Over The Moon – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: a young girl is told a story by her mother about the moon goddess who lives on the moon awaiting the return of her true love. When the girl’s mother dies, it is just her and her father. When, after a few years, her father meets another woman and begins a new relationship, the girl, not wanting to have a stepmother, decides to build a space ship and look for the moon goddess. 

Is it any good?: Over The Moon is an okay animated film very much in the tradition of modern Disney/Pixar animated films. Co-directors, Glen Keane and John Kahrs are both ex-Disney animators and that is evident in this Netflix/Pearl studios production. The animation is very good and the story very much in the tone of similar Pixar/Disney works. 

Over The Moon begins well but flags a little in the middle. It does, however, pick up in the final third and ends nicely. Not quite hitting the heights of Pixar but a good effort nonetheless. 

Spoiler territory: Ma Ma (Ruthie Ann Miles) brushes her daughter, Fei Fei’s (Cathy Ang) hair as she tells her the story of the Moon Goddess, Chang’e (Phillipa Soo) who took a magic potion and floated away to the moon, leaving her true love, Houyi (Conrad Ricamora), on earth. The potion made Chang’e immortal and now she waits on the moon in the hope of being one day reunited with Houyi. 

Along with Fei Fei’s father, Ba Ba (John Cho), the family-run a moon cake shop business. Ma Ma becomes sick and gives Fei Fei a rabbit that she names Bungee. A short time later, she dies. Four years after her death, a preteen Fei Fei is helping her father run the moon cake store and makes deliveries on her bicycle, accompanied by Bungee. 

Returning from her deliveries one day, Fei Fei comes into the kitchen to find her father making moon cakes with dates. Fei Fei is confused and points out that Ma Ma never used dates when making moon cakes. Ba Ba tells her he is trying a new recipe that Mrs Zhong (Sandra Oh) uses. Fei Fei meets Mrs Zhong. She can see by the way her father interacts with Mrs Zhong, that they are attracted to one another. 

Before she can give it any more thought, Chin (Robert G. Chiu) leapfrogs over her back and starts chatting incessantly. Chin is Mrs Zhong’s young son. He tells Fei Fei he has a superpower. He can run through walls. Does she want him to prove it? Fei Fei says yes. Chin runs into the wall. 

Later, Ba Ba tries to gently tell Fei Fei about Mrs Zhong but is interrupted by a visit from the family. All of them. Mrs Zhong is also in attendance. Fei Fei sees how close her father and Mrs Zhong are. At the table, the family make fun of the story of Chang’e, much to Fei Fei’s annoyance. After voicing her disapproval at their dismissal of the myth, she leaves the room. 

Chin irritates her further, telling her that they are to become brother and sister. Mrs Zhong gives her a moon cake, without dates, as a peace offering. Fei Fei retires to her bedroom, casting the moon cake to one side. Whilst in her bedroom, Bungee jumps out of the window and Fei Fei goes after the rabbit. 

She finds the rabbit and while looking at the full moon, decides she is going to build a rocket to fly there. The next day, Fei Fei starts building prototype rockets. All of them fail. A distracted moment at school shows her what she has been missing. Fei Fei builds her rocket ship. 

Launch night and her best-laid plans seemed to have gone awry as nothing happens as she flicks all of the switches in her cockpit. The rocket slowly comes to life and hurtles along its launch tracks and up towards the moon. An ecstatic Fei Fei looks at the Moon, her target looming large. 

The rocket fails and begins to hurtle back towards Earth. Chin, who had snuck onto the ship, begins screaming. A surprised Fei Fei tells him she did not calculate for his extra weight. As the ship continues to fall, a shaft of light, a tractor beam, catches it. The rocket gets pulled back towards the moon. A couple brightly, multicoloured, winged lions, pick up Fei Fei and Chin and take them to a large auditorium.

The two would-be siblings are welcomed by a dazzling light show and song by Chang’e herself. An overcome Fei Fei runs onto the stage and hugs the legs of Chang’e, much to the astonishment of the Lunarians, the inhabitants of the moon. 

Chang’e looks down at Fei Fei. She asks if she has her gift. Fei Fei has no idea what gift she wants or means and tells her that she only wants to prove to her father that Chang’e is real and that true love is forever. Could she take a photo with her?

