"Heavenly Creatures" starring Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey


This small New Zealand based drama is a cinematic milestone in many ways.  It was the screen debuts of two teenage girls named Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey.  Winslet went on to fame an fortune with Titanic and numerous other big roles.  While Lynskey is mainly known for playing Rose on the TV show "Two and a Half Men".  Although she is nearly unrecognizable as that character in "Heavenly Creatures".  It was also the breakout film for director Peter Jackson, who had previously done a few nasty but amazing horror films. "Dead Alive" is a cult classic.

"Heavenly Creatures" is based on a true story of two teenage girls, Pauline Parker (Lynskey) and Juliet Hulme (Winslet) who in the 1950s develop an intense bond living their lives in a fantasy world.  When their parents feel that their relationship has become a little too intense and "unhealthy" their attempts to separate them drive the girls to unthinkable lengths.

Juliet is a rich privileged girl who has just moved with her family to Christchurch, New Zealand from England.  Upon attending the all-girls school she develops an immediate bond with the withdrawn and homely Pauline.  They both share a love for the Italian tenor Mario Lanza, and quickly create a unique world of their own, with clay figures that come to life and dreams of becoming royalty.  Although Juliet's seemingly perfect life is anything as her parents don't seem to care for her, as they are always either going off the other countries or sending her off to live in far-off lands.  Both girls are terribly lonesome and lose themselves in each other.

Pauline's religious-minded parents take her to a doctor fearing she has some sort of "gay disease".  Conversely, Juliet's parent is extremely liberal with few if any religious beliefs.  The girls' physical worlds start to crumble as Pauline's mother's affair comes to light and a divorce closely follows.  Juliet also learns that she is being sent to South Africa to live with an aunt. This impending separation leaves them inconsolable and desperately making a plan to stay together.  The ending is intense and extremely disturbing in its realistic depiction of these girls driven to the brink and finally breaking.

"My Summer of Love" is Unforgettable


Internationally acclaimed Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski's third feature film "My Summer of Love" proves he is as advertised. This is an amazing film that deals with class structures, lusty obsessions and searching for a place to belong.  This was also the first major film role for Emily Blunt, who now has made quite the career for herself.

Taking place in Northern England Blunt plays Tamshin a bored rich girl home from boarding school for the summer.  While riding her white horse she finds Mona lying in a field.  Played by Natalie Press Mona is a red-haired tomboyish girl who lives with her brother Phil (Paddy Considine) in their families dilapidated Pub, which is now being turned into a prayer space.  Phil is a recovering addict and born-again Christian which infuriates Mona.  Their parents are no longer living and she is feeling disconnected from her brother and life in general. Tamshin takes an immediate interest in her and a friendship is born. They bond over secrets and bottles of wine. Tamshin's sister died from anorexia and her dad is having an affair.  The girls' relationship grows quickly and Mona becomes more and more obsessed with Tamshin's world.

Phil is equally obsessed with saving people's souls, including that of his sister.  Like Noah constructing an arc, Phil constructs a giant cross.  Near the end of Summer, with help from townspeople, they march the cross up a hill and place it for everyone to see.  Although coming from completely different backgrounds neither Tamshin or Mona have any strong religious beliefs.  Unable to put up with Phil's phony religious bullshit any longer, Mona packs up and leaves.   She hopes to run away with Tamshin and live happily ever after.  But this is far from a fairy tale.  As Mona shows up at Tamshin's she is in for a devastating revelation.  "My Summer of Love" is more than your typical coming of age movie.  It's digging deep into theses character psyche's and the actors realize this to maximum effect.  This film is currently on Netflix Streaming so see it tonight.

"Off The Map" is out of this world!


In the vein of the previously reviewed "The Ballad of Jack and Rose", "Off the Map" contains some of the same themes but came out two years earlier in 2003.  Veteran actor Campbell Scott goes behind the camera to direct his third feature about a small family living off the grid in New Mexico.  Based on a play by Joan Ackermann the story is told through the eyes of a precocious 11-year-old girl named Bo, played by Valentina de Angelis, during one summer sometime in the 1970s.

Sam Elliott and Joan Allen play Bo's parents Arlene and Charley.  Charley is going through a crippling depression, while Arlene struggles to keep the family afloat.  They have help from Charley's brother George, played by J.K. Simmons, who helps out when he can.  Although Charley won't see a doctor Arlene gets George to go in his place to see if he can get some drugs to help him.  This idea works out better for George in the long run.  The family as a whole is pretty self-sufficient and lives without many of the comforts of modern life, but are none the less happy and content.  To add to their troubles they find out that they are being audited by the IRS.  Not having filed a tax return in years has finally caught up with them.  Although it doesn't even seem necessary the way they live.

Lost soul William Gibbs is played by Jim True-Frost and is the newly appointed IRS agent assigned to the family.  As soon as he steps foot onto their land his life is forever changed.  Originally from the east coast, he is entranced by the majestic scenery. Not to mention to seeing Arlene nude in her garden.  A bee sting is a final incident that awakens his spirit.  He has a major epiphany that propels him to become a great artist, like many others before him.  However, your epiphany experience may differ.  Since he must have been allergic to the bee sting, he is laid upon their couch for several days in a feverish state.  Since the family has few visitors Bo has an instant crush on him and stays by his side when she can.  Her main contact with the outside world is pretty clever.  She writes complaint letters to food companies, who in turn send her boxes of free stuff.  She has a big personality and is full of wonder but is stifled by her current arrangement. 

William's appearance may also be the trigger that will snap Charley from his current funk.  They are almost like a pseudo psychiatrist to each other.  Both men are damaged and have a hard time talking about things that have happened to them.  "Off the Map" is a character drama that brings you into these peoples lives and continues to amaze.  The acting is phenomenal and I know its a huge cliché but the New Mexico scenery is a big character in itself.  "Off the Map" is definitely one to check out.