I have mentioned, here and there on this blog, that I suffer from anxiety. I have so for my whole life. But it wasn’t until summer 2022 that I finally got help. (I was actually contacting my doctor regarding ADHD, which I’m sure I’ve got, but because I scored so high on anxiety in a questionnaire, I was referred to mental health services for it.) The six sessions I had with my practitioner included some helpful tips for when that dreaded feeling rears its head again. One of them was a mindful activity.
A clump of trees in my local park became my favourite place to do this exercise. It just means using your five senses to be aware of your surroundings.
September is such a month. The last remains of the summer are still present, but autumn slowly creeps in. Can’t wait for the colourful glory of this season!
One day I was walking down the well trodden street that leads from my place to the park, when I spotted it. It lay there, on the ground, as if it had been there for days or weeks–but it hadn’t. It wasn’t there the day before.
I took a picture of it, because that’s what I do, you know, and also, my brother is a huge Lord of the Rings fan. Later that day, I sent the pic to him.
He joked that it was such a waste throwing it away. I, of course, remarked that littering never ceases to irritate me, considering there are bins nearby.
Then I looked at my pic closer. The cup has an Odeon cinema logo but, as Paul pointed out, the movies were out two decades ago. I thought it might have been an advert for some other type of media, a video game perhaps, as there’s the new series on Amazon Prime set in Middle Earth, so I thought “The Ultimate Quest” referred to something else of this universe (I don’t keep up with LOTR stuff, not one of my fandoms). But no, the image on the cup is definitely related to the last film of the trilogy, The Return of the King. But that was released in 2003. Also Paul was able to notice that the Pepsi logo is old. I never know what the Pepsi logo looks like, I buy Coca-Cola.
So, what is a nineteen-year-old cup doing on the pavement? And how come someone kept a paper cup from a cinema for nineteen years in the first place? It’s quite well preserved, albeit squashed. On one side it had marks from a bike, but that bike would have run over it once it was already on the street. It seemed to me someone was doing a big clear-out. But if they were doing a big clear-out, wouldn’t they have put the cup in the binbag with the rest of the rubbish?
WHAT IS THIS MYSTERY, I NEED ANSWERS!
The next day I walked that street again (I always do, since I go to the park most days) and the cup was still there. The location of the cup is near the point where a wall of one house meets the backyard of another house. The backyard has recently been filled with old, broken furniture. I think I might have cracked it.
There’s obviously some renovating going on in one of the houses and the cup must have got stuck somewhere in the furniture. As the furniture was being dumped to the backyard, the cup, being much lighter, landed further away.
I also wonder if the cinema goer kept the cup because they were a fan of LOTR. I can imagine a kid, perhaps twelve or thirteen years old making it part of their little LOTR collection. Maybe their parent/s couldn’t afford to buy them any merchandise. So they cherished the cinema cup with the image of the film, because it was the only thing they had.
Later, when they grew up and started earning their own money, they would buy whatever else they wanted. The family moved out and the cinema cup was left behind, long forgotten.
Until the renovators came.
What a relic. Might not be worth much, but it’s history.
Note: This post was originally published on Some Photoblog in October 2020. However, I deleted it after I grew unsatisfied with the pictures. I took some new ones and I hereby, with some minor changes, republish the post.
No spoilers ahead, except for The Final Problem, which I think is safe to say everyone knows anyway.
The game’s afoot!
If you’ve ever visited Some Photoblog, or ever talked to me at all, you know I’m all about Agatha Christie. But I have much love for Sherlock Holmes too.
Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), a writer and by profession a medical doctor, born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Now, I feel kind of bad because I always try to promote lesser known works by authors (e.g. Agatha Christie’s books without Poirot or Marple that are not And Then There Were None and non-Anne of Green Gables works by LM Montgomery) but this time around I’m going for the most obvious choice. It’s also a well-known fact that the author ended up hating his most famous creation and had wished his other writings received similar attention. (Sorry, Sir Arthur!) I have read other works by him; a couple of Professor Challenger books and a short story collection Tales of Terror and Mystery and the guy does deserve to be known for his non-Sherlock writings–he was quite prolific and wrote sci-fi, historical fiction, non-fiction. I remember a few years ago a commenter on ACD’s official Facebook page post said “I didn’t know he wrote stories other than Sherlock Holmes” and I thought, how stupid can you get? Please.
Anyway… today, I’m basic.
Sherlock Holmes is without a doubt the most popular fictional detective in the world and this is unlikely to change, in our lifetimes or perhaps ever. What is it that makes him so appealing, more than a century after his first appearance?
I don’t know the answer. He just is. An eccentric character, with brilliant mind, skilled in detection, what’s not to love? (He was also a cocaine user, but this was legal at the time.) Mystery is a popular genre, people love their detectives. And Sherlock Holmes is a classic. I think there is certain appeal in Victorian and Edwardian era London as well.
Sherlock Holmes first came to life in the 1887 novel A Study in Scarlet. Altogether he features in four novels (the other three being The Sign of Four, The Hound of Baskervilles and The Valley of Fear) and 56 short stories, majority of them written by his sidekick Dr John Watson. The character of Sherlock is inspired by Dr Joseph Bell (1837-1911), a surgeon and lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, for whom ACD served as a clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Dr Bell used observation to carry out a diagnosis and was a pioneer of what we now call forensic science. He also served as a personal surgeon to Queen Victoria when she visited Scotland.
“My friend and colleague, Dr Watson.”
I am lost without my Boswell.
Sherlock Holmes about Dr Watson
The quote is a reference to James Boswell, who was a biographer of the writer Samuel Johnson.
The lifelong partnership–however you want to interpret it–was born in A Study in Scarlet. Dr Watson is introduced to Sherlock Holmes by an old acquaintance Stamford as someone to potentially share a place with, as he’s in a precarious financial situation. Stamford knows Sherlock from the hospital, where he, Stamford, works as a dresser and Sherlock likes to dabble with chemicals at the lab.
“Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said Stamford, introducing us.
Watson, The Study in Scarlet
Sherlock already knows of a suitable lodgings to rent, 221b Baker Street. The next day they meet and go view the place, Watson decides it’s suitable, and they move in.
Everyone, raise a glass for Mr Stamford, without whom this iconic duo would never have existed.
Watson at first has no clue about Sherlock’s profession and for some reason is afraid to ask. Because he really has nothing else to do, he studies his flatmate and even makes a list of his skills and abilities. I made a graphic of this list, which I posted on my Tumblr where it enjoyed some popularity. This is it:
Watson is also shocked at Sherlock’s total ignorance of the Solar System. Of course, now it seems funny, because you’re thinking, haha he’s obsessed. He admits as such right there, in the text. He has nothing else to occupy his mind, has no close friends and his health is not in the best condition. This is what made me come up with a theory–I think meeting Sherlock Holmes saved Dr Watson’s life. Hear me out.