Chang’e agrees to the photo but tells her she can only get the photo if she brings the gift. Chang’e tells all of the gathered Lunarians that whomever brings her the gift will have any wish they want granted. Recovering the gift will give her a chance to bring Houyi back. All of the citizens leave to find the elusive gift. Chang’e tells her helper, a rabbit called Jade, to prepare for the gift.

Chin tells Fei Fei that he will help her find the gift. Fei Fei does not want his help or for him to be her sibling and tells him in no uncertain terms. They go their separate ways. Fei Fei hitches a ride back to the rocket ship with some Lunarian chicken bikers,telling them she knows where the gift is and hoping to find the answer there.

Chin decides that he will get the photo from Chang’e. She challenges him to a game of ping pong, telling him that if he wins, she will give him the photo. If he loses, he has to get her the gift. Chin wins but an angry Chang’e locks him away, furious that her time is running out. 

Fei Fei gets back to the rocket. There she meets another Lunarian, Gobi (Ken Jeong). Gobi used to be Chang’e’s aide. The chickens tell Fei Fei he was kicked out. Fei Fei finds a Chang’e doll that her mother gifted her. She gets excited, sure that it must be the gift that Chang’e wants. The chickens steal it from her and ride off. Fei Fei and Gobi give chase. 

Bungee sees Jade preparing for the arrival of the gift. She interrupts his preparations and ends up being endowed with magic, blaster ears. She leaves Jade alone, allowing him to finish his preparations. Fei Fei and Gobi continue to try to get to Lunaria. Giant frogs come up from the ground and Gobi tells Fei Fei that they are going to Lunaria to feed. Fei Fei and Gobi hitch a ride on the back of one of them. 

Gobi tells Fei Fei he was banished from the palace because of a song he sang to Chang’e. He sings her the song. It is all about not living in the past and embracing the present and the living. In the palace, an increasingly morose Chang’e is cheered when Jade brings her magic that can help bring Houyi back once she obtains the gift. 

Gobi and Fei Fei get to Lunaria. They see the chickens and manage to get the doll back. In the melee that follows, the doll gets destroyed. Fei Fei is distraught. She is stuck on the moon and is worried that her father will marry Mrs Zhong. Gobi tells her she needs to eat something. She bites into the Moon cake that Mrs Zhong gave her and finds a piece of a jade amulet. She realises it must be the gift. 

She takes it to Chang’e. Chang’e puts it together with another piece and Houyi is brought back, the two coming together in a beautiful garden. He does not stay for long telling her he cannot stay as he is no longer alive. He tells her that she has to move on with her life. 

A bereft Chang’e falls into a depression, plunging the moon into darkness. She cocoons herself in a room; the chamber of exquisite sadness. Outside the room, Gobi, Chin, Bungee and Jade cannot get in. Fei Fei easily phases through the wall into the room. She tells Chang’e that she has come to get her out. She sees memories of losing her mother and cutting her own hair in anger. 

Chang’e tells her that the room is not for her. Chin’s love for Fei Fei allows him to enter the room. Fei Fei tells Chang’e that she needs to open her heart and let her people love her. Chang’e relents and the kingdom flourishes again. Chang’e gives her the photo and tells her that she can go home, getting the flying lions to take her and Chin. Bungee stays with Jade. The photo burns upon reentry. 

Back on Earth, Ba Ba marries Mrs Zhong. Some time later, the family are all gathered for another dinner and the talk turns to Chang’e again because the moon is obscured by clouds. Fei Fei smiles. Later, the father and daughter look to the moon like all of the family used to do. Ba Ba leaves Fei Fei to her thoughts. She looks up to the moon. The end. 

Final thoughts: Over The Moon has a better second half but really does flag in the middle. Like the brilliant Pixar film from 2015, Inside Out, this film deals with sadness. Unlike that film, there is not enough of a build-up to create the emotional resonance needed to make it impactful. It is also a musical. 

That is not a problem but having central a character in Chang’e who is so close to Frozen’s Elsa, a similarly omnipotent songstress in her story is a problem that invite comparison.

That film was boosted by the strength of its signature song, even if overall, it was not a particularly brilliant film. Over The Moon is more consistent with the quality of its songs that are comforting in the familiarity of their sound but none are so outstanding as to carry the film. 

