Why ‘Never Have I Ever’ Is The Perfect Feel-Good Show To Watch On Netflix

By: Amanda Guarragi

If you are a fan of Mindy Kaling, you know how deeply in love she is with romantic comedies. Yes, she started out on The Office but she really hit her stride when she made The Mindy Project. In her show, she paid homage to all of her favourite rom-coms, while creating her own love story. She knows how to pull on the heartstrings and make your heart sore with longing for key romantic moments. Kaling continued her quest for more romantic comedies by producing Never Have I Ever on Netflix. The show highlights the complicated life of a modern-day, first generation Indian American teenage girl, inspired by Mindy Kaling’s own childhood. It has her written all over it and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan who snagged the lead role of Devi is a superstar.

Season one was an introduction to Devi’s world. She was competitive, at the top of her class, had a great group of friends, and of course, she had a massive crush on Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet). The characters on this show are so well-rounded, and each episode explores the people around Devi, as she finds herself as well. After the loss of her father, Devi goes through a massive shift, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The connection to her and her family is definitely felt and it becomes a universal love story. Not only about crushes on hot boys in school, but the love shared between friends and family.

Meet the Cast of "Never Have I Ever" - Who are the Characters in Netflix's "Never  Have I Ever"
Courtesy of Netflix

The series explores coming-of-age but it also focuses on the lives of women, and how they are treated by men. One thing that can be said about the women in Never Have I Ever is that they are all strong-willed, straightforward, caring, and vulnerable. More importantly, they are all very honest with one another and they lift each other up. Even when Devi makes a mistake – trust me, there are many mistakes that she makes – a family member, or her friends, are there to give her the hard truth. The honesty shared between Devi and her girlfriends, the aspiring actress, Eleanor Wong (Ramona Young), and future robotics engineer Fabiola Torres (Lee Rodriguez) is something I wish I had growing up. These girls all share their thoughts openly and have great communication skills. Even when they get into a fight and they are irritated with each other, they still sit down and clear the air.

There are some crucial moments that shape Devi into a different person after losing her father. The weight of that loss, pushes Devi to look at things differently, at people differently, and each episode shows a different side of her. There are some heartfelt, emotional moments, but Mindy Kaling knows how to balance those moments with some perfectly timed humour. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is literally a mini Mindy Kaling, it was perfect casting. Not only does she hit the emotional beats, but her bluntness and sarcasm really just make her such a wonderful character. She’s so fun to watch and will keep you coming back for more episodes.

What We Know About 'Never Have I Ever' Season 2 - PureWow
Courtesy of Netflix

In season two, we see Devi in a different headspace – or so it seems – there is almost a level of cockiness that Ramakrishnan adds to Devi. We last see her kissing her rival classmate, Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison), right after scattering her father’s ashes in the ocean. In true rom-com fashion, a love triangle is the center of season two. Devi is struggling to actually choose between heartthrob Paxton Hall-Yoshida, and Ben Gross. This also shows that you can be in love with two different people, at the same time, but for different reasons. In the end, it’s hard to choose who is best for you because you see the best in both of them. So in typical Devi world, chaos unfolds and there is complete madness in Sherman Oaks because of her indecisiveness.

As all this is happening, and Devis ego inflates like a giant hot air balloon, a new girl enters the chat. Aneesa (Megan Suri), another young Indian teenager, transfers schools, and changes the game for Devi. What is important to note here is that Devi is feeling disposable. She feels like Aneesa can replace her, and she slowly starts to spiral in later episodes. It’s really interesting to see how this show handles mental health, and depression, for young audiences, while keeping a light tone. This show has a perfect balance, and really sends its audience on an emotional rollercoaster with Devi.

Never Have I Ever' Season 2 News, Release Date, Cast, Spoilers
Courtesy of Netflix

Never Have I Ever season two is just as strong as season one and it has consistency with its characters. There is so much growth shown in each characterization and it is very natural. It really does pull you back into Devis world quite effortlessly and brings you back to the romance that is severely lacking on-screen nowadays. The cheesy, over-the-top, displays of affection, the longing stares, the awkward smiles, this show has all of that, and it will make you feel so warm inside. For some reason, studios have shied away from romantic comedies, so if you need to fill that void, look no further. If you haven’t watched the first season, then you might as well start binge-watching now. It is such an easy watch and you will instantly fall in love with these characters.

‘The Honey Makers’ Short Film Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The Honey Makers is a short film that explores the social climate in England. Based on the award-winning play by Deborah Grimberg, the film, set in 1984 London, tells the story of two Indian immigrants from Uganda who struggle to create a home in the face of mounting resentment, while dealing with a bee invasion in their own garden. Director Jeneffa Soldatic showed certain people in London taking what is theirs. They mark their territory and come in swarms. If you don’t address them, they could stay awhile. There is a shop that is owned by a couple named, Arjun (Anil Goutam) and Lalita (Nila Aalia), who came from Uganda to open their shop. They find that there is a bees nest in their backyard and they don’t know how to handle it. Lalita wants to get rid of it, but Arjun has gotten used to the bees being in his backyard, and doesn’t mind that they are there.