So, as we know from Watson’s narrative, he qualified as medical doctor, joined the army and served in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, where he was wounded during the Battle of Maiwand. His injury healed, but then he contracted enteric fever (which a quick Google search informs me is the same as typhoid fever). Afterwards, his health was so poor, he was discharged and sent back to England to recuperate. Having no living relatives in England, he arrived in London and booked himself a room in a hotel. His description of the capital city is amusing: “that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained”. (You wouldn’t think it of him, but our doctor does have some good burns.) His army pension was eleven shillings and sixpence a day (another quick Google search informs me this should have been quite a comfortable income). He describes this period of his life as a “meaningless existence” and confesses to spending too much money. Hence the aforementioned precarious financial situation. He realised that he needed to change his lifestyle and having just made the decision to look for cheaper living, he bumped into Stamford.
What I wonder about–what was he spending his money on? Drinking? Women? Gambling? It was at a bar where he came across Stamford, so draw your own conclusions. (Also in The Sign of Four, we learn that Watson had an older brother with a drink problem.) Stamford comments that Watson is very thin and very brown (suntan from Afghanistan, presumably). It’s not unreasonable to conclude that he suffered from PTSD. And the “meaningless existence”–could that be… depression? When he moved in with Sherlock, he got his life and finances in order and his mind was revived from idleness by this intriguing new friend of his. Then, when Sherlock finally reveals to Watson what his profession is–a consulting detective–he invites him to come along to view a dead body. The rest is history.
Watson is at first sceptical of Sherlock’s science of deduction, but soon learns that yes, it really does work. It seems to me that Sherlock, whether intentionally or not, pulled Watson back into life. BBC Sherlock series pretty much plays it that way.
In the next book, The Sign of Four, a new client named Miss Mary Morstan enters the scene and she and Watson fall in love and get married. It was an extremely short courtship, but it seems to have worked out for them. ACD needed to marry off Watson, so he married him off. *shrug* Sherlock remained in Baker Street, as Watson says in A Scandal in Bohemia, “buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature”. In other words, he missed his friend. (The Guy Ritchie movies with Robert Downey Jr showcase this well.)
Screenshot of Sherlock Holmes, The Definitive Audio Collection from my Audible app. The complete works, all for one single credit, (a marvellous deal!), read by Stephen Fry, who played Mycroft in the sequel to the above mentioned Guy Ritchie film, Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows. Speaking of which:
“All men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience.”
Sherlock on his brother Mycroft, from The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
Sherlock Holmes has a brother called Mycroft, seven years his senior. We first meet him in the story The Greek Interpreter; he also features in one of my personal favourites, The Bruce-Partington Plans. Mycroft possesses even greater ability for deduction and observation than his younger brother, except he can’t be bothered to do any actual detective work out in the field. No ambition and no energy. (I can relate.) He rarely ventures beyond his circle of home, workplace and the Diogenes Club. In The Bruce-Partington Plans Sherlock nearly falls off a chair when he receives telegram from Mycroft informing him of his upcoming visit to Baker Street. It must be something really serious to drag his brother away from his usual territory!
Mycroft’s skills enabled him to create his own position in the Government. He makes himself indispensable. That’s why Sherlock says Mycroft is the Government itself. But my favourite part about the older Holmes is the Diogenes Club. A gentlemen’s club set up for those who hate company, whether due to shyness or misanthropy, but who still like comfortable chairs and newspapers. Talking is not permitted, except for Stranger’s Room and three offences will get you expelled from the club. Mycroft was one of the founding members.
We don’t know what Mycroft’s politics is. From Sherlock’s description, he certainly can make any regime work for him, but I like to think he was at least somewhat progressive. There is nothing in the canon to say he wasn’t.
According to Sherlock, both of them may have inherited their talents from their grandmother, a sister to French artist Vernet. Vernet was a real artist that really existed, in fact there were three of them: grandfather, father and son:
Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789)
Antoine Charles Horace Vernet, known as Carle Vernet (1758-1836)
Émile Jean-Horace Vernet, known as Horace Vernet (1789-1863)
ACD doesn’t specify which one of them it was, but based on the timeline, the youngest one is the most likely one. Horace Vernet mostly painted battle scenes and enjoyed patronage from, among others, King Louis-Philippe. He also took photographs by daguerreotype process, the first publicly available photography technique.
Check out his self-portrait:
It looks very Sherlock Holmes, doesn’t it?
Aside from this, Sherlock never mentions any other family. He says his ancestors were country squires, but offers no further details. In The Adventure of the Norwood Builder, after Sherlock returns from the dead, Watson moves back with him to Baker Street and sells his practice to a young doctor named Verner. Years later he finds out that this Verner was a distant relation of Sherlock and it was really Sherlock who provided the money for the practice, which was sold at the highest price. Verner, Vernet, sounds very similar, also R and T are next to each other on the keyboard. Most likely a coincidence, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
“The Best and Finest Man I Have Ever Known”
So, Sherlock believed his talent for observation and deduction came from his artist great uncle. “Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms”, he says in The Greek Interpreter. Sherlock is the logical, scientific type. He also plays the violin and is fond of music. I think we can safely say that in the mind of our great detective, science and art combine.
Watson’s list of Sherlock’s skills is not entirely accurate for the rest of the series. In The Sign of Four, for example, Watson notes that “[Holmes] spoke on a quick succession of subjects,—on miracle-plays, on medieval pottery, on Stradivarius violins, on the Buddhism of Ceylon, and on the war-ships of the future,—handling each as though he had made a special study of it.” Yet none of those subjects are mentioned on the list in A Study in Scarlet. Quite the opposite–any facts he considers irrelevant must be forgotten at once, as to not clutter his mind. When ACD came up with the character of Sherlock Holmes, he couldn’t have known he would still write about him decades later (he didn’t even want to!). With time, he developed his character more, realising that, when you work as a detective, no knowledge is useless. This can be easily explained by Watson not knowing Sherlock that well in their early days yet. There is also another inconsistency. Watson’s wound was in the shoulder in A Study in Scarlet, but in The Sign of Four, he tells us it’s in the leg. Not that it matters much, in any case he could have sustained more than one injury in the war. BBC Sherlock got round it by making Watson’s leg pain psychosomatic–quite clever, I think.
This is a popular outline of Sherlock’s profile (drawn my myself), thanks to illustrations by Sidney Paget. It is Paget that gave Sherlock the iconic deerstalker hat, never mentioned in the actual writing. Paget’s illustrations accompanied ACD’s Sherlock stories in The Strand Magazine, where they were published. (Random fact: Agatha Christie also published her Poirot short stories in this magazine.) ACD himself requested Paget to continue illustrating in The Strand when he resurrected Sherlock. Sidney Paget definitely deserves some credit for contributing to the famous detective’s image.
The Birth of a Fandom
ACD killed off Sherlock in 1893 in The Final Problem, hoping this would help him concentrate on the more serious fiction and non-fiction he wanted to work on. Sherlock faces his ultimate antagonist, Professor Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime. Interestingly, Moriarty is also a man of science, a mathematical genius. During their last showdown at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, they both plunge to their deaths.