The film is listed at being ninety-five minutes long but is closer to eighty-five, the final ten minutes being credits. Overall, Over The Moon is a watchable film that suffers in comparison to similar fare. Some might say that, though the majority of the animation is first-rate, there is some laziness when it comes to the Lunarians who are just colourful shapes, weakening the visual experience a little. 

Over The Moon will probably hold the attention of younger children but older ones might quickly lose interest. A middling effort. 

Live Twice, Love Once -review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: Former mathematics professor, Emilio (Oscar Martinez), now in his twilight years, goes to see a doctor after showing signs of forgetfulness. He is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and asked if he has any relatives. He says he has none. When leaving the doctor office they bump into, Julia (Inma Cuesta), his daughter. She finds out he has early Alzheimer’s.

Emilio remembers his first love, Margarita (Valeria Schoneveld – young version). He has an episode of forgetfulness whilst at dinner at Julia’s with her husband, Felipe (Nacho López) and their daughter, Blanca (Mafalda Carbonell). A few days later he decides he wants to find Margarita(Isabel Requena).

Is it any good? Live Twice, Love Once (Vivir Dos Veces – original Spanish title) Is a lovely, heartfelt film with winning performances from the entire cast. Martinez is excellent as the failing Emilio and Cuesta matches him as the eager to please Julia. Carbonell’s turn as the precocious Blanca is also a joy. The acting is good from all on show and the story and script are wonderful.

Spoiler territory: Emilio is sitting in a cafe remembering meeting his first love, Margarita. The waitress (Aina Clotet), brings him his breakfast. She remarks how he normally finishes his sudoku before she brings him his breakfast. Emilio tells her that it is called a magic square and the Japanese only think they invented it.

Emilio goes to pay her for the meal as he is leaving but she reminds him that he has already paid. He goes to see a doctor, Catalina (Maria Zamora). She tells him that she is going to ask him some questions. Emilio is brusque with her. Catalina remains relaxed. She asked him a series of simple questions plus some maths questions. Emilio answers all of the questions perfectly.

Emilio begins ranting at Catalina, saying that she thinks he is losing his mind because he could not finish his magic square that morning. Catalina looks totally confused. He goes to see a specialist, doctor Rodriguez (Manu Valls), who tells him about the region of his brain that holds memories. He has signs of Alzheimer’s. The doctor explains there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Emilio recalls his first conversation with Margarita.

Rodriguez asks if he can speak to a family member. Emilio tells him he has no family. As the doctor accompanies Emilio out of the office, he is greeted by Julia. She is surprised to see her father with him. Emilio is forced to confess he has a daughter.

Julia, a saleswoman of medical stationery, asks her father why he did not tell her about the appointment as she works in the hospital. He tells her she does not work there, she is only a saleswoman. Julia invites her father to dinner.

At the dinner, her unemployed husband-cum-life coach, Felipe and daughter, Blanca, are in attendance. Felipe tries to get his daughter to put her phone down, encouraging Emilio to talk to her. He tells her he has Alzheimer’s. She says she knows. Blanca does not put her phone down.

Julia suggests her father come live with them. Emilio does not like the idea. Blanca is also opposed to the idea, especially when her mother says that he will share her room. Julia asks Emilio why won’t he let her help him. He tells her that she is annoying. Julia leaves the dinner table.

Felipe goes and finds his wife in the kitchen with a cigarette. He stops her smoking, forcing her to say why she feels she needs to smoke. She tells him that she wants to be a good daughter and have her father see her as such.

Julia tells her father that he can live own his own terms but he has to get a mobile phone so as she can keep in contact with him. Emilio says he does not like them nor does he know how to use them. She tells him that Blanca will help him. At his home, Blanca finds a whole collection of phones. Emilio tells her that her mother has tried to have him carry a phone before.

Emilio tells Blanca that she does not have to show him how to use a phone as her mother would not know. Blanca tells him that her mother knows everything. As she shows him some things on the phone, Emilio gets more curious about the device. Blanca tells him that he can find out about anyone through the phone. She searches for him to prove it, reading about his life and career on the internet.

Emilio asks her to look up Margarita. Blanca finds her but cannot find an address. She does find out that she was in Navarra. The next few days, Emilio goes to the cafe for breakfast as usual. He is getting confused more often. The waitress sees him sitting outside of the cafe looking around, oblivious to the fact that he is a regular visitor there.