What is so interesting about The Honey Makers is how Soldatic shows the parallel between the bees and the swarm of Londoners outside the shop. In such a short amount of time, we see how Lalita and Arjun are affected by the men outside the shop. They are verbally abused and bullied by these men, who take it upon themselves to storm the shop and take what they want. It shows the racism from different perspectives, and how everyone handles the situation. Arjun does not want to cause further issues so like the bees, he pretends that these men outside the shop don’t bother him. Lalita, on the other hand, takes matters into her own hands and calls a beekeeper behind Arjun’s back.

What is really interesting about the second half of this short film is how the beekeeper, named Arthur (Finbar Lynch) approached the swarm of bees. He understands that they are nuisance, but they needed to be handled in a certain way in order for them to leave. The racism is addressed with Arthur, as he mistakenly makes the assumption that Arjun and Lalita are from Pakistan. Arjun and Lalita educate Arthur, and you can see the shift in his mindset. The strength lies in the structure of this film, as each moments shared between the thugs and the couple, lead to an even bigger blowout. The final stand-off is powerful and it has a great performance by Goutam.

The Honey Makers takes a very simple story and adds so much tension within the runtime. Even though there is a beehive in their backyard, Soldatic only showed them a couple of times. It was the presence of the bees, that set the symbolism for the Londoners swarming their shop. There are ways to approach difficult situations and Arjun allowed himself to think before doing anything drastic. The short film has strong, emotional moments, and it is filled with tension as it builds to a powerful conclusion. With great performances from the entire cast, this film will definitely pull at your heartstrings, and will put you in their position.

‘Notes’ Short Film Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

‘Notes’ is a short film, written and directed by Jimmy Olsson. We see that Philip moves into a corporate apartment for a project, the only thing that accompanies him is his keyboard. We feel his loneliness because he keeps reaching out to his girlfriend back home, only for her not to give him the same attention. Out of his love for her, and to pass the time, Phillip composes a song for her. Olsson explores one man’s loneliness and longing, through the power of music. Once Phillip gets into the groove of writing the song, his longing for his girlfriend, and their now distant relationship, causes writer’s block. As he continues to push forward, a friendly tune from the apartment over, helps him compose the song with their own keyboard.

The emotional connection to the notes, from both pianists is definitely felt through those walls. What Olsson also shows is the power of checking in on one another because we truly do not know how everyone is feeling. Olsson showed the audience what Philip was going through, but kept the pianist in the next apartment hidden. The music is what carried Philip through this hardship that he faced. The way both of them answered back through the keys was more powerful than words could ever express. The pianist in the other apartment could feel his loss, his sorrow, and at times his anger. It was a safe way for Philip to unleash his pain and there was someone who was listening.

The essence of his loneliness is felt from the very beginning of the film. Olsson established the new surroundings quite quickly and had Philip settle into his apartment. There was such range in Philip’s performance, as he showed the different stages of loss. We see that he is struggling with his detachment from his girlfriend, but manages to cope with being alone. As the film goes on, he feels this loss with every little thing she doesn’t do. He was reserved at the start and then slowly unraveled with the news his girlfriend gave him, ultimately spiralling into darkness.

‘Notes’ highlights the power of music and how it can always heal the soul. It shows the importance of listening and reaching out to anyone, even if you do not know them as well. There are some really powerful moments here and it is because Olsson lets the music breathe and puts emphasis on the emotional connectivity to the piece. He frames Philip’s face and shows his facial reactions while playing. And, when he hears the other pianist answer back, there is this sense of relief. Even though Philip experiences loss, this film is still uplifting and heartfelt.

‘Molly’s Game’ Review

By: Candid Cinema Staff

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s been in the industry for years. And after conceptualizing the wildly popular drama The West Wing (1999-2006) and winning multiple awards for the screenplay of The Social Network (2010), his directorial debut with Molly’s Game in 2017 was highly anticipated.

The film is based on the true story of former Olympic aspirant turned poker empress Molly Bloom, as told in her memoir of the same name. In fact, Bloom chose Sorkin to adapt her book into a screenplay, too, stating that he was her favorite writer.

In 2016, Jessica Chastain, who is known for playing feminist roles, was announced as the film’s lead. Notably, she was joined by Michael Cera as Player X, and Idris Elba as Bloom’s lawyer, Charlie Jaffey.

Shot in Toronto, Molly’s Game premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2017 — to popular acclaim.