The reaction of fans to this move was like nothing else ever experienced before. Angry letters poured into ACD’s mailbox, people wore black armbands, The Strand Magazine suffered 20,000 cancellations. These days you’d shrug your shoulder, just another Tuesday in the fandom. But then, it was new. ACD eventually brought the beloved sleuth back; he needed the money and people wanted their Sherlock. Luckily the way he wrote Sherlock’s end enabled him to explain it away with “actually he didn’t fall into his death, only Moriarty did” and “he quickly realised that faking his death would help him break Moriarty’s criminal network and protect his dear Watson”. ACD though killed another character, Mrs Mary Watson, off page, so that he could reinstate Watson back into 221b Baker Street. (It’s kinda shitty if you think about it, but I understand why it had to be that way, besides, readers likely didn’t care about her. Apart from all the other qualities of the Granada Sherlock Holmes series with Jeremy Brett, I like that their Watson remained unmarried and Mary Morstan exited at the end of The Sign of Four episode.)
And so the adventures continued.
Sherlockians, or Holmesians if you want, were the first modern fandom. (Ahhh, fandoms, yes, fandoms, that’s a discussion I’d rather not have today.)
Aside from the books written by ACD, Sherlock appears in numerous books by other authors. This is called pastiche. Most of ACD’s works are in public domain now, which means you can get them free as eBooks. Project Gutenberg is the best place for this.
I truly hope that if Sir Arthur can see from beyond how loved the character he grew to hate is, and how much Sherlock Holmes means to people, he is not too angry. After all, Sherlock, and all the related adaptations and pastiches, bring many of us joy and in the end, that is what really matters.
My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know.
The year has been… strange. World as we know it will never be the same. But there has been success with vaccines.
For Some Photoblog, however, 2021 was the most productive year ever–89 posts! The major theme was pictures of flowers taken by my smartphone on my walks, with an occasional bird thrown in.
My DSLR camera, bless the poor thing’s mirrored heart, got some work done at last, after mostly idle 2020. The lens cap got stuck in the course of this long idleness, sending me into a state of panic (easily happens to me). I had to consult Google for a solution. Thankfully I managed to get the cap off. I even wrote a short flash fiction story about it! Which was actually inspired by a prompt at Online Writers Guild, but funny how that prompt, erm, mirrored, exactly what was going on in my life.
I didn’t get up to much this year, I only visited two places outside Manchester–Lyme Park and Halifax, but the visits were that much more enjoyable. I also took a walk to Castlefield one Saturday at the end of February to have a look at the sets of Peaky Blinders that was being filmed there, and I came home with some fantastic shots–not just of the sets, but of early spring too. I think there are altogether four posts made out of that one single walk.
Autumn has also been good, we’ve been really lucky with the leaves this year.
On the pop culture side, I covered some of my favourite things: Agatha Christie (a reposted entry from 2019 with new photos taken this year), Game of Thrones, Star Trek, and most of all, actor Sam Claflin to whom I dedicated a 5200-words-long post. (I didn’t realise it was that long!) I pretty much carry a flag with his name on it–because someone has to.
In the world of movies, after a dry 2020, we’ve finally seen some delayed cinematic releases, and more. Marvel have treated us to four films in total, and they were all fantastic (Black Widow, Shang-Chi, Eternals and, most of all, Spider-Man No Way Home), plus five series on Disney+. While I’m not a big fan of James Bond, I did go to see No Time To Die, as it was Daniel Craig’s final outing, and because it was the first major picture to be delayed in the early months of the pandemic. I can say it’s my favourite now–it really was something else–and I loved the gorgeous cinematography. Cary Joji Fukunaga also directed the 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre; if you’ve seen it, you know it has the right gothic feel. (I acknowledge that, as much as I’m fond of butchering that story.) Dune also finally made its appearance, a difficult book to translate to screen, but Denis Villeneuve pulled it off. The soundtrack was just *chef’s kiss*, Hans Zimmer outdid himself–and that’s saying a lot!
In the streaming world, everyone went mad for Squid Game, and I’m happy for a non-English language show to achieve such a huge success. Speaking of non-English shows, French series Lupin also enjoyed big popularity–I love me some heist. The last show I want to give a shout out to is The Irregulars, a Sherlock Holmes adjacent series featuring the group of street kids known as Baker Street Irregulars. Unusually for Sherlock Holmes-verse, it’s a paranormal mystery, with a diverse cast. I liked it so much more than that bloody Enola Holmes last year (this is an unpopular opinion and I stand by it), but unfortunately it has not been renewed by Netflix. In episode three, I spotted a familiar sight–The Cage at Lyme Park. Thus I became the Leonardo Di Caprio pointing at the screen meme.
Just like last year, I listened to a lot of Taylor Swift, who has been re-releasing her old music to get back her rights. Most memorable is probably the ten-minute version of All Too Well, to which she recorded a short film as a music video. My most streamed song this year, though, was Wellerman, a remixed sea shanty that went viral thanks to TikTok at the beginning of the year. Not surprising since I played it on loop!
Elsewhere on my writing blog, it’s also been a successful year. I particularly enjoyed myself by murdering an English classic (guess which one), dreaming about being seduced to the dark side by hot villains, and experimenting with a day in the life of a very fictional Home Secretary in a fictionalised version of Britain. But the most popular story turned out to be I Fall In Love With You Every Day. Same as previously mentioned The Camera Smiles, it, too, was a response to a prompt by Online Writers Guild.
I think I went on for long enough, so let me wrap this up with Pepper, my constant and only companion. In October I had some massive work done on my flat (landlord at last realised what terrible state it was in), so I now have a brand new kitchen and bathroom–a side note, you don’t realise how a thing like that can completely change your mindset–and one of the builders remarked that every time they brought something new in, such as tools or materials, the cat “must come and check everything”. Of course, as all cat owners know, this is a completely normal cat behaviour, but the builder clearly didn’t know it, and it still makes me laugh to this day.
Thank you for visiting my blog in 2021 and all the best for 2022!
This is the story about how a writing prompt–or more precisely, a trio of writing prompts–came alive.
One of the blogs I follow is The New, Unofficial, On-Line Writers Guild. It’s relevant to my writing blog, not this one, but anyway, this blog publishes a fictional story every week, plus three prompts. These can be responded to in the usual style of prompts of WordPress. In a post a couple of months ago, the prompts went like this:
1. outside Halifax
2. no god worth worrying about
3. selling truth
I looked at the prompts and instantly, they formed a whole sentence in my mind:
There is no god worth worrying about selling truth outside Halifax.
Okay, it looks like a sentence, you think, but it is a tiny bit nonsensical. And what about it came alive?
Well, not only was it a line in my head, it was a situation I was able to picture quite clearly, and one that I was sure I’d actually seen in real life, with my own eyes. How?
Halifax is a town in Yorkshire, or in Nova Scotia, or wherever else, but here in UK it is also a bank. As banks usually do, they have branches in most town centres. So, that is the easily imaginable “outside Halifax” part. As for the god not worth worrying about selling truth, well, street Jesus freaks of all sorts are not an unusual sight here in Manchester. Strictly speaking, they’re probably not selling anything, not in the normal sense, in exchange for money, but they must want something from you, otherwise why would they stand there, shouting their preachings?
I knew I would be able to snap a pic that would encapsulate the three prompts in an ideal form. It was only a matter of time, and luck. And time and luck it was, while out on my lunch break about two weeks ago. Here is the photo:
They’re also standing where the tram lines divide, which, I like to think, adds a dramatic effect. And, of course, in true Manchester fashion, it’s raining.