Felipe drops Blanca to school. Blanca sees her friend, Laura (Martina Garcia) and goes to talk to her. Laura’s mother (Cristina Rodriguez) gets into the car with Felipe. She greets him amorously. Blanca, who has forgotten her homework in the car, turns back and sees the two of them in the car. Felipe sees his daughter looking at him and crashes the car.

Emilio goes to see the doctor again. This time, Julia is with him. The doctor asks him the maths questions again. Unlike before, Emilio is not as certain. A panicked Julia prompts him, giving him the answers. Emilio eventually answers the questions but he is not convincing. Later, he tries to find Margarita’s address. He decides he is going to go and find her.

Blanca catches him in his car and works out that he is going to try and find Margarita. She tells him that she will help him. As they drive, Blanca creates a Facebook profile for him. Julia calls. It is a video call and Emilio does not want her to know he is driving. Emilio goes to a petrol station. Whilst in the station he has an episode, forgetting who he is and who Blanca is. The petrol attendant wants to call the police but calls Julia instead. Julia comes and gets them. Emilio has put the wrong type of fuel in the car so the family are forced to stay overnight in the town.

An angry Julia wants to know where Emilio was going. He tells her he was going to look for the love of his life. She tells him that her mother is dead. Emilio tells her that it was not her mother. As Julia and her father discuss his lost love, Felipe tries to get back into Blanca’s good graces by buying her a new phone, Julia having confiscated her old one. Unimpressed by the phone’s specifications, Blanca ignores her father.

Emilio asks Julia to help find Margarita. Julia does not want to betray her mother’s memory and refuses. Later on, in the evening, Julia discovers a boy on Blanca’s phone. The next day she asks Blanca about him. Blanca, angry that her mother had looked at her phone, tells her that her father is having an affair. Julia tells her that she knows but ignores it to keep the family together.

At breakfast, in a cafe, Emilio has another episode, pouring oil into his coffee. As Julia tries to wrest the oil from him it spills onto her blouse. They buy a couple of t-shirts from the cafe. Emilio’s car is returned and Julia takes the wheel. She has a change of heart and decides to help her father find Margarita, they head to Navarra. Emilio’s memory continues to deteriorate.

They head to a retirement home in Navarra in the hope of getting some information about Margarita. The nurse, Paqui (Amparo Oltra), refuses to give them any information. They stay overnight in Navarra. Julia tells Felipe that when they get back to Valencia he is to move out. Felipe tells her he had an affair because wanted to get caught and for her to leave him.

Blanca comes into the bedroom. Emilio has disappeared. Julia goes out, into the night, looking for him. She gets a call, he has gone to the retirement home. Paqui gives Julia Margarita’s address. The next day, a resplendent Emilio is taken to the address given. Margarita is no longer there, having moved out some years before. The present occupants do not know where she has moved to.

They return to Valencia. Emilio’s brain is getting worse. As Felipe moves out, he moves in with Julia and Blanca. Blanca uses a photo of Margarita on Facebook and finds her. She is told by a boy she met on Facebook, Pau (Hugo Balaguer) that she can only get the address if she meets him. He will be at a wedding in Valencia.

Blanca is nervous about meeting him as she has not told him that she has a disability. They all go to the wedding party. The boy Blanca goes to meet turns out to be someone other than who she thought it was. Pau had been using pictures of his cousin. Emilio starts dancing to Julia’s surprise. He then goes and sings. Blanca finds out that Margarita lives in Valencia.

They go to the address. They are greeted by her husband, Lorenzo (Antonio Valero), who is somewhat protective of her. Emilio gains entry to the house by asking to use the bathroom. He finds Margarita in the garden. She does not remember anything. She suffers from senile dementia.

Lorenzo finds Emilio with his wife. She is sewing an infinity sign into a piece of cloth. Emilio tells Lorenzo that it is an ‘L’ for Lorenzo. Emilio gets worse, having less lucid periods. Julia has to put him in a home. In the home, Emilio sees Margarita and the two, having both forgotten their previous lives, meet as though for the first time. The end.

Live Twice, Love Once is beautifully directed by Maria Ripoll, from a script by Maria Minguez. There are no wasted moments in the film with every scene pushing onto the next seamlessly and the actors breathing real life into the story. As I mentioned before, the acting is topnotch from all concerned but it is the central performances from Martinez and Cuenta that are the heart of the film.

