ABOUT A BOY (2002) and NOTTING HILL (1999): A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ABOUT A BOY (2002) and NOTTING HILL (1999): A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ABOUT A BOY. (2002) BASED ON THE BOOK BY NICK HORNBY. DIRECTED BY CHRIS WEITZ AND PAUL WEITZ.

STARRING HUGH GRANT, NICHOLAS HOULT, TONI COLETTE, RACHEL WEISZ, NATALIA TENA, ROSALIND KNIGHT AND VICTORIA SMURFIT.

NOTTING HILL. (1999) WRITTEN BY RICHARD CURTIS. DIRECTED BY ROGER MICHELL.

STARRING HUGH GRANT, JULIA ROBERTS, ALEC BALDWIN, RHYS IFANS, HUGH BONNEVILLE, TIM MCINNERNY, EMMA CHAMBERS, GINA MCKEE, DYLAN MORAN, JULIAN RHIND-TUTT AND MISCHA BARTON.

‘You don’t even have a kid, do you???’

‘They were singing, with their eyes closed…!’

‘But driving fast behind the ambulance was fantastic…!’

‘Look who’s coming round the bend, it’s Santa and his reindeer friends…!’

‘But let’s say that I’m wrong, and you’re right, and that there’s this whole world going on out there for Marcus that I’m not even aware of … what are you going to do about it?’

These two films go so well together. Hugh Grant, he of the floppy hair, expensive education and posh British accent, is the male lead in both films. In ABOUT A BOY, a truly uplifting, heartwarming and funny film, he plays Will Freeman. Will, in his own words, is an island. He is Ibiza. Let me explain.

Will kids himself that he’s happy as he is. He doesn’t have to work, living as he does off the royalties from a Christmas song his deceased father penned years ago. He spends his days watching television, listening to music and getting his hair cut.

Will lives alone in his fancy flat, togged out with all the mod cons. He sleeps with women but doesn’t let them get too close. He depends on no-one, and no-one depends on him. That’s the way he likes it, and that’s how he intends things to stay.

Until, one day, his new underhanded plan to use single mothers as an endless source of free sex and undying gratitude leads him to cross paths with Marcus Brewer, the troubled, lonely teenage son of Fiona Brewer, a suicidal vegetarian (I don’t think there’s a connection bewtween the two states, lol!). Fiona’s a member of local support group SPAT (Single Parents Alone Together!).

Marcus’s life is a bit shit at the moment, what with being bullied at school for being ‘uncool’ and having to deal with his mum’s depression and suicide attempts. Marcus takes to Will and latches on to him like a limpet.

Will is annoyed and irritated at first, then he realises that he can’t just walk away from Marcus the way he walks away from everything else. All of a sudden, he feels responsible for another human being, and the feeling won’t go away.

His decision to help Marcus out and stand up for him, against both the bullies and his well-meaning but misguided mother, will take both their lives into strange but exciting new places, including, for Will, straight into the arms of the truly drop-gorgeous Rachel Weisz, so in no way should he be complaining…!

Highlights include Fiona finding out that Marcus has been going round Will’s house every day after school (‘You go round his house every day after school?’) and being bought cool new trainers by Will (‘He bought you cool new trainers?’), and totally mistrusting Will’s motives.

There’s also Will and Marcus performing a show-stopping duet together at the school concert, and terrific comic actress Rosalind Knight making a cameo performance as Lindsey’s mum: ‘Shake your ass?/Sheik Yourass? Is he Moroccan?’ and ‘Are you a professional Santa? How lovely!’

In NOTTING HILL, Hugh Grant plays another Will; this time William Thacker who owns a travel bookshop in Notting Hill, London. He has a sort of on-off romance with Julia Roberts, who is basically playing herself.

She’s Anna Scott, a big famous Hollywood movie superstar whose face is literally everywhere, and she meets Old Floppy Hair when she strolls casually into his bookshop one day.

Hugh Grant falls head-over-heels in love with her straightaway, while Anna revels in spending some relaxing down-time with William because she can be herself with him, away from the glare of the cameras.

The cameras can’t do without their fix of Anna Scott for long, however, and so soon enough the paparazzi begin to intrude on her life with William to the point where William gets dumped, and none too ceremoniously, either, because Anna has a big famous obnoxious Hollywood boyfriend (played by Alec Baldwin) and a big famous Hollywood career, away from Notting Hill.

William’s thirty-something dinner party friends, his wacky sister Honey (played by the late Emma Chambers) and his zany housemate Spike (Rhys Ifans) end up having to persuade William that sometimes you have to take a chance on love. Even when the odds are stacked against you…

So, if Anna Scott can just get her priorities straight and see her way to dating, or even marrying, a non-Hollywood-superstar like Will Thacker, then we’ll be all set. Or will we…? The path of true love never did run too smooth, you know…!

Irish comedian Dylan Moran (BLACK BOOKS) has a very funny cameo in this as Rufus the thief, and I love the bit where William goes to visit Anna in her hotel but ends up being mistaken for her interviewer from HORSE AND HOUND magazine.

William: ‘Um, are there many horses in your new picture?’

Anna: ‘Erm, not many, as it’s, erm, set in outer space…!’

Classic stuff. A great laugh, if not as funny as ABOUT A BOY, and well worth your time during this, or any other, lockdown. Happy viewing.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

HEREDITARY. (2018) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

hereditary mom

HEREDITARY. (2018) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ARI ASTER. STARRING TONI COLLETTE, GABRIEL BYRNE, ALEX WOLFF, MILLY SHAPIRO AND ANN DOWD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘It’s a neutral view of the accident…!’