The lake of fire probably won’t last long around here.
I’m not religious myself, but I showed this to a colleague who is a Christian, and she said the writing on the banner is untrue, because Jesus spreads love, not fear. He is all about forgiveness, not punishment. It certainly seems like the wrong message, even to a heathen like me.
It’s really… not worth worrying about. And I’m pretty sure it’s not the truth. What would some dude with an umbrella standing in the middle of Manchester know about it, anyway?
So that’s it, that is the story about how a trio of writing prompts came alive. Thank you for reading.
Note: This post was originally published on Some Photoblog in April 2019. However, I deleted it after I realised I hated the posted photographs. I took some new ones and now I hereby, with some minor changes, republish the post, in time for Agatha Christie’s birthday.
No spoilers for any books or short stories ahead.
This is the post that was always meant to be. I have never specially planned it, but I was always conscious of its existence outside Some Photoblog’s space-time continuum. And here it is now.
World, welcome to my most favourite author ever.
Some call her the Queen of Crime and even if you’ve never read any of her books, you know who she is.
Of course, I’ve mentioned Agatha Christie multiple times on this blog. I will probably keep mentioning her.
I got into Agatha Christie sometime in my mid-teens; my first book was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, an Hercule Poirot mystery, which also happens to be one of the best. It could hardly have been a better start. But her best selling, and indeed the best selling mystery novel of all, is And Then There Were None. Not a surprise at all, I’m sure everyone has at least heard of it!
(Yes, it’s the-one-that-one-that-used-to-have-that-racist-title, but this was taken from a children’s rhyme, which is not Agatha’s creation. In newer editions, the racial slur in the rhyme is replaced with “soldier”.)
Hercule Poirot, a private detective from Belgium, and Miss Marple, an old lady who has lived all of her life in a little village of St Mary Mead, are Agatha Christie’s most famous characters. But she’s much more than that. There are Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, the couple that first appear in The Secret Adversary as young adventurers and who, unlike Poirot and Marple, age with each subsequent book. Then we have short stories featuring Mr Parker Pyne, who is an unusual type of detective, if he can be called that. Are you happy? If not, consult Mr Parker Pyne, runs his advertisement in the newspaper. His speciality appears to be the matters of the heart (as in, love, not the organ). And then there is the most mysterious character Agatha ever created, Mr Harley Quin. Not to be confused with Harley Quinn, the DC comics character. He appears and disappears again just at the right time, with no explanation, and we never get to find out anything about him. The short stories featuring him are written from the point of view of Mr Satterthwaite, a middle aged socialite, who–not in a malicious way–enjoys other people’s drama–and who also makes an appearance in Poirot novel Three Act Tragedy. Harley Quin short stories have this spooky atmosphere, almost touching on supernatural.
Similarly, stories in The Hound of Death collection have the same feel. There have also been new short story collections released in recent years, which include such short stories.
Apart from all this, Agatha Christie’s work includes mystery novels without any regular detective; a few with Superintendent Battle, who also appeared alongside Poirot in Cards on the Table. And so on and so on.
I don’t know how many people are aware of the fact that she didn’t just write mystery/crime fiction. She wrote six novels under the pen name Mary Westmacott. I’ve seen them boxed under “romantic novel”, though I’m unsure this is entirely correct. At least, I don’t think they’re strictly romances. So far I’ve read Giant’s Bread and Unfinished Portrait and enjoyed them both a lot. The latter is semi-autobiographical.
And that’s not all. She was also a playwright. The Mousetrap is the longest running play in UK–it was only the pandemic that halted its run, but it reopened as soon as it was possible. I have seen it performed here in Manchester on their 60th anniversary tour, in 2012. And kept the ticket for nine years!
What’s interesting also is that, although she wrote a few plays and even turned her own books into plays (e.g. there is a stage version of And Then There Were None with a different ending; Witness for the Prosecution was a short story before it was a play), her stories are still adapted for stage by other writers. For example, Love from a Stranger is a play based on the short story Philomel Cottage. You can find Philomel Cottage in the Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories collection (other collections too), or on its own in digital format. It’s a tense story about a newly married woman experiencing sudden anxiety, which she cannot identify. A domestic thriller, in fact.
I went to see Love from a Stranger year in July 2018.
Speaking of adaptations, it would be an unpardonable crime not to mention this guy.
David Suchet played Poirot on screen for 24 years and will probably always be the best, the most ultimate Poirot of all time. Not that other actors shouldn’t play him, or that they won’t be good as good Poirots; I mean that Suchet portrayal is iconic. He is so much associated with the little Belgian detective that he wrote a book about it!
Currently Hercule Poirot is being played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directs the films. Murder on the Orient Express was released in 2017, the next one is Death on the Nile, which was set to be out in October 2020 but keeps being postponed. (Latest date is February 2022.) Branagh’s Poirot is more of a 21st century hero, with a more diverse cast. And that moustache is a legend!
I relate to Poirot in a way that he’s a Continental European living in England, and people keep getting his nationality wrong.
My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world.
Hercule Poirot, The Mystery of the Blue Train
The impossible cannot have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.
Hercule Poirot, Murder on the Orient Express
Human nature is much the same everywhere and, of course, one has opportunities of observing it at close quarters in a village.
Miss Marple, The Thumb Mark of St Peter (short story)
This above quote is the most typical of Miss Marple. She usually cracks the mystery because someone reminds her of someone else. I think in this way, her village serves as a microcosm of the world. She observes life closely, which then helps her solve crimes that baffle even experienced Scotland Yard officers.
Some of my collection:
So, as you can see, I’m an Agatha Christie fan. I know she’s not literally acclaimed–some male author or other apparently wrote some essay titled Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? (and who cares about your essay, male author?)–but so what. There is nothing like curling up with a blanket, nice cup of hot drink and a good old fashioned mystery. Does not mean you can’t appreciate Shakespeare as well. Agatha sometimes quotes Shakespeare–the novel Taken at the Flood is titled after a line in Julius Caesar. And I want to add another thing, the thing I think about often and which appears in her books quite a lot and is my favourite element of her entire work.
Whenever there is a crime committed, the perpetrator must be found. But the most important thing is not to punish the perpetrator. It’s to clear the innocent. I first came across this in the Miss Marple short story The Four Suspects. Miss Marple and her companions discuss an unsolved case presented to them by Sir Henry Clithering, a retired Scotland Yard Commissioner. Miss Marple, as is her fashion, comes to the correct conclusion without much trouble. Sir Henry is outraged by the fact that the guilty party got away with it, but Miss Marple points out that it was not the case–the murderer got in with such a bad lot that their end will be inevitable. But she urges Sir Henry to let the other parties know that they’re innocent. Well, she means particularly one party, the one she believes would suffer most from having that suspicion hanging over their head.
One mustn’t waste thought on the guilty–it’s the innocent who matter.
Miss Marple, The Four Suspects (short story)
This is also the whole premise of Ordeal by Innocence. Dr Calgary approaches a family claiming that he can provide an alibi for the son who got charged with murder. It’s too late for the son, who died in prison, but he thinks he can at least clear his name. But this causes distress to the family–if it wasn’t him, then who was it? And immediately they start suspecting each other again and their nightmare is back. Dr Calgary then decides to find the culprit–which he does in the end.
