stranger’s plans. A confident, independent woman who sees through all the well-versed con talk, and ends up finding someone who is a great match for her. The teenage Tommy and Zaneeta, the young couple who we are all rooting for. Great music, great choreography, and witty dialogue, all of these elements combine to make a perfect, lighthearted story that really never gets old. 

Let’s talk about the themes of the film. I think that it is easy to say that the themes of this film are the ideas of family, love, and finding the place where one belongs. I would also say this film shows how music can bring people together, and on a slightly more serious note, this film does demonstrate how moral panic can be created in order to manipulate a willing crowd – although this is done in a very humorous way. 

Harold Hill was money hungry. He never cared about the towns he flew through or the people he conned, he never gave it a second thought until the people in River City opened his eyes and opened his heart. A conscience develops over the course of the film. He falls in love with Marion, he wants to be with her. He has formed a friendship with Tommy and he wants everyone in town to see that he really is a good kid. He wants Winthrop to gain confidence too and he is ecstatic just like everyone else when he starts to speak more and more. 

His life becomes about more than just money. He finally finds the place where he belongs and the people he belongs with. 

Marion dreams of finding that special someone. Despite her suspicions of him, she finds herself growing very fond of Harold Hill. He has brought a sense of excitement to town and to her quiet life. She is delighted to see her mother and brother so happy. She is overjoyed when Winthrop starts speaking. Harold Hill is a great change of pace from the gossip in her life. She finds that he has expanded the horizons of the town, he has gotten people excited, he has gotten people talking. He has created a sense of community through music even though he does not know how to play. She finds her match. She can be herself with Harold. She can be independent, keep her job, she can still enjoy her books and her life, but now she has found someone to share it with.

Before I talk about how music brings people together, I would like to talk about the creation of chaos. The people of River City live quiet lives. It is a quiet town. There is really nothing to do but gossip until the day Harold Hill comes along. I think the most iconic song in the film is “Ya Got Trouble.” Harold Hill learns that a billiards table has just arrived in town. The Mayor owns the billiard hall. Harold needs to get the people in this stubborn small town interested in a boys’ band, more importantly, he needs to get these people willing to spend money on a boys’ band so he creates the idea that the billiard table is a huge problem waiting to happen. He causes a huge stir, we’ve got trouble he sings. Right here in River City. A billiard table is the gateway to gambling. The youth are at risk, we must think of the children and keep them away from the billiard hall. What better way to keep the kids moral after school than having them join a boys’ band? It is genius. It is so funny, the song is so catchy. It is incredibly quick. It is almost a tongue-twister to perform, but Harold Hill does it with style and elegance. He is a master of wordplay. He uses his quick-thinking and sharp wit to cause a frenzy. Suddenly everyone wants their kids out of the hall and in the band. They’ve done exactly as Harold Hill wanted them to do. This film demonstrates in a lighthearted, but clever way, how manipulation happens. 

This is how con men get away with it. They create panic, they create a problem where it does not exist, they cause a stir, and then they gain people’s confidence. I think one of the easiest ways to get someone to do something is to convince them that if they don’t do it then their kids will be in danger. I would say it is fair to assume that everyone wants the best for their children. Harold Hill even calls out to the mothers in town in his song, and now he has got people twisted in another way – If you’re a good mother, a good and moral mother, you’ll have your children in the boys’ band, because this shows how much you care for them. It is a brilliant tactic. This is a very lighthearted film, and all of this is achieved in a witty, musical way, but it is still a great, visual example of how moral panic is created and how mob mentality is fuelled. “We Both Reached For The Gun,” in Chicago is another fun, witty example of how people can be masterfully manipulated into believing something. I tend to think about “We Both Reached For The Gun,” when I hear “Ya Got Trouble,” and vice versa. 

The uniting power that music has is evident in this film. Music brings the entire town together even though it all started out as a scam. Harold Hill believes in the “thinking method.” The idea is if you think about something enough then you’ll be able to do it. That is how he avoids teaching the children any music. He tells them that first they have to think about playing. 

His confidence is very funny. Harold Hill does bring people together by bringing music into their lives, even though he did not do it on purpose. He sets up a barbershop quartet. The men who used to argue are now the best of friends who enjoy singing together and everyone in town loves to listen. He reminds the Mayor’s wife about how much she enjoys dancing. He gets everyone in town excited about the idea of a band, from the youngest of kids to all of the adults. Marion even points out how even if he did lie about his qualifications, and even if his intentions were originally to con people, he did still bring new life to the place. There is a bit of movie magic at the end. The boys’ do play their instruments despite never being taught how to play. Now to be fair, they don’t play them extremely well, but they do play them and that is a start. There is nowhere to go but onwards and upwards, especially now that Harold Hill is turning over a new leaf. The film ends with everyone in town enjoying a musical parade. The boys’ band struts down the town streets in their bright uniforms, playing their instruments proudly. It is bright, jolly, and lots of fun. 

I also want to give a special mention to the song “76 Trombones.” 

It is a great song. It always gets stuck in my head any time I hear it. It is so catchy. 

I think it is a song that just lifts any mood and gets you humming. It is a song that I would love to hear played live by a full orchestra. The Music Man is a film that I would love to see a full-stage musical adaptation of. I think it would be stunning in a theatre. 

Overall I think The Music Man is lots of fun. It is an easy watch. I think it is perfect for a rainy day. It is a little long as the run time is two and a half hours. Personally I don’t mind this, but I know that not everyone enjoys films that are this long. I’ve recently heard a lot of people say that they dislike when a film is longer than an hour and a half so if you’re going to sit down and watch The Music Man, this could be something to keep in mind. If you are a lover of classic musicals then this film is a must watch! 

Next week I will be reviewing and discussing The Banshees of Inisherin

I found this film to be extremely powerful and at times hard to watch, so I am glad that this review is quite lighthearted and easy, as next week’s review and discussion will be more serious due to the nature of the themes explored in The Banshees of Inisherin. 

After next week I will be switching things up and discussing some books and plays before returning to films. You can follow me on Instagram @katelovesliterature if you don’t already so that you can see what is coming up next here on

Glass Onion: Deceit in Plain Sight.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. 

A film review and discussion by Kate O’Brien. 

This review is the second part of my two-piece review set of Knives Out and Glass Onion. 

As I said in my Knives Out review, these pieces were intended to complement each other, however they can also be read independently as I consider the films to be stand-alone pieces.

You do not have to watch Knives Out to understand Glass Onion, however I feel that Glass Onion steps beyond Knives Out. 

This is a phrase I used in the first part of this review set, and it is a phrase that I will explain and expand upon now in part two. 

Glass Onion was written and directed by Rian Johnson. 

The film was released in September 2022. 

I am going to talk about the plot, the characters, the themes, and I am going to talk about whether or not I prefer one film over the other. As always, these discussions are intended to be in-depth so there will be spoilers ahead. Consider yourselves fairly warned. 

The only character to return to our screens is Detective Benoit Blanc. He is just as larger than life as he was when we were first introduced to him. I will admit now that I really like this character. 

Glass Onion brings to our screens one of my favourite plot devices of all time – Get a group of people with wildly different personalities and trap them in a single location. Allow chaos to ensue. 

This film takes place on a private island in Greece, owned by the ultra rich Miles Bron. 

The plot is set into motion when he sends mysterious invitations to his friends. They are to join him on his private Greek island for a murder mystery party weekend where they will compete to solve his “murder.” Miles throws these kinds of parties every year, and the group seems delighted to receive invitations. 

This brings me to breaking down our cast. 

We meet Claire, the governor of Connecticut. She is running for the US Senate. She is uptight, and as the film plays out, we learn that every decision she makes is made with politics in mind. 

We meet Lionel. Lionel is a head scientist who works at Miles’s company. Lionel’s co-workers appear to be questioning Miles when the film begins, and Lionel agrees that Miles and his ideas can be out there. Some lead to nothing, but some lead to massive success, and that is why he has the company. Lionel seems to be loyal to Miles and his ideas as he is hoping that the next seemingly “crazy” idea will be the next huge success. 

We meet Birdie Jay. Birdie is a ditzy supermodel who is pretending to be a designer in Manhattan. Birdie prides herself on “telling it like it is,” and she doesn’t care if she says things that are politically incorrect and very offensive. She just wants to drink and enjoy herself in Greece. 

Peg is Birdie’s assistant. She is trying her hardest to keep Birdie from ruining herself. She takes Birdie’s phone and attempts to dissuade her from posting awful things online. Peg is unfortunately in a bad position herself as her CV largely consists of working for Birdie, and because Birdie is so offensive, she and her CV are not popular either. 

Duke Cody is a streamer and a self-proclaimed men’s rights activist. He gets a thrill out of upsetting people online by saying things that are considered wildly offensive and at times, downright misogynistic. In reality, he lives with his mother and she is not afraid to give him a smack if he attempts to give her cheek. 

Whiskey is Duke’s girlfriend. She also works for him on his streaming platforms. As the film plays out, audiences learn that Whiskey is a lot smarter than people likely gave her credit for when the film began. The film wants audiences to believe that she is a “dumb blonde” when the film begins, and Whiskey also knows that this is what people assume about her, so she leans into the stereotype so that it will serve her while she is attempting to build a career. 

The last two characters, the main characters whom this film revolves around are twin sisters, Helen and Andi. We’ll talk about them later. 

All of these characters arrive on the island excited to participate in the murder mystery weekend.

Blanc, who has been itching for a new case is also delighted to be invited, only the plot thickens when Miles reveals that he did not send Blanc an invitation. 

Now we must ask two questions. 

Who sent Blanc the invite? Why did they send Blanc the invite? These are two key questions, as Blanc tells Miles that an anonymous invite is not to be messed with. Blanc observes the group and how they all know each other. The key piece of information to take note of is the fact that each member of the group is linked monetarily to Miles. He has financial control over each and every one of them. Blanc sees this power dynamic for what it is, and he tells Miles that everyone in the group has a reason to hurt him. He declares this is like “Putting a loaded gun on the table and turning the lights off.” 

At dinner, Miles is giddy to kick off the murder mystery. He hired an author to write the mystery. He is so excited for everyone to take part. He keeps declaring that it will take them the entire weekend. Blanc debunks the mystery in two minutes, before the fake arrow has a chance to pierce Miles in the heart. It is a very funny scene. Blanc then declares that he wants to solve the real mystery, who invited him and why? 

With the weekend-long mystery now solved, the group are deciding whether or not they will stay the entire weekend or if they will go home early. Miles wants them to stay, they can still have a great time. The music blares, the drinks are flowing. Birdie is dancing. Everyone is drunk and enjoying themselves, happy to stay and just have fun. The real plot begins when things take a horrible turn. Duke dies. At first everyone thought that he was choking, but there was nothing in his throat. He dies. He had just been drinking from a glass, so the next thought is what if he was was poisoned? 

Another twist – Duke had taken a drink from Miles’s glass and not his own. 

The two glasses were very similar. This means that Duke was not the target. Miles was. 

Now Blanc’s original observations take the spotlight again. All members of this group have a motive to want Miles dead. So now Blanc must investigate who attempted to kill Miles. 

Andi is the most likely suspect. Andi was Miles’s business partner and the co-founder of the company. When Andi did not agree with a business decision Miles was making, she threatened to walk away and take half of the company with her. Miles tampered with the contracts, causing her to lose her position entirely. Andi tried to sue, as she created their company and sketched out the plans on a napkin in their local bar years ago. Unfortunately, because she could not find the napkin before the trial, this was her word against his. The rest of the group corroborated Miles and his version of events, lying on the stand because of his monetary control over them. Andi lost the case, and lost everything with it, so it would be easy to assume that she wanted Miles dead as a form of revenge. 

Before moving on to discuss the murder itself, the whodunit, I want to dive into the themes that this film explores. I would suggest that the main themes of Glass Onion are ideas of money and power, and ideas of relevance and integrity. 

Miles is a figure who holds an enormous amount of power and wealth. He continuously uses his wealth to get his way, and his wealth allows him to exert power over the people in his life. 

Miles is cocky and greedy, and he is a sinister type because he wants to come across as so chill, as so relaxed, as someone who loves his friends and just wants to have a good time. Underneath the chill exterior, there is a sinister level of control. What he says goes, because he is the one who funds everyone and everything, and he can make people’s lives come crashing down if they don’t do what he wants. Miles has a gigantic ego. He wants his name to go down in history beside the Mona Lisa. He wants to be immortal. He not only wants this, but he feels he deserves this level of glory. 

The group is very interesting and the dynamics of the group make it very easy for the plot to explore these kinds of themes. They call themselves “the disrupters.” This is a group of people who pride themselves on causing disruption. They’re proud of themselves. They consider themselves to be a group of brave, unique people who are unafraid to disrupt the status quo. 

They tell it like it is, they push the system, they step out over the edge. They’ve got guts! 

They are frauds. Andi’s sister Helen says it best. “They call themselves disruptors, they’re shitheads!” (This is a paraphrased line.) 

This point brings me to mentioning Andi’s twin sister Helen. What could be better than incorporating identical twins into a whodunit plot? Ah the hijinks that can ensue. 

Hijinks do ensue. We learn that Andi is not Andi after all, instead Helen has taken her place on the trip and it was her who brought Blanc the invitation because she needed his help. 

Through a series of flashbacks we learn that Andi is dead, and her death was ruled a suicide. 

Helen is suspicious, she does not believe that her sister would kill herself. So she has a look on Andi’s computer. In court, Andi’s case fell through because she could not find the napkin that she drew the original idea for the company on. Miles lied and said he drew that napkin, and everyone else in the group lied on the stand. After the case, Andi found the original napkin, one that has the old bar’s logo embossed on it. This is a detail that the fake napkin Miles drew up does not have. This detail will prove that Andi was right and she will take Miles down. Before her death, Andi sent an email to everyone in the group to let them know that she found the napkin. 

After this email, she ended up dead. Helen believes she was killed and she wants Blanc to help her uncover the truth. 

I’m jumping between plot and themes, similar to how I did in my review of Knives Out.

The film jumps back and forth in time, and so I feel that the best way I can talk about the themes and how they are highlighted by the twists in the film is by jumping back and forth in my writing. I mentioned earlier that integrity is a major theme in this film. 

Helen, Blanc, and Andi have integrity. Miles has none, and the rest of the disruptors have none for the majority of the film. 

Miles wanted to get big bucks quickly, despite there being safety concerns and tests that need to be done. The huge idea that he wants to put forward is Alpha’s alternative fuel. Andi didn’t want this to go ahead because of the safety concerns. Lionel and Claire don’t want to launch just yet because there is still two years of testing to be done, Miles wants to introduce “Klear” to the world and he wants to do it now. He tells the group that his Greek island is running off the alternative fuel already so there is no need to do more tests. 

Lionel and Claire are angry with Miles, but they are going to end up doing as he says because Lionel wants to keep his job, and Claire’s political career is bankrolled by Miles, and if she does not go along with his ideas, he will endorse her opponent. People’s safety is going to be compromised because this billionaire has no patience and he is determined to get his way. 

Birdie has no integrity. She has no concept of follow-through. She is a “designer” who made bank after being cancelled during the pandemic, but it is all going to come crashing down because it is going to be revealed that her products were being made in a terrible sweatshop. 

Miles has convinced Birdie to take full responsibility for this, as doing so will mean she takes the public fall and it would hide the fact that he was a major investor. Peg is desperately trying to get Birdie to reconsider, and we can see from their chats that Birdie really did not understand the full impact of what a sweatshop actually is. Birdie is ignorant, but she is willing to be cancelled and painted in a terrible public light because Miles is paying her off. She wants the money, she does not care if her character and reputation is ruined or if Peg’s is ruined with her. Birdie’s integrity is for sale. 

Duke just wanted to be on Alpha news. He knows he says controversial and offensive things, but controversy is publicity, and he wants people tuning in. He doesn’t care if what he says hurts others, offends others, or teaches younger viewers problematic things. He is in this game for himself. Whiskey is the same. 

This film really highlights how money can make people abandon their personal integrity. 

When the disruptors lied on the stand, they could not even look Andi in the eye. So they knew what they were doing was wrong, but they sold their souls and morals to Miles a long time ago. 

Helen just wants the truth. She wants to know what happened to her sister. 

Blanc wants to help Helen find the truth, but he warns her that he may be unable to get her justice. The two form a plan. He will use his connections to stop Andi’s death from being in the press straight away, buying them some time. She will come to the party with him, and she can snoop. Someone there is Andi’s killer, and Blanc warns Helen that they will know straight away that she is an imposter. He is not a bodyguard, he warns her that this is a dangerous plan, but they decide the truth must be found. 

Let’s talk about whodunit. 

Miles did it. Are we shocked? I don’t think so. This entire film is about deceit being in plain sight. The entire film is an illusion of smoke and mirrors, and details being shown plainly to our faces. When the dancing started and Birdie was spinning around in her dress, Miles told everyone to look at the amazing colours in her dress. When everyone was distracted and looking where Miles told them to look, he handed Duke his glass. Something that I was impressed by, because yes, we did rewind the film to check, was that this was not done in later shots. This happened the first time we saw this scene. The glass never touches the table, Miles does hand his glass to Duke, but it is done silently and quickly while our attention was purposely directed to something else. Duke died due to an allergic reaction. There was pineapple juice in the drink, and he is allergic. Duke tells audiences this at the beginning as the group are getting on the boat. It is a throwaway moment, he makes sure there is no pineapple in the health shot they are being given because “Duke don’t dance with pineapple.” This is such a great line because it could simply mean that he does not like pineapple. This casual phrase does not illustrate how severe his allergy is. Whiskey clarifies later that he can’t even have a drop. 

