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Recent Movies: Your Name; The Lost City of Z; Maudie; Books: The Girl on the Train

June 16, 2017

Recent Movies

Your Name

In this animated film, Mitsuha is a teenage girl living in a rural mountainous area of Japan. Taki is a teenage boy living in Tokyo. At various times, the two switch bodies.

The animation in this film is beautiful and there are clever moments in the film as well. When the story is comprehensible, it can be engaging. The trouble, as just implied, is that it is often difficult to understand. It’s not always easy to know when each character is their real self or whether they are possessed by the other. To make matters even more difficult, the exchange is happening in different time lines three years apart.

I might have used the excuse that I’m not that familiar with Japanese Anime films but that won’t work as I’ve probably seen at least a half-dozen of them. My favourite is “Only Yesterday” (1991) which happened to have no supernatural elements. Among those with magical content, I have great admiration for “Spirited Away” (2001) and “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988).

The two latter films had special universes that were bizarre but fascinating. Most importantly, they were always understandable and consistent – characteristics that are missing in “Your Name”.

RATING (out of four stars):   * * 1/2

The Girl on the Train

Rachel Watson is a divorced, unemployed alcoholic living in a London suburb with a flat-mate. During her daily trips to London and back, she observes what she believes to be an ideal couple (Scott and Megan Hipwell) living a few doors from her former home – a home that is still occupied by her ex-husband Tom and his new wife Anna. After someone in the neighbourhood goes missing, Rachel believes she has clues that might solve the mystery.

The story is told by three narrators: Rachel (the main narrator) and Anna narrate in current time while the beginning of Megan’s story is narrated about ten months earlier. All three narrators (and most of the other characters) are the kind of people we would rather avoid in life. Rachel is an active alcoholic and a compulsive liar who has frequent blackouts and many resolutions to stop drinking – resolutions that fail as often as they are made. Megan is an insecure serial adulteress. Anna is vain about her beauty, marital status, and motherhood; she also relishes the fact that she stole Rachel’s husband from her. In summary, Anna is a bitch.

It is, indeed, a drawback to have so many unlikeable characters especially when they include the main one. But “The Girl on the Train” makes the reader as compulsive for reading as Rachel is for drinking. The use of differing timelines is also intriguing especially when the Megan story repeats what was told in the Rachel story but with a different perspective. By the end, some of Rachel’s perceived flaws may not be as solid as others had thought.

The climactic scene is heart-pounding but not totally free of criticism. It begins due to a stupid and unnecessary action of one character and ends with a somewhat unbelievable action by another one. (This is code talk to those who have read the book while avoiding spoilers to those who have not.) But it’s still a fine ending to a great mystery and all of the clues and red herrings that brought us there. And even if the characters are repugnant, Hawkins is accurate in describing people who resemble the many lost souls in our world.

The last book I read so quickly was “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown. Like that book, “The Girl on the Train” was very intriguing as well as entertaining.

RATING: * * * 1/2


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