It’s not the guilty who matter. It’s the innocent. It’s we who matter. Don’t you see what you’ve done to us all?
Hester, Ordeal by Innocence
And that is why Ordeal by Innocence is such a good book and that is why the recent BBC adaptation got it so wrong. All the adaptations by Sarah Phelps (with the exception of 2015’s And Then There Were None, which is impossible to ruin) were bad. That is because the woman had never read any Agatha Christie book when she was tasked with adapting her books. She had previously worked on Eastenders, a degenerate soap opera, and is high up in BBC, but is in no way, shape or form qualified to adapt Agatha Christie books. Thankfully, those adaptations were not very memorable or popular with the audience, and hopefully will be soon forgotten. People still turn to David Suchet’s Poirot, or the older Peter Ustinov movies.
Two tropes that Agatha handles so superbly are: the dysfunctional family (examples: After the Funeral, A Pocketful of Rye, Crooked House, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas) and the love triangle (no examples because that would be telling). Don’t let the latter put you off, this is no YA fiction! It’s possible she reused the trope so often because of her own experience. Her husband, Archie Christie, left her for another woman. That’s when she went missing for 11 days, that incident she never talked about, or mentioned in her autobiography, and that still fascinates people to this day. She was found at a hotel in Harrogate under a fake name, with the surname being the same as her husband’s mistress’s. She may have had a memory loss, or she may have been the original Gone Girl, who knows. She and Archie divorced, and she later met the archaeologist Max Mallowan, who became her second husband, and with whom she was much happier. She accompanied him on his digs and even set one of her books, Murder in Mesopotamia, at an archaeological dig.
Fun fact: when she went missing, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, consulted a psychic to help find the missing writer, using one of her gloves. He was into that stuff.
Some of my favourite Poirot books are: Sad Cypress, Five Little Pigs, The Hollow (mentioned in my Yggdrasil post), Murder of Roger Ackroyd, of course that will always remain my beloved. From Miss Marple collection I rate The Moving Finger and A Murder is Announced the highest. But the one I name as my top Agatha book is Endless Night. It’s a surprisingly good late gem from the author, whose late work is not as good as her earlier one. It’s got an aesthetic of a gothic novel… until it doesn’t. I recommend everyone to read it, if you haven’t already.
I make a point in my post about eBooks that works that enter public domain are available for free on Gutenberg to download in various formats. As of September 2021, Gutenberg has the first six books of Agatha Christie, link here.
I will end with a quote from the epilogue of Agatha’s autobiography.
I have done what I wanted to do. I have been on a journey. Not so much a journey back through the past, as a journey forward–starting again at the beginning of it all–going back to the Me who was to embark on that journey forward through time. I have not been bounded by time or space. I have been able to linger where I wanted, jump backwards and forwards as I wished.
Ooh, she really does float outside the space-time continuum!
hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something
I’ve never thought about whether I’m an optimist or a pessimist. I’ve never called myself either. I may say that I feel optimistic or pessimistic about a particular situation, but that’s as far as it goes.
Maybe it means I’m a realist? I don’t know.
I know I have anxiety, so to me the future seems terrifying at the best of times.
These shots are all aiming up, not down. But then again, it’s easier to take a picture that way.
One thing is sure and that is that walking uphill (or up the stairs) is a good exercise!
hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something
I’ve never thought about whether I’m an optimist or a pessimist. I’ve never called myself either. I may say that I feel optimistic or pessimistic about a particular situation, but that’s as far as it goes.
Maybe it means I’m a realist? I don’t know.
I know I have anxiety, so to me the future seems terrifying at the best of times.
These shots are all aiming up, not down. But then again, it’s easier to take a picture that way.
One thing is sure and that is that walking uphill (or up the stairs) is a good exercise!
Today I’m doing something a little bit different from my usual forte, because today, my dear friends, I dedicate a post of my blog to the beautiful and talented British actor Sam Claflin.
Sam is probably best known for playing Finnick in The Hunger Games movies, but other than that, he mostly flies under the radar. Which results in people who take a deeper dive into his filmography emerging with: “OMG, WHY IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT THIS GUY??? He has the range!”
I’ve been racking my brains for months, but I cannot for the life of me remember how I first got to know him. It was definitely a case of knowing the name before seeing any of his movies, most likely in connection with The Hunger Games sequels. I remember Catching Fire being on TV once, but not deeming it essential, I didn’t bother watching it, though I vaguely recall just having it on as a background. I think it was the Snow White and the Huntsman movie I saw him in first, and I went to see My Cousin Rachel in the cinemas when it was out. And although I appreciated his outing on Peaky Blinders, it wasn’t until summer last year that I finally discovered all of his talents.
And I’ve come to the conclusion that IMDb ratings don’t mean shit.
So, onto the actual post. I tried to avoid as many spoilers as possible. Although… spoiler for everything, his characters have a habit of not being alive at the end, but I maintain that even if you’re aware of this fact, the films are still worth watching, end of spoiler for everything.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) and Part 2 (2015), directed by Francis Lawrence
I’ll start with the most obvious one. Catching Fire is the second instalment in The Hunger Games series, the movies adapted from books by Suzanne Collins. Sam plays Finnick Odair, victor of 64th Games from District 4 and a tribute in the Quarter Quell, alongside the main heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). No other actor could have done a better job portraying Finnick. He captured his arrogance, but also his vulnerability, brilliantly. Finnick appears to be a playboy at the beginning, your typical boyband member/underwear model type (and he’s blond and has an American accent!), until we learn what he had to go through after his victory in the Games, and how deep his love for Annie is.
I have a very difficult and very complicated relationship with The Hunger Games. I found the last book, Mockingjay, especially painful, and the ending made me want to throw my Kindle against the wall, so you understand why I didn’t bother with the movies. Then I got into Sam, and the movies happened to be available on Amazon Prime at the time, so I decided to give Catching Fire a go. Luckily my conflicted feelings have nothing to do with Finnick, who is, together with Johanna Mason, my favourite character. Aside from the fact where he, you know, dies. With that at least I’m not on my own–Finnick is a popular character and majority of the fandom is unhappy about his death. They should have made a change from the books and have him survive, the movies would then have something going for them. When it comes to that, they should have changed a lot about Mockingjay, and dividing a book where you expect revolution to happen, but get “Peeta-Peeta-Peeta waah-waah-waah” instead, is not the best of ideas. I never watched the second Mockingjay and only fast-forwarded through the first one for the Finnick scenes. It’s surprising how little he’s in it. He has two conversations with Katniss, and towards the end he’s recording the video where he talks about his experiences post-victory, but even here the camera keeps switching to Katniss’s dumb, open-mouthed face.
Catching Fire has 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the highest of all THG films, and it’s also the one with most Sam Claflin. NOT a coincidence! The soundtrack is also sick and happens to feature my favourite band, Imagine Dragons. (Spotify link here.)