“It’s so dumb it’s brilliant!” Birdie shouts. 

Blanc shouts back. “No!!!! It’s just dumb!!” 

This might be my favourite exchange. 

Miles is the killer twice over. It was him who killed Andi when he found out that she would expose him with the napkin. The news broke while the group was dancing. Duke saw the news on his phone, and leveraged the information so that Miles would have to put him on Alpha news. 

Miles could not have this, so he gave Duke a drink that he was severely allergic to. Then he took Duke’s phone and his gun and turned off all the lights. This was Blanc’s idea. This action highlights what an absolute fraud Miles really is. He stole Andi’s idea. He bullies everyone financially even though he does the least amount of work. He hired a writer for his murder mystery, and then he stole Blanc’s idea about the gun and the lights to create panic and distraction. He also shot Helen, but thankfully the bullet missed. Playing dead gave her the opportunity to find the original napkin. 

When Helen does find the napkin that was hidden in plain sight in a picture frame, she returns to the group to expose Miles. Miles, cocky as ever, burns the napkin. This destroys the only proof that Helen has. Helen attempts to stand up to Miles, she says everyone saw him burn it, but Miles says that nobody saw a thing, and everyone reluctantly agrees. They say they saw nothing. They are cowards. This is quite a dark moment in a darkly funny film, because this moment highlights how many real life situations sadly play out. The person with the money can bully and intimidate people into singing their tune, and everyone else is forced into the role of the coward who must forfeit their morals and their integrity because they need the money. Helen goes mad. She angrily destroys sculptures, and she sets the Mona Lisa on fire. 

The world as Miles knows it comes crashing down. His fuel destroyed a priceless, globally renowned piece of art. Helen granted his wish. His name will always be remembered alongside the Mona Lisa. He is ruined. The disruptors stand up to Miles. They say that they did see the napkin before he burned it, highlighting that they will not be his puppets any longer. 

Helen gets to go home feeling satisfied that she got justice for her sister. 

I said earlier that this film steps beyond Knives Out. 

What do I mean by this? Knives Out brought a classic whodunit to our screens. It was eccentric, it was quirky, it was a bit out there, but at the end of the day it was a revival of the classic whodunit murder mystery movie. It was set in the big creepy house on the hill and the story revolved around the rich, dysfunctional family. Glass Onion steps beyond what this first film does. It is bigger. It is even more out there. I would liken it to the theatre of the absurd. It takes place on a private island that is run by a new form of fuel. Shots fired into one’s mouth means that everyone could have a Covid-free, safe time. The place has an abundance of riches. It seems surreal. It is why I love the line that it is not brilliant, it is just dumb. This film does not do anything that is particularly genius. It all boils down to greed, ego, and parlour tricks. It is just dumb! That is why it is so much fun. It is a film that shows the plot right in front of our eyes, hidden behind smoke and mirrors, and then the entire illusion is shattered. Con men of the past would get people to fall for their schemes by using slights of hand, tricks of the eye, and most importantly, they would gain people’s confidence. Miles was the puppet master. He told everyone to look at the pretty spinning colours and they did, and if it was not for the presence of Blanc, it is likely that he would have gotten away with it because the gang were so taken in by his control. 

I also said that I would decide if I preferred one film over the other, 

I would have to say that Glass Onion is my favourite of the two films. I thought the plot was very clever and fun. I thought it was very funny. I enjoyed the new set of characters. I loved how out there and almost absurd the plot was. I loved how the film was shot. I loved the breakdown of how everything happened in plain sight, and I adored the irony of Miles getting his wish. He was knocked off his greedy, rich, controlling, cocky high horse and his name will forever be linked to the Mona Lisa. He got his dream, but now it is his nightmare and this was a fantastic moment. I loved seeing Blanc again and I look forward to seeing him in another film although I am curious about what the plot will be. There are only so many ways that you can tell a story like this, however I am intrigued to see where Blanc will go next. With all of this being said, I must say that even though I do prefer Glass Onion, I don’t think this film could have stepped into this wonderfully absurd arena without having the foundation that was laid down in Knives Out. 

Knives Out subverted the tropes just enough, but there were classic murder mystery elements to the plot. That film laid down the groundwork, introduced audiences to Blanc and how he works, and that groundwork and our understanding of him as a character allowed him to step even further out there in Glass Onion. 
Overall I would highly recommend Glass Onion. I think it is a wonderfully absurd mystery that explores some really interesting themes. It is an extremely entertaining watch.

Knives Out: All Motives Are Monetary.

Knives Out.

There is nothing quite like a whodunit? 

A film review by Kate O’Brien. 

This film was released  in 2019. It was written and directed by Rian Johnson. 

This is an ensemble piece starring Daniel Craig as the eccentric master detective Benoit Blanc. 

I would call this film a parody revival of the classic whodunit murder mystery movie genre, as this film takes classic murder mystery movie tropes and has fun playing with them, and in some cases, subverting them entirely. 

This review is the first of a two-part review set. Next week I will be discussing Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. I would not call Glass Onion a direct or traditional sequel, but rather it is the second film in what appears to be a series of films all about Benoit Blanc and the bizarre cases he finds himself investigating. Benoit Blanc is the only character to return to the screen, as Glass Onion introduces audiences to an entirely new set of characters. This is why I would be hesitant to use the word sequel, as in my opinion, Glass Onion can be viewed, understood, and enjoyed as a stand-alone piece. It does not require viewers to have seen Knives Out first. With that being said, I do consider Glass Onion to be a film that steps beyond Knives Out, and I will explain what I mean by this phrase in next week’s discussion. 

I consider this review and next week’s review to be a set. The two reviews have been written in a way that hopefully leads to each piece complimenting the other, however as the two films have entirely separate plots and casts, the reviews can also be read entirely independently. 

I’ve been trying to decide whether or not I have a favourite film out of the two. It is hard to say, because I really enjoyed both films, and they are so different, however I think I appreciate them in different ways, instead of having a clear cut favourite, and this is another point that I will expand upon as I go on. 

Let’s dive into Knives Out

There will be spoilers ahead, so if you have not watched the film already, you have been warned. 

I’m going to dive into a plot overview, and then dive into themes, the murder mystery genre idea, and character types. 

The film opens with a stunning yet almost eerie shot of a large mansion that sits on a hill in the middle of nowhere. It is the home of Harlan Thrombey, a wealthy, eccentric mystery writer. How fitting. On the morning after Harlan’s 85th birthday party, Fran the housekeeper brings Harlan his breakfast, only to find him in his study with his throat slit. 

The murder mystery movie classic tropes start here. We expect the maid to scream and drop the breakfast tray, followed by a shot of the coffee cup crashing on the carpet. Instead, Fran gasps, almost drops the tray and utters out a not very graceful “Shit!!!” as she realises she is spilling coffee. It is a very subtle thing, but this is the beginning of the tropes being played with. 

Knives Out does something that I absolutely love. It is a film that knows what it is. It knows the tropes, it shows us the tropes, and it also has fun with them. 

How many times have we seen the maid drop the tray? It is a classic shot, and here it is right at the start of the film, but ever so slightly different. 

The detectives have ruled the case a suicide, but the eccentric and famous Benoit Blanc is on the scene. He is a private detective who has been anonymously hired, and he is not willing to close the case just yet. Something compels him to keep looking, and so this is how we get into the plot. The Thrombey family and Marta, Harlan’s nurse who is “like family” – this is a key line- have been gathered in the home for one final round of questions. 

As Blanc starts asking each family member questions, it soon becomes clear that each member of the Thrombey family had a motive to kill Harlan. This is a home of vipers and vultures who will not hesitate to stab each other in the back – or maybe even slit a throat. 

So now the film asks us, was this a suicide? Or was this a case of foul play? 

Let’s take a look at the ensemble. 

We’ve got Linda, played by Jamie Lee Curtis. 

Linda is Harlan’s daughter. She is a “self-made” woman, just like him, and she idolises her father. Linda is proud of herself, proud of her father, and proud of the Thrombey name. 

She is intelligent and guarded. She is highly protective of her family, and this is highlighted when she refuses to give into Blanc’s questioning. 

Blanc uses a clever tactic, he asks politely probing questions, alongside observations. His goal is to get each family member to spill something about the other. Linda does not take the bait, but her husband Richard sure does. 

Richard is a character that I will expand upon shortly in another point, as I’m going to discuss one of the key themes in the film, which is the idea of the “outsider”. 

Richard reveals that Linda’s brother Walt had a fight with their father on the night of the party. 

Walt runs Harlan’s publishing company and he publishes the books that his father writes. 

Walt has dreams about adaptations and films, but Harlan owns the rights to all of his books, and he will not allow them to be adapted in any way. Walt is furious about this, as this is where the opportunity to earn real money lies. 

On the night of Harlan’s birthday, Walt pleaded with his father again to allow him to do more in the company. Harlan says he won’t hold his son back anymore, and he is now free to build something for himself. Devastated that he has just been fired, Walt spends the rest of the night sulking. 

Harlan Thrombey has three grandchildren. Ransom (Hugh), Meg, and Jacob. 

Walt describes Ransom as the “black sheep” of the family because he has never had a job, yet Harlan has always supported him. He describes Harlan and Ransom’s relationship as a “love/hate” relationship and tells Blanc that Harlan and Ransom argued often and dramatically in front of the entire family, but on the night of Harlan’s birthday party, the pair argued privately in Harlan’s study and Ransom stormed off early. 

Meg is a college student. She is the only person in the family who seems to genuinely like and respect Marta and Fran. She scolds a police officer for referring to Marta as “the help” and she scolds Ransom when he refers to Fran by the wrong name. Harlan supports Meg’s college education by paying for her tuition and giving her mother an allowance. 

Jacob is a sixteen year old entitled brat. He is described as a “literal Nazi” by Richard, but his father Walt says he is “politically active.” It becomes increasingly obvious that Jacob has extreme views and as the film plays out, it is clear to see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. 

This point leads me to discussing Richard, Joni, and Marta, and one of the key themes in the film –  The idea of the “outsider”. 

Within the kooky, mysterious, eccentric, almost unbelievable story that is Knives Out, there are some very important, very topical themes being discussed. One of these themes is the idea of someone being an “outsider.” There are even “outsiders” within the Thrombey family. 

Richard and Joni are outsiders. I am going to call them “familial outsiders” because they are the people who have married into the Thrombey family. Richard is Linda’s husband. He is Ransom’s father. Linda made Richard sign a prenup before they married, meaning that her fortune is hers and hers alone. It is revealed that Richard also argued with Harlan on the day of his party. Before his death, Harlan discovered that Richard has been having an affair and he plans to tell his daughter Linda all about it. Richard knows that if Linda finds out, she will leave him, and he will not enjoy her wealth anymore. 

Joni is Harlan’s daughter-in-law. Joni is Meg’s mother. She married his other son Neil, who died shortly after Meg was born. Harlan looks after her and Meg by providing for them. 

Joni also argued with Harlan on the day of the party. Harlan found out that Joni had been stealing from him because his office had been wiring money directly to Meg’s school, but tuition money was also being sent to Joni’s account. She was “double-dipping.” Harlan informed Joni that he would be cutting both her and Meg off and she would not receive another payment from him.

Donna is also an outsider. She is Walt’s wife, but we don’t learn too much about her, aside from the fact that she is money hungry and racist. Her character does not get much screen time. 

Richard and Joni are familial outsiders because Richard is at the mercy of Linda. He signed a prenup, so his wealth is not actually his wealth. He is not really part of the elite circle. He knows that once Harlan reveals his affair, he is out. The family is clearly irritated by Joni. She is a free-spirit who loves meditation and yoga. She is very obviously too laid-back for the uptight Thrombey family and one can imagine that the only reason she is still included at all is because she is the mother of Harlan’s granddaughter. When Harlan cuts her off, she will be out too. 

The plot thickens because now we know that Walt, Richard, and Joni are about to lose their money so all three of them have a motive to want Harlan harmed. 

Marta Cabrera is Harlan’s nurse. She is kind, and loyal, and she became more of a friend to Harlan. The Thrombey family treat her as a true “outsider.” She is even more on the outside than Richard or Joni, because she is not connected to the family in any way. She is not married into the family. She is Harlan’s nurse, and while the family claim to like her, to love her even, they still keep her on the periphery because she is an employee. 

The power imbalance is somewhat subtle at first. The family keeps telling Marta she is “like family.” They compliment her, they call her a good girl, and a hard worker, but as the film plays out, it becomes clear that they do not respect her at all. They do not consider her to be like family. When talking about Marta, each family member tells Blanc that she is from somewhere different. She is said to be from Paraguay, and then from Uruguay, from Ecuador, and from Brazil. This is a somewhat subtle detail, but it is a clever one as it highlights that the family clearly didn’t listen to Marta and they don’t actually care where she is from. To go another step further, it demonstrates that this family will list places like Paraguay, Ecuador, and Brazil etc. as if they are all just one and the same. 

There are also key moments where subtle actions highlight that the family think Marta is beneath them. She was not allowed to attend Harlan’s funeral. There is a scene where Richard, Walt, and Joni are discussing immigrants in America. Joni is clearly the most liberal, and it does become clear which political issues were most relevant at the time that this film was released. Richard feels that America is for Americans, and he feels that if people want to come to America, then they need to do it the right way. Joni is trying to explain that it is not such a simple issue and that people just want better lives for their children, and she is fiercely against children being detained in cages. Richard feels the blame lies with the parents of those children. He makes Marta join the conversation. She is deeply uncomfortable, but Richard wants her opinion. He parades her in front of everyone, and while he is at it, he very subtly hands her his plate because he is finished with his cake. This moment reveals everything about Richard’s character. He can say what he wants about Marta being someone who has worked hard the right way, so now she too gets to enjoy America, because at the end of the day, he sees her as beneath him. It does not matter how often they say she is “like family”, he sees her as someone who is there  to take his plate. Marta is a registered nurse, she is not a maid or a housekeeper, and yet Richard simply views her as someone who exists in that home in a service capacity. It is not her job to take care of his plates, but he feels he is entitled to make her take it off him anyway. I have more to say on this, but I will come back to it in a later point. 

Marta was the only person who genuinely valued Harlan’s company. She is honest to a fault, to the extent that lying makes her physically vomit. This is a gag that is used to move the plot along, it is a physical comedic act that will make some people squirm as the detectives know when Marta is lying because she gets sick right in front of them. Marta also played a key role on the night of Harlan’s birthday party, but before I talk about whodunit, and the reveal of whodunit and how they did it,  I want to start to dig deeper into the themes that this film explores. 

Ultimately I would say that Knives Out is a film about power. Who has power? How do they have that power? Who do they have power over? What will someone do to retain that power? Underneath all of the mysterious smoke and mirrors, in the end all motives are monetary. 

For all of the family’s claims about being great, about being self-made, about building things for themselves, they are, at their core, a family of entitled, money hungry vultures. They are hypocrites and they are desperate to hold on to their father’s fortune, and all of the power that the money affords them. 

The clawing for money is a point that I will circle back to, but first I want to discuss the reveal of whodunit. 

Spoiler Alert – Whodunit? 

Ransom did it. At first audiences believe that Marta accidentally killed Harlan by mixing up his medications and giving him a deadly dose of morphine. Unable to find the emergency antidote, Marta panics and tries to get help. Harlan stops her. The pair form an airtight plan so Marta will be eliminated as a suspect. Marta’s mother is undocumented, and Marta fears she’ll be harassed and deported if she is investigated and that comes to light. Harlan knows this, and he tells Marta that she must do as he says to protect her mother. 

It is later revealed that Marta did not mix up the medications at all. Ransom tampered with them and switched the bottles, but Marta still inherently knew the difference because she had administered the medication a hundred times before and she is a good nurse. The argument that Ransom had with his grandfather on the night of his birthday was about money. Harlan revealed he was cutting him out of his will, and he revealed that he was leaving absolutely everything to Marta. Ransom came up with a plan, he planned to frame Marta for the death of his grandfather, knowing that if she was found responsible for his death, even accidentally, she could not inherit anything. 

This is likely why Harlan slit his throat. He wanted to take as much attention away from Marta as possible, and no one would suspect an overdose when they found someone with their throat slit. 

The cause of death really was suicide, but a tangled web was still created. 

Before the truth finally comes out, Ransom knew that the will reading would reveal that Marta was due to inherit everything.  He also thought she would be found guilty, overturning the inheritance. Ransom was cocky and he was the only family member who was calm at the will reading, and this point allows me to dig deeper into the film’s commentary on money and power. 

When the Thrombey family find out that each of them have been cut out of the will, they all go mad. They scream, they shout, they hurl accusations and obscenities at Marta, the one who they claimed to love, the one who they insisted was “like family” because when it comes down to the money, she is not family. Not real family. 

When Linda learns that her father cut off Ransom, she tells her son that this could be the best thing to ever happen to him, and Richard tells his son that maybe now he’ll be forced to grow up. Such condescending words from people who are still rolling in their riches. 

Five minutes later, when they learn with the rest of the family that they too have been cut out, they are furious, they are devastated, they are thrown into a state of sheer, desperate panic. 