Martinez’s performance will really strike a chord with anyone who has seen a parent or elderly relative struggle with memory loss. One absolutely believes his performance and it is heartbreaking to watch him slip from a brilliant mind into a shadow of his former self.

Cuenta, trying to be a good daughter, good wife and good mother is a role that many women will recognise. The fact that she also is also the sole breadwinner in the family makes you really feel for her as she tries to keep some sort of normalcy in her life. Carbonell’s Blanca shows the adaptability and resilience that only children can, with their fearlessness and lack of life experience, taking her grandfather’s failing health in her stride as well as her parents splintering relationship.

Ripoll directs the film at a nice pace and there are lovely editorial flourishes, with visuals overlapping contrasting soundbites and information. Mingquez’s script tells a coherent story whilst wasting very little time on exposition. Everything you need know is in the script but no one ever tells you, it is all just worked beautifully into the story or visuals.

At an hour and forty, Live Twice, Love Once is a nice length for a film and does not overstay its welcome, giving one a satisfying ending even if it is slightly sad. Live Twice, Love Once is definitely worth a look. Lovely.

Someone Great (Netflix)

First published on April 20th on Vocal.media

Gina Rodriguez, the self-proclaimed voice of Latina women, is in another Netflix film. Full disclosure; ever since Rodriguez decided that she was going to throw black women under the bus, to advance the cause of Latina women, I’ve have gone right off of her.
Before she went all ‘yo también’ for Latina women, I was all in on Jane the Virgin, the show that made her a global star. It is a brilliantly written show, with excellent story arcs and outstanding performances from the entire cast, it a show that, deservedly, has garnered many awards over its four-season run.
Now in its fifth and final season, its star, Rodriguez, has been busy working on projects for life after Jane. Whilst in the midst of promoting her various projects and, controversially, during a round table discussion with other prominent actors, Rodriguez has beat the drum for Latina actors at the expense of other women of colour.
That she wanted pay parity, for Latina women, was admirable and would have been widely praised had she not done so at the expense of others. As a black person who is a huge fan of a lot of Latin shows, the comments from Rodriguez were disappointing. I would be lying to say that they do not skew how I now view Rodriguez.
That being said, I thought I would watch Someone Great starring Rodriguez as Jenny Young – not a particularly Latin-American name – LaKeith Stanfield, better known from the brilliant Get Out, as Nate Davis, Brittany Snow – all of the Pitch Perfect movies – as Blair Helms, and DeWanda Wise – lead on another Netflix show, Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, as Erin Kennedy.
Jenny, Blair and Erin are best friends since college. Nate and Jenny are a couple and love one another passionately. Jenny is an aspiring music journalist and gets offered her dream job across the other side of the country. They had been together nine years when Nate breaks up with her, in part because of the impending move for the job, one week before she is due to move. Jenny is devastated.
She calls her two friends, wanting to have one last big party at the Neon Classic, the same party she met Nate at nine years before. Having shared so much history together, everywhere Jenny goes she sees or hears something that reminds her of Nate.
The Neon Classic is a big deal and to get tickets they have to go through Matt, an old crush of Jenny’s whose rejection in college pushed her towards Nate. Unbeknown to Jenny and Erin, Blair is sleeping with Matt. They think she is with Will, even though it is evident that she is not into him.
Erin is struggling to commit to her lesbian relationship with Cynthia (Michelle Buteau), having been hurt in the past by a girl who was experimenting with her own sexuality. The changes happening in all their lives, as they approach their thirties, has the women panicking about their futures and the impact it will have on their relationships.
Written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Someone Great is the author’s first feature. At thirty-one years old, Robinson is right in the demographic of a generation at the forefront of inclusivity. This is reflected in the film with black, white, Latin, gay – male and female – represented.
Whilst this is a beautiful thing to see, it is not something that is entirely believable, especially in a country so notably divided as America, not only when it comes to race, but also politically. The central story – Jenny’s heartache and eventual acceptance of life’s changes – is a good one and, for the most part, told in an engaging way.
Even given my own reservations and prejudices, there is no denying that Rodriguez is a fantastic actor. At no point did I think ‘that’s Jane!’ Or have thoughts of her misguided utterances. The central relationship between Rodriguez’s Jenny and Stanfield’s Nate is believable at every juncture, making anyone who has lived through the pain of a breakup nod knowingly.
The story arc with Snow’s Blair and Wise’s Erin are not as well rounded, especially Blair’s. I realise being straight and heterosexual is passé and has been reflected ever since the invention of film, but I felt her two scenes with Will and lustful hook up with Matt seemed a bit of a cop-out.
Erin’s confession as to why she found it difficult to voice her true feelings was a great scene. Unfortunately, that is all it was, one scene. The rest of her story was of her bravado and sassiness. The film, as a whole, is okay with outstanding scenes. Robinson, who has done some acting herself, really allows the actors to work and it shows.
Even, as I mentioned earlier, the central friendship does not seem especially realistic, such is the commitment of the actors to the roles, it works perfectly and, in spite of yourself, you believe they are friends. The acting is, across the board, great. Even the minor characters put in good performances.
Something, that I think is a bit of an influence from the MCU films, is a trend to inject comedy into every story. While I do love a laugh as much as the next person, not every story naturally lends itself to comedy. There are amusing moments in this film – Rosario Dawson’s brilliant cameo as Nate’s cousin Hannah stood out – the central premise of the story does not invite comedy.
The elements that have been used as comedy crutches in many cinematic stories – getting messed up, going to a club – seem a little forced in this insistence. There is even a horribly awkward scene with the always flamboyant RuPaul, as a high-end drug supplier/friend called Hype. I can only assume that scene was shoehorned in because somebody knew RuPaul or he knew somebody.
Someone Great is by no means a terrible film and at just over ninety minutes, it is not long either. It just does not commit as much as it should or could have to the central premise. A film that should have been, perhaps, a bittersweet comedy, comes over as Sex in the City for the millennial generation. Watch if you really have nothing else on and like good acting or Gina.