Their Finest (2016), directed by Lone Scherfig
Now onto some quality! A drama with some comedy and romance mixed in, Their Finest takes place during WW2. The main character is a young screenwriter, played by Gemma Arterton, who joins the production crew of a propaganda movie for the Ministry of Information–yes, this is a movie about a movie! Sam is Tom Buckley, a fellow screenwriter, who hires her to write “slop”, as he calls it, meaning “girl talk”. The film they’re working on is about Dunkirk evacuation (of course it is…).
The cast is phenomenal; there’s Bill Nighy, Richard E Grant, Rachael Stirling, as well as Paul Ritter and the great Helen McCrory, both of whom have sadly passed away this April.
Their Finest is hilarious at times, but poignant too. Buckley has a bit of an ego on him, but he’s likeable. He and Catrin (Gemma’s character) banter a lot, but you can see they begin to truly care about each other. They have great chemistry.
Why do you think that people like films? It’s because stories are structured; have a shape, a purpose, a meaning; and when things gone bad they’re still a part of a plan; there’s a point to them. Unlike life.
Buckley, Their Finest
Churchill is only name-dropped once.
More importantly, we have a lesbian character (the one played by Rachael Stirling), who is alive at the end.
This is also rated 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s the second time Sam has worked with Lone Scherfig.
Journey’s End (2018), directed by Saul Dibb
While Their Finest is set during WW2, Journey’s End is set during WW1. This one is an actual war movie, adapted from the play by RC Sherriff, yet it’s not your typical war movie. Because in this one, it doesn’t matter whether they’re allies or Germans–it’s all about the life in the trenches, and the effects of it on the soldiers. Don’t expect much military action.
Sam plays Captain Stanhope, who leads the company of soldiers when it’s their turn to spend six days at the dugout near St Quentin in northern France. They expect a big German offensive is coming, they just don’t know when, so nobody has any idea which men will be in the trenches at the time they attack. (History note: it’s the Operation Michael on 21 March 1918). A young, naïve, still idealistic officer Jimmy Raleigh (the young talent Asa Butterfield) requests to join Stanhope’s company, as he knows him from back home; they used to play rugby together and his older sister Margaret is engaged to Stanhope. As the General’s nephew, he gets his wish, but he’s not prepared for how much the war has changed Stanhope.
This is truly an outstanding performance by Sam. Mentally shot to pieces and almost an alcoholic, Stanhope is not exactly thrilled to come face to face with an old friend in this state. Especially as the said friend would doubtless report everything to Margaret. When Raleigh arrives, his reaction is a literal “Shit!”
My favourite scene is Lieutenant Osborne (Paul Bettany), tucking Stanhope into bed. Osborne acts like a father-figure to the men, they call him Uncle. Here’s a collage of my screenshots of that scene–it’s very dark, which is the general feel of the movie:
It’s a really moving film that hits right in the feels. Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 91%.
There are no women in this movie, apart from Margaret reading a letter from her brother at the very end, though she has no lines. In this case it really doesn’t matter. Stanhope carried her photograph on him at all times, and didn’t want her to know what’s become of him.
My Cousin Rachel (2017), directed by Roger Michell
The best Daphne du Maurier adaptation in recent years.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, I saw this on the big screen when it was released, because I like the book. (It was out around the same time as Wonder Woman, which everyone was hyping about, but I went to watch My Cousin Rachel instead. My most favourite book of all time, Rebecca, is, of course, by the same author.) The titular Rachel is played by Rachel Weisz, with Sam in the role of the narrator Philip Ashley. He actually has a double role here, he also plays Ambrose, though that’s only for a couple of scenes at the beginning without any lines. Iain Glen is Nick Kendall, Philip’s godfather and legal guardian, and Holliday Grainger is his daughter and Philip’s childhood friend Louise. Everyone is good in this and everything is good in this. Roger Michell knows his stuff.
In one interview, Sam correctly referred to My Cousin Rachel as gothic thriller, and gothic thriller it is. (Same as Rebecca. NOT a romance.) If you’ve read the book you know that Philip swears revenge on Rachel, whom he blames for the death of Ambrose, his closest person, only to fall head over heels in love with her when he meets her. It’s a very ambiguous story, and we’re not given any answers at the end. The film sticks pretty close to the book, any changes are minimal. There’s only one major difference and that’s at the end, with an added epilogue, which does not really contradict anything from the book. Sam did a great job with Philip, who starts out as completely clueless about women, almost loses his mind, and ends it in some dark places. His misogyny is only a result of his upbringing by Ambrose, a woman hater that wouldn’t even allow female dogs in his house. It’s really Rachel Weisz that steals the show, as she’s supposed to. Daphne du Maurier was a master with her intriguing female characters whose names start with R!
Above screenshots are an example of a change from the book–in the book it was primroses, not bluebells.
Rotten Tomatoes rates My Cousin Rachel at 76%. Compare it to 2020 version of Rebecca on Netflix, which completely missed the point of the story, but got a bigger hype, so more people know about it.
The Nightingale (2018), directed by Jennifer Kent
All the trigger warnings apply–this is not a joke!
The Nightingale is set in 1825 in Tasmania. This is the story of Clare, a young Irish convict (Aisling Franciosi), who pursues British officer Hawkins (Sam) through the wilderness, to avenge her family. This is Sam as a villain, and truly a despicable one he is. He likes having the power over those below him. And that’s precisely it, it’s by playing a villain that actors showcase their true talent. Anyone can play a love interest in a romcom, but not anyone can sell a villain. Sam does.
Heads-up, this movie is really violent. Multiple rapes and a murder of a baby happen. You can guess why Clare is on her quest for revenge. She recruits a native tracker Billy, played by Baykali Ganambarr, to help her get Hawkins. Clare, although a survivor of terrible violence, is not exactly without prejudices, she calls Billy “boy”. As the movie progresses, she starts to look at him as a human being. We see more examples of trauma caused by colonialism too. A hard to watch film, but important.
You might know Aisling Franciosi from her total of five minutes on Game of Thrones as Lyanna Stark. Personally I care nothing for Lyanna (Team Elia Martell). It’s not relevant to anything in this post, I’m just saying. Anyway, The Nightingale was an opportunity to flex her acting skills, and flex them she did, and she deserves all the praise for it. So does Baykali.
Rotten Tomatoes rating is 86%.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), directed by Rob Marshall
No complicated feelings for this franchise! Pirates of the Caribbean is my second favourite cinematic universe. The first is Marvel. There’s all the good stuff: adventure, action, humour, horror, romance–and good romance at that. Sam appears in the fourth instalment of the franchise, his first big movie (prior to that he starred in TV mini series only). He plays Philip Swift, a missionary captured by Blackbeard (Ian McShane). The first time we see him, he’s tied to a mast of Blackbeard’s ship. As mutiny breaks out, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and another pirate go to untie him, and Salaman, the other pirate, tells him he’s either with them or against them, upon which Philip responds: “I’m not with you, neither am I against you.”
Salaman to Jack: Can he do that?
Jack Sparrow: He’s religious, I believe it’s required.
Sam’s first scene in his first major movie was with the legendary Jack Sparrow–not a bad start!
The pirates are on a quest for the Fountain of Youth, which guarantees the drinker eternal youth. But they also need a mermaid’s tear, so they go on a hunt for a mermaid. Mermaids in this universe are malevolent creatures (or it depends how you look at it, if they lure men to their deaths, I say good for them), but nevertheless they manage to capture one, with the help of Philip. He regrets this almost immediately and spends the rest of the movie protecting her, and names her Syrena. She’s played by Astrid Berges-Frisbey.
