‘The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Before you sit and binge-watch this limited series in one sitting, make sure to have a glass (or a bottle) of wine ready to go. It just fits in with the story that unfolds in The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window or the shorter version The Woman in the House. This limited series explores grief, big life changes, and mental health through a well-thought-out murder mystery that will keep you glued to the screen. It is filled with dark humour, a lot of wine, and is a satirical slant on the psychological thriller. Majority of the time you’re trying to make sense of what is actually happening and then it just shocks you entirely at the end. This will definitely be one of the most enjoyable series to binge-watch on Netflix this year.

We meet heartbroken Anna (Kristen Bell) and every day feels the same to her. She sits with her wine, staring out the window, watching life go by without her. But when a handsome neighbour (Tom Riley) and his adorable daughter (Samsara Yett) move in across the street, Anna starts to see a light at
the end of the tunnel. That is until she witnesses a gruesome murder… Or did she? This series does a great job in keeping the audience guessing whom the killer is throughout the entire run. Everyone can be a suspect, and even when things get resolved, something else comes in and throws everything out the window. Bell gives a great performance that has you connect with her on an emotional level and she brings you into Anna’s little bubble.

Why this show works is because the episodes are half-hour long and each episode ends on a cliffhanger. We want to see what Anna does next and if the handsome stranger across the street is actually someone she can trust. It’s the definition of a Friday night binge after winding down from a long workweek. Sure, it is satirical but when the show deals with grief, it really grounds the story. You have the over-the-top murder mystery running simultaneously as a woman dealing with a massive loss and trying to find the courage to live life to the fullest again. The series is fairly balanced and never loses its audience once. It flowed extremely well and it filled the eight episodes nicely.

The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is a great binge and it’s really fun to sit through. It’s one of those series that will have you questioning everything with the lead character and have you talking to the screen. It does get a bit hectic towards the second half of the series, so if you’re not a fan of seeing bloody murders, this is your warning. The show has everything that you could want from a murder mystery, especially one surrounding a mom. Let’s face it, we all love to people watch but this show takes things to a whole other level. So make sure to grab that bottle of wine, wrap yourself up in a blanket this weekend and enjoy this fun series from start to finish.

‘The Royal Treatment’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

We would all love to fall in love with royalty and be whisked away to a new country. Since that can’t happen to all of us, the new Netflix film, The Royal Treatment will make you believe in fairytales again. When New York hairdresser Izzy (Laura Marano) seizes the chance to work at the wedding of a charming Prince Thomas(Mena Massoud), sparks between them fly, will love — or duty to one’s country/family — prevail? Both Izzy and the Prince have lost their way because of their duty to their family’s, but once they confide in each other, they both realize what they need to do.

What I really appreciated about this movie was the authentic Italo-American lifestyle that was presented to Izzy and her family. Within seconds of meeting Izzy, there’s a comfort and sense of ease that Marano brings to the character. She offers such warmth to everyone she meets and is very kind as well. Marano gave such a great performance and it was nice to see the Italian family dynamic within the hairdressing shop ‘Bellissime’. To Izzy, family is very important, but sometimes that attachment holds her back from actually pursuing her dreams. It’s a really difficult situation to be in and many people can relate to her.

Like any romantic comedy, there is a miscommunication and our two leads meet unexpectedly. The Prince resents his family for keeping him from actually making his own decisions, similar to Izzy, but their families only want what’s best for them. Even though they don’t have the same lifestyle, they understand each other on a different level. The best part of any romantic comedy is the chemistry between the two leads. Marano and Massoud were dynamite together and played off of each other so well. Sparks were definitely flying and their genuine admiration for one another came through.

The Royal Treatment is a very sweet, heartfelt, and grounded romantic comedy that has two of the cutest leads falling in love with each other. The authentic Italian nature of the family and the New York City attitude makes for a fun encounter with royalty. Laura Marano is a total sweetheart and Mena Massoud is a very charming leading man, they were perfect together. The supporting cast was entertaining as well. The love and friendship was definitely felt. If you want to feel all warm and fuzzy, then this one is worth checking out on Netflix!

‘Brazen’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

We all love our mystery thrillers, and Netflix has a brand new one just for us. Brazen, directed by Monika Mitchell, dives into the life of prominent mystery writer and crime expert, Grace (Alyssa Milano). After her sister Kathleen’s divorce, she hurries back to her family home in Washington, D.C. because her. When her sister is killed and her double life as a webcam performer is revealed, Grace ignores the warnings of cool-headed detective Ed (Sam Page) and gets involved in the case. A mystery writer, solving a case that’s a little too close to home, with a cool-headed detective sounds like a pretty interesting story.

Mitchell gets right into Kathleen’s story in the opening of this film and sets the tone for how easily accessible women are in the digital age. Kathleen is going through a divorce, possibly losing her son, and still trying to keep everything together as a schoolteacher. It feels like her life is spiralling out of control, but when she’s Desiree, the cam girl online, she has power and complete control over her clients. On the other hand, we have Grace who is headstrong, determined and is not afraid to speak her mind. She has full control over her life and definitely overpowers her sister. Grace has no idea that her sister has an alter-ego and is taken aback when she finds out.

Apart from the actual crime that was committed, I found the connection between Grace and Ed to be the most interesting dynamic in the film. Pairing a mystery writer with a detective is a match made in heaven. Page and Milano had a very natural chemistry and bounced off each other quite effortlessly. Their connection made the film engaging and pushed the story along. Watching Grace try and solve the murder of her sister, using her own writing skills was actually empowering considering Ed told her to stay away because it’s a little too close to home. The story did run a little long and loses traction in the middle, but that third act reels you back in for a strong reveal.

Brazen is adapted from the Nora Roberts novel, ‘Brazen Virtue’, and director Monika Mitchell read this book three times over because of how she connected with these characters. They are all very likeable and Alyssa Milano was the perfect choice for Grace, as they share similar character traits. Even though it may seem like a generic crime thriller, the story itself is important and should start a conversation about the safety of women in the online space and men’s accessibility to them. If you enjoy mystery thrillