Film Review | Infinitely Polar Bear starring Mark Ruffalo

pbcThis movie is one of the best I’ve seen this year. It’s no secret that I am a big Ruffalo fan, but that wasn’t enough to get me to like Foxcatcher, Spotlight or Thanks for Sharing. Infinitely Polar Bear shares the story of two girls growing up in Boston in the 70’s with a bipolar father caring for them while mom is pursuing her MBA in New York City. Dealing with living in poverty and being a stay at home Dad and single parent are two of the movie’s themes. The film gives a keyhole perspective likely unknown to those unfamiliar with manic depression.

I laughed out loud, cried once and generally experienced a wide range of emotions while viewing this film. All four of the main characters do an excellent job getting into character and making their feelings palpable. The movie was instantly entertaining and kept my attention for the duration. I recommend this film to anyone who is or has a bipolar partner or is going through long distance relationship issues. It would also be of interest to a much broader audience, so give it a shot even if you don’t fit into either of those two categories. Check it out from a library near you.

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Film Review | Philomena with Judi Dench & Steve Coogan

 

dvd cover Philomena with Judi Dench & Steve CooganBased on a true story, Philomena relays the tale of a mother in search of her child 50 years after his international adoption. The film revolves around two main characters, Philomena Lee, played by Judi Dench, and Martin Sixsmith, played by Steve Coogan, and the voyage they embark on together. Philomena has gotten on in years and constantly wonders about what happened to a son she gave birth to 50 years before who was taken away from her as a boy. Recently out of a job and feeling down, Sixsmith decides to hear Philomena’s story with the intention of turning it into a human interest piece for the newspaper. The two began their relationship visiting the Irish convent where Philomena gave birth and was more or less enslaved for several years after the nuns placed her son with a new family overseas against her will.

This film really impressed me. The heartfelt tale was met with superb acting, believable conflict and true insight. The story may have you in tears, but if you can handle that and want to see a great film, check out Philomena from your local library. For another layer, read the 2009 book Philomena : a mother, her son, and a fifty-year search by Martin Sixsmith, first published in Great Britain as The Lost Child of Philomena Lee

 

Book Review | Fairyland : a memoir of my father by Alysia Abbott

book cover Fairyland : a memoir of my father by Alysia AbbottWhile scouring the library for new treasures I found this gem: Fairyland : a memoir of my father. Having previously resided in the Haight neighborhood of San Francisco, my partner took an immediate interest in the novel and finished it in less than 36 hours. He claimed he was “unable to put it down” to which I can attest as he read between Superbowl plays.

Abbott’s memoir describes from her point of view the life of her father – a bisexual Bohemian writer – as she grew up with him in 70’s and 80’s San Francisco. It provides a refreshing view of how a single father (after the mother’s death) and his daughter were able to get by with little money and enjoy each other’s company. Parenting issues are touched on and the reader may question what happened to simple times when raising a child did not revolve around piano lessons, soccer practice and endless taxying to play-dates. As the book’s blurb mentions, AIDS does make an appearance and truly impacts the community.

The book was linear and easy to follow with no major stylistic issues. It is recommended for those interested in the Bohemian lifestyle in San Francisco in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, residents of the Haight, and those wanting to read about a single gay parent during that time period. Various references are made to San Francisco landmarks, cafes and restaurants, streets and public transit (MUNI). Published in summer of 2013, Fairyland should be available at a library near you.

Book Review | Il metodo del coccodrillo (The Crocodile) by Maurizio de Giovanni

book cover Il metodo del coccodrillo (The Crocodile) by Maurizio de GiovanniTranslated from Italian, The Crocodile is a noir crime novel that follows the trail of a patient but brutal killer in Naples, Italy. Inspector Lojacono has just been reassigned to a desk job in a new city after implications of involvement with the Camorra (think Mafia) when the first victim is found – a teenage boy shot in the back of the head point-blank. Not long after, a popular girl is killed identically in a well-to-do neighborhood, just outside her door. Links between the murders are obvious and the press dubs the serial killer ‘the crocodile’ because of similarities in how the two kill. The police are at a loss and the assistant district attorney gets Lojacono involved as the investigation becomes a race against the clock to identify the final victims before the killer strikes again.

De Giovanni has penned an interesting piece here. Short chapters alternate focus between various characters – victims, police, and the killer. The scent of Naples is everywhere and small details give the reader a genuine insight into the city. While mostly focussed on the killings and pursuit, there is still a bit of romance and character development in the intertwined stories. Overall, I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. Check it out from a library near you.