I’ve never been one for any characters of religion, but between Philip Swift and the Hot Priest from Fleabag, I might just change my mind. Philip is a modest man of God, who believes everyone’s soul can be saved. The way he protects Syrena gives me all the feels. She falls for him too.
This is Sam’s cutest love story.
The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this one is irrelevant. What do they know?
Okay, well, for consistency, it’s 33%. Out of all the POTC movies, it can be objectively said On Stranger Tides is the weakest, but Philip and Syrena’s storyline is the best thing about it. And there’s always fun in swashbuckling action. What a great way to start a film career!
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), directed by Rupert Sanders
A dark retelling of the classic tale of Snow White. You know the story, the evil queen, here named Ravenna (Charlize Theron), wants Snow White (Kristen Stewart) dead and orders the huntsman Eric (Chris Hemsworth) to bring her back Snow White’s heart as a proof. The huntsman saves her instead and, with the help of the seven dwarves, they set off to take Ravenna down. Sam plays William, a childhood friend of Snow White and a duke’s son. For years he believed Snow White was dead, but when he hears she’s still alive, he rides off to save her without a moment of hesitation. He joins the bad guys, pretending to be one of them. And he’s very skilful with a bow and an arrow.
The film is okay, a bit uneven, and it’s not clear who is actually supposed to be Snow White’s love interest, Eric or William. I ship Snow White with William, of course, and we know from the sequel, The Huntsman: Winter’s War that they got together. A son of a duke is a better choice for a queen than a huntsman, in any case.
But they don’t fight for her, the two men actually become friends.
The dwarves are also funny. And the movie is nice to look at. Every time I see it’s on TV, I always leave it on. I like it.
People like to give Kristen Stewart shit, but I don’t.
49% from Rotten Tomatoes.
As for the sequel, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Sam is only there for one single scene, where he talks to Eric. There’s not much to say about that one.
Sam has worked with both Hemsworth brothers–Liam plays Gale in THG.
Adrift (2018), directed by Baltasar Kormakur
Survival drama, based on a true story.
Shailene Woodley plays Tami Oldham (now Tami Oldham Ashcraft), a sailor who spent 41 days adrift in the Pacific. Sam is Richard Sharp, her fiancé. Tami arrives to Tahiti as part of her travels, where she meets Richard, a sailing enthusiast and they fall in love. They sail off on Richard’s friends’ boat on a voyage to San Diego, but get caught in hurricane Raymond. Tami finds herself alone, in the middle of the ocean, without a working navigation system.
Tami and Richard’s romance is so… wholesome. There is a scene where he proposes to her aboard. I’m not normally a fan of proposals, the whole going-down-on-one-knee-with-a-ring thing makes me cringe. So if I tell you I like this one, that means something. Spoiler, but not really as it’s a real story, Richard Sharp was unfortunately swept overboard and never found. Tami, though, still sails to this day.
A moving, inspiring film.
Rotten Tomatoes rating is 69%.
Enola Holmes (2020), directed by Harry Bradbeer
Oh dear. This one gave me such a hard time, it took me all of six months to figure out how to deal with its very existence.
Look at the picture below. The man on the right is Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes. Who is the man on the left?
I’m going to assume, if you haven’t seen Enola Holmes, that your answer was Watson. He looks like Watson, and he should have been Watson. But no, he’s Mycroft. (Who’s supposed to be seven years older than Sherlock. Sam is three years younger than Henry.) Please be aware that this is NOT a canon Mycroft, as we know him from Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. He has nothing in common with the real Mycroft, apart from his job at the government. His deduction skills, which are superior to Sherlock’s, have been completely erased. This Mycroft is a one-dimensional, conservative cartoon villain, complete with a cartoon villain moustache. This change was needed for the sake of an original character, a teenage sister of the Holmeses, the titular Enola. She’s smarter than her brothers, because the narrative wants to her to be so. This butchered version of Mycroft was necessary to provide conflict for the original teenage heroine.
This film is the reason I dedicated a paragraph to Mycroft in my Sherlock Holmes post. It was important to me to put the truth out there. (ETA: 04/06/2022: The post was deleted but I have republished it here.)
Okay. Listen. What they did to Sam’s look here was criminal. From the above image you can’t see it, it’s the pic I took of my TV screen, and I wouldn’t post it here if you could see it, and I’m not posting any screenshots. Look it up. I remember seeing a tweet that went along the lines of: “did they have to press Sam’s hair like that? and did he have to have such a moustache?” Sure, you can dismiss the tweeter as being shallow, but they had a point. Because you cannot make a genuinely handsome guy ugly. (Unless you’re, like, using prosthetics to turn him into an alien or a supernatural monster or something of that kind.) You can let him grow any horrible moustache, style any idiot haircuts you can think of. That perfect bone structure is still there. The dimples are still there. Also, he has beautiful lips. What it results in, is that it makes him just look ridiculous.
Sam has a moustache in two of his best movies, Journey’s End and Their Finest. That is fine. In The Nightingale, where he plays a horrible person, he has sideburns. He didn’t need any villain moustache for that, his evilness was clear from his actions. It’s not the fact that he has a moustache in Enola that I object to. It’s the cartoonish-ness of it.
Henry Cavill fans got the better of it–his Sherlock serves as pure eye candy. He doesn’t do much Sherlocking, he’s there to look pretty with his wild curls. A look that Benedict Cumberbatch mastered ten years before. That’s not a slight against Henry, btw. I liked him in The Witcher. It’s the writing.
This film didn’t need to be part of Sherlock universe at all, anyway. It should have been a story of a young girl’s adventure, hampered by a strict uncle–Mycroft character behaved more like an uncle, these guys don’t even have a sibling dynamic. (Trust me. I have siblings.) I wouldn’t have anything against that. But that would not have generated as much attention as Sherlock pastiche, eh?
Enola Holmes has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That kid has some strong connections.
A note on that social issues raised in this film: look, I get it. But it’s not that hard to insert some wokery into your fiction. I’ve done it myself. And I’m here for the feminist retelling of literally anything. God is a woman. I’m the biggest supporter of the madwoman in the attic. But Sherlock-verse doesn’t need to be a place for this, because Sherlock Holmes is not a misogynist. It’s the adaptations that give this misconception. Remember that Irene Adler outsmarted him!
The Riot Club (2014), directed by Lone Scherfig
This one made me feel unsettled.
Adapted from the play Posh by Laura Wade, it’s the story of two freshmen at Oxford University, who join this infamous club. An all-male elite dining club, members must be from private schools and rich. It’s based on real life Bullingdon Club, past members of which include former Prime Minister David Cameron, former Chancellor George Osborne and our current Prime Minister Boris Johnson (sigh). The way the club operates is: they book a table at a restaurant, trash the place, and then give a cheque to the owner to cover the damages.
No wonder we’re in such mess.
Sam and Max Irons play the new members. Sam’s character is called Alistair Ryle, and he’s a spoiled brat who hates poor people. Max’s character Miles is down to earth, and ends up disgusted with the practices of the club. He comes out of it much better.