Often, my first experience of a film that’s been released in the cinema to great acclaim is to watch it when the DVD comes out and everyone’s moved onto something else. That’s because, being a writer, I genuinely don’t get out much. Always slaving away at my desk trying to leave something worthwhile behind for humanity, lol.

Anyway, this is one film I bloody wish I’d seen on the big screen. Every second I spent watching the DVD was electrifying, it’s that good. Watching it unfold scene by scene at the cinema for the first time ever must have been a fantastic experience, not the kind you’re likely to forget any time soon.

HEREDITARY stars Toni Collette (MURIEL’S WEDDING, ABOUT A BOY, IMPERIUM), an actress who just seems to be getting better and better as she grows older. She steals the show completely in this film. She’s an absolute powerhouse in it. She plays Annie Graham, an artist, wife and mother who, when we meet her first, is getting ready to bury her mother.

It’s possibly most difficult to bury the mothers with whom we didn’t get along and with whom we have a troubled history, because there’s so much guilt involved, terrible, terrible guilt that makes for very heavy carrying. The ones we loved and were loved by, well, those deaths are bad enough to cope with, but anything more complicated, fuhgeddaboutit.

Annie is having trouble coping with her mother Ellen’s death, because they only seemed to get on intermittently and there’s a long complex back-story there. Annie even goes to a bereavement group that meets in town to see if it’s any help to her.

I think she shocks the group with how much detail she goes into about exactly how troubled her family history is. You can almost hear the group facilitator saying: ‘Well, it’s usually enough just to say your name, dear, and that you’re a wee bit sad…!’

Annie is married to Steve, played by Gabriel Byrne. (I know he’s Irish, like me, but I’ve never liked him. Too mopey and unsmilingly craggy-faced!) They’re obviously well-off and have a fabulous big house in the middle of an isolated forested area (the film was shot in Utah).

I’m not sure what Dad does (just Googled it, he’s a psychiatrist! Gabriel Byrne with his mopey unsmilingly craggy face would be perfect at playing a shrink, sitting for hours saying nothing with his legs crossed, bored, fiddling with his pen and polishing his specs, lol.), but Mom is a marvellous artist who works in miniatures and has exhibitions of her work and everything.

She creates the most amazing doll-houses and artistic installations featuring tiny people in various exquisitely-realised scenarios. Some of the scenes in the film actually make us feel like we’re looking at tiny little doll-people in a tiny little doll-house. It’s so cleverly done.

Anyway, Mom and Dad are no longer close after x amount of years together, married and bringing up children. Relationship-wise, they’re just going through the motions now. It happens, unfortunately, after that much time together. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.

Peter, their teenager, is introverted, with not much to say for himself. He’s more interested in experimenting with drugs and trying to get girls to notice him than in interacting with his family. He’s absolutely your typical teenager. Annie in particular feels like every time she talks to him, she gets a sneer back and a rude back-answer. Again, par for the course with teenage boys. And girls…!

The Grahams also have a thirteen-year-old daughter, Charlie, who appears to be autistic or otherwise differently-abled, although we’re not sure because it’s not mentioned. Either way, she’s an odd little girl. I mean, is it normal for little girls to calmly cut the heads off dead birds with scissors, or to see their dead grandmothers sitting on the grass surrounded by a bank of flames and not turn a hair?

I’ll probably be lynched for being crass enough to notice this, but the film-makers have actually gone out of their way to make the little girl an ugly figure of menace, with strange unsettling facial features and a dumpy build that reminds one of the evil dwarf in the red duffel coat from Nicolas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW. Like, don’t tell me that they didn’t have this film in the back of their minds when they were creating the look for the little girl…!

When Annie urges Peter to take an unwilling Charlie to a school party one night, in an attempt to socialise a child who clearly resents her efforts, an event occurs that might just be the most shockingly unexpected thing you’ve ever seen in a horror film. I mean, if Annie thought she was sad before, well, this is grief the like of which she didn’t even know existed. The family is in crisis. Joan from the bereavement group makes a timely entrance…

I was gripped by this film for the whole one hundred and twenty-two minutes of its duration. (The standard ninety minutes wouldn’t have been sufficient for this meaty horror plot.) Things start to happen fairly quickly after the night of the party and Toni Collette positively acts up a storm. The viewers begin to wonder exactly what the creepy old Grandma Ellen’s deal was in life, and in what way it’s possibly impacting on the Graham family now.

The scares come thick and fast, but not the flashy every-ten-seconds jump-scare-for-the-sake-of-it thing you’re probably familiar with from other modern horror movies. (James Wan, I do love you and keep making those brilliant CONJURING and ANNABELLE movies but I’m looking right at you, lol.) I’m not telling you guys too much for fear of spoilers, though. The film really is too good for that.

I kept being shocked at the plot twists and the freakish occurrences but in a really good way, and in such a way that I didn’t want the film to ever end. And I loved the way the plot moulded itself into one of my favourite horror movie themes in the end. I wasn’t disappointed with the climax, just stunned, and I feel like if I go back and watch the film again, certain things will now make more sense. Verdict? Top-notch stuff. Watch it, before it watches you…!

(PS, down the line, certain people might have to come to terms with the fact that a child’s treehouse may not be, shall we say, the most dignified location for meetings and gatherings of such magnitude, but any port in a storm, as we say.

After all, the Pope doesn’t hold his conclave thingies behind the wheel of the bumper cars at the local funfair, does he, and Donald Trump, the most powerful man on the planet because he’s the boss of the United States of America, wouldn’t be seen dead inviting his fellow politicians to vote on a Very Important Matter while enjoying some time on a bouncy castle on the grass verge out the back of the Whitehouse? Well, actually, as to that last one, I don’t know. I guess anything’s possible…!)

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor