Good Americans by Tejas Devas review

Good Americans by Tejas Devas is a collection of short stories, mostly dealing with experiences of people of colour in the United States. Right off the bat, this collection won’t be for everyone. There is discriminatory language used throughout, as well as references to suicide and assault which may upset some readers.

However, as a whole, the collection works well. Having that core theme of immigration means the stories flow into each other nicely. The ones that stood out were ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘The Mountain’. ‘The Apprentice’ was wonderfully constructed; our narrator is a very engaging character whom you’re happy to go along with and the storyline builds up to a satisfying conclusion. It isn’t necessarily a happy ending – none of the stories have that – but it is a powerful one. ‘The Mountain’ is a very bittersweet story but at the heart of it is the friendship between Peter and Nilesh. They both contemplate their futures and how their expectations of it have been altered or thwarted entirely. Watching them contemplate their struggles whilst helping one another was very endearing, and I think would resonate with anyone who has felt anxious about their future.

Yet, as with all short story collections, some stories are weaker than others and Good Americans is no exception. In particular, ‘Malta: A Love Story’ didn’t work for me. Divided into three sections, it is the longest story here and its length can be felt. By the end, it was starting to drag somewhat, and I was beginning to lose interest. The main characters of Malta and Kunal were interesting enough, but the plot became so ridiculous it stopped being entertaining. What happens to Malta starts to become repetitive and border-lining on melodramatic, and it felt like the author wanted to shock people just because it was possible rather than it benefits the plot.

As mention beforehand, Good Americans won’t be for everyone. There are stories such as ‘Dhan’s Debut’ which will split opinion (I liked it due to that bizarre plot twist) and the themes and language used throughout will alienate some readers. Also, it has the most bizarre Prologue I have ever read that seems to parody a literary agent. But the collection does have some solid storytelling and is incredibly thought-provoking. The blurb compares it to the works of Mark Twain and William Faulkner, but a few of the stories reminded me of Ottessa Moshfegh’s writing. It is a very provocative, grimy, hard-hitting collection, and one that will certainly divide readers.

Good Americans is published by The New Wei and you can find more information here. This review was first published on Readers Favourite. 

No God Like the Mother by Kesha Ajose Fisher review

Being in the mood for some short stories when I noticed that Booktasters had a copy of Kesha Ajose Fisher’s No God Like the Mother, I jumped at the chance to read it. As you can guess from the title, all nine stories tackle motherhood in some shape or form, despite taking place in wildly different locations and cultures.

Fisher tackles the subject of motherhood with great aplomb. Either the narrators have children, or a character close to them becomes a mother figure. This allows Fisher to tackle different aspects of the subject, such as the juggling act between a woman’s own dreams and desires and those of her children. The collection is very open about the highs and lows of motherhood, and I found that very refreshing to read about. Another subject that Fisher tackles is immigration. After finishing I discovered she works with African immigrants and refugees which you can tell given how knowledgeable she is. She really goes into depth about the immigrant experience, both in the US and Europe, and the struggles that come with trying to establish yourself in a foreign country, as well as the prejudice people face. The stories that focussed on immigrants were eye-opening and felt incredibly relevant.

It is remarkable how Fisher discusses these complex, heavy subject matters in such a short book (my copy was around 178 pages) and with such rich, beautiful language. Her imagery is very evocative and she is able to successfully capture different places like a suburb in the US, the crowded streets of Paris, both city and country life in Nigeria. There is a real sense of time and place which helps to draw the reader into the stories, which is achieved through Fisher’s carefully selected word choice and wonderfully crafted imagery. Despite the lovely flowing language, No God Like the Mother isn’t necessarily a book for everyone. There is a lot of disturbing content in here, such as death and sexual assault amongst others so caution is advised. These topics never feel exploited or mentioned simply for shock value; Fisher doesn’t tackle them light-heartedly. But they are present if people are wary of reading about subjects like this.

At first glance, No God Like the Mother can appear a bit of a mash-up. The theme of motherhood and having mothers as narrators or important secondary characters is reminiscent of Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. The exploration of Nigerian society and immigration from the country is similar to the works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Whilst Fisher is perhaps not as accomplished as the aforementioned writers, there is a lot of promise here. For a debut short story collection, No God Like the Mother is wonderfully executed, with beautiful language and interesting characters. A raw, shattering, honest look at what it means to be a mother and an immigration (or both in cases).  I can’t wait to see what Fisher writes next.