Test Drive

She looked around the restaurant. A couple on the next table received their meals. Gemma looked enviously at their plates. Roast lamb, potatoes and vegetables. Was that a Malbec red they had as well? She glanced forlornly at her glass of white. Meh.

“Don’t order red wine!” Kerry had warned. Gemma had been mortified.
“I love red wine! Nice Merlot with steak – what?” Kerry had looked incredulous.
“You are not going to eat steak! What is the matter with you?”
“I’m not eating salad! What does it matter if I’m eating steak? He asked me to dinner. I’m going to eat!”
“He asked you to dinner.” Kerry stated. Gemma nodded; yes. “Dinner. Not lunch. He wants it to go somewhere.” Kerry surmised.
“What? No, don’t be silly…he just wants to thank me for helping him settle in. What?” Kerry was smirking at her. “You cannot be that naïve.” Gemma blushed slightly. She was not.
“I shouldn’t have accepted should I? I’ll tell him I’ve got a meeting -”
“You’ll do no such thing! How often to you get taken out to dinner?” Gemma did not answer, it had been a while. Kerry carried on. “It’s nice to get asked out; wined and dined. Makes you feel like a woman, an attractive woman.”
“I feel like woman, all the time.”
“Really? As you jostle to work on the tube, deal with emails and eat lunch at your desk?”
“A working woman.”
“How about being a sensual woman?”
“Instead of a, how did he put it? Besuited, high flying, emasculating, ball buster.” Gemma recalled, remembering a night a year since past, when she and her partner, Pete, ten years a hospital porter, got into an argument.
It had been her fault. Maybe.
A bad day at work, Pete came in a little frazzled. Gemma had returned from work an hour earlier. Her day had been brilliant. She had been headhunted by a competitor in front of her boss. Not wanting to lose out, her boss had not only offered her a salary increase, he had also given her a promotion. She was all smiles as a scowling Pete came to greet her. Noting his mood, she inquired about his day. Mistake.
“Bloody awful! Worked me like a dog! Denis, the useless prat, called in sick, so I had twice as much work to do! On the way back, got stuck in traffic, car cuts out and won’t start! That is going to cost a fortune to fix!” Gemma, trying to look sympathetic but too excited, blurts out her news. How she got a promotion and a raise and probably will get a bonus. Pete nods, a wry smile.
“Well, don’t be too happy for me!” Gemma spits sarcastically, wounded by Pete’s lack of enthusiasm at her news.
“I’m sorry, no it’s good, good that you got promoted.” Pete softens. Gemma is grinning again.
“Of course it is! And don’t worry, I’ll sort the car out.”
“What? No. I can do it myself.”
“But I want to help. It’s alright -”
“It’s not alright! I might not earn as much as you but I can look after myself!” Pete was angry. Gemma stunned.
“I didn’t mean -”
“What did you mean?”
“We’re a couple. I’m just trying to a -” And Pete interrupted again, letting her know exactly how he saw her.

