Short Term 12

With much dismay, I discovered my Netflix “Watch list” was entirely populated with TV shows instead of movies, but I didn’t want that sort of commitment at the moment. I wanted to be in and out with closure in under two hours, man. Since Netflix has completely castrated their ratings and sorting options to be beyond useless, I did a search for “Highest rated movies on Netflix” and the internet did not fail me. The first movie in the list that I had not already seen was Short Term 12. My husband declined to watch it with me, citing that it looked like it had “too many feelings” in it, which was fair enough. I, however, have been writing a story that has a subplot involving foster children, so I thought it looked pretty interesting.

Straight up front: This was a good movie and I enjoyed it. It stars Brie Larson (before she was famous), Rami Malek (before he was famous), and John Gallagher Jr. (to which my husband glanced over and said “Hey, it’s that guy” so maybe before he was famous too?), all working in a care home for, as Rami Malek’s character so eloquently stuffs his foot in his mouth to describe, ‘disadvantaged children’.

This movie is about broken people, and it does a fantastic job of portraying how broken they are without jamming their backstories down your throat. You see them. They are broken. And there are just enough hints as to why they are broken that you don’t ask any more questions. But it never preaches at you, which I really appreciated.

That said, the plot isn’t really anything special. It’s interesting, and there are a few points in the story where I was thinking “Oh man, so this could go either this way or that way, and both of those are pretty unique twists in this story!” Instead of either of those things, it went for the absolute most vanilla storybook ending possible, which, under these circumstances, actually made it less believable than any of the more unique alternatives. For that reason alone I kinda disagree with the 98% that is currently displayed on Rotten Tomatoes. This movie could have taken some risks and really been something. Although, I have come across a comment or two about how they had to edit it a number of times because it was simply too depressing, which is maybe why it went the route that they did. Unfortunately, I think it makes the movie stumble a bit right at the end, which is a shame, but ultimately it doesn’t ruin anything.

But boy.  The depictions of emotions in this movie are, for the most part, on point.  When a character is feeling something, you feel it.  When a character is acting irrationally, you have a good idea why.  It was well done and well written.
Except for the ending.

More ramblings about that past the spoiler break: Read more of this post

Fran Bow

I think I purchased Fran Bow during a Halloween sale.  It got lost in my vast backlog of adventure games until I was finally in the mood for a point and click story experience.  I spent the next few hours sending messages to my friend which all said something along the lines of “Wow, this game.”  “WTF.”  “This is like the most fucked up game I’ve played in awhile…”  It actually reminded me a bit of Year Walk, although not nearly as ambiguous and without the same level of puzzle solving.  Both games come from Sweden, so perhaps that’s less of a coincidence than I first thought.

Fran Bow is a ten year old girl who survives a terrible family tragedy, and is then placed in a mental asylum.  The game takes place in 1944, so this is an old-school asylum environment with all of its various mental illness stigmas.  Fran was separated from her beloved cat, Mr Midnight, and she embarks on a mission to escape the asylum and find him.  The game has some mental illness themes that I found intriguing, and unraveling what’s going on is an engaging journey.

The game has quite a few mixed reviews on Steam, and I think that’s because there’s a huge tonal shift in the third chapter.  The opening chapters are fucked up.  There is a lot of really disturbing imagery and suggestions of some really dark content, which is probably what a lot of people dove into the game expecting after looking at the synopsis (and possibly got even more than they bargained for).  The third chapter, though, loses a lot of that imagery and becomes a fairly generic point and click story.  It doesn’t really return to its disturbing roots until closer to the end, and even then it doesn’t seem to reach the same heights.  I can easily see how someone who was engaged by the opening chapters would lose a lot of momentum in chapter three and not really manage to stick it out.  And the ending was… strange.  Many reviews point it out for being too abrupt, but I felt it had enough closure to seal off the story.  I wouldn’t say it was disappointing, but it might have been a little more effective if they had been more concrete rather than leaving some of the lines to interpretation.

If you can handle the disturbing underlying suggestions of the game, it’s probably worth the 4-6 hours that it will take to see Fran through her story.