Hope

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, and Views Are My Game.

The words “rape movie” and “heart-warming” don’t typically mesh well together. And yet, somehow, Lee Joon-ik’s Hope, a film about an 8-year-old girl named So-won getting raped and beaten, manages to be uplifting, rather than depressing. The reason it is able to is simple; it does not show the rape. People talk about it, and we see the victim after the event all bloody and bruised, but there is absolutely no onscreen violence in this film. Instead, the movie focuses on how a victim and her family can recover and rebuild after such a horrible calamity. It shows the protagonist undergoing therapy, both mental and physical, it shows the stages of grief, guilt and gradual acceptance that her community progresses through, and it shows the acts of kindness that people show her to make her feel whole again. It is a beautiful movie about kindness, love, and healing, and it truly surprised me.

Now, before I go on, I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I hate rape. I hate it more than murder. I hate it more than torture. To me, rape is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a person. You’re taking something that is fundamentally positive, sex, the act by which new life is created, and through which couples can make each other happy, and perverting it. You’re making it violent. You’re destroying something that is as sacred as life itself. And it sickens me that my country has decided to elect a man who brags–BRAGS–about raping and sexually assaulting women. Words cannot describe how disgusted and ashamed I feel. Rape victims in America are already treated terribly enough, with people often claiming that they “asked for it,” and politicians doing everything they can to eliminate access to women’s health care. But now, more than ever, I feel like rape victims will face an uphill battle to get the assistance and recognition they need. Because if a man who openly brags about raping people can get elected president, what’s to stop every sick pervert out there from openly indulging in their depraved, violent fantasies?

Rape in film is also something that I detest. As a screenwriter, I give myself certain rules while penning a script. One is no rape, or violence towards women. That rule came about after I realized that a shockingly high number of films use rape as a plot device to motivate male heroes to action. Death Wish, A Time To Kill, Gran Torino, Last House On The Left, I Saw The Devil, The Equalizer, all these films use the rape of a female character to convince male protagonists to fight the villains who hurt these women. And while it is usually cathartic to see the rapists get their just desserts, a disturbingly common trend in all these films is to disregard the victims’ trauma. Very rarely do we, the audience, get to see these victims experiencing PTSD, going through therapy, or having emotional and social problems. More often than not, they get raped, the hero sees them all beat up and hurt, he goes on a killing spree, and maybe, at the end, we get one shot of the victim in the hospital, or smiling and acting happy again. But that’s not how it happens. Killing a rapist doesn’t instantly make their victim feel better. In many, if not all cases, the victims are emotionally and psychologically scarred, and they are fundamentally changed for the rest of their lives.

That’s why I like Hope so much. It doesn’t write off the victim’s trauma. It explores it. Literally the entire film is about So-won, her family, her friends and the community at large confronting what happened to her, and trying to heal. It shows her experiencing PTSD. It shows her going through therapy. It shows her having emotional and social problems, especially with her father. It doesn’t reduce her to the level of “male character’s possession that was damaged and now needs to be avenged.” No. She is a person, with thoughts, and interests and feelings, and she is trying to recover from a horrific event. And I love the movie for that. It treats its subject matter with the maturity and respect it deserves.

So, even if you hate seeing rape in movies, as I do, I really think you should give Hope a look. It’s well-acted, well-written, and it treats its source material with the respect it deserves. It’s an 8 out of 10.

Arrival

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Language; it is the cornerstone of human civilization. It is what enables us to communicate. It is what allows us to express love, loss, longing, curiosity and care. And, in some cases, it is all that stands between cooperation and conflict.

This last characteristic of language is what director Denis Villeneuve seeks to explore in his film Arrival, the latest entry in the “first contact” sub genre of science fiction. When twelve massive UFO’s arrive on Earth, the US military hires an expert linguist (Amy Adams) to try to communicate with the Aliens. Quickly realizing that oral exchange is useless, since the extraterrestrials aren’t talking in the classic sense, Adams and her team decide to use written language to try to decode what the creatures are, and why they’re on Earth. And now we have a big mystery, which, I’m sorry to say, never really gets solved. But before I launch into my complaints, I would like to list some things that really worked about this movie.

First off, the film sounds amazing. The music, the noises the creatures make, and all the weird sounds produced inside the UFOs, work to create an altogether surreal, and highly suspenseful, experience. There are scenes in this movie that, based on sound alone, had me hanging on the edge of my seat. The film also looks incredible. There are some absolutely gorgeous shots in here, like the one where we first get a view of the UFOs, and the special effects are all superb. The performances are also top notch, with the one possible exception being Forrest Whittaker, who plays the Colonel in charge of the whole operation, and whose accent is… questionable. But, setting that aside, this movie is technically brilliant, and on the merits of its craftsmanship alone, I would recommend it to you all.

It’s just that the movie’s storytelling isn’t quite up to the same level as its visuals, acting and sound design. The film moves extremely slow in some places, but then jumps around super fast in others, with voice over narration being used as a crutch to explain everything. There are also some weird artistic choices that never get explained, like the fact that the scientists always bring a caged bird with them when they go to talk to the aliens. But worst of all is the fact that, when, at the end of the film, you start to learn what the Aliens are, and what they’re trying to do, the movie doesn’t really make sense anymore. What I mean by that is, with certain films, there are small details that either gget glossed over or flat out ignored, which, when you stop and think about them, prevent the rest of the story from happening. Citizen Kane is a prime example. The movie is all about trying to learn the hidden meaning of a dead billionaire’s last word, “rosebud.” Except, when you watch the film, you see that no one was in the room when he said the word, so, logically, there’s no reason for the rest of the movie to happen. Something similar happens in Arrival. See, throughout the film, Amy Adams character keeps having these visions, these memories of her now dead daughter. Except, at the end of the film, we learn that those aren’t memories. They are, in fact, premonitions. See, the Aliens are able to predict the future, and they want to teach us to do the same thing because… reasons? And Amy Adams isn’t remembering her dead daughter. She’s seeing the life of her still-to-be-born daughter. Knowing all this, I have three questions. One, why do the aliens want us to do this? Two, why do they leave right after they accomplish their objective? And three, if those aren’t memories Amy Adams is having, if they are, in fact, premonitions, how did she not realize that fact before? In the real world, things like a marriage and the birth of a child leave marks. They leave tangible evidence of their existence. In the real world, if you got married and had a kid, there’d be wedding photos, a birth certificate, and your body would be physically different from having a baby. If Amy Adams doesn’t have any of these things, as we’re led to assume she doesn’t, why does she believe she had a daughter? Why doesn’t she realize what these visions are sooner? It makes no sense.

But, like I said before, it’s impossible to not acknowledge this movie’s many technical achievements. They almost, almost, outweigh its narrative shortcomings. For that reason, I have decided to give Arrival a 7.5 out of 10. I do think it’s worth watching, but you should know that it isn’t perfect.