Ransom is the person who helps Marta escape the chaos, he tells her to hop into his car and he drives her away while saying “This could be the best thing to happen to all of you” with a smirk on his face. 

At this point in the plot, audiences don’t know yet about what Ransom did, so at this moment, I actually found myself liking him. I thought this was really clever. From the start, Ransom is set up to be the worst Thrombey. He is called the black sheep, he fights with his grandfather, he has never had a job so he just uses his grandfather’s money. He is rude to Fran. He considers “the help” beneath him and makes them refer to him as Hugh, not Ransom. He is cocky, he is arrogant, and he has a smirk that you’d love to smack off his face. The dogs don’t even like him. Need I say more? 

Chris Evans did a great job in my opinion, because in this second act of the film, he made Ransom strangely likeable. There is something to be said about an asshole who knows that they are an asshole and does not pretend otherwise. We can see that Ransom is not nice, but he never pretends to be. When he and Marta are having lunch and talking about what happened that night, Ransom gets Marta to confess to him about the medications. He tells Marta that she is going to keep the inheritance, that he will help her get away with it, and then she can just give him his share. He hates his family so he feels no loyalty to them, and this way he still gets his inheritance anyway. It is a win win. 

At this moment, I was okay with this plan. As a viewer I said “Okay sure, why not. I did not expect him and Marta to team up but why not?” 

Ransom turning out to be the true killer is another way that this film played with murder mystery tropes. He is set up as the worst character. At the beginning, it is likely that many people suspected him, but then dismissed the thought as too obvious. The film then leads us to believe that he is actually, maybe alright, still an asshole, but slightly better than his vulture-like family and most people would have likely been satisfied with him helping Marta get away with the medication mistake and get his cut anyways. So when it is revealed that he had malicious intentions all along, that it actually was the most obvious choice all along, this was another brilliant way that Knives Out presented very classic and obvious tropes in new ways. 

Ransom is not a good person, but he is not the worst Thrombey. The Thrombey family members are all awful, and all in different ways. Linda is a hypocrite. She is not self-made at all. She did not build her fortune from the ground up like her father, she started out with a million dollar loan from him.  Linda as a character is someone who continuously calls herself self-made, she is proud of this. She says that Walt does not really do anything, he just publishes their father’s books. He is not the same as her. No, no, no. She conveniently forgets to mention that million dollar loan from her father when she was just starting out, and I wonder how self-made from the ground up she would have been without that loan. 

Joni’s free-spirited, liberal concerns die when her money is threatened. 

Walt very menacingly threatens to draw attention to Marta’s mother if Marta does not renounce the inheritance, but Meg, I think Meg may be the worst of all. 

Meg, the one who scolded officers and family members on Marta’s behalf. Meg who said Marta is her friend, who said she wanted to help Marta, who said that the family discussed it and they want to take care of Marta, she is the one who I think turned out to be the worst of all. 

At first she is horrified when her family members attack Marta. She tells her mother that if grandad wanted to give the money to Marta, then she thinks they should respect that, but the tables turn when Joni reveals she is broke, and she will not be able to pay for Meg’s college. 

So Meg calls Marta and she asks her what she plans to do, she tells Marta she should give the money back, because she is not family, not really. Meg tells Marta that her mother is broke, that she will have to drop out of college, but Marta tells her she won’t let that happen, she will pay for college, she will “take care” of her, and Meg learns how condescending and patronising it really is to be on the other end of that sentence. Now I would think that if someone feared they would have to drop out of college, they would be relieved if someone told them that they would not, that their fees would be paid for, but Meg is not relieved, because she is no longer the powerful one in this relationship. Meg was happy to be friends with Marta and be kind to Marta and scold others for not being kind to Marta when she was the one who held the cards. When she was the wealthy one. Now that the wind has changed, she doesn’t like it so much, and so she tells the rest of the family about Marta’s mother being undocumented. Meg gives her family the information they need to harass and bully Marta. I think Meg is the worst kind of character, she is the most sinister kind of character. Ransom is awful, but he never pretends that he isn’t. 

Meg on the other hand pretends to be nice, pretends to be progressive, maybe she even truly believes that she is, but as soon as she faced hardship, she stabbed Marta in the back and called her an outsider. 

I think having Meg turn out to be the worst Thrombey was a very clever way of highlighting the mindset of a certain kind of person. There are people who sit on moral high horses, claiming that as long as people do things the “right way” then they are welcome to share in the riches, but they don’t ever want that equality to actually happen, because their kindness, their morals, their compassion all depend on being the powerful one in the relationship. They can’t handle actually being on equal footing with someone, because then they have to admit that they don’t really respect the other person at all. They have to admit that they do see others as beneath them, that they do have unfair biases and prejudices. Knives Out was released in 2019, but this is a topic that is still relevant today, and Glass Onion also handles very important themes about money, power, and manipulation that I will discuss next week. 

So Ransom’s plan failed, because Marta did not give Harlan the wrong medication after all. 

His plan didn’t go as smoothly as he thought it would because Fran saw him tampering with Marta’s medical bag and she assumed that he was poisoning Harlan. At one point it appears that Fran is babbling on about a Hallmark movie, and it is easy to dismiss it as ridiculous chatter, but when you actually listen, you will hear that she is frantically telling Marta about a movie where the protagonist was killed slowly by being poisoned in small doses overtime, and that is what she believes Ransom was doing to Harlan. She also states that her cousin works as a receptionist in the medical examiner’s office. Another sentence that can be easily missed, but it is very important later. 

Fran also wants money, so when she gets a hold of the toxicology report, she attempts to blackmail Ransom by sending him the report. “I know what you did.” The report actually reveals that Marta was innocent all along, and Ransom cannot let this be known, so he sends the report to Marta and tricks her into thinking that the report will show the overdose. He then kills Fran with the same medication overdose that he attempted to kill Harlan with. 

The station mysteriously gets burned down, destroying all evidence. 

Just when we think all is lost and Marta is about to renounce the inheritance, Blanc reveals the copy that Fran hid, proving Marta’s innocence and unravelling Ransom’s web. 

It was an intriguing mystery and as I was watching, I had many different thoughts and guesses about how it might play out. I had different guesses about who the killer would turn out to be, because at certain points, it really could have been anyone. That is what made Knives Out so great in my opinion. The Thrombey’s are terrible people, and it really could have been anyone. 

All motives were monetary. I thoroughly enjoyed Blanc telling the family off, it was amazing to watch him tell them that they are vultures and they have treated Marta like shit, and that she would be keeping the inheritance. Blanc is a fantastic character and I look forward to seeing him again in more films. 

Something that I want to talk about is the attention to detail in this film. It was brilliant, and it was brilliant in Glass Onion too. Knives Out is the kind of film that every time you watch it, you will notice something new. A great example is that there is blood on Marta’s shoe. A tiny, almost non-existent spatter of blood, proving she was in the room, and audiences are not shown the blood stain until the middle of the film. Later, when all is resolved, Marta asks Blanc when he figured out that she was involved in some way. He tells her that he knew from the moment he met her, and he points out the tiny speck of blood on her shoe. When I watched the film again, I caught that in the scene where Blanc and Marta meet for the first time, he does indeed glance down at her feet. 

It is tiny little details like this that make all of the difference. Fran’s line about the murder movie is another fantastic example. It seems like such a throwaway thing, but it is so important. Blanc notes how the dogs never bark at Marta and he feels that a dog is the best judge of character. The dogs bark at every other family member, especially Ransom. Linda states early on that she and her father have their own secret way of communicating, she says her father loved games. This could be viewed as simply a sweet thing to say. Linda clearly adores her father, so she feels they can speak in a way that no one else understands. Later we learn that they truly did have a secret language. She finds the letter from her father about Richard’s affair, one that appears blank, but then her lighter reveals the hidden ink. The closing shot of the film is iconic. The fallen Thrombey family members are all outside the house, arguing with the officers who are taking Ransom away. They turn, mouths agape, and stare up at Marta who is standing proudly on the balcony. They always looked down at her, but now she is literally looking down at them. The film ends with a shot of her sipping out of her coffee cup, the cup that Fran did not drop at the start of the film. The cup has a saying on it. It reads “My house.” 

It is wonderful, visual storytelling. It was a really enjoyable watch. I was thoroughly invested. 

I know that I jumped around to different discussion points in this review, but it naturally happened that way as I was going through everything I wanted to say. I also felt that the film did this too, we jumped back and forth in time, we jumped into different people’s perspectives, and so my own thoughts kind of naturally jumped around too as I was writing. I’m enjoying this new style of writing where I just go with the flow a bit more, but if anyone has any questions or thoughts then please do drop a comment because I’m always excited to read other people’s thoughts, opinions, and interpretations. 

I would highly recommend watching Knives Out if you haven’t already. It is a funny yet very intriguing watch. If you have already seen it, and you feel inspired to watch it again, then I would encourage you to keep an eye out for things you may not have caught the first time around. I would also say watch and simply enjoy the fun that is a classic murder mystery. 

Enjoy the house on the hill. Enjoy the eccentric detective. Enjoy the arrogant family. Enjoy every twist and turn. 

Knives Out is an entertaining revival of the classic whodunit? 

It is funny, it is quirky, it is at times a bit ridiculous, but within all of the intrigue, this is a clever film about money and power. A brilliant story told by a fantastic cast. Bravo. 

Have you seen these films? Did you guess the killer? Do you prefer Knives Out or Glass Onion

Be sure to tune in next Wednesday. I will be reviewing and discussing Glass Onion

In the meantime you can also follow me on Instagram – @katelovesliterature if you don’t already. 

Happy New Year.

Merry Christmas Everyone.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Festive wishes & a Christmas book review by Kate O’Brien. 

Christmas is my favourite holiday. It is a time that I associate with family, friends, and lots of love. I really enjoy being festive. I enjoy buying and wrapping gifts, I love Christmas lights. I love when my home is filled with Christmas decorations. I love candy canes, I will have hot chocolate even though it is not my favourite…I do however, love a Baileys hot chocolate. 

Tis the season after all. 

I can’t believe that it is this time of year again. I feel like the year has flown by. 

It has been a busy year, but I am very thankful that I can say that it has been a great year. 

This will be my last review/discussion of 2022. I will be discussing two books. 

After I publish this piece I will be taking a break for Christmas. I love It is my passion project, but I work on my laptop, I’m doing my master’s which consists of lots and lots of research and essay writing, and I am always writing reviews so even though I love what I do, and I consider myself very lucky, I’m constantly typing so I think it is important to take time away from the laptop screen every once in a while. I will be writing and publishing reviews and discussions again in the New Year. 

Thank You. 

Before I jump into my final review of 2022, I want to take a moment to say thank you so much to all of my readers. You know who you are. Thank you so much to everyone who has subscribed to I really appreciate it, and I hope that you all have been enjoying my reviews and discussions so far. I hope that you continue to enjoy them as we move into 2023. There is so much more to come. Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates. I hope that you all have a happy and healthy New Year. Here’s to 2023. 

I want to say a special thank you to the Children’s Books Ireland team and to the Beehive Books team. I’m honoured to be a member of the Children’s Books Ireland reviewer team. I’m such an advocate when it comes to encouraging young people to read. I really believe that the books we read when we are young can open up so many doors. Everything that I do now can be credited to  the fact that I was an avid bookworm when I was young, and I am so glad that the adults in my life encouraged my love of reading and ensured that I always had books. This is why I am such a fan of the Children’s Books Ireland ethos, which is that every child has the right to be a reader, and every child should have access to good quality reading materials. Every school should have a library. I have huge admiration for everyone at Children’s Books Ireland, and for all of the work that they do, and so I am delighted that I can say that I am involved in some way. #everychildareader. 

I’ve also been so lucky this year as I have gotten to know some members of the Beehive Books team. I’ve had the opportunity to attend some book launches and to review some of their books. Everyone whom I have met has been so kind, so lovely, and so welcoming, which is something that I really appreciate. I have a keen interest in the publishing industry, and when you meet people who are doing what you are striving towards, and they are so encouraging, it is really lovely. Thank you to everyone at Beehive Books. 

I’m adding social links below. Be sure to check them out!




A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

(The first of two book discussions.)

The Christmas season never passes me by without reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It is a classic that is synonymous with Christmas in my opinion. I think it is such a significant read. Everyone should have to read this book at least once, and I do believe that it should be taught in English classes at this time of year. It is extremely hard for me to choose a definite favourite Dickens’ text. He is my favourite classic author. I loved studying his fiction and his journalism. Writing about his works was challenging, but it was a challenge that I really enjoyed. I would highly recommend reading A Christmas Carol first if you have never read any of his other works before, as although it is a dense text, I think it is a straightforward story to get into. The book also does a great job of introducing readers to the writing style of Charles Dickens. He is a very descriptive, evocative writer, and some of the scenes in A Christmas Carol are incredibly vivid because they are filled with such detail. I would argue that is why this book is so cinematic, and why a story like this lends itself to so many film adaptations. 

I have discussed A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in much more detail in a previous book discussion. You can read it by clicking the link below. 

I’m also looking forward to watching Christmas Carole starring Surrane Jones. This show will be airing on Sky on Christmas Eve, and based on the trailer, I think it looks quite good.

Surrane Jones is obviously taking on the role of Scrooge. She appears to be an uptight businesswoman who scoffs at Christmas and kindness. Following the classic Dickens plot, she will be visited by three ghosts. Some may call this plot predictable by now, and this is somewhat true because even if you have never read the original text, A Christmas Carol has been adapted so many times that by now almost everyone knows the story and how it plays out. It is a little formulaic, but that is okay. That is the nature of a story like this. It is predictable, it does follow a set structure, but nevertheless it is a heartwarming, and very important tale. I’m excited to see this new take on it, even though I already have clear ideas about how the show will play out. 

I’m a fan of Surrane Jones, and it looks as though this adaptation has a fantastic cast so I am looking forward to sitting down and tuning in this Christmas Eve. I will do a mini #watchtvwithme on the spot review as I’m watching so be sure to follow along on my Instagram stories @katelovesliterature

The Holly Pond Hill Christmas Treasury by Paul Kortepeter. 

(The second of two book discussions.) 

The Holly Pond Hill Christmas Treasury, illustrated by Susan Wheeler and written by Paul Kortepeter is a book that I have had since I was a little girl. I flipped through it again a few days ago, and I was reminded of just how charming this book is. 

This delightful book is a collection of festive recipes, Christmas stories, poems, and songs. It is filled with charming illustrations and it is the perfect read for when one is counting down the days until Christmas. The characters of Holly Pond Hill are getting into the Christmas spirit and readers will too when they flip through the pages of this Christmas treasury. I think it is such a sweet keepsake. I’m so glad that I still have it after all these years. I think that a book like this would make a lovely present for a young reader, because it is something that they can have forever. A book like this can become a Christmas tradition because it is one that can be returned to every year. I think my favourite poem in this book is A Call for Snow! It is short and sweet, and perfect for young readers who want to practise reading independently. 

I’m delighted that I came across this book. It made for a fun trip down memory lane, and I just had to share it here on 

I am looking forward to 2023. I have a feeling it will be a great year. There is so much more to come, and I believe that there is no way to go except onwards and upwards. 

For now, thank you all for reading. I appreciate every like, and every comment. I love what I do, and it is so lovely that people engage with what I write. Until next year…

Merry Christmas. 

Kate xo.

The Holiday Before Christmas: Leipzig.

A travel diary by Kate O’Brien.

Christmas trees, fairy lights, gluhwein, and more. The Christmas markets in Leipzig were a magical sight. Germany has been on my travel wishlist for a long time, and I was so excited to spend a snowy few days in Leipzig. 

I wasn’t expecting to travel again before Christmas, but my Mam surprised me with a trip to Germany. It was cold, it was snowy, it was a trip filled with festive fun. 

I couldn’t wait to go, especially because Leipzig is a city that has a rich literary history, and there is nothing I love more than exploring a #literarycity. 

We flew out on a Sunday and we flew back to Dublin the following Wednesday. 

It is fantastic that Ryanair now has direct flights from Dublin to Leipzig. 

It may have been a short trip, but it was filled with amazing food, lovely drinks, some shopping, and we explored some fantastic sights. I had the best time, and Leipzig is a city that I will most definitely be returning to, but for now, I’m delighted to be able to add Leipzig to the travel diaries. 

If you enjoy reading about literary inspired trips then read on, because I’m going to outline some of the exploring we did, and I’m going to share some of the snaps I took. This city is a photographer’s dream, especially since the entire city was decorated for Christmas. 

It was glittering, sparkling, and all things festive. 

Leipzig is a cultural hub, and I was especially excited about the city’s musical history. 

The city has often been called the city of music, and if you’re a fan of classical music then this city is one you won’t want to miss. 

Please note – All images shared are photographs that I have taken myself, with my own phone. They may not be shared without my permission. 

St. Thomas Church. 

One of the places that I was most excited to visit was St.Thomas Church. (Thomaskirche). 

This church is said to date back to the 12th century, and although it has seen some changes over time, it is hard to imagine that a structure has stood in the same spot for such a long time. 

After some renovations, today the church is a beautiful, gothic building. It is a sight to behold. 

St.Thomas Church is home to one of the oldest, and most renowned boys’ choirs. The St.Thomas Boys’ Choir has sung in these halls since the year 1212, and at one point in time the choir was led by the one and only Johann Sebastian Bach. 

Johann Sebastian Bach has a reputation as one of the best composers of all time. He has been called a genius due to the way he composes counterpoints. A counterpoint refers to when melody lines are woven together, creating the harmony at the same time as the melody. Bach was also a particularly talented organ master, and during the church’s renovations, a new Bach organ was installed. This is the impressive organ that visitors will see when they visit the church today. 

In a little corner room in the church, I found my dream come true. Instruments and sheet music, all saved and displayed in cases. It was amazing to see handwritten scores that have been saved for all these years. I love music, I studied music, and while I don’t discuss it as much as I should, I adore classical music and music theory. 

I love scores. I think that there is something incredible about seeing the work that someone put on paper. Someone sat down and created song, and that is a talent that I wish I had. 

Music is universal and immortal. It seems unbelievable that the music of a choir master from centuries ago is still being played, remembered, and respected today, but Bach has left behind an impressive musical legacy and reputation. 

I was really hoping to see some sheet music and scores, so I was not disappointed. 

Outside the church, a statue of Bach sits overlooking the grounds. I think it is lovely that he is being remembered in St.Thomas Church in Leipzig after all of his musical service there. 

It is said that Bach is buried there too. The Bach museum is directly across the street so all of these must-see sights are very easy to find. 

This is a stop that music lovers won’t want to miss. Lovers of architecture will really enjoy it too, as this building with its high ceilings and stained-glass windows is just stunning. 

I bet that hearing a choir echoing through these walls would be absolutely amazing. 

I also want to note that visitors can also view the tower, but unfortunately I could not do this as this tour does not run past November. Oh well! This gives me yet another reason to return to Leipzig, not that I needed much convincing. 

I’d also like to share one of my favourite Bach quotes. 

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” – Johann Sebastian Bach. 

I think that music is something that touches the soul and pulls on one’s heartstrings in a way that not many things can. It is absolutely incredible how a piece of music can resonate with a person so much. That is why I love this quote. 

St. Nicholas Church. 

The second church we visited was St. Nicholas Church (Nikolaikiriche). 

At this church, visitors are not permitted to take photographs.

This church is absolutely stunning, it is a sight you won’t want to miss, however it is a sight that you cannot take photographs of. You can buy a private photo pass in the gift shop for €1, which I did, however these pictures are for private use only. The church states that pictures are not permitted to be shared online or on any social media platforms. I’m sure that people share their pictures anyway, however I’m not going to do so, as I would not like any of my own photos to be shared without my permission. 

This church is a gothic building with baroque elements, and I would say that this building has a delicate, almost romantic feel to it. The interior is pink and white, and a huge silver organ sits overhead, looking down at all the pews. This organ is the largest organ in all of Saxony. 

Several of Bach’s pieces premiered in this church. This church is only a few minutes walk away from St.Thomas Church so it is definitely worth making a stop at both. 

Mephisto Bar. 

Mephisto is an elegant bar that you’ll find if you walk through the famous Mädler-Passage. The arcade was built between 1912-1914, and it is a sight of beauty and grandeur. At this time of year, it is also a sight of Christmas trees. Mephisto is a bar that has a wonderfully eccentric atmosphere. The stylish bar is home to Mephisto, who is a demon figure that can be found in German folktales. I just had to visit here as a lover of fairy tales and folktales. 

The bar is elegant, with a devilish touch. Mirrors change, and at certain times, smoke and lightning flashes as Mephisto himself makes an appearance on the ceiling. 

It is such good fun. Cocktail lovers need to make a stop here, as the menu is absolutely delicious. 

Christmas Markets. 

The highlight of my trip was exploring the Leipzig Christmas markets. These markets are the second-oldest Christmas markets in Saxony as they date back to 1458. The markets are huge, and at every turn you’ll find fairy lights, Christmas trees, decorations, gluhwein, toffee apples, and more. There are treats at every stall. Mugs, cakes, ornaments, jewellery, I could go on and on. 

Exploring the markets while Christmas music played was absolutely magical, and there was a festive joy in the air. I absolutely loved all of the hustle and bustle, even though it was very cold. 

I am so happy that I had the chance to tick Germany off my travel wishlist, although I definitely want to return to Leipzig as I know there is much more to do and see. I really wanted to see the Opera House, but unfortunately the schedule was tight. Next time that will be my first stop. 

I would absolutely return to the Christmas markets in Leipzig although I do think that the city would be lovely to explore in the summer, and I want to explore other places in Germany too, so be it in the cold or in the sun, I will be visiting Leipzig again. 

I really enjoy travelling to places that are filled with rich literature, history, and beauty, and I really enjoy writing about these trips. If you enjoy reading my travel diaries, then be sure to read all about my past trips to Oslo, London, Pompeii, Naples, Florence, and Rome as I did lots and lots of literary things in these literary cities. 

Links below: 

Disenchanted: Tired Tropes.

Disenchanted: Adaptation Issues & Tired Tropes. 

The movie is fun, kids will enjoy it, but I found the plot setup tired. 

A film discussion by Kate O’Brien. 

Disney’s Enchanted, the beloved film that brought the charming Giselle to our screens, came out in 2007, so it is safe to say that Disenchanted is a long-awaited sequel. If a sequel was needed at all is a different question altogether.

Before diving into what I liked, and what I didn’t like about Disenchanted, first I’d like to express why I’ve been disappointed with some of the latest Disney releases. 

I have made it no secret that I have felt let down by Disney sequels and adaptations recently. 

I feel as though something is always missing and the films just don’t hit the mark the way I want them too. Some may argue that I am looking back at the originals with nostalgic, rose-tinted glasses, and while I am the first to admit that the films I grew up watching are not perfect, I feel that there was a sense of overcoming adversity and actually triumphing over evil that is missing from the sequels and adaptations that we see today. Villains are just not villains anymore. They’re either completely watered down, or they’re changed completely. The “villain is not actually a villain because of their tragic backstory” trope is becoming all too common and while yes, backstories can lead to someone becoming a villain, I don’t want every story to be a villain redemption tale. Sometimes we just need a bad guy, and the stakes need to feel real. That is my main problem with some of these newer releases, the stakes just don’t feel real. 

I also find that there is a need to correct and modernise the fairy tales of the past, as they’re often dubbed outdated and sexist. I won’t pretend that some of the fairy tales that are called classics are not not outdated and/or sexist in some way, shape, or form. Many of them express ideas about people and about roles in society that are outdated today, but I do think that context is important, and it is important to remember the times in which these stories were written. Thankfully attitudes have changed along with the times, but I still think context is important when reading old fairy tales in modern day, because while one can still dislike and critique the outdated ideas, it is still important to remember that they were written in a different time.

 In my opinion, it is too easy to call a female protagonist weak. It is too easy to say “this character waited to be saved.” I think critiques like this too often ignore the fact that these stories were often written in a time where women did not have personal agency. They were not allowed to. They could not just do as they pleased, when they pleased. It is an uncomfortable fact, but a fact nonetheless, that there was a time when women were considered property. There was a time when women were not allowed to vote, and there was a time when a woman had to leave her job if she got married, and of course stories written in this time will reflect those attitudes, this includes fairy tales. 

Many fairy tale heroines do the best they can within the situations they find themselves in, and this reality of making the best of a situation that you had no control over would have been very relatable to women existing in those times. Women having personal agency and control over their own lives, and their own minds, and their own autonomy is a battle that is still being fought today in 2022. Some people are of the opinion that they can decide what a woman can and cannot do with her own body. It is frightening to see what is happening in different parts of the world, but the point I am making is that even though times have changed, the idea of people being limited by societal rules is an idea that still exists today, and so to dismiss the outside factors that limit a heroine’s choices and simply say she is weak and has no agency at all is unfair. 

This leads me to the issue with modern retellings or sequels trying to “correct” the mistakes of the past fairy tales. There is a huge attempt made to give female characters more agency, to prove they don’t need a man, to prove that “love at first sight” is a notion to be forgotten, and while I am all in favour of giving female characters agency, and portraying more realistic relationships, and of course I want stories that are empower young viewers, I still think it is important to pay attention to the details, otherwise you have stories that contradict the point they are trying to make. 

Take the 2015 live-action adaptation of Cinderella as an example. This version wanted to correct the mistake of having Cinderella and the prince fall in love with each other after just one night at the ball – now there are countless versions of Cinderella, many of which involve several meetings, and this adaptation wants to highlight this idea, so the film has Ella and Kit meet in the woods. He meets her as an “honest country girl” instead of as a princess at the ball. He is smitten by her even though she is wearing her rags and has soot on her face so see! He loves her for her! He fell in love with her. Great. Another idea this adaptation had was to give Ella some “spunk.” The shock on her stepsisters’ faces when she answers them in fluent French after they teased her for being unable to speak French is comical. See! This adaptation gives audiences a Cinderella who does not blindly do as her stepfamily says. She’s got spunk. She showed them, except she didn’t, because the rest of the film has her obediently trying to please them. She does not understand why they’re so cruel to her, and despite it all she does her best to be kind. 

Disclaimer – I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I love the story of Cinderella and I have always interpreted it as a story about a girl who survives being trapped in an abusive household, so even in the story’s original form, I have never thought of Cinderella as a weak character who has no agency. I’ve always considered her to be incredibly brave and strong. Strength comes in many forms, and it does not always involve being permanently sarcastic and rejecting authority. 

Ella in the 2015 adaptation has one “spunky” moment as the film wanted to correct previous critiques of the story, by showing an Ella who can speak back. My issue with this is that she only does it once, and it really serves no purpose at all. The frustrating thing is that this film still faced the same critiques. Audiences still called Ella passive, especially because she chooses to forgive her stepmother at the end. I’ve always watched this scene differently, I viewed it as a gracious act. Ella is stating that she forgives her stepmother as she heads off to a happy life with Kit. She will not suffer due to her stepmother anymore, she is free of her, whereas her stepmother who is now banished, will likely think about Ella forevermore. 

What is even more frustrating is that the deleted scenes show that the film originally was going to have Ella write a letter to Kit, telling him who she really is. She manages to sneak out, and get the letter to the palace, only for it to be intercepted and thrown into the fire by the Duke. 

I still don’t understand why a film that was trying to give Cinderella more agency would cut out that scene. It would have been far more impactful than the French speaking scene. Imagine if audiences could have seen Ella decide to take ownership of the fact that she has feelings for Kit. Imagine how exciting it would have been to watch her boldly decide to act on her desire, because she has decided she deserves to, and write a letter to the man she loves telling him the truth. We could have then watched her sneak out of her abusive home and gallop on her horse to the palace, and the Duke intercepting the letter and throwing it into the fire would have been far more infuriating, because we would have seen all of the effort Ella went to, to try and get to Kit. We would have been rooting for her. Instead that entire section was cut and I will always be disappointed by that. Details are important, and if you want to update a story, or modernise it, you can but it has to be done in a way that makes sense. 

This point very nicely brings me to Disenchanted as this sequel became Cinderella for a while, despite the film clearly trying to nod to all fairy tales, another point that I will talk about because while nods to other movies are fun, there is still a way to go about doing them. 

Adam Shankman directed the 2022 film Disenchanted. The film follows a disheartened Giselle who is struggling with the stress and realities of everyday life. Giselle misses the ease of her life before New York, and so she wishes for a “fairy tale” life, but her wish goes horribly wrong. 

Soon the town becomes a fairy tale, but it is not what Giselle pictured. She is a stepmother now and in traditional fairy tales, stepmothers are evil so now Giselle must fill that archetypal role whether she wants to or not. There is only so much time for the spell to be undone, for if it is not reversed then it will become permanent, and Andalasia will cease to exist for Giselle will have taken all the magic from her hometown and brought it to her new world. 

I’m going to start off by discussing all of the things that I would have changed, and while it may seem like I am nit-picking, I really felt like this film had great ideas, but the execution was sloppy. 

 I think that details are important. Following that, I will talk about what I enjoyed, because despite not being 100% wowed by the film, I did have fun, and while I will always be honest and express my opinions, I don’t want my thoughts to only be somewhat negative, because there is no nuance in that. 

I want to talk about the setup. I did not like it. Specifically, I don’t like how the film moves us to Giselle being desperate enough to make her wish. The biggest issue I have is the way the film treats Morgan. 

A pet peeve of mine is when stories treat teenagers as if they are just difficult, impossible to understand beings by default. “You know how they are at this age.” “That’s teenagers for you.” 

I can’t stand it. Adolescence is a time that is filled with changes and pressures. Puberty, relationships, school pressures, exams, college decisions, job decisions. It can be a difficult, and embarrassing, and stressful time, and yes, mood swings can occur, but it bothers me in stories (and in real life) when a group of grown adults can’t seem to extend any empathy or ask what is going on, instead they roll their eyes and proclaim “Teenagers! They’re miserable!” 

Even worse, when adults do ask what is going on, but dismiss the answer as “not that serious.” 

The beginning of Disenchanted places Morgan in the stereotypical, miserable teenager role, and I was very disappointed by this. I understand why the writers did this, as it does tie into the movie’s ending, a point that I will get to later. 

Warning – there will be spoilers. 

Having some tension between Giselle and Morgan was needed for what the writers wanted to do, however I wish they had gone about it in a different way. I feel like the “awful teenager” narrative is overdone and at this point, I find it lazy. 

The plot is centred around Giselle and her feelings. She is dismayed because life is harder than she imagined it would be. As in fairy tales, finding your happily ever after is the hardest part. 

Now Giselle is in the real world, she is married to Robert, they have a new baby. She is exhausted, and her relationship with Morgan is becoming more difficult to navigate. So Giselle is certain that moving house will solve all her woes. There is nothing better than a fresh start after all.

Morgan, naturally, is upset about the move. She is leaving her home, her school, and all of her friends, but none of her feelings are valid, of course not. She is a teenager, and therefore she is moody for no reason. It has nothing to do with her entire life being upended. Not at all. 

Morgan has grown up. She is no longer a little girl, and while she still loves Giselle, she finds her constant reference to fairy tale life a bit exhausting, and honestly, I don’t blame her. 

A running gag in this movie is the fact that Giselle has no idea what sarcasm is or how it works. This is another reason why she finds Morgan’s teenage years so difficult. She looks back to the days when Morgan was little, when she would ask for princess stories every night. She says it was so easy then. Everyone tries to reassure her that it is just a phase, this is just how teenagers are, and I became quite frustrated by this line. This is not “just how teenagers are.” The fact is that Morgan is not six anymore. She is a young woman, in highschool, so of course her interests have changed. It is unfair for anyone to expect Morgan to be exactly the same as she was when she was a little girl. 

I think the scene that I disliked the most was the scene where Giselle sets up a cupcake stall to encourage Morgan’s new school peers to vote for Morgan to be princess of the festival. Giselle has good intentions, but I was still bothered that Giselle could not see why Morgan would not want this. Morgan does not want to be a princess. She just wants to fit in at her new school and make some friends after having to leave her old school and her old friends behind, something that the always chirpy, always singing Giselle does not make any easier. Morgan is laughed at by everyone, but again her feelings are dismissed because “Giselle was just trying to help.” 

I think the problem is that the character of Giselle was beloved in the first movie. She is iconic. She was naive, charming, and romantic. She was a real-life princess. This worked so well because the plot was that she got literally shoved from her fairy tale life into New York. She had no idea how anything worked. She was fascinated by everything, and her openness and genuine nature allowed Robert to break out of his cynical box. Naturally Disney wanted to bring that Giselle back to our screens, the Giselle that everyone knows and loves. The problem is that this Giselle does not work anymore. It was as though Giselle did not change one bit despite all the time that has passed. She has lived in New York for years, she has built a life there, but we are still expected to believe that she understands nothing about how the “real” world works. 

There is a difference between a teenager being unreasonably snarky, and Morgan being frustrated because her mother has uprooted her entire life, and opened her up to endless ridicule from her new classmates. Morgan is the new kid in town, and the new kid in school, which is hard enough as it is, but Giselle makes this even harder, and then she gets upset when Morgan does not react the way she did when she was little. It was frustrating to watch.  

This tension with Morgan, alongside the troubles they face in their new home, is what prompts Giselle to make a wish for a fairy tale life. Her wish gets complicated however, when she turns into an evil stepmother. This was clever, if a little on the nose. In archetypal fairy tales, stepmothers are traditionally cruel. Giselle is Morgan’s stepmother. So when she wishes for a fairy tale life, Giselle unknowingly gives herself the role of the villain, because as time passes, she takes on more stereotypical stepmother traits. 

The plot becomes Cinderella for a while. Giselle destroys Morgan’s dress, she locks her in the attic, she forbids her from attending the festival, and she even quotes the famous stepmother speech from the 1950s animation. I enjoyed the nod, but I felt that the plot was messy because it was not clear who the protagonist was. It should have been Morgan, but it wasn’t. Giselle was sort of the protagonist, but the movie wanted a twist so they made her the antagonist, as well as having another villain. So we had two villains, battling to see who could be the most wicked. 

I would have preferred it if Morgan was the true protagonist. I would have preferred more screen time with her, as she tries to figure out what is happening, what is going on, why is everyone around her, including her becoming more and more of a storybook caricature? 

Funnily enough, despite modern movies trying to stray away from the “damsel” critiques, Giselle’s wish takes away all of Morgan’s bad feelings about the move, and she becomes a permanently smiling, singing, ideal storybook fair maiden who is trying her very best to gain her stepmother’s approval. I’m not critiquing Morgan, I enjoyed her scenes, and I enjoyed her singing, but I just think it is ironic that Disney placed her in the role that so many adaptations constantly try to “correct.” 

Before anyone says I’ve taken the movie too seriously, I am aware it is a Disney movie. I am aware that it is for children, however I still think the plot was messy, and that kids deserve plots that are well developed. While I was irritated, I did not completely hate this movie. I just wish it was better. 

Let’s talk about the positives. 

I enjoyed the songs. It was very bright. The costumes were beautiful, everyone looked as though they jumped out of a storybook, as they should. I absolutely loved seeing the Irish locations. 

I’m biassed of course, but I am Irish, and I think that Ireland is beautiful, so it was great to see a movie that takes advantage of Ireland’s natural beauty. The cast were fantastic. I love Amy Adams. It is clear that she loves this role, and despite my frustrations with this sequel, I do love her in this role. No one else could play Giselle, however this time around, Giselle’s character didn’t impress me the way she did the first time. 

I do want to talk about the final scene between Giselle and Morgan, because despite my issues with the movie’s setup, I really loved this moment and I feel like it is a really heartwarming, and important scene. When it all comes down to it, Morgan is the only one who can undo Giselle’s wish. Morgan fears she won’t be able to, for the magic states that only a “true daughter” can use the wand. Morgan fears all hope is lost. She is not from Andalasia. She is not from a magical world. She can’t use the want. Giselle tells her that yes she can use the wand, she can do it, because she is a true daughter. “You’re my daughter Morgan.” 

This is a beautiful moment, and it is an important one. The movie talks about how bonds don’t have to be biological to be strong. In a time where many children have stepparents, I felt that this theme was a very poignant and significant one. Morgan did feel insecure about not being a “true daughter of Andalasia.” She did feel insecure when her father and Giselle had a child of their own. I feel like this would be a very realistic thing, especially when the age gap is so big. Babies get doted on naturally, but this can add to insecurities when the relationship changes in your teenage years. Giselle raised Morgan, she has always been there for Morgan. She loves Morgan. Morgan is her daughter. Their bond is true, and loving, and valid, and Morgan needed to know that. She needed to hear that. All parents need to reassess their relationships with their children as they get older, because as a child grows, they change, and this does not automatically have to be a bad thing. I loved this scene, and I understand why the writers chose to lead up to this moment the way they did, I understand why they created friction, I just wish it was done a bit differently. Very differently. 

My ideal version of this sequel would have removed the tired “teenagers, ugh” trope. 

I would have had Giselle feel homesick, because having a new baby is tiring, it is hard. 

The move could have still taken place, and Morgan still could have felt sad about leaving her friends and school, because those are valid feelings. Robert having to adjust to commuting could have stayed, because that is a realistic stress factor. I would have removed Giselle trying to get everyone to vote for Morgan as festival princess, but left in the other kids scoffing at Morgan and not being overly kind to the new kid, because again, that is realistic. 

All of these combined would have still led to Giselle yearning for the ease of Andalasia, because things just are not working out how she expected them to. As for the tension between Giselle and Morgan, I would have removed the constant badmouthing of Morgan and instead, I’d have had her naturally not being as interested in Giselle’s fairytale stories. I would have had Robert reassuring Giselle that Morgan loves her, but it is natural for kids to want to do their own thing more as they get older. Giselle could have still struggled with this change, as that is realistic. It is normal for parents to have to adapt when their kids are getting older. The relationship changes because it has to, so that distance between Giselle and Morgan would still have been there, but it would have been done in a way that was not tired, overdone, and frankly unfair. 

After Giselle’s wish goes wrong, I would have had Morgan be the clear protagonist. 

I would have liked to see her trying to figure out what was going on, and how to fix it, and this way Giselle could have been the clear antagonist as the curse would have made her more and more wicked as time passed. I feel this would have been really fun, and the clarity of who is the protagonist, and what they are trying to overcome would have made the stakes and triumphs much more satisfying. 

Overall I think that Disenchanted was fun. It is clear that the cast had a ball. The songs were great, it was bright and lively. The movie was filled with references to other fairy tales so Disney lovers will appreciate all of these moments. I’m sure kids will enjoy this movie, I just wish it had been written slightly differently. I would have loved to see a tad more nuance, and some fresh stories instead of repeating tired tropes that I’m really getting sick of seeing. 

Know who your protagonist is. Know who your antagonist is. Be clearer about everyone’s motivations, and allow characters to mature. 

Sometimes movies should be left alone, as a sequel is not really needed, but that is a discussion for another time.

N O P E.

An eerie, slow-burning film about violence, obsession, and the idea of becoming a spectacle. 

A review by Kate O’Brien. 

NOPE was released in July of 2022 and the film was directed by Jordan Peele. 

I watched NOPE for the first time a few days ago and while it is a great choice of film to talk about during #spookyseason, this film is one that will stay with me for a long time. 

If you’re a new reader here at, you may not know that despite pushing through and watching anyways, I am not the biggest fan of horror. 

I used to say that as a blanket statement –   “I don’t like horror.” 

I’ve realised that this isn’t true. Horror intrigues me. I can like horror and often do, the problem is that I am jumpy and squeamish. I hate blood, the sight of it makes me nauseous and so the idea of many horror films make me squirm, however if I am interested enough in a concept, I have found ways to get over my fears and watch anyways. I will begrudgingly admit that despite covering my eyes during certain scenes, I usually enjoy the films I watch overall and I am often filled with many thoughts. 

NOPE is a film that I really enjoyed. I was assured that there are only two bloody/gory scenes that I would be fairly warned about and the rest of the film is a slow, suspense-filled, slow-burn. 

This is true. While there are some tense scenes, it is not a gore fest and there is only one jump-scare that was quite mild, and that is coming from me. So, if you’re like me and you hate blood but you’re curious about this film, I would recommend it. The first scene that I had to look away from happens very early on, when a character gets injured. The second scene that I had to look away from happens much later on. This movie is separated into acts with title chapters so – spoiler alert- 

When the Gordy section begins, I would recommend covering one’s eyes as this section opens with a long-panning, quite graphic, gory scene, but once this scene has passed, that is it. There is no more gore or shocking injuries for the rest of the movie. The third-act actually moves at a very quick pace and it even felt like an action movie at times, but I am getting ahead of myself. 

All of my thoughts and opinions, and interpretations are my own, so as with any film, I may have a completely different take on it compared to someone else’s, but I would suggest that this is a film that is talking about violence, and an audience’s obsession with violence and how we can make a spectacle out of things if we don’t respect them enough. 

Spoilers below. 

Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer star as OJ and Emerald, siblings who come together after their father dies. Their father, Otis Haywood Sr., taught his children the family business of training horses for films and television. Otis is on a horse when a mysterious coin falls from the sky, hits him in the eye and kills him. OJ and Emerald are grieving together and trying to keep the business going after their father’s death, but their family ranch has become home to an unknown presence. OJ and Emerald experience strange power outages and they also see something – they don’t know what, in the sky. The plot follows OJ and Emerald as they set out to capture video evidence of this mysterious object in the sky that appears to be eating things, including people.

I think that this film has done something really interesting, because in my opinion, this film has used alien film tropes to its advantage in order to explore various themes. As I was watching the film and trying to figure out what I think it means, there came a moment when I said, “this is an alien film.” 

In some ways, it is an alien film and I’ve even heard that some people interpreted NOPE to stand for “Not of planet earth”, but according to Peele, this is coincidental. It is an alien film in the sense that the main protagonists are attempting to capture footage of of extraterrestrial beings on camera, to prove that the strange happenings that are occurring at their home are actually real, and in the process of doing this, they find themselves in danger, but I think that this film is more than an alien film. I think this is a film that uses alien plot point tropes to tell a bigger story. 

I want to talk about the setting. This film is set out in the middle of nowhere on the Haywood ranch. There are some absolutely stunning visuals in this movie. There are big, sprawling, panning shots that show beautiful star filled skies, sprawling mountains, and a horizon that stretches and stretches. The Haywood’s house is a perfect backdrop for a horror film. It is a big house on a hill on a ranch out in the middle of nowhere. It is beautiful and eerie all at once. It is hard to get to and more importantly, hard to get away from. I would also argue that there are some gothic elements to this film. A very common trope in gothic literature is the idea that home becomes a place of danger rather than a place where one finds safety. In NOPE, the Haywood’s childhood home becomes the sight of odd occurrences and instead of feeling safe there, the Haywood’s are now at the mercy of whatever is in the sky. That is, they are at its mercy until they figure out what it is, and how to tame it. 

In films, lighting and sound can be used in really impactful, evocative ways and in this film, the light is very important. Whenever something unsettling is about to happen, the power goes out. Lights go out, any music that is playing trails off in a rather jarring way that it is unsettling to the ear. When the thing in the sky is gone, the lights come back on and this is a signal to the audiences that our protagonists are safe – for now. 

I want to talk about what I think the film’s themes are. I would argue that the film’s themes are the  ideas of watching and looking, the idea of how people can become obsessed with violence and violent acts, the idea of how obsession can lead to danger, and I would also argue that the film touches on ideas about control, the want to control other beings, or the want to control the narrative etc. 

This is also a film about family. OJ and Emerald are brother and sister and this is a film about them coming together and working together to defeat something. The two characters go on a journey together. If you strip away every other element, this is a film that is about grieving siblings who come together to face adversity, and that is beautiful. It’s touching. Their story really pulled on my heartstrings throughout the entire film. 

Filming is a topic that comes up a lot during this film. After his father’s death, OJ takes a horse to a shoot for a commercial, but the shoot doesn’t go well because the people on set do not listen to his safety demonstration and they do not treat the horse with respect. This leads to the horse getting spooked, and even though no one was hurt, OJ loses the job. Times have been tough on the ranch and some horses have had to be sold in order to make ends meet. This leads us to meeting Ricky “Jupe” Park. Jupe was a child actor who worked on the sitcom “Gordy’s Home.” Now the adult Jupe runs a western theme park and he has been buying Haywood horses. He even offers to buy the ranch. Jupe is very proud of the work he did as a child on “Gordy’s Home”, but the thing he talks about the most, the story that he exploits, is the tragedy that happened on set. Jupe recalls the story and tells Emerald and OJ how one day, one of the chimps playing Gordy attacked several co-stars on set, and that tragic event is the reason why chimps are not used on sets anymore. Jupe witnessed this entire tragic event play out and it has had a profound impact on him as an adult, but this is a point that I will expand on later. 

OJ contemplates Jupe’s offer, and Emerald encourages him to accept it, and while mulling this over, more strange events start occurring on the ranch, prompting OJ and Emerald to want to capture it on film. An important thing to note is that they want to be the ones to capture the evidence on film, because they don’t want anyone else to find out about the events on the ranch and film it, pushing the Haywood’s out. It is their family home, and they want to be the ones to tell this story, and I think this is an important point to keep in mind when thinking about who tells stories and the way that stories are told. 

When OJ and Emerald go to buy camera equipment, they meet Angel at the store. Angel is a tech enthusiast and he sets up the equipment at the house. He becomes a supportive friend to OJ and Emerald and as the film plays out, he helps them capture footage of what is eventually called a UFO. 

I don’t think this film has a villain, although out of everyone’s actions, Jupe’ are arguably the worst. It becomes obvious that the tragedy on the “Gordy’s Home” set had a profound impact on Jupe because now as an adult, he is obsessed with violent acts. He is obsessed with the idea of a spectacle. 

The thing in the sky, the UFO, is actually animal like. It is a predator. OJ is the one who figures this out. This makes sense, seeing as it is his family that has knowledge of animals, how to train them, and also, they respect them. The film takes time to teach audiences about what not to do around horses. No loud noises, no sudden movements, don’t look them in the eye, don’t get too close. Doing these things can spook a horse. OJ figures out that the thing in the sky is predator like because it is being territorial over the ranch, and one way to stay safe is to not look up. Don’t look it in the eye. 

The predator in the sky gets hungry, it scours for prey, it eats horses and sometimes it eats people, and then spits out things it can’t eat, hence the coins falling from the sky. We as the audience, learn that Jupe has become so obsessed with the spectacle that this thing creates that he has been buying the horses from OJ to use as bait to lure the thing in the sky out. 

The last character I need to mention before I talk anymore about the themes is Antlers Holst. Holst is a cinematographer who Emerald calls because she wants his help getting footage of the thing in the sky, the thing that she has named Jean Jacket, referring to a horse she didn’t get to tame when she was a child. I am mentioning Holst because he has a line that I feel really captures the entire message of the film. 

Holst is all about getting “the shot.” Holst warns Emerald that this thing that she is chasing, the dream that will take her to the top of the mountain, it is endless. It is a dream that “you never wake up from.”  

This line is really important. This idea of chasing this dream, this idea of being obsessed with “getting the shot, the shot” is ultimately Holst’s undoing. 

Holst has vast experience when it comes to capturing the extraordinary on film, and he uses manual cameras so the power outages do not mess with his footage, but he falls prey to the very thing he warned Emerald about. He got the shot. He captured Jean Jacket on film, but he wanted more, he wanted a better shot, so because he was so obsessed with getting the shot, he ignored all warnings and put himself in harm’s way. He ended up getting devoured by Jean Jacket, he died for the shot

This is extremely significant, because I feel like this moment sums up so much of the rest of the film. Jupe is obsessed with the idea of a spectacle, so much so that he uses horses as bait, endangering them and other people too, all because he is so fixated on seeing the chaos come to life. This obsession is a direct result of what happened to him when he was on set as a child. The tragic day where so many people get extremely hurt has become a spectacle. People don’t treat it with the respect that it deserves, instead people have become obsessed with watching the clip online. People are obsessed with how awful it was, so much so that is has become almost entertaining in a very twisted way. Jupe thrives off of telling the story, even though he is still haunted by it. He loves talking to people about that day because he loves how invested and engaged people are in the story. This is why he wants to lure Jean Jacket out of the sky. He wants a spectacle, and it never seems to occur to him that by doing this, he is endangering and disrespecting other people, and the horses.

He’s not thinking about them, they’re simply part of his spectacle. 

I think it would impossible to watch this film and not at all think about what it implies about animals in performance capacities. The Haywood’s care for their horses and respect them. They want their horses to be safe and healthy. Not everyone on set feels that way, Jupe doesn’t care about the horses when he is using them as bait, OJ and Emerald and Angel are the only ones who take Jean Jacket seriously. They respect the fact that the thing in the sky is a predator. It is a threat. It is not something that Jupe should be making a circus out of. Obviously times have changed compared to years and years ago, and where once upon a time large animals were used in theme parks and in circuses in unnatural habitats, this is a notion that is hugely controversial now as more and more people are against animals being held in captivity this way. 

I think this idea is impossible to ignore as it perfectly ties into the idea of making a spectacle out of something that should not be one. 

As we approach the end of the film, a journalist gets wind of the strange things that are happening at the Haywood ranch, so he arrives with a video camera. OJ, Emerald and Angel already have a plan set in motion about how to tame Jean Jacket so that no-one else gets hurt. This plan gets put at risk when the journalist shows up. Emerald tries to shoo him away, but he is invested and determined to get his shots. Just like Holst, he dies for the sake of filming. OJ did his best to save him but it was too late, and he too gets devoured by Jean Jacket. In his final moments, he is screaming about making sure this is filmed, make sure his death is caught on camera, so even in his final moments, he’s not thinking about his life, he’s thinking about getting his shot. 

While I can’t say for certain that this was Peele’s intention, this film really made me think about social media culture and how far we will go to get the shot. How far will we go for appearances? Do we put ourselves in harm’s way by doing too many performative things? 

Obviously this is quite extreme. I’ve always held the opinion that social media can be nothing more than lighthearted and fun as long as you behave responsibly and remember that so many things are created and altered so it cannot be viewed as the be all and end all, but as in all horror movies, this idea is taken to the extreme and forces audiences to question things. 

I’ve talked about it before, but there is this idea that the morbid is curious. Violence can be very intriguing. I’ve written about violence onscreen in an academic setting, and the idea that really resonated with me is the idea that when something seems so unimaginable, it is fascinating. 

It is the idea of wanting to look away but being unable to do so. Audiences enjoy experiencing violence from afar, in a safe way. Watching violence is intriguing because it poses no threat to us when we are safe on our sofas, but there does come a point where you have to think about what you’re doing. Are you viewing the victims of the violent acts as people? Are you feeling sympathy for them? Are you empathising with them? Or have they become part of a spectacle? Have their feelings been forgotten entirely? It is a very interesting, and complex topic because sadly violence does occur, and to pretend it doesn’t happen ever in the media that we take in would be insincere. 

How violence is contextualised is very important, and I would suggest that NOPE is a film that prompts audiences to think about the ways in which we view violence and violent acts onscreen. 

Despite this movie being unsettling, I would say that it ended on a hopeful note. 

I am going to spoil the ending because I want to talk about how I felt that the film had a full-circle structure. 

I am very happy that OJ and Emerald both survive. I was worried that we would lose one of them, but I was pleasantly surprised when this wasn’t the case. The film ends with Emerald capturing the shot and Jean Jacket gets destroyed. OJ and Emerald work together the entire time, but in the end, Emerald is the one to “tame” Jean Jacket and I found this to be very poignant. Emerald didn’t get to train or tame the horse when she was a child, because the horse got booked for a job and because OJ was older, he got to go to work with their father, but OJ always looked back at Emerald. Now, we come full-circle. Emerald is an adult, and even though she and OJ are always there for each other, always looking back at each other, she is the one who gets to tame this Jean Jacket, and the film ends with her and OJ smiling at each other, thrilled that they are both okay as photographers and journalists start arriving with their cameras, all wanting their shot. 

The cycle starts again. Something happens and we always want to make a spectacle out of it. We want the details, we want the story, we want to know because we’re morbidly fascinated by the events that have occurred, because they seem so unimaginable. I feel this will always be the way it works, because we do need news, we do need to be informed, but it is important to remember to respect the people who actually experienced the event and view them as actual people, rather than figures for our own entertainment. 

NOPE is a brilliantly paced, slow-burning film that is deeply unsettling and extremely thought provoking. It is bright yet there is this constant, underlying tension that something isn’t right, something is wrong, and that sense of danger and urgency continues to build and become more intense, and then the final act moves at a very swift pace. It is perfect. It mirrors the sense of urgency that we feel as viewers. The characters must act now. The plan has to work. 

It is unsettling without being excessively gory. The score is stunning, and some of the visuals are almost like a painting. Overall I would say that NOPE is an extremely evocative film, and I would highly recommend it. 

Have you watched NOPE? 

Hocus Pocus 2: Nostalgia Is Not Enough.

The witches are back! I could not have been more excited for their return. 

I loved Hocus Pocus when I was younger. I still love the movie today. Every October I look forward to getting cozy and watching Hocus Pocus in the lead up to Halloween. You can read my review of the beloved original by clicking the link below. 

It goes without saying that the movie that became a cult classic was always going to be a very tough act to follow. I enjoyed the sequel. I had a lot of fun watching the movie, but beyond the fun that the nostalgia provided, the sequel’s plot left a lot to be desired. I feel that this is a story that had so much potential, but unfortunately it fell flat. 

Let me explain why nostalgia is just not enough. 

Before I dive into this review, I do want to say that I know this is supposed to be a fun movie for kids and some readers may think I am taking it far too seriously, but I review a broad range of texts here on, children’s literature included, and I’ve always held the opinion that even if a movie is aimed towards children, the plot can and should still be of good quality. 

I will be drawing comparisons to the original movie as that too was aimed towards children, but the original movie takes its audience seriously, and while the original is not a perfect movie either, the plot had so much more heart, and more importantly, the movie actually had some stakes. 

Let’s talk about the plot of Hocus Pocus 2. The sequel follows Becca and her two best friends Izzy and Cassie as they must figure out a way to defeat the Sanderson Sisters who have returned once again to Salem. 

I have a suspicion that there were many drafts of this script, and I have a suspicion that within the final cut that aired, there were at least three other movie ideas that existed. The plot is messy, and annoyingly lacking. My biggest issue with this sequel is the fact that there are no stakes. 

Let’s talk about the new cast, because before I can elaborate on the lack of stakes, first we need to talk about our new protagonists. I do want to say that I think the actors did a great job, but I feel like all of the new characters had untapped potential. 

Let’s start with Becca. Becca was played by Whitney Peak, and I think that Peak did a fantastic job, but I really wish she had been given more material. Becca is the main protagonist, and one would guess that she is going to be the Max of this movie. This is another problem, one would assume that Becca is the Max of this movie, as she is the main protagonist, however the movie takes a different route and presents Becca as the Winifred of her trio. This just does not work, because Becca and Winifred are supposed to be the protagonist and antagonist respectively. I will elaborate on this point further on in my review, but first I want to discuss the fact that I feel like we barely know anything about Becca, Izzy, and Cassie. 

Becca is headstrong and she has an interest in magic. That is it. That is all we know about her. We don’t meet her parents. We don’t know where this interest in magic comes from. We don’t know what is important to her. Her friends are important to her, but the movie does not set her up as someone who loves her friends more than anything, the movie just sort of tells viewers that she is a good friend. Becca is the leader of the trio, simply because she has more lines than Izzy and Cassie. Cassie is missing for so much of the movie, it is frustrating. It is frustrating because the movie clearly indicates that Becca, Izzy and Cassie are the new generation of witches. Becca is Winifred, Izzy is Mary, and Cassie is Sarah. The girls and the Sanderson sisters are even dressed in matching colour schemes. Becca is wearing various shades of green, Izzy is wearing burgundies along with her hair in a similar half up, half down pony, Izzy is at Becca’s side throughout the entire movie while Cassie has boyfriend troubles, mirroring how Mary is always at Winifred’s side while Sarah is the romantic Sanderson sister. The mirroring is obvious. I don’t mind a “passing of the torch” plot, in fact I think that “passing the torch” storylines can be quite poignant, especially when it comes to childhood classics, the problem I have with this in Hocus Pocus 2 is that the “torch passing” is far too abrupt, and it also doesn’t make any sense. 

Izzy is Becca and Cassie’s best friend. She seems sweet. Her mother is named Susan. Izzy is slightly more nervous than Becca, she does not assert herself as confidently as Becca does. That is it. That is all we know about her, that and the fact that she misses Cassie and is willing to admit it, whereas Becca is clearly more annoyed with Cassie than Izzy is. 

Cassie is the mayor’s daughter. Her father is overbearing. Cassie has a boyfriend called Mike, and because she is dating Mike, she has grown distant from Becca and Izzy. Mike pokes fun at Becca because of her interest in magic and as he calls it, “witchy stuff”. Mike is not malicious, he’s just a bit clueless. Becca and Izzy just want to be able to hang out with Cassie again like old times, without Mike and his friends. They don’t communicate this properly. Cassie feels like she’s been iced out of the group, she does not realise that she’s been distant with her friends, it was not malicious on her part either. Their friendship just needed more communication. That is it. That is all we know about Cassie, that she is dating Mike and Becca and Izzy don’t like Mike. So Cassie is missing for so much of the plot, and that just can’t happen if the movie wants to present Becca, Izzy and Cassie as the new, modern, trio of witches. Winifred, Mary and Sarah are always together. They are a team, a trio. If the movie wanted to have a story about friends growing apart and coming back together to face adversity, that would have been great. I think the team behind the movie thinks that the movie did in fact do that, but the reason behind the girls falling out is flimsy at best, and Cassie is not in the movie enough to establish herself as an integral part of the trio so when the girls do makeup, I don’t care as much about it as the movie wants me to. Cassie being in the group again makes absolutely no difference to their actions. 

The original movie’s plot worked because the movie spent time setting up who Max is, and who is important to him. We know about Max. He is the new kid in town, he misses his old home, he’s not into Halloween the way everyone else is so he is the odd one out in class, he loves his little sister even though she annoys him sometimes, and he has a crush on Alison. 

This information is easy to showcase and it sets up Max’s actions throughout the entire movie. 

He wants to impress Alison because he has a crush on her so he agrees to go to the Sanderson house because Alison loves Halloween and the legend of the Sanderson sisters. Max is cocky, and he does not believe in the story of the Sanderson sisters, so he dismisses all warnings and lights the black flame candle. The rest of the movie follows Max as he has to face the consequences of his actions, he has to undo his mistake and defeat the Sanderson sisters, and he is motivated to do this because despite all annoyances, he does love his little sister and he wants to keep her safe. Max, Dani and Alison are our trio. They are guided through the night by Binx. Binx is a boy who was turned into a cat by the Sanderson sisters after he failed to save his little sister from them so the mirroring in the original is shown through Binx and Max. Max mirrors Binx because he is determined to save his sister, just like Binx was, and Binx is determined to help Max because he couldn’t save his sister so he is determined to ensure that the Sanderson sisters do not win again. 

Becca, Izzy and Cassie are not guided by anyone. They kind of just have to figure things out for themselves, which would be fine except there is no real goal. There is Gilbert who owns the magic shop, and originally I thought that perhaps he would play the guiding role, as he is the one who would know the most about magic, but instead Gilbert is a character who is all over the place.

It is revealed that Gilbert created a new black flame candle and tricked Becca into lighting it, because he is obsessed with the Sanderson sisters and wanted to bring them back. It is revealed that he was one of the children in the original movie and he saw the sisters the night Max defeated them, and since then, he has been obsessed with finding a way for them to return.  

In the original, Winifred is obsessed with stealing Dani’s soul and Mary and Sarah loyally follow her through all of her plans. Winifred could have followed through with her plans had she gone after any other child, but Winifred is petty and revenge driven and she felt personally offended by Dani, so she makes it her mission to go after Dani specifically. Max, Alison, Dani, and Binx must find a way to outrun, and defeat them until the sun comes up. 

There is a goal on both sides. Winifred is determined to get Dani, and Max is determined to keep Dani safe. 

In Hocus Pocus 2, this goal does not exist. The movie introduces so many ideas, and there were so many moments where I though “ah okay so this is the story… wait no, now there’s another thing to consider”. 

The movie begins with a flashback to the childhood of the Sanderson sisters in Salem. I really liked the opening shot of this movie. It is a tracking shot of the Salem woods, and this opening shot mirrors the opening shot of the original movie. I loved this. The nostalgia hit immediately and I was excited. In this flashback, we meet young Winifred, Mary and Sarah. It is Winifred’s sixteenth birthday and the reverend wants to marry her off. Winifred refuses. Winifred talks back to the reverend and refuses to bow down to him. The reverend banishes her. Winifred and her sisters flee to the forbidden woods as they know the townsfolk won’t follow them. In the woods, the three girls meet a witch. This witch senses that Winifred is powerful. The sisters are gifted a spell book – the iconic book from the original movie. The witch makes Winifred promise to never do a certain spell, a spell that even Book dislikes. Winifred promises to never do this spell, and the witch tells the girls that a witch is nothing without her coven. The newly powerful Sanderson sisters return to town and wreak havoc by setting the reverend’s house on fire. The sisters, especially Winifred, watch on in delight as the house goes up in flames. 

Title credits and then we are in the modern day. 

When the Sanderson sisters return in this movie, they plan to steal Becca and Izzy’s souls so that they can stay young, but Becca pretends to be older and she leads the sisters to a Walgreens to show the sisters modern anti-aging products to kill some time. The sequel repeats the original gag in which the Sanderson sisters are baffled by modern technology and products. It is funny, but at times it is a little try-hard. I will say though, it is very obvious that Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker were having the time of their lives filming this sequel, and I did love whenever the Sanderson sisters were onscreen. I did laugh at the sisters being baffled by automatic doors, and assuming that Becca must be powerful, because “the doors parted for her”. These are the kind of cheesy jokes that made the original so charming and I did enjoy these jokes again in the sequel, even though there was an undeniable element of the movie saying “look, here is your favourite joke from the original, we did it again.” 

It goes without saying that the jokes and antics of the sisters were not as original as they were the first time around. It was clear that the writers saw what went down well in the original and tried to recreate it, and this just doesn’t work because the success of the original is largely due to the fact that the movie was not trying so hard. 

So the Sanderson sisters originally want to get Becca, because Becca tricked them, but then Winifred decides she is going to perform the forbidden spell – this spell will make her the most powerful witch of all. Winifred needs ingredients for this spell, and she bewitches Gilbert into gathering all of the ingredients for her, but then while he is off doing that, Winifred learns that Cassie’s father is a descendant of the reverend, so she becomes determined to get him and get revenge on the family. 

There are so many things going on which leads me to the biggest problem of this sequel – There are no villains. 

There will be spoilers below as I am discussing the movie’s ending. 

Hocus Pocus 2 is a movie without villains, without threats, and without any real stakes. 

In the original movie, the Sanderson Sisters were iconic because they posed a real threat to Max and his sister. They were villains. They lured children into the woods so they could kill them and steal their young souls so that they may live forever. They were evil – funny, but evil. 

In the sequel, their goal changes so much that at times it is unclear who they are chasing or what they will do when they have caught their target. The forbidden spell is also unclear because aside from Winifred declaring that the spell will make her the most powerful, she never states what she will use this forbidden power to do. As viewers, we can guess that she and her sisters will continue to steal the lives of the children in Salem, but the movie does not present this as a real threat. 

I would have been fine with the movie making Cassie’s father the villain, because the movie clearly attempts to push this idea of standing up to the patriarchy. The flashback to the young Sanderson sisters in Salem clearly wanted to paint a picture of how these three young women were targeted by men in power and outcast because they did not comply. One can think about how historically, this likely did happen. Sadly it is a fact that many innocent women were most likely called witches and persecuted because they did something that was deemed “unconventional” by the town leaders and this kind of plot point can invite audiences to think about who the true villain really is. 

The flashback is rather dark. The idea that a sixteen year old teenager is “of age” and ready to be married off to someone she does not wish to be with is a dark idea and I am surprised that Disney included it considering there seems to be a trend of erasing villains happening in movies at the moment, including in Hocus Pocus 2 itself. The reverend is an arrogant bully and he takes pleasure in setting an angry mob on the young, orphaned Sanderson sisters simply because Winifred defied him. In my opinion, it would have made more sense if Cassie’s father was more menacing than bumbling. He is the mayor, and he is clearly a descendant of the reverend. So in my opinion, it would have been better and it would have made more sense if he was this movie’s villain. He could have hated Halloween, he could have been the one to cause a rift between Cassie and her friends because he disapproved of Becca and Izzy’s interest in magic. The plot would have taken an interesting turn if Cassie had to team up with Becca and Izzy but be torn because she has to go against her father. She would have to make the choice that her father’s hatred of magic and difference is wrong and she would be the one to break the patriarchal cycle of her family. 

If the mayor was determined to beat the Sanderson sisters and they were determined to get revenge on him and his family, then two direct opposites would have had clear goals, and there would have been a key theme of puritan, outdated control vs magic. 

Becca, Izzy and Cassie would have fallen into the area of “Look Dad! Not all witches are bad.”

Cassie’s father would have had to learn that not all magic is evil and blanket banning and hatred is not the answer. Becca would have to learn that power comes with responsibility and being obsessed with having all the power is how you end up like Winifred, so she would have to promise to always use magic for good, even though using it for selfish reasons is likely very tempting. 

The Sanderson sisters would have still been evil, and they are an example of what happens when you become consumed by evil, by power and by revenge. 

This did not happen. Unfortunately. 

The mayor is bumbling and nothing happens to him at any time, so the obsession the Sanderson sisters have with “getting him” falls flat. 

The movie’s climax is Winifred performing the forbidden spell with her sisters. What is the catch? Winifred refused to read Book’s warning about the spell – what is the warning? That Winifred will sacrifice what she loves most in order to become the most powerful witch of all. 

What does Winifred love most? We should ask whom does Winifred love most? Mary and Sarah. 

Becca, Izzy and Cassie realise that Winifred is about to unknowingly sacrifice Mary and Sarah so they attempt to tell them. This could have been really interesting. Winifred has always been the most obsessed with power, she has always been the one to proclaim she is the best, and her sisters are idiots. She has always proclaimed to be the prettiest, the all knowing one and she always dismisses and mocks her sisters. 

There is a brilliant moment where Sarah stands up to her and tells Winifred that she is not a fool, she is a good and loyal sister and always has been. This great moment is undermined when Sarah utters out a frantic “yes Winnie” two seconds later. 

The movie also leans into lore and the idea that a witch gets her powers on her sixteenth birthday, and Becca shows signs of having actual magic powers throughout the movie and it is Becca’s magic that helps her and her friends hold the witches off towards the movie’s climax. This is fine, but it kind of detracts from the charm of the original in my opinion. Max and co had to fight the witches off without powers. They relied on lore, they relied on things such as witches not being able to stand on hollowed ground and salt circles to keep them safe. Becca and co do use salt circles, but it is Becca’s powers that leads to the girls standing a chance against Winifred as opposed to the girls having to figure things out without any magic. 

The Sanderson sisters having magic is what made them so threatening in the original movie. They could not step on hollowed ground? Not a problem, Winifred used to her magic to bring Billy Butcherson back from the dead so now Max and co have to contend with a zombie too. 

Becca having magical powers is just another reason on the list of why this sequel is so sloppy. Becca had no inclination of having powers prior to the events of this movie, aside from stating she has an interest in magic, there is no suggestion that she has practiced spells. Her powers arrive and even though she has no idea how to use them, she is a match against Winifred who has been practising dark magic for centuries. Becca is a new witch, with no knowledge about her new powers or how to use them, she should not be able to go toe to toe with Winifred just like that. 

I have another suspicion that somewhere in the drafts archives, there is a script in which Sarah and Mary turn against Winifred because they are sick of being disrespected. Winifred would have become the most evil one of all because she is so obsessed with power that she is willing to sacrifice her sisters and that would have been the last straw for Mary and Sarah. 

In my opinion, it would have been interesting if Mary and Sarah were forced to join forces with Becca and co in order to defeat Winifred, and then the “passing of the torch” moment would have made more sense. Becca’s magic being able to go toe to toe with Winifred’s would have made more sense if she had Mary and Sarah on her side, because despite always being mocked by Winifred, Mary and Sarah are powerful witches who have been practising the dark arts for just as long as Winifred. 

This did not happen. 

What did happen? Let’s talk about it. 

Winifred, Mary and Sarah perform the spell without knowing the price that must be paid because Becca and co do not get there in time. 

The Sanderson sisters are overjoyed with their new powers and Winifred is happily gloating about her next move when Sarah and Mary begin to disappear. 

Becca reads the warning to Winifred, explaining that she has sacrificed her sisters because they are who Winifred loves the most. 