One thing that Sorkin undoubtedly does well is writing — and that shines through with his use of flashbacks. Here, Kevin Costner fits the role of Molly’s overbearing father, training her incessantly in skiing until a 2002 injury ended her Olympic dreams.

Yet it seems extremely obvious that the Molly in the film is a Sorkin creation. She’s sharp as a shot and has something to say about mostly everything, and nothing in the film is delivered without a blast of that famous Sorkin narrative. Despite this, Chastain delivers with a confidence that takes you along for the ride — in this case, on a gap year to LA.

Instead of going to law school, Bloom eventually meets (failed) real estate developer Dean Keith and works as a waitress in his underground poker bar, The Cobra Lounge.

Here, she gets to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, including the mysterious Player X, a character who’s actually based on multiple celebrity poker players like Toby Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio. This exposure leads to her growing familiarity with the rules of poker — from terms and hand rankings, to the many nuances of players at the table. However, she also learned about how ruthless the game can be.

Bloom soon becomes more independent, running games on her own. And, realizing he can no longer control her, Keith fires her. But with her now formidable list of connections, she sets up her own games, and Player X even helps attract players away from The Cobra Lounge and toward her. Then, Harlan Eustice comes along.

Through Eustice’s heavy losses, Bloom learns and confronts Player X about his enjoyment for bankrupting people, and Cera, usually known for playing relatively meek roles, pulls off a villainy that is highly convincing.

Brilliantly, this scene lays down the path for the rest of the film, highlighting one recurrent thread: Bloom’s strong principles in the face of the nature of her business.

With that, she loses her LA connections and starts anew in New York, where the stakes get inevitably higher. And with players usually unable to pay, she’s forced to turn her games into an illegal operation to recoup her losses.

Her underground poker empire soon attracts members of the Russian and Italian mafia, and, after refusing help from the latter to extort money from players, she’s threatened in her home at gunpoint. A former player then leads the FBI to her, and her assets are seized. Two years later, she publishes her memoir.

The book, however, names a number of players, and soon the FBI arrests her for illegal gambling and involvement with the mafia. Here, lawyer Charlie Jaffey agrees to help, believing she’s committed no serious crimes.

Bloom’s trial is arguably the most electric part of the film. Both Bloom and Jaffey have strong attitudes that play off well with each other, and the excitement of the scenes, though mostly verbal, leaves the viewer wanting more.

With this, Molly’s Game ended on a strong note, with Sorkin giving a satisfying conclusion to his visual (but mostly narrative) tale of Bloom, a woman who made a name for herself in a male-dominated arena. This definitely remains one of our top films from 2017 for a reason!

‘Fear Street Part Two: 1978’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Welcome back to the Shadyside madness. In this second instalment, director Leigh Janiak pays homage to Friday the 13th, and this sequel adds much needed backstory to the possession of Samantha Fraser (Olivia Welch). We leave our new teenage friends at the end of part one with Deena (Kiana Madeira) on the phone with C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs). Josh and Deena make their way to Berman’s house, only to discover the actual backstory of the Shadyside curse. Janiack takes us to Camp Nightwing, where young Berman and her sister, experience some traumatic events. The soundtrack will transport you to the late 70s and make you feel like you are a camper all over again.

The reason why this second instalment is slightly better than part one is because it felt more compact. The story was contained to Camp Nightwing and we already knew about Sarah Fier’s story going into it. As Berman tells her story and the events of her camp experience, we sympathize with her because she felt like she was an outcast. Everyone was against her, even her sister didn’t have her back. The camp atmosphere is always fun to play with because of the open area, the lake, and of course the cabins. There are endless possibilities for the scares, and Janiack really placed them throughout the film, where the audience could least expect it. Even though it does have the same formula – like most slasher films – it still has plenty of surprises.

The one thing Janiack does extremely well in this trilogy is the connection to each era. Even though part one takes place in the 90s, Janiack effortlessly transports her audience to a different time. Part two has the essence of a campfire story, which made the flashbacks to Camp Nightwing more effective. C. Berman is reluctantly sharing her story with Josh and Deena, and the editing brings both worlds together, in order to connect the gravity of the situation to Samantha Fraser. The characters in part two were more interesting than part one. It could be because of the sister dynamic, or even the nostalgia of a summer camp; but the camp counsellors really sold it for me.

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 is a solid second instalment that slightly edges part one. The consistency of the story throughout this trilogy is what is going to make this one of the best Netflix properties. The beauty of this trilogy is how each instalment pays homage to a classic slasher, while still presenting the supernatural elements of the possession. Fear Street executes the kills quite well, and the gore doesn’t feel too over-the-top. The third instalment will drop on Netflix on July 16th, and if people are loving this rollout, then we can expect more horror trilogies in the future.