What I thought about: Ratched

Offering a look into the life of Mildred Ratched before she began her tyrannical reign as Head Nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the excellent production values and superb acting went a long way to mask this show’s otherwise quite disappointing plot.

Who knew Mildred Ratched had some compassion in her? Well, enough to protest against boiling someone alive I suppose

What’s it about?
Have you read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? Or seen the 1975 film adaptation? No, me neither. But you don’t really have to, as this is advertised as a prequel / origin story. The season starts with Ratched talking herself into a role at a Californian mental hospital, headed up by Dr. Hannover, a Filipino pioneer of mental health treatment. Ratched is up to no good, and we soon discover why.

But we also discover so much more, as the show recalls of some of the most horrific ‘treatments’ given out at mental hospitals in the late 1940s including hydrotherapy (forcibly bathing someone in scaldingly hot water and then immediately dunking them into an ice bath) and, of course, the lobotomy. We also get a look at the period’s views on homosexuality and the death penalty (oh how wild it is to see that we have advanced mental health care so much since then, and yet some states in the US are still so incredibly regressive in the use of state-sanctioned killing).

What do I like about it?
The visuals. The music. The acting. This is just such a delightful show to watch. Mildred drives a bright turquoise car in a sea of black ones. She has dark red hair and great fashion sense. Dr. Hannover is an eccentric maverick, yet underneath his often aggressive exterior lies a delicate man who genuinely wants to cure people of their mental ills. Every character is portrayed in a way that is ever so slightly over the top. Enough to create a sort of candied view of the story that somehow comforted me through what were some truly grisly scenes of murder, death, and suffering.

What do I not like about it?
Sitting back and taking it all in after the first episode, I have to agree with what many professional critics have said about the show. The plot… is not great. Characters show up out of the blue in unconvincing ways and often with a dramatic effect on the story that just isn’t believable. There are moments that are painfully slow, particularly as the show tries to provide some context to Ratched’s life – her work and family history, and her struggle with sexuality. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have seen those in the show – it is, after all, an origin story – but somehow the writing just didn’t pan out.

Worth a watch?
It’s still a yes from me. Especially if you can watch on a Dolby Vision-supported TV, because the cinematography is truly stunning. Watch the trailer first and be forewarned that the show contains some grisly scenes of violence.

By the way…

  • Netflix ordered two seasons in one go, so Ratched will be back soon.
  • A cursory glance at the plot of the book reveals many an inspiration for the events occurring in this prequel story – just different characters at different times.

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What I thought about: The Platform

Social commentary? A discourse in communism? A warning to—or from—the rich? I would have carefully considered these themes were it not for the bizarre ending that brought this grisly thriller to an unsatisfying conclusion.

You can of course move down the levels – if you sit on the platform

What’s it about?
A man wakes up in a cell with a hole in the floor and ceiling. Above him are countless identical floors. Below him are the same. A platform with platters of exquisitely presented food lowers from the ceiling. Most of it has already been eaten and probably spat on, or worse. But he should count himself lucky. This is Floor 48.

Welcome to The Hole.

This is a truly gruesome Spanish thriller and not for the faint of heart. Our hero, Goreng, shares his cell with Trimagasi, a much older man with months of experience in The Hole. He quickly gets Goreng up to speed with the rules and norms of the prison. To say much more about the plot would be to spoil it for you, but let me assure you these quaint beginnings will quickly escalate.

What do I like about it?
Firstly, I like thrillers that aren’t afraid to be properly gruesome. What’s the point in presenting a gritty scenario if we don’t get the shocking visuals to back it up? This movie delivers.

Aside from the ending, the plot follows a pretty good pace as we see Goreng encounter a number of difficult situations in The Hole.

I can give credit to some of the movie’s social commentary; on wealth distribution. Each day, the platform is loaded with terrific food, painstakingly put together by an army of top chefs. The attention to detail is crazy. I suppose, then, that the movie is showing us how pointless this extravagance is if the food we have isn’t enough to feed everyone in our society. If you’re hungry, the presentation of it goes out the window. The literal hierarchy of the prison is also an interesting concept – nobody cares about rationing their food so that those below don’t starve. You’re above them, that’s all that matters.

What do I not like about it?
The movie gets really interesting, but the last five minutes are just, huh? Avoiding spoilers here, but I just think it fell completely flat. It also did the hugely ungratifying thing of cutting before we get to see the consequences of the characters’ final actions. I suppose it’s supposed to be left to interpretation, but it just left me disappointed.

Also, Goreng suffers a bit from the ‘hey, I have morals and therefore cannot truly comprehend the insane situation that’s happening, why won’t someone do something?’ stereotype we see a lot. You know the one, where a bad guy does something bad and the other character is shocked beyond belief, yelling ‘hey, you can’t do that!’ Even though they literally can, and did, and that was the whole point.

Worth a watch?
If you’ve seen the trailer, don’t mind some horrifying scenes, and are still interested in the concept, it’s probably still worth a watch. It’s pretty short, too.

By the way…

  • Bad ending aside, Netflix is killing it with their Spanish-language content. Do not change the audio language. Deal with the subtitles.
  • The movie has sparked a lot of opinion pieces on what it all really means. But I would argue that, if it’s not clear enough what the filmmaker is trying to say, they haven’t done it properly.

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What I thought about: Midsommar

This one had been sitting on my to-watch list for a while. I can’t say that I care any more about it after having finally gotten round to watching it.

Just like the movie – visually stunning, but you’re still unimpressed

What’s it about?
A college student, her nearly-estranged boyfriend, and his friends are invited to attend a midsummer celebration at one of the friends’ ancestral commune in Halsingland, Sweden. Effectively a cult of sorts, the Hågra believe a lot of really weird shit.

After initially receiving a warm welcome, the group become increasingly disturbed at the traditions of the Hågra, and this escalates as they are encouraged (or forced) to join in with some of them.

What do I like about it?
It’s visually quite good. Most of the scenes take place outdoors in lush green fields, and there are a lot of pretty flower crowns and what not going on. Also, there are some really well detailed gorey bits. Not wanting to spoil any plot here, but most of the ‘horror’ aspect of this film is found in the rather sickening scenes which, shall we just say, involve human flesh.

To be fair to the movie, it also performs well at being plain weird whilst also being, in a sense, coherent. It’s as if the writers got together and thought “what really crazy stuff can we put in here and for it to still make a little bit of sense?”

What do I not like about it?
It’s slow, and to be honest I’m not really sure what the point of it is. Maybe I’m just the type of person that prefers more action, something a bit more hands-on.

A lot of the bad stuff happens off screen. We see the characters go to bed one minute, and the next there’s a shocking discovery. I suppose it’s required to build up the suspense and keep everyone guessing, but I just found it a bit boring.

Worth a watch?
No. It really isn’t, unless you’re the type of person that’s into really creative films which, to most people, lack purpose. But then, to me, that’s most Oscar-winning films anyway.

By the way…

  • It’s set in Sweden but filmed in Hamburg, for some reason.
  • At one point there’s a lot of nudity, so be careful about that.

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