“Which you are not! Not all of the time anyway.” Kerry brought her back to the present.
“He was just angry. Pete loves me. And I love him.” Gemma stated, as though she needed to hear it out loud. Kerry was smiling again.
“Gem, I love Pete. I love my Volkswagen as well. I would still test drive a Mercedes. That’s all your doing; test driving.” Gemma looked at her grinning friend. She still felt guilty, but she liked the idea.

“Sorry, I was gone so long.” Gemma snapped out of the memory, smiling at the handsome man who spoke as he sat down opposite her. Stephan. Handsome, slim, cultured with an accent, easy to smile. Gemma felt like a teenage girl with a crush, as he settled himself into his chair, picking up the menu. He looked up at her.
“What looks good?”

“Try and get fish. It digest well, won’t bloat you.” Kerry had counselled. Gemma had nodded, “goes with white wine as well.”
“Why can’t I have red?”
“Gem, you don’t go on dates. You’re going to be nervous enough without worrying about spilling your wine and staining!”

Gemma had been glad she took that advice. She had been trembling with fantasy inducing anticipation all day, only mildly guilty and relieved that she was not going home, thus not having to lie to Pete about why she was so dressed up. It had been worth it. Stephan had been so complimentary.
“I had thought you were impressive whilst at work, but seeing you like this….!” He had let the comment hang, his eyes finishing what words could not convey.

“Shall we get some bread?” Bloat. Bloaty. Bloated.
“No, thank you. I had quite a big lunch.” Gemma lied. She was starving and the wine was making her head swim. Stephan tilted his head; as you wish.
The conversation flowed easily. They spoke of life and dreams. Childhood and fear and the future. She had not felt so engaged, so alive in a long time. Was this not how life was suppose to be?

“What if I liked the Mercedes?” Gemma challenged. Kerry paused, looking thoughtful. “You’re always going to like the Mercedes. It’s new, it’s shiny, it works perfectly, does all the right things.” Kerry looked at a photograph; her on her wedding day, ten years before. She looked back to Gemma, serious now, but still in allegory mode.
“I’ve maintained my old banger for ten years. Not all easy. I’ve had test drives. Even took a long one once.” Gemma goes to open her mouth, but Kerry shuts her down. “But you know what I found? They all become bangers eventually. I can’t afford to upgrade every couple of years!”

Stephan, a gentleman throughout, paid the bill. They left the restaurant. Out in the evening air, Gemma did not want the evening to end. Stephan extended an invitation; “Would you like to come for a night cap?”

“When….when is the test drive over?” Gemma inquired, eyes wide looking for a sign, a glimmer of permission from her friend. Kerry lent forward, taking Gemma’s hand.
“You’ll know when it’s over Gem.” She squeezed her hand. “You don’t need a new car.”

She looked at the almost model handsome Stephan. Just one drink. One would be….nice.

Interesting all at the Ball

‘A red ball bounces past a cafe and a couple folks’ houses and then goes to the beach.’ As descriptions of a film go, this probably is one of the least accurate and least likely to make you stop and watch, given it is a pretty bland premise. That would be a mistake. A short film by Daniels – Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan – ‘Interesting Ball’ almost defies explanation, suffice to say, everything in an infinite universe is possible! Encompassing five simultaneously unfolding stories, it touches real themes; love, loss, friendship, anger, shame, and presents them in a unique and unusual way. Visually arresting, every frame packed with recognisable details, whilst a Dali-esque story unfolds in them; a prank going wrong; a wrong number followed by a chase; adultery; mismatched couple on a first date and the ultimate bromance. Five stories told in a way I guarantee that, outside of drug fuelled, sleep deprived night, you have not seen the like of. Light but haunting music accompanies the film, piano keys dominating the opening forty seconds, right up to the title. From then on the music waits in the background, building through out the film as the many interwoven, yet unrelated, stories take place. Daniels have made a highly watchable and entertaining film, abstract enough to be interesting, linear enough to be understood. Definitely worth twelve minutes of your day.
Watch it – https://vimeo.com/110808221