This post is a shameless excuse to tell you about an excellent movie by the name of Past Lives. I was lucky enough to see it at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre in September, and it was the perfect venue. That being said, the TIFF theatre is pretty much the perfect venue for anything. It’s a gorgeous, glamourous, multi-story affair that screens untold cinematic gems. The biggest difference between a theatre like the TIFF and your neighbourhood cinema is that the movies shown are curated by experts in the field. It’s not just the latest films to hit the big screen after distributors secure the rights to show them. The selection process is based on the quality and individual merits of every work. Equivalent to an art gallery or a museum, but in movie theatre format. If you’ve never been and you live in the GTA, you must rectify this immediately. If you’re under 25 and you haven’t been, you really need to rectify that because you can often get tickets for free. And so I went one Friday in September, making the long voyage on the subway downtown, because I was successfully targeted by Instagram’s algorithm and a well-made ad.
It did not disappoint. It’s a lengthy, meditative, tranquil time that, nevertheless, would not suit every personality type. If you’re not the type of person that can sit still for hours at a time and passively experience something, this is not the film for you. However, if you can get yourself in a mindful place (keeping in mind that the relentless pursuit of productivity is a losing cause), you may relish the opportunity to take a few deep breaths and settle in for a while.
The story follows Nora and Hae Sung, beginning with their childhood friendship. A transition point comes when Nora moves from Korea to the United States (by way of Canada). Their paths move in separate directions for a while, but the connection between them is never lessened or forgotten. As the years go on, and they become adults, they find each other online — as the internet has enabled us to do. The capacity for something like Facebook to reconnect friends on different sides of the planet is given an almost magical quality here. The rest of the film is devoted to their efforts to grapple with the strength of their connection, given the realities of both their lives. When we see friends we made when we very young, how does that inform our other relationships? And how do we reconcile everything that person meant to us as a child once our lives have changed in monumental ways?
Ok, so that title is a bit of a clickbait, but well…it’s February (aka Valentines Day month) and the 15th (which is apparently Singles Awareness Day), so I thought I’d share different books that focus on as many kinds of healthy relationships as I can.
Coming from someone who kinda finds self-help books cringey as a concept, this was also a challenge I set for myself to find titles I would actually read publicly. This is not to say I’m judging anyone else for reading or liking such books! I just don’t like admitting to needing help, pretty much ever.
(…Feel free to recommend me a self-help book to get over this.)
With that introduction out of the way, let’s dive in!
I will admit that I frequently and freely judge books by their covers, and this ’14-Day Plan to Transform Your Relationship With Yourself’ by Tim Desmond caught my eye because 1) it’s pretty and 2) it screams workbook first and self-help book second. Also, I think many people’s unhappiness with themselves stems much of the time from being far too hard on themselves about things that are normal and natural to the human condition. We are people, we are messy. But we don’t have to be miserable messes, and here’s an actionable guide to getting on the road to being kind to ourselves!
Desmond’s aim with this book is to improve your ability to motivate yourself; regulate your emotions; learn resilience; lessen self-criticism and destructive behavior; heal painful experiences; and be more present and compassionate with others. It also contains downloadable audio recordings!
This spooky season I find myself falling headlong back into the clutches of vampire fiction, a turn of events spurred on by the fantastic new television adaptation of Interview With the Vampire. Ever since HBO’s bonkers True Blood ended, I’ve been craving something that truly gets the horror, the thrill, the sheer camp of vampires. Pop culture needed a bit of a break from them, but this fall we have four new vampire book adaptations airing. We’re back, baby! And we (vampire fans) are getting everything our goth little hearts desire. For too long it’s been all about zombies. Enough. Time for the return of decadence.
For the past couple hundred years, vampires have enjoyed a stable presence in literature, waning in and out of fashion. And while people might still roll their eyes at the concept of vampire romance, probably bemoaning the cheesiness of Twilight, the fact of the matter is that for as long as there have been vampires in fiction, they have been intrinsically tied to romance—or at least, to desire. In 1700s Western Europe, the novel as we know it was in its fledgling form, and much of the written content was meant to be lurid and titillating (often under the guise of morality-teaching) for a newly widespread audience (think Fanny Hill or Pamela). Around the same time, Eastern Europe was gripped by a “vampire epidemic”; a sort of mass hysteria that caused townsfolk to exhume corpses they were convinced were coming back to life. Shortly after this time period came Gothic literature. The motifs are familiar: decaying castles or abbeys, vengeful murder, damsels, lascivious villains, and so on. Basically, Gothic fiction was the height of melodrama (for a crystallization of all of these themes and more, see 1796’s The Monkby Matthew Lewis).