I like a good villain, but not this type. It’s Draco Malfoy of the first five Harry Potter books, more or less. (I started liking Draco in the sixth book, after he used the body-freezing spell on Harry on the Hogwarts Express, and covered him with the invisibility cloak. I thought, yeah, finally you’re actually doing something, instead of running to hide under your parents’ skirts, and informing on your schoolmates to Dolores Umbridge. You get what I mean.) The reason the movie left me unsettled is because it can’t decide what it is. At the beginning, it seems like a comedy–we see how the club was established in the 18th century and a lord catching his wife getting jiggy with another man. Then we’re in the present, and the feel is like a contemporary drama. Alistair initially starts out as a sympathetic character, he even gets robbed while getting money out of a cash machine. (Also, I think he may have been autistic.) But then we find out he’s very much not. But, as ever, great acting from Sam.
I will say something in favour of the movie, though. Despite it focusing on an all male club, there are female characters, and they’re quite well developed, considering the limited time they get on screen. There’s Max’s girlfriend Lauren (Holliday Grainger), who takes no shit from him, or any of the posh boys. There’s the daughter of the pub landlord, in whose establishment the second half of the movie takes place. Even Natalie Dormer in a cameo as a sex worker. She flatly refuses their demands of being done by all of them under the table, and leaves. The director is a woman.
Lone Scherfig also directed the above mentioned Their Finest. She’s Danish, in case you wanted to know.
It’s got 67% on Rotten Tomatoes.
United (2011), directed by James Strong
I thought I’d give this one a quick mention.
In February 1958, on its third attempt at take-off, British European Airways Flight 609 crashed in Munich. It was carrying the Manchester United football team. Eight players lost their lives. The film is about this sad event, and how the team overcame the tragedy. Sam has the role of Duncan Edwards, one of the footballers who died (typical). He didn’t die at the place of the crash, but later in the hospital.
So, obviously, this is of interest mostly to football fans, but there wasn’t much of the sport itself. We do get to see Sam kicking the ball a bit. Sam likes football in real life, he did Soccer Aid in 2019.
After one victorious game, the teams goes to a bar to celebrate, and Duncan advises newly signed Bobby Charlton (Jack O’Connell) to tell girls that he’s a plumber or an electrician, instead of a footballer. Because they only earn £15/week and their career is over by 30. How times have changed!
There is no rating on Rotten Tomatoes for this film. Probably because it’s not very well known.
I live in Manchester, but I have no interest in football. Still, it was a nice movie.
Every Breath You Take (2021), directed by Vaughn Stein
The latest of Sam’s movies, as of June 2021. You can tell from the title that it’s a psychological thriller. It’s not really much, very predictable, not helped by the fact that the trailer gave most of it away. I also easily guessed the final twist.
In the main role is Casey Affleck as a psychiatrist, whose client commits suicide. James, the brother of the dead girl, played by Sam, befriends his family–and thus trouble starts. He seduces the psychiatrist’s daughter, and also sleeps with his wife. James is the type of baddie I like seeing Sam play. He’s also the one who does most of the acting in this movie. Casey Affleck looks bored throughout, and the wife, Michelle Monaghan, is not given enough to do. As a psycho thriller, it’s very unoriginal, in parts even nonsensical in this age of internet and Google. Yet, for Sam’s sake, it’s worth seeing.
I made a better film out of it in my head–and that was before I even watched it!
The Rotten Tomatoes rating keeps changing still, but it’s around 20%.
What a missed opportunity.
Love Wedding Repeat (2020), directed by Dean Craig
One romcom, for the sake of variety. Could have been better if it lost the male anatomy jokes.
Seriously, it’s 2021, can we be done with the dirty jokes now, please?
Love Wedding Repeat takes place at a wedding. But it isn’t until halfway through that we find out there are multiple versions of the day. Don’t get fooled, though, it’s no Groundhog Day. Eleanor Tomlinson plays the bride, Sam is her brother. Aside from making sure the wedding goes smoothly, he also has to deal with an ex-girlfriend, who is one of the guests, the bride’s former boyfriend, who is not over her, and a misplaced sedative, while also trying to get the girl. He gets a lot to do, and what I liked was how he tried to be helpful to everyone. That doesn’t leave him much time for his own love life, which results in his love interest, played by Olivia Munn, sort of just standing around. She could have had an interesting story of her own, she’s a high flying journalist. At least she gets to wear a pretty dress.
Eh, whatever. There’s worse romcoms.
35% from Rotten Tomatoes.
The Corrupted (2019), directed by Ron Scalpello
Two Claflins for the price of one!
Sam’s younger brother Joe Claflin is an actor too; he appeared on Game of Thrones, the Watchers on the Wall episode (S4 E9). Here he plays Sean, brother of Sam’s character Liam. Brothers play brothers in this crime thriller.
Liam is released from prison, determined to get his life back on track, and to reunite with his girlfriend and son. He gets tangled up in conspiracy and corruption. The caption at the beginning says “based on true events”. It’s to do with London’s Olympics bid, but I’m not sure what’s going on. The film has a decent idea, but the execution is a bit… unimpressive. I liked Sam’s character–showing his range again–and I liked the relationship with his girlfriend (Naomi Ackie). Although at first she is cautious–understandably so, as he’s just out of jail–they do reunite, and live as a family at the end. (Spoiler, but who cares.) Plus, we get Sam in a boxing ring!
Naomi Ackie appeared on Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker as Jannah. When I was watching TROS, it occurred to me that she could be a lost sister of Finn, John Boyega’s character. It seems this theory is shared by some of the fans. I’m not invested in the Star Wars fandom enough to check all the details are correct, so as far as I go, that is my headcanon.
Rotten Tomatoes gives it 30%.
Peaky Blinders (2013-), created by Steven Knight
Sam does more films than TV, but he did appear on one of the most popular and critically acclaimed shows of the last decade, Peaky Blinders. He stars in Season 5 as a villain, and a juicy one–Oswald Mosley, a real life politician and member of Parliament, who became the leader of British fascists. Nasty stuff.
Mosley butts heads with Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy), who was elected MP at the end of Season 4.
This is another fantastic performance by Sam, one of his best. Mosley rhetoric was abhorrent, but it was appealing to some sections of the population. We see this happening in our times too. We do indeed.
Manchester is one of the filming locations for Peaky Blinders, I posted pictures of the sets I went to see in February.
Sam will be back as Mosley in Season 6, which will be the last of the series. They’ve now wrapped up the filming and it should be on next year. I sure am looking forward!
Of course, this is not the complete Sam Claflin’s filmography. These are just the films I thought were worth talking about.
So, what to conclude then, other than that I look forward to see Sam in his future projects. The next one is Daisy Jones & The Six, an adaptation of the book of the same name by Taylor Jenkins Reid, about the rise and fall of a band. Hopefully they should soon start filming, the pandemic has delayed it twice already.
Well, I hope those of you who have lasted till the end enjoyed this post and I hope you give some of Sam’s movies a watch.
And best of luck to Sam Claflin!
About the photos in this post: the captions should be self-explanatory. Screenshots are from trailers on YouTube. Journey’s End screeenshots are from my Amazon account.