No God Like the Mother is published by Inkwell Press and you can find more information here.  

 

Random Book Quiz Round 12: Theatre Adaptations

Casting our minds back many, many weeks ago, some people might remember that I did a Film Adaptations round. This week I’ve decided to do a similar picture round but involving the theatre. So down below are 10 images taken from theatre productions which are all adaptations of novels. I’ve deliberately excluded original plays from this list as I will make a photo round solely dedicated to them in the future. Similarly, there are no musicals here either. The answers here have all been novels adapted to the stage, and all you need to do is name the book.

Good luck!

 

1. Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time

 

 

2. Jane Eyre National Theatre

 

 

3. Frankenstein

 

 

4. And Then There Were None

 

 

5. Rebecca play 

 

 

6. Treasure Island

 

 

7. Picture of Dorian Gray

 

 

8. 1984

 

 

9. War Horse

 

 

10. Let the Right One In

 

Let me know how you get on, and if you’ve seen any of these stage adaptations. Making this round has made me nostalgic for theatre; I’ve not seen a play in years. So any recommendations would be great.

 

 

Answers for Round 11

  1.  Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams
  2.  The Wizard of Oz – Frank L Baum
  3.  The Beach – Alex Garland
  4.  War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  5.  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – F Scott Fitzgerald
  6.  The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  7.  The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
  8.  Black Leopard Red Wolf – Marlon James
  9.  To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  10.  The Colour Purple – Alice Walker

 

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott review

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott is based on the true story of how the CIA used Boris Pasternak’s classic novel Doctor Zhivago as propaganda to undermine the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It follows their attempts to gain a copy from its Italian publisher, through to the 1958 Brussels World Fair when they try to pass a translation on to visiting Russians. It is a really interesting story, one which many literature fans will be interested in.

It’s a pity then, that this novel isn’t really about any of that.

It started so promising too. The prologue, narrated by a nameless typist (that should have been the first warning sign), begins by explaining how overqualified the typists are for their job. Some studied at Harvard and other prestigious universities, some are fluent in different languages, some can use weapons, etc. Yet they are stuck doing clerical work whilst their male counterparts gain higher ranking jobs in the Agency, hoping against hope they might get promoted. However, as typists they have access to government secrets, a point our narrator emphasises. The prologue by itself is really intriguing and mysterious, drawing the reader into the typing pool. It also suggests that Prescott will tackle gender inequality in the workplace.

Sadly the rest of the novel doesn’t live up to its excellent opening. The reader never hears of government secrets the typists know; there are no meetings, no whisperings between the women, we never see what they are physically typing. Instead, the reader is treated to banal gossip, mainly who is dating who in their office. It becomes boring really quickly, especially since we don’t get to know any of these typists so we can’t care for them. Their names are pretty much all we’re told.  The promise of massive secrets in the prologue never materializes. Admittedly, Prescott does fare better when tackling gender inequality during the time period. This occurs few and far between, but the scenes where she does are very effective.

The biggest problem I had with The Secrets We Kept though was the main character and plot. Smuggling Doctor Zhivago into the Soviet Union isn’t the main focus; it’s a love affair between two of the people working on the mission. This didn’t work as it never felt believable. Our main character Irina is a bit of a wallflower. Naïve, clumsy, social awkward, shy with no friends and believing she’s uglier than she actually is, she somehow manages to make two of her co-workers fall for her at first sight. This ‘pretty girl but doesn’t know it’ trope feels like it has come straight from a teen romance, which made me roll my eyes at points. It cheapened the reading experience. Irina does develop into a stronger character later into the novel, but the damage is already done in the first half. As mentioned the love story is the main plot point, meaning the actual CIA operation fades into the background which is disappointing. It resurfaces now and then, but mainly Prescott focuses on Irina’s love life.

Also the scenes set in the Soviet Union with Pasternak and his mistress/muse Olga felt underused.  They were actually some of the more interesting chapters, yet never carried the urgency and gravity of the characters’ predicaments; Pasternak along with his family are in danger of imprisonment or even execution if the novel is published. But the fact they have fewer, shorter chapters than the American characters means the reader never gets a sense of these people and the danger they are in.

