Friday, 27 May 2016

"Room" - Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay


Photo credit: Screenshot of promotional images on IMDb
IMDb profile here

I wept my way through this film. I actually had to leave the screen room to get more tissues, there being no discreet way to wipe that much snot on a sleeve.

I went to see it at one of my local independent cinemas, by myself in the middle of the day, during the month I spent writing, pottering and looking for a new direction/job. And I loved it.

It still feels like an odd thing to say about a film that explores such dark aspects of human actions, but the reviews called it "life affirming" and I really thought that was true. The tag line, "love knows no boundaries", feels trite to me - it sums up the beauty of the film a little too conveniently, a bit too accurately. The film itself is much more nuanced.

But the marketers are right - it's the exploration of love that makes this film extraordinary. It's the depiction of the love between a mother and son (primarily) that is so stunning: creative, devoted, fallible and ordinary. When I watched this film I had a sneaky suspicion that I was pregnant. And it gave me hope, in the most bizarre way.

There are so many voices that weigh into the discussion about the best way to be a mother. Encouraging voices, knowledgeable voices, critical voices, uninformed voices. I'm not trying to detract from the importance of shared experience: it's good to talk and to know that others have been through similar things; it's healthy to have support and not be isolated or cut off. I do want that.

But above all, I want to be brave. I want to be courageous and kind and unafraid. I want to trust myself and enjoy my family and rely on God. I want to bring every ounce of love and ingenuity I have to this great adventure and not feel the need to check in with everyone else's expectations all the time. And I want to believe in my intuition. 

Because it turns out my little hunch was right. I am pregnant. When I watched this film, I got to glimpse the vast possibilities in being a parent. It made me feel more alive with the wonder of that than any other book or advice column or resource I've come across so far.

I think it might be time to add it to my film collection...

Friday, 20 May 2016

Coffee Cup Encouragement


I've been in my job for almost three months, and had copious amounts of the free hot chocolate from the office vending machine. But today I noticed the cups. Today, right when I needed to see it, the little inspirational statements caught my eye. On another day I would probably find them a bit irritating, a bit too... inspirational. But today they say the perfect things at just the right time:


"Legend has it,
Walt Disney was turned down 302 times before he got financing for Disneyland."

"Thomas Edison:
'If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed.
I am not discouraged,
because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.'"

"Dr. Seuss' first book
'To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street'
was rejected by 27 publishers."

"Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime
to a friend.
Despite that, he kept painting and finished over 800 pieces.
His most expensive painting today is valued at $142.7 million."

I know the internet is full of these uplifting titbits of information - they crop up on my Facebook news feed almost daily. What I really want to celebrate is the timeliness of this particular intervention, stumbling across the oxygen of encouragement in a place I would never look to find it. It's transformed my day.

To me, that epitomises the beauty of life. That's cosmic kindness. That's the very face of God.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

"The Heart Speaks in Whispers" (Corinne Bailey Rae)


Part of the 'Lyrical Lifelines' Series


Website screenshot - Purchasing info here

I've been so excited for the release of this album that I pre-ordered it on iTunes - something I've never felt inclined to do before. 

I clearly remember buying Corrine Bailey Rae's first album, not long after it came out in 2006, which would have made me eighteen at the time. I was on a school trip to see "We Will Rock You" at the Dominion Theatre with my A-level German class and our language exchange partners. I got on really well with my partner, but the trip was a chance for her to catch up with friends she hadn't seen all week. I ended up sitting alone on the coach ride into London, pretending to be asleep and feeling so small. It was pretty symptomatic of that stage of life for me: friends with everyone, close to no-one. 

We arrived in London early and were allowed to go shopping. I remember wandering into the HMV store, as it was then, at the intersection of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, hearing her songs playing and buying the CD on impulse. I was so comforted by them! "Put Your Records On" was playing everywhere that summer, and her empathy with teenage insecurity felt utterly liberating. But it was "Seasons Change" that I had on repeat, reminding me to be patient with my circumstances and believe in better things to come.

Fast-forward ten years (plus a second album that I loved for its haunting bravery), and here I am - once again finding that the songs she has written have such timely resonance. "Stop Where You Are" was the first song that I really took on board from the pre-release, feeling slightly chastised by the lines  "Give up all the things you can't control / Still yourself and watch them come and go / Wherever you are you'll find you're home at last" - a timely rebuke against my endless striving and tantrums, trying to manipulate life to my agenda.

Because life is definitely doing its own sweet thing right now. But it is sweet: it's something of a renaissance. And that sense of untameable vision, the unknown and the huge optimism of being on the edge of your best self - it's all echoed in the lyrics on this album, and in the energy and adventure of the musical arrangements. Amplified, actually - these feel like songs where the best things in life are upfront and central, brought into sharp focus for those of us (like me) who constantly forget to notice. These are songs of hope, of passion and sensuality, of reincarnation. It's all the more humbling a triumph in the context of Corinne Bailey Rae's personal circumstances over the last few years. 

For me, Corinne Bailey Rae will always be something of a beautiful and wise older cousin - someone relatable that I can learn from and be spurred on by. Someone whose artistry forever enriches my world. And for that, I have to say thank you.

'Lyrical Lifelines' - songs that save my world




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