Winifred gives a heartwarming, albeit unbelievably out of character speech about how much she loves her sisters – the theme of the movie becomes clear – a witch is nothing without her coven. 

Winifred pleads with Becca and Book. She asks is there anything that can be done. 

There is one solution. Becca, Izzy and Cassie perform a spell that sends Winifred to her sisters. Winifred is overjoyed to reunite with them and Becca performing this spell undoes all of the spells that Winifred performed, so Billy Butcherson is able to rest in peace at last etc. 

The movie ends with Gilbert apologising for the mess he caused, and Becca, Izzy and Cassie are happily friends again. They skip down the road with Book, they even do the famous and iconic “Sanderson Sisters walk” – If you know you know. 

Credits roll and a post credits scene reveals another black flame candle – hinting that another movie could be possible. 

I am not opposed to a movie being about the power of friendship, but Hocus Pocus 2 is not the movie for that. I don’t want to see Winifred Sanderson begging for help and reminding our new protagonist to always hold her friends dear. I want to see the evil, petty, obsessed with revenge Winifred Sanderson. I want her to be a real threat. I want the Sanderson Sisters to be villains. They are iconic characters because they are villains, but instead of allowing them to be wonderfully and comically evil for evil’s sake, Disney had to make them nice. 

I’m getting increasingly tired of classic villains being undone because for some reason movies cannot just have a completely evil villain now. I am all for nuance and grey areas, in fact I adore grey areas where right and wrong is not easy to establish, however I do not like the fact that pure villains are being removed. It is fun to have a pure villain, it is fun to be scared, it is fun to have real stakes in a movie and just because a movie is aimed towards children, that does not mean that baddies cannot and should not exist. 

Gilbert has a line where he says the Sanderson Sisters are evil “because they had to be but everyone loves them now” and the movie leans into, and is aware of the public love for the Sanderson Sisters – to this I say yes everyone loves them now, but everyone loves them because they are evil. 

They were fantastic villains in the original movie and unapologetically so, and I am very disappointed that they have been reduced to slapstick caricatures of their original selves with no real threat behind them whatsoever. 

With all of that being said, I did enjoy the movie. I had lots of fun. I loved seeing the Sanderson Sisters sing again, and there were so many times where I said “okay if this is what we are doing, I’m okay with it because it is fun”, but despite the fun, the plot is lacking in so many ways and I feel like classic characters have been diminished. 

Hocus Pocus 2 is a movie that could have been fantastic, but the plot is messy and there are too many new characters who have such great potential that sadly was not reached. This is a great example of why nostalgia alone just is not enough and in my opinion, a brilliant example of why it is important that we don’t erase villains. We need villains, we need stakes, and most importantly, we need to return to a time when movies for kids weren’t afraid to be a bit scary, because that is what made them so fantastic. Real stakes, real threats, and real triumphs, that is what we need to recapture in our movies. 

Have you watched Hocus Pocus 2? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Kate xo. 

Last Night in Soho: A Visually Stunning Mess.

The 2021 film Last Night in Soho has been on my “must watch” list since I saw the trailer. 

Having missed seeing the film in cinemas, I’ve been very eager to see it for the longest time. 

I’m happy to say that I have crossed the film off my “must see” list at last, however I must admit that I did not adore this film the way I thought it would. 

If you’ve read my previous film discussions on then you’ll know that usually I follow a certain formula. I discuss the plot, the setting, the themes, and the structure of a film. I’m changing things up and I’m going to discuss this film in a less formulaic way. 

Edgar Wright directed Last Night in Soho. Wright being the film’s director was a big reason as to why I was so eager to see this film. I’m a fan of Wright’s style of directing. I would say that a technique that makes his directing style quite notable is his use of rather jarring cuts. When reading about Wright and the way he directs films, another notable feature of his directing style that gets mentioned often is when editing, Wright is very creative when it comes to transitions. 

Both of these things are very clear in Last Night in Soho. 

Another film that I love that was directed by Wright is Hot Fuzz. You can read my discussion about this film if you click the link below.

I love films that follow through. What I mean by this, is that I love when a film sets up an idea and follows through with it. This is something that I discuss in more detail in my discussion about Die Hard, which you can also read by clicking on the link below.

These are two films that I love because every single thing that takes place in these two films happens for a reason. Every single idea that has been set up at the beginning comes full circle by the end of the film. 

I think that Edgar Wright is quite a meticulous director. He pays attention to details. This is really noticeable when you watch Hot Fuzz. Every time I watch Hot Fuzz I catch another little detail. He lays the foundation and then he follows through. Nothing happens just because. Everything has a purpose. This is why I thought I would absolutely love Last Night in Soho. I expected the same level of acute attention to detail and unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed because I felt that the film started off so strong but became messy as it went on. I will elaborate on this point further along in this discussion. 

I have to be fair and more importantly, I have to be honest. I did really enjoy this film, in fact I would even say that I loved it. If you follow me on Instagram @katelovesliterature then you will have seen that my immediate initial reaction to this film was that I really enjoyed it. 

I shared on my Instagram stories that I would give it 10/10, that I loved the cast, that I loved the directing style. I said that I particularly loved the use of lighting in the film. I loved the music in the film, and all of these things are still true, however upon further reflection and taking more time to think about the film, there are things that I felt fell apart once you spend more than five minutes thinking about them. If I was to summarise my thoughts I would say “brilliant concept, messy execution.”

Let me explain. Before I talk about the things I didn’t love, let’s discuss the plot because I really did like the idea of this film. I thought it was a really creative and intriguing premise. 

If you have not already seen this film, please be aware that this discussion will contain spoilers. 

The film follows aspiring fashion designer Ellie as she moves from Cornwall to London to study at the London College of Fashion. Ellie, who is massively inspired by the music and fashion of the sixties, struggles to adapt to the bustling London life as it is so different to her sheltered, rural upbringing with her Nan. Ellie’s mother died when she was a young girl and Ellie can still see her in mirrors. This is the first sign that this movie will contain some supernatural elements. 

Ellie does not feel comfortable staying in the college dorms as she is struggling to make friends, so she decides to move to a women’s only bedsit that is owned by a woman named Mrs Collins. 

Ellie feels much more comfortable in this bedsit and while living there, she has a series of dreams that transport her back to the 60s. In her dreams, she observes a glamorous, confident, aspiring singer named Sandie. At first, Ellie is excited by Sandie’s life and she uses these dreams about Sandie to inspire her own fashion and her work in school. She dyes her hair blonde to match Sandie’s and in class, she starts designing the dress that Sandie is wearing in her dreams. This new confidence that Sandie has inspired impresses Ellie’s teachers and makes other classmates jealous. However all is not as glamorous as it appears because as each night passes, Ellie’s dreams about Sandie become more and more disturbing. Sandie is not living the high life of a singer in fancy bars, instead she is being mercilessly pimped out by her manager/boyfriend Jack. The man who had promised her stardom and success is pimping her out to his business associates. The dreams that once had Ellie rushing to go to sleep have quickly become inescapable nightmares. Ellie wants to avoid sleep, but the figures of her dreams start to haunt her daily life. Ellie gets more and more afraid as the movie goes on because she keeps seeing disturbing visions of Jack, and the other men who misused Sandie. 

The disturbing dreams take a turn for the worst when Ellie dreams about Jack murdering Sandie. 

Ellie becomes obsessed with the idea that she must avenge Sandie’s death in order to escape these dreams and be able to sleep. This idea consumes her and she begins looking up newspaper articles about the murder and she attempts to track down Jack to confront him. 

I want to pause here before I discuss the film’s twist because I want to talk about what I had hoped this plot would be. Based on the trailer, I thought that this film would be about Ellie trying to solve Sandie’s murder. I was fascinated by the idea of a young girl being plagued with dreams about a cold case and naturally, the only way to get the dreams to stop is to get justice for Sandie and solve her murder because the impression that the beginning of this film gives is that Jack got away with it. This idea is fuelled by the ominous appearings of an old man. Ellie gets a job in a pub, and an old man who we don’t know the name of frequents this pub. This unnamed man has a few odd conversations with Ellie, particularly after she dyes her hair blonde. The film very much gives audiences the impression that this old man is Jack. He seems to recognise Ellie, but only because her newly blonde hair reminds him of Sandie. He’s a strange character. 

He is a red herring and I will elaborate more on this point as I go on but first I want to mention one other direction that I thought this film would go in. 

I mentioned in a point above that I would summarise this discussion by saying “brilliant concept, messy execution”, and now I am going to give an example of this. I also felt that this movie didn’t follow through with certain ideas and this point is also an example of that. 

Ellie’s first dream about the 60s is a glamorous one. She is in a bar in Soho. London is bustling. 

One point I will make is that despite all of its flaws, this film is beautifully crafted. There are some absolutely stunning visuals and the vibe of London in the 60s was captured in such an electric way onscreen.

In her first dream, Ellie watches Sandie check her reflection in the mirror before entering the bar. She is determined to figure out a way to become a singer. She is going to be the next Cilla Black. Sandie is flirty, confident, and slick. She’s a force to be watched, she draws you in. She is directed by the bartender to speak to Jack. She’s told he’s Cilla’s manager. Sandie introduces herself to Jack and he is clearly quite taken with her. The couple dance together and this is a brilliant scene. 

I have to give credit to Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith. The pair are fabulous as Jack and Sandie. They are slick, they are sexy, they have brilliant chemistry and they capture that electric, swinging vibe of the sixties perfectly. The dance scene is brilliant because it flawlessly cuts between Sandie and Ellie dancing with Jack and I must also praise Thomasin McKenzie as Ellie too because all three actors were fantastic in this scene. There was a lot of brilliant and practical mirror work done in this scene. There were shots where Sandie would look in the mirror and Ellie would be looking back at her instead of her own reflection. This very much gives the impression that Ellie is living the night through Sandie’s perspective. The dance is particularly slick because Jack will spin Sandie out and it will be Ellie who spins back in or he’ll dip Ellie but Sandie will come back up. I believe this scene was done practically as the transitions are so smooth. It very well could have been filmed with both women doing the dance individually and then the scenes were edited together, but it is done so smoothly at times that I suspect it was done practically. This would involve a lot of very precise choreography, but this precision is something that I would associate with Wright. The dvd I bought does have a behind-the-scenes documentary that I plan on watching so I do hope they include how they shot this scene. 

I’m not just talking about this back and forth between Sandie and Ellie for no reason, I brought up this point because it is one of the first instances where I feel the movie sets up something that could have been a really cool concept but then does not follow through. 

Sandie and Jack end up in a lift. The pair kiss and Jack gives Sandie a hickey on her neck. 

When Ellie wakes up in the morning, she has a hickey on her neck in the exact spot that Jack left it on Sandie in her dream so this presents the idea that Ellie physically experiences what happens to Sandie in her dreams. 

I thought this was really interesting and I was disappointed when this did not come up again. 

This moment also led me to think about what I thought may happen. An idea that I would have been really intrigued by, is the idea that whatever happens to Sandie in the dreams, physically impacts Ellie. So Sandie gets a hickey, Ellie wakes up with a hickey. If Sandie got a bruise, Ellie should have woken up with the same bruise just like she did with the hickey. I wondered if this plot would become about how  Ellie would have to somehow stop Sandie from being murdered, because if what happens to Sandie physically impacts Ellie, then surely Sandie being murdered would put Ellie in danger. This did not happen. That was not the plot. 

Ellie also did not have to figure out who murdered Sandie. This was not the plot. 

I am going to talk about the twist, and then I am going to explain why I did not like the twist. 

Jack did not kill Sandie. Jack threatened Sandie with a knife and then she fought back and killed him. Sandie went on to kill the men who came back to her room with the intent of using her for sex. She killed several “Johns” and hid their bodies in the floorboards and walls of her bedsit. 

It turns out that Mrs Collins is Sandie. She has managed to keep her secrets for all of these years and now that Ellie has discovered the truth, she panics. In order to keep her secret safe, because she refuses to go to prison, she intends to drug Ellie. All of Sandie’s plans go awry when Ellie’s only friend John knocks on the door to check on her. Mrs Collins stabs him. In Ellie’s room, the room that Sandie committed all the murders in, Ellie is seeing the figures of all the men who Sandie killed. They are crying out to Ellie, begging for help, and begging her to kill Sandie but she won’t. Ellie refuses to kill Sandie and she stops the woman from killing herself with a knife. Ellie is struggling after being drugged, the spirits are shouting, John is bleeding at the bottom of the stairs, and the entire building is burning as a fire has broken out. Mrs Collins/Sandie tells Ellie to get out and escape with John while she stays sitting on the bed as the room becomes engulfed in flames. 

Thankfully John recovers – I was so happy about this as he was a really good friend to Ellie throughout the entire film. He is a sweet character and he did not deserve to die. Ellie also recovers and goes back to fashion college. The ending feels far too neat, but I’ll talk about that shortly. 

I want to talk about the twist. I did not like it. There are a few reasons as to why I did not like it. 

The first being that we watched Jack kill Sandie. In one of Ellie’s dreams, he kills her. 

This is where the plot becomes messy. The movie never clarifies whether or not Ellie is having dreams or visions. The things she sees when she goes to sleep are treated as facts. 

Ellie sees Jack and Sandie in the flirting stage of the relationship. She watches as Sandie wows him with her voice and her dancing. She is excited when Sandie supposedly gets her first gig, her big break, and then she is horrified to discover that she is not a star at all. Sandie is an overworked backup dancer who is doing a lot more than dancing at night. Ellie wakes up screaming when she dreams about the various men who abuse Sandie in the bedroom. They menacingly unbuckle their belts and laugh at her fear as they stalk towards her. This leads me to this question, if everything up until Sandie’s murder was treated as fact, why did this change when Sandie was allegedly murdered? 

Why and how did Ellie see Sandie being murdered if this didn’t actually happen? 

Everything else up until this point was portrayed as the accurate unfolding of events in order. 

Sandie’s world falling apart and becoming filled with fear as her hopes and dreams are dashed as she is pimped out is a realistic storyline. It is a tragic one. The beginning of the film makes you sympathise with Sandie. She was a wide eyed girl with a beautiful voice and she’s been lured into the world of prostituion and there is no way out because Jack has her under his control. This is believable. So if everything else in Ellie’s dreams was simply an unfolding of events, how did Ellie see a murder that did not actually happen? 

Another problem that I have with this is that Ellie is so haunted by Sandie’s murder that she starts to see Sandie in her day to day life. She is haunted by the image of Sandie walking around Soho in her gorgeous pink dress, but the beautiful image is ruined when you glance up and see her slit throat. 

Here’s what I think happened. I think that the image of a beautiful Sandie walking around Soho with a slit throat is a very powerful, very disturbing image. It is haunting. It is jarring, and as I mentioned earlier, I think Wright notably uses jarring shots. I can understand why any director would want such a shot in their film, however I feel like wanting this imagery may have overshadowed some plot details. 

I would also put forward the idea that the film suggests that Ellie sees things from Sandie’s perspective. She is inspired by Sandie, and then she is concerned about Sandie’s safety, so perhaps when Ellie dreams about Jack threatening Sandie with a knife, she assumes that Jack kills her. She may assume this because up until this point, Jack has had all the control in their relationship, and if he is pimping her out and emotionally abusing her, it makes sense that Ellie would assume that him taking a knife to her resulted in her death. I put forward that idea, but the problem with this is that I’m the one putting forward the idea. That is my interpretation as to why Ellie saw Sandie being murdered. The film does not explain why. The film never makes Ellie out to be an unreliable narrator. The film never alludes to the fact that Ellie’s dreams may be biassed or only reflective of one point of view. As I said, the film treats Ellie’s dreams as a window into the past, and through these dreams, we see Sandie’s life play out so that is why it does not make sense that Ellie saw Sandie being murdered if that did not actually happen. To go against my own point, I would ask if we were to say that Ellie is seeing things through Sandie’s eyes then wouldn’t that mean we would have seen what actually happened? If we are seeing things through Sandie’s eyes, then wouldn’t we have seen her murder Jack? 

I wish we hadn’t seen Jack murder Sandie. I wish we had seen a knife fight. I wish we had seen a struggle. I wish that instead of seeing visions of Sandie with her throat slit, that we had seen visions of her covered in blood. This would have been more vague. We don’t see Jack again after the murder dream. We only see the older man, the one the movie lets us assume is Jack. 

If we had seen Sandie covered in blood, it would have been easier to wrongly assume that Jack killed her and got away with it. This would make sense. Ellie has been seeing Sandie’s struggles all this time. She has formed a connection with Sandie. Ellie feels sorry for her. If Ellie had dreamt about a knife struggle but woke up before anyone was killed, and then saw images of a  bloody Sandie walking around Soho, it would be fair for naive and out of her depth in London Ellie to assume that Jack is the one who killed Sandie. The fact that this is not left elusive, the fact that we see Jack slitting her throat makes this twist really redactive. It was not really a twist in my opinion. We saw him kill her and then a while later, the movie tells us “actually he didn’t kill her, she killed him. Surprise!”

It feels messy. 

I also don’t like this twist because I don’t like what the end of this film does to Sandie.

I will say that talking about a fictional murder is extremly different to talking about a real life murder. Fictonal murders are different because depending on the genre of film, murder can very easily become an act that is easier to understand. 

Let’s look at Sandie’s character. 

She is a young girl who lives alone. There is no mention of her family. She wants to be a singer. She’s talented. She can sing, she can dance, she is charming. She is told to speak to Jack. She does. He is the ultimate teddy boy. He is charming, he’s a smooth talker. He promises her the world and he seems to be opening doors for her. He tells her he loves her, and in the beginning at least, he defends her from sleazy grips and prying eyes. She feels safe with him. “I’m with Jack,” she says. The job turns out to be a backup dancing gig at a gentlemen’s club. The girls are expected to perform onstage and offstage, the dressing rooms are filled with girls who are forced to perform sexual acts and it is clear that some of the girls are not well at all, so clearly noone really cares too much about their wellbeing. Sandie does not have a way out. The men know where she lives, Jack knows where she lives and there is no way he is letting her out. He feels a sense of ownership over her. He is not going to let her just walk away. He is controlling and he is violent, he proves this by pulling out a knife. He just did not expect her to fight back and turn the tables on him. 

The idea of an abused girl fighting back and killing her pimp in self defence is one that I can’t say I disagree with. I can’t say that I blame Sandie for killing Jack. Ellie even tells Sandie that she doesn’t blame her, that she understands why she did what she did. The film also presents all of the other men as terrifying figures throughout the film. The images of them following Ellie down the streets and to school are really unsettling. The scenes where shadowy hands are reaching out to grab her feel really uncomfortable to watch, especially as a young woman, so when the film pulls the switch and suddenly has all of these dead “Johns” crying out to Ellie for help, it feels off. 

Sandie is then presented as a serial killer because she killed the many men who came back to her room and wanted to pay her for sex. The film presents this idea that she is getting revenge on all of those “Johns” who use and abuse her by killing them. This is another point that caused me to have conflicting opinions and I actually struggled to gather my thoughts articulately because killing that many people is wrong and being able to kill that many people has to have a profound impact on a person. In the fight with Jack, it was self defence, she did not go out that day knowing she would kill Jack that night. There does come a point though, where it is intentional. She knows that when she takes these other men back to her room that she is going to kill them one by one. She feels they deserve it. 

Do they deserve it? That is an interesting question. The film does not make these men sympathetic whatsoever. They are portrayed as sleazy, predatory, arrogant figures who love to watch the girls dance and then get a private show later. The men who interact with Sandie act like they’re entitled to do whatever they like with her and to her. The audition scene is particularly seedy in hindsight. At first it seems as though Jack and the owner of the bar are in awe of her voice. The two men share a look. Upon reflection, it becomes clear that the owner was not impressed by her singing, there was never any intention of making Sandie a star, the only intention was to turn her into a prostitute and they succeeded. It’s hard not to still sympathise with Sandie. She says herself that she died in that room a hundred times, and in a way she did. The innocent Sandie died in that room. The Sandie who didn’t know violence died in that room. The Sandie who just wanted to be a singer died in that room. The old man who we think is Jack, who I will talk about properly in my next point, has a line about how he used to know all of the pretty girls. He talks to Ellie about the pretty girls, the pretty blonde girls. He says he doesn’t remember them all because “they all look the same on the slab.” It is a horrible line. It is a line that stood out. It is cold, it is callous. I think it is hard to think of Sandie as a cold killer when the film tells us that these men simply used young girls for their pleasure. They didn’t care about them as people. They didn’t care about their safety or their wellbeing. They would not care if they found out that one of those girls ended up dead. 

Historically we know that if a female prostitute wound up dead, the crime was not taken all that seriously because the victim was viewed as someone who deserved it or a prostitute’s life wasn’t considered that important anyways. I have talked about this in my discussion of Jekyll & Hyde the musical as it is a very prominent plot point. You can read this discussion by clicking the link below

The film Lost Girls is based on a tragic true story and this film demonstrates how some people, even those investigating the crime, often lack any emphty for the victims because of the fact that they were prostitutes. You can read my review of this film by clicking the link below. 

I am aware that I am linking several of my other reviews in this discussion. I am doing so because the points I am making relate to points I have made in more detail when discussing other pieces that contain similar themes and if you’re interested in exploring these points further and reading about how these points were portrayed in other stories, then you can go ahead and read some of my other discussions if you haven’t already. 

If Sandie had have been murdered, it is fair to assume that her death wouldn’t have been taken all that seriously based on the fact that she was a prostitute in the 60s. Lost Girls is not a period piece and the film demonstrates how even in this day and age, certain victims will be dismissed because of the lives they lead so it is fair to assume that had Sandie died, some would have had the attitude that she got what was coming to her. Last Night in Soho is a film that deomonstartes how easy it is for a young girl to end up working as a prostitute so is it fair to say that any prostitute deserves to be murdered? I don’t think so. I think that seeing every step of Sandie’s struggles made it really difficult to condemn her actions even though they did change from self defence to intentional. The reason for this is that the film presents the men as very predatory figures who abuse young girls, so as an audience member, it is hard to sympathise when these men cry out for help. Sandie cried out for help. Sandie cried out in fear. They laughed at her. 

The film then goes a step too far with Sandie because while I can say that killing that many people is wrong but I can understand Sandie’s motive behind doing so, when Sadie stabs Ellie’s friend John there is no turning back. To an extent, I can understand why she drugged Ellie. She has lived her whole life with her secrets and she does not want to go to prison and now because of Ellie, she may be caught. So she panics. She drugs Ellie so that her secret won’t get out. It is an act of desperation. Was it wrong? Yes. Do I understand it? Yes. Why do I understand it? I understand it because it is in character. It aligns with everything she has done so far. Every ounce of understanding goes away when she stabs Ellie’s friend John. There was no need. There is no justification for it. Ellie swore she wouldn’t tell anyone the truth she has learned, and I believe that she wouldn’t have. She still felt sorry for Sandie. She understood why Sandie committed those murders. As a viewer, I believed that Ellie would have taken that secret to her grave, but Sandie couldn’t trust that so she drugged her. Stabbing John was unnecessary. He was completely innocent. He knocked on the door to make sure Ellie was okay. Sandie could have said she was sick. She did not need to stab him. Sandie even makes it a point to say she is not going to kill Ellie with a knife because she would not do that to her, she does not deserve it. The only reason Sandie is planning to kill Ellie is because she wants her secret to die with Ellie. She does not believe that Ellie deserves to die violently the way the “Johns” did. Sandie drugged Ellie’s tea and planned for her to fall asleep and die peacefully so this demonstrates that Sandie does not just ruthlessly brandish her knife, but then she stabs John. She uses her knife on someone completely innocent when she really didn’t have to and this action cannot be justified. 

Sandie is a very flawed character, and while murder is objectively wrong, there was at least a clear motive from Sandie’s point of view and while you can disagree with her actions, at least you can see why she did what she did, you can see why she wanted revenge. She’s complicated. She’s layered. Her actions and the reasons behind those actions invite audiences to think about morals and how complex the morally right thing can be. I think having her stab a completely innocent boy ruins that, because in my opinion, that is a point that can’t be overlooked. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this film in preparation of writing this review and every time I think about it, I think why did she have to do that to John? Everything else, I could see the motive behind it, but hurting John has no defence and I think that really hurts her character. 

I mentioned in a point above how I felt that the imagery of Sandie walking around Soho with a slit throat was a very powerful visual and I felt the want for this jarring visual overtook some plot points making sense. I think that this happened again when it came to Sandie’s final scene. 

I think that the idea of having Sandie die on that bed, in that room, as the room becomes engulfed in flames is a very poignant idea. The visuals were stunning. Scary, heartbreaking, but stunning. Again, despite all of the flaws, this film was beautifully crafted. I think the idea that Sandie metaphorically died in that room a hundred times and now she will literally die in that room is a very, very poignant idea. I think that having Sandie sit on that bed in that room as it became engulfed in flames was a visual that was really wanted, but a reason was needed for it, which is why the choice was made to turn Sandie into this serial killer who was desperate to keep her secret. In order to have this powerful scene on the bed, the film needed to provide a reason as to why Sandie would do that. So the film has Sandie decide to die on her own terms. She refuses to be caught by the police. Ellie stops her from using the knife on herself, but she still won’t allow herself to be caught so she tells Ellie to run and she dies on her own terms, on her own bed. 

I will also take a moment to say that all of the thoughts that I have expressed in this review are entirely my own. People can feel free to disagree. People can love this film, and feel that the twist was brilliant. People can enjoy the fact that it became somewhat of a slasher film. 

I am not saying that what I think is right. Film is subjective and films are always open to interpretation. Personally, I was so excited to watch this film, but based on the trailers I thought it would be completely different.  I loved the idea and loved many things within the film such as the music, the costumes, the use of lighting, I did feel that while this film is beautifully crafted, the plot gets messy. Too many things don’t add up in my opinion. Too many things were brilliant concepts but they were let down by the execution. I also think that certain plot points were overlooked and allowed to be messy because certain visuals were wanted. I love powerful imagery. I am in favour of getting really interesting, dynamic, and startling shots, but they need to make sense. 

I want to talk about the old man before I talk about the film’s ending. The old man is a red herring. There are many times in the film where we see Jack and then in the present day, we see the old man. So the film allows audiences to assume that he is Jack. There were a few moments where I was unsure, because the film doesn’t clarify who this man actually is until the third act. When it was revealed that the old man who had spoken to Ellie in such an ominous way about the past was actually a retired undercover detective who had once tried to help Sandie, again I just couldn’t help but feel that this was a messy twist. 

The old man’s real name is Lindsey and when Ellie thinks back through her dreams, she does recall one night when a man tried to help Sandie. It turns out that this man was Lindsey. 

Ellie confronts Lindsey before she learns his true identity. She thinks he is Jack. She attempts to get him to confess to killing Sandie. This results in an argument and Lindsey leaves the pub angry, only to be killed when he is hit by a car. It is only when he is dead that Ellie is told who this man actually is, and she is horrified to learn that she wasn’t questioning Jack after all. 

This moment disappoints me because it just feels a bit pointless. Lindsey’s death feels really unnecessary, as does John’s stabbing. I think the problem is that the film doesn’t allow audiences to feel connected to Lindsey as a character. The film allows us to assume he is Jack for a very long time, and Lindsey isn’t exactly the nicest character. He’s guarded. He seems very suspicious of Ellie. He is not exactly kind. At one point he even asks Ellie if he scares her, and he seems to smirk at the idea that he does, taking pleasure in her discomfort instead of easing her mind. 

In my opinion, we don’t see him enough in Ellie’s dreams of the past. There is a brilliant yet devastating montage of Sandie being forced to dance by Jack. She dances to get the attention of men. These men buy her a drink, ask her for her name, they tell her she has a lovely name, and then they proceed to use her for their pleasure. It happens over, and over, and over again. The point being that these “Johns” are all the same. The same club, the same approach, the same drink, the same question, the same answer, and then the same result at the end of the night. Sandie gets more and more delirious as she answers the same questions over, and over because she knows exactly how her night is going to play out. It plays out the same way every time. 

Lindsey is in this montage. He’s at the table with her, arguing with her about how she is better than this, but Sandie knows she is being watched intently by Jack so she feels too trapped to accept his help. When the film reveals that Lindsey was actually a detective, there’s this idea presented that he was a good guy all along and it is a shame that he died. It is a shame that he died, he didn’t need to, but the devastation of everyone else in the pub feels misplaced because they don’t connect with him throughout the film. He is never once presented as a great man who everyone loves and respects, he is always presented as a lone figure, who is silently observing Ellie and the way he stares at her sometimes is borderline uncomfortable. I think the film made him behave this way so that audiences would not trust him, so that we would believe he is Jack, so that the reveal that he is not Jack would feel like a shocking twist, but doing that hurts this twist because he was not a particularly nice old man, and there were not enough scenes with him from the past. 

I would argue that if we had seen him more in the past, if we had seen him actively trying to help Sandie, actively trying to get her away from Jack, if we had been given the opportunity to get to know his character then this twist and his death would have felt much more poignant. If he had been a reserved old man who refused to talk about the past because it was too upsetting instead of an ominous figure, then this moment would have had more impact. It would have been a different character if he had done all he could to help Sandie but couldn’t, and didn’t want to talk about the past because that time and those memories bring him pain, and then for him to tragically get hit by a car after all of that, that would have hit harder. I could also argue that this would be somewhat melodramatic to have this person who tried his very best fail, be haunted by that failure, and then tragically die. I’m not saying that this would have been the perfect solution. The point I’m trying to make is that I feel that in order for that twist and his death to work, we needed to feel more connected to Lindsey as a character. I feel we didn’t know Lindsey at all, so that entire scene just felt sloppy. 

I think the main reason I didn’t love Last Night in Soho as much as I expected to is because within this plot, I feel that there were some really brilliant concepts, but as I talk about moments that I found to be quite messy, and when I try to think about how I would have liked those moments to make more sense, I find that I’m almost creating a different film. 

I’m not a screenwriter, and I’m not a director, but I just see so many threads that if you pull on them enough, the plot slowly unravels. This is a shame because the premise is really creative and intriguing, but I think the decision to make it an almost slasher film was a mistake. 

I like the idea of Ellie dreaming about a cold case and in order to escape the nightmares, she attempts to prove that Sandie was murdered. Lindsey could have been a reserved, retired, jaded detective who finally agrees to work with her because he couldn’t prove Sandie was murdered at the time. This would have been a different film. 

If the film wanted to keep the twist that Sandie killed Jack, okay then maybe Lindsey found out and kept her secret all these years because he felt that Jack was a cruel man and Sandie fought back in self defence. Ellie poking around and questioning the past would threaten Lindsey and Sandie in modern day because the crime they covered up would be at risk of being revealed and they would get caught. This would have been a different film. 

I really loved the idea that Ellie is physically impacted by what happened to Sandie in her dreams. So I would have loved for this to have continued rather than just stopping after the hickey. It was a really cool idea that happened once and not ever again. Why? Why did it only happen once? How did she get the hickey but no other physical proof of what happened in her dreams? If Ellie is physically impacted then Sandie being murdered puts her in physical danger and she would have to somehow figure out how to save Sandie and save herself and that is where the horror comes in. With every dream, she takes one step closer to being murdered. Again, this would have been a different film.

There were so many different and interesting concepts within this film. I think the original premise lends itself to going in many different directions, all of which would have been creative, compelling, and rather poignant. The film could have kept its horror elements even if they had gone in a different direction and I think it is disappointing that the direction that was chosen led to messy storylines and messy executions of really cool ideas. 

The film’s ending feels far too neatly wrapped up. Ellie returns to fashion college and thrives. Her former bullies tell her she is so brave after all she has been through. There were three bullies in this film, the classic Mean Girls set up where we meet the head bully and her two minions. Jocasta is the leader of the pack. She dislikes Ellie immediately. She makes fun of Ellie for making her own clothes, she thinks Ellie is boring and weird, she’s also jealous when Ellie gets positive feedback from a teacher. Throughout the course of the film, Ellie is getting more and more paranoid in her real life because she keeps seeing disturbing figures from her dreams and she fears that the men and Jack are after her. There is a very disturbing scene in the library where Ellie is terrified that she is being chased by attackers so she grabs a pair of scissors to defend herself. Her only friend John grabs a hold of her and stops her right in time because when Ellie comes to, she realises that that figure she was about to stab is actually Jocasta. The pair of scissors is dangerously close to Jocasta’s face and she is rightfully angry over what has happened. Ellie can’t explain her actions as she feels no one will believe her. She is afraid people will think she is mad. This incident is never mentioned again. Ellie runs from the library. John follows as he is desperately trying to figure out what is wrong and what has happened. 

At the end of the film when Ellie is back in college, Jocasta is never mentioned again. The two girls who used to laugh at Ellie with Jocasta tell her that she is so brave. They are suddenly being kind to her. Jocasta is alone in the background of the shot. She is not smiling, but she does not look angry, she is just sort of there and it just feels off. She was nearly stabbed in the face with a pair of scissors but there was absolutely no mention of how this issue got resolved. After everything Ellie just goes back to college and John and her Nan watch happily from the audience as she does very well at an end of year fashion show. It is a happy ending and I like happy endings, but this felt bizarrely wrapped up in a bow and it didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the film. 

Overall I am delighted that I got to watch Last Night in Soho at last. I would watch the film again, and despite being let down by the plot twists and feeling that the plot became messy, I would recommend it to anyone who has not seen it because the cast is brilliant and there are some really fantastic moments in the film that I did enjoy. The music was fantastic. The way the film captured the setting of the 60s was wonderful. The way the energy shifts from flirty and glamorous to seedy and terrifying is done brilliantly. There are moments in the film that are so unsettling, and this feeling is achieved from the creative use of lighting and sound. I also really love the practical shots and the mirror acting. It is a very creative shot that you don’t see all that often. If you’re a fashion or makeup buff, then I think you’ll love the costumes. The 60s looks, particularly Sandie’s, are gorgeous. I’ve said it a few times in this discussion but it is worth repeating because it is true, the film is visually stunning. It is a well made film that just has a messy plot. I would love for a few things to have been different, so that the overall plot could have made more sense, but even with all of the things that I wish were different, I can’t deny that I enjoyed this film. I plan to watch the behind-the-scenes documentary as I believe it will be fascinating and I look forward to seeing how certain things were done. 

Have you seen Last Night in Soho? What are your thoughts? Love it? Hate it? Agree with me? Disagree with me? I’d love to know. 

Do you have a movie that you think is really well made despite being full of things that just don’t make sense when you think about it? What movie is it? 

Kate xo.