Perhaps it is my fault I didn’t enjoy The Secrets We Kept as much as I wanted to. It ultimately wasn’t the novel I was expecting it to be after reading the prologue. Instead of a literary thriller//drama – its marketed as ‘a Cold War spy thriller’ – the main drive is this love story. I can understand focusing on a romance when mentioning Doctor Zhivago; one of the greatest love stories of all time. But the relationship never felt believable; the characters were too cookie-cutter and felt like they belonged in a YA romance. There are moments of greatness; for example when the novel shifts to discussing the operation, or when Prescott points out the gender imbalance in the Agency.  The Secrets We Kept was ultimately not for me. Fans of historical romance may have a much better time with this book. If you are interested in Doctor Zhivago though, I think Anna Pasternak’s Lara is a much more informative read. And I must, must, must reread Pasternak’s classic.

The Secrets We Kept is published by Windmill and you can find more information here.

Monthly Round Up: June 2020

As we approach the end of June I’ve decided to take a look back at all the books I’ve read over the past 4 weeks. There’s a bit of a mixture which is always good, and links are provided below if you want to check out my reviews for any of the books.

Books Read in 2020

I also listed my Top 5 books and films of the year so far, which was a lot harder than I initially anticipated. Particularly in the first couple of months I read and watched some great stuff so narrowing it down was difficult. But returning to this month’s reading, like I mentioned I’m happy with how diverse the genres are. There is some poetry, an essay collection, short stories, and a couple of novels. I find my reading drops off by the middle of the year, having consumed so much during the earlier months that I nearly slip into a reading slump. So having different styles really helps to keep me excited about reading. I seem to be carrying on this trend going into July; currently I’m reading a fiction and a non-fiction, with another non-fiction at the top of my TBR. I don’t want to talk too much about them here, but I have a lot of points on all of them that I want to bring up in my reviews. So that’s how my reading is going at the moment.

Now I normally share three films I’m excited to watch that are being released in 2020. I may have cheated a teeny bit, as one of the films mentioned is already out. For whatever reason, I have just never got round to it yet so if you have, let me know if it’s worth watching.

Films to See in 2020

Mank (dir. David Fincher)

MankMank is a biographical film about Herman J Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), a screenwriter who battles with director and film star Orson Welles (Tom Burke) over credit for the screenplay of Citizen Kane. Any movie about movies was bound to pique my interest, and I’m especially interested in learning more about Citizen Kane. It is a film I’ve seen multiple times and it consistently makes the ‘Best of’ lists, but I don’t know much about the making of the movie. So it’ll be interesting to catch a glimpse of what it was like. Plus, I really enjoy Fincher’s work so am always happy to see a new film by him.

Da 5 Bloods (dir. Spike Lee)

Da-5-Bloods-1Another director whose previous films I’ve enjoyed is Spike Lee. His latest, Da 5 Bloods, recently dropped on Netflix and follows four veterans who return to Vietnam to seek out a fortune that their leader helped them hide. It sounds like a bizarre mash-up of genres, so I’m intrigued just by the premise. Is it a war film? Adventure? Buddy movie? A mixture of all them plus more? Clocking in at around 2 hours and 34 minutes it is a long film, but in Lee’s capable hands it will no doubt fly by. I imagine not one for the faint-hearted given the setting, but perhaps a necessary watch.

Ammonite (dir. Francis Lee)

AmmoniteSet in England in the 1840s, palaeontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) is working in Lyme Regis. A wealthy tourist offers Mary money to care for his young wife Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan). Though at the first the women don’t get along, soon they fall for one another and a love affair develops. I’m a simple woman, I see Saoirse Ronan is in a film and I immediately watch it. She is one of my favourite actresses working today so any film from her is a treat. I’m also getting vibes of  Portrait of a Lady on Fire from the plot, which is one of my favourites from this year. It should have premiered in Cannes in May, but hopefully it will be released soon.

 

What has been your favourite read this month? Have you seen Da 5 Bloods? Let me know in the comments!

Random Book Quiz Round 11: Emojis

This week’s quiz is simply a ‘Say what you see’ picture round. I’ve (tried to) write 10 book titles in emojis and you just need to guess the book. Whilst trying out this round I noticed some of emojis looked quite small, so hopefully they are large enough now.  Enjoy and let me know how you get on!

Try not to get too emoji-nal during the quiz (ok I’ll stop now).

 

1. princess + e

 

2. wizardAustralian flag

 

3. beach-with-umbrella

 

4. crossed-swords       &   untitled

 

5. thinking-facebriefcasemanradio-button

 

6. grapesangry-face

 

7. old-man    &         water-wave_1f30a

 

8. blackleopardredwolf-face

 

9. keycap-2-emoji-by-twitter skull   face-with-tears-of-joybird

 

10. large-purple-circle_1f7e3

 

 

 

Answers for Round 10

  1. Atticus Finch
  2.  Robert March
  3.  Arthur Weasley
  4.  King Lear
  5.  Vito Corleone
  6.  Harry /Mr Wormwood
  7.  Mr Bennet
  8.  Tywin Lannister
  9.  Bob Cratchit
  10.  Hamlet (yep this was a trick question!)

My Top 5 Lowest Rated Books on my Goodreads

A few weeks ago I made my Top 5 Highest Rated Books on my Goodreads which was a lot of fun to find out, and I decided to do the opposite ie. the lowest rated books on Goodreads that I’ve read. I feel a lot of these might be popular books, since more people have heard of them and therefore more likely to pick them up. That’s just my speculation before diving in so let’s see! As previously I will link to my original reviews as I will only be giving a very quick summary here.

 

1. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

see what i have doneThis is a retelling of the Lizzie Borden case which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize when it was released. And right off the bat, my thoughts align with the people of Goodreads. There were aspects that I enjoyed or admired about the writing but the whole reading experience left me cold. The chapters told by the sisters were also well done, but the inclusion of a third, outside narrator seemed utterly pointless. If told strictly from the siblings’ perspectives, it would have been a much tighter novel. I know a lot of people loved See What I Have Done but it just didn’t work for me.

 

2. Tangerine by Christine Mangan

TangerineThis is the story of two friends Alice and Lucy, and what happens when Lucy suddenly shows up in Tangier to visit Alice and her husband John. This is a psychological thriller with undertones of Patricia Highsmith; something that was pushed in the publicity campaign. In a strange way, this is the exact opposite of See What I Have Done; I wasn’t keen on the writing – there were a couple of clunkers in there – but overall it was OK. Some aspects were disappointing but Mangan seems like a promising writer. Maybe because I read it whilst on holiday, but it does seems like a good beach read you could get lost in.

 

3. First Love by Gwendoline Riley

first loveThis is another one I am blaming on the Women’s Prize; it made it to their shortlist in 2017. In this slim volume, we explore the relationships our narrator has had over the years, especially her mother and husband Edwyn. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Not in this case as the more I think of First Love the more it irritates me. The relationship between the narrator and Edwyn felt mentally abusive; it was unbelievable that the blurb was touting this as love. That whole aspect soured the entire book, even if I did think the mother/daughter relationship was interesting and worth exploring. The narrator herself also is nothing to write home about; looking back I can’t remember a single personality trait of hers. How this made the shortlist I’ll never know.

 

2. Marilyn and Me by Ji-Min Lee

Marilyn and MeAlice works as a translator for American forces in Seoul when her boss announces that movie legend Marilyn Monroe is visiting for a four day tour. The novel follows Alice’s job as Monroe’s translator for her trip, as well as Alice’s life before and during the war. This was a really enjoyable read. Obviously I initially picked the book as I am a big fan of Monroe, though she isn’t in it an awful lot. That was a little disappointing at first, but Alice was such a fascinating character that I didn’t mind by the end. It was nice to see her develop as a person throughout the book. There is a love triangle which didn’t exactly work but overall it was an interesting read about a dark period of time and an interesting take on an icon.

 

1. M for Mammy by Eleanor O’Reilly

m for mammyTaking the top spot for lowest rated book on my Goodreads (undeservedly) is M for Mammy. I say undeservedly as I remember quite liking it at the time and there are plenty more deserving candidates for number one (*cough* First Love). M for Mammy is about the Augustt family; the mother has various health problems, son Jacob doesn’t speak, and father Mickey seems to be struggling with life in general. It did at times feel as though O’Reilly was perhaps trying to cram too much into the novel; there are a lot of characters to wade through. Yet it had a lot of heart in it, and you really connect to the family.  This one is for people who enjoy family dramas.

 

And that is it; my top 5 lowest rated books. Other than First Love I wasn’t expecting any of these; I also thought more popular books would have wangled their way onto the list.  Given more people reading them, I thought they would have a more mixed reception. As it is, out of the 5 I enjoyed 2 of them and they aren’t bad books in the least. Flawed yes, but still worth reading if you like the author and/or genre. I can also understand why some of the books – namely See What I Have Done and Tangerine – have mixed reviews. Again they weren’t necessarily for me, but perhaps others may appreciate them more.

Let me know what is the lowest rated book on Goodreads you have read!

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? ed. by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré & Alana Yu-Lan Price review

The essay collection Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States has been doing the rounds in the bookish community since the murder of George Floyd. The title sums up what these essays are about, all written by either investigative journalists or activists, and includes a foreword by Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza.

What impressed me most about the collection was how diverse it is. Whilst most of the essays deal with police violence against black people, there are also essays discussing racism against Indigenous populations. It was harrowing to see the similarities between the two groups and it also created a much fuller picture of racism within the US. It was truly fascinating and eye-opening to see how black and Indigenous activist groups have supported, and also caused harm to, one another over the centuries, something I knew little of. Equally, the essays concerning women and LGBT experiences of police violence were shocking yet necessary reading, as a lot of what was mentioned seems to not have gained significant media attention. These were stories that had to be told and addressed, and the fact the collection gives a lot of time to them is a huge plus. The diversity of the essays and their writers means the collection looks at a lot of different topics and gives them a spotlight.

Whilst the content itself is deeply disturbing, all the essays are beautifully written. They break down concepts in a way in which everyone can understand, even those who don’t know much about systemic racism and police violence. You come away from the collection understanding a lot more, and a big part of that is the accessibility of the writing. The writers successfully balance making things easier to understand but never talk down or being condescending to the reader. But they also never lose the humanity beneath the stories. They focus first and foremost on the people who have been affected by violence throughout, despite the swaths of numbers and statistics that would be very easy to get lost in. Not that they aren’t important, but having the people at the heart of the essay really hammers home the main topic, plus creates a connection between the reader and those affected.

Another aspect that worked really well was splitting the collection into two. The first half focused on the devastating effects police violence has had on predominantly black communities. The second half looks at ways of keeping those communities safe, and reducing (or even eradicating) policing in these areas. The range of alternatives mentioned in this section is far-reaching and provides an excellent overview of options that can be used not involving the police. Some examples used are already in operation in some areas, which helps to strengthen their arguments. A highlight in this half is Ejeris Dixon’s essay ‘Building Community Safety: Practical Steps Toward Liberatory Transformation’. Here Dixon not only discusses alternatives but also reflects on her work as an activist, and what she has learned over the years. It gave an insight into the work activists do and the trials that come along with it.

It is saddening that since its publication in 2016, the topics dealt in Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? are still timely in 2020. The collection is very US-centric but I think people outwith the United States will still be able to understand even relate. This is a very harrowing, disturbing essay collection but one that is necessary.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States is published at Haymarket Books and you can find more information here. At time of writing, this book is available free as an E-Book.  

Random Book Quiz Round 10: Father’s Day

The tenth round of the Random Book Quiz is here! I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for ten weeks already; time flies when you’re having fun. So tomorrow, Sunday 21st June, is Father’s Day in the UK and I thought I would celebrate it with its own dedicated quiz round. Below I have listed 10 literary children, all you need to do is tell who their father is. As always, let me know how you get on and answers for Round 9 can be found at the end.

1. Jem and Scout

 

2. Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth

 

3. Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny

 

4.  Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia

 

5. Sonny, Tom, Fredo, Michael, and Connie

 

6. Michael and Matilda

 

7. Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia

 

8. Cersei, Jamie, and Tyrion

 

9. Martha, Belinda, Peter, and Tiny Tim (plus 2 unnamed children)

 

10. Hamlet

 

 

Answers to Round 9

1. Wuthering Heights

2. Pride and Prejudice

3. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

4. On the Road

5. Anna Karenina

6. Frankenstein

7. Middlemarch

8. The Book Thief

9. Life of Pi

10. Gone with the Wind

The Top 5 Films of 2020 so far

Since I did my Top 5 Books of 2020 so far on Monday, I thought I would look back at some of my favourite films from the last six months. Despite not having set foot in a cinema since March, I’ve managed to see a fair few amazing movies. Most of these you will have heard of and there might be some overlap with 2019, especially where USA/UK release dates differ. But here is my top 5:

5. Jojo Rabbit (dir. Taika Waititi)

Jojo RabbitSet in Germany during World War II, our titular Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is a young boy whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler (Waititi). However, his life is about to be turned upside down when he discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their house. In some ways Jojo Rabbit shouldn’t work and admittedly there are plenty of people who dislike this film. But I really enjoyed it, I loved the blend of humour and pathos and how the film switches tone midway through. The use of modern music was also a nice touch, adding a sense of modernity to a period piece. The music, performances and humour elevated the story, which could have been very paint-by-numbers if these elements weren’t there. It is a highly original work and one that I recommend.

 

4. Little Women (dir. Greta Gerwig)

Little WomenI don’t think this one needs much in the way of plot explanation. This is Gerwig’s adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic following the March sisters (Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen). Despite feeling like the 1000th adaptation, this Little Women feels very new and fresh. The idea of starting near the end of the book and flashing between past and present was cleverly done and helped make aspects of the story, like Jo and Friedrich’s relationship come alive. I also really loved the focus on Amy, a character I normally despise. Gerwig’s writing and Pugh’s performance made her a very sympathetic, likable person, one that you root for just as much as Jo. The second half of the novel feels more fleshed out here which also benefits her character tremendously. Fans of Alcott will really enjoy this.

3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. Celine Sciamma)

Portrait of a Lady on FireAt the end of the 18th century, painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) travels to a small island off Brittany for a commission. Her job is to paint a wedding portrait of the Countess’ daughter Héloïse (Adèle Haenel). But the longer she stays on the island, the more her feelings for Héloïse grow, and soon the women embark on a doomed love affair. This is a very quiet, beautiful film about love. It is slow-paced so people interested in action won’t like this but I found it quite contemplative. It helped me to think about the characters and their different plights. The theme of looking, whether that is through art or even the removal of the male gaze, is also delicately handled and crafted. The relationship as well felt very believable and Merlant and Haenel had great chemistry. Plus by the end I was welling up.

2. A Hidden Life (dir. Terrence Malick)

A Hidden LifeThis film is based on the true story of Austrian Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) whose refusal to fight for the Nazis ultimately leads to his execution. Interspersed with his experiences in prison, we also follow his wife Fanny (Valerie Pachner) who is ostracised by the community the family live in. This is the longest film on this list, clocking in at an impressive 2 hours 54 minutes, and not a single minute feels unnecessary. In a similar way to Portrait this is a slow-moving, contemplative film, one which reflects on morality, humanity and religion. Malick takes time to delve into these themes and explore them. It is also just beautiful to look at – all of Malick’s films are stunning –  with the shots of St. Radegund particularly breath-taking. People who are already fans of Malick’s work will love this and another film that had me near tears at the end.

1. Parasite (dir. Bong Joon-Ho)

ParasiteMy number one – and pretty much everyone else’s in 2019/20 – is Best Picture winner Parasite. The destitute Kim family weasel their way in to the wealthy Parks’ lives via Kim Ki-Woo (Woo-sik Choi) becoming the tutor of Park Da-Hye (Ji-So Jung). Of course nothing quite goes to the plan, and we discover the Park house has more secrets than previously thought.  This is brilliantly paced and plotted. Nothing is superfluous; every scene has a purpose and the plot is constantly moving. Parasite also blends genres effortlessly. It moves between drama, comedy, and horror with ease, keeping the audience at the edge of their seats. You never knew what to expect next, and the climatic scene is so intense and riveting it is hard to look away. The use of stairs to reflect class, a major theme of the film, was also well done and cleverly arranged. Parasite thoroughly deserved all the praise and awards it has been receiving.

 

And that’s it! My top 5 films so far this year. Looking back, I notice that 3 are Oscar winners and the top 3 all debuted in Cannes last May (Parasite obviously in both categories). In fact, choosing the order of the top 3 was very difficult as any of them could have claimed the top spot. If I had done this list next week perhaps A Hidden Life would have been number 1, who knows?  Hopefully in the next six months there will be plenty more films for me to enjoy, and we can see if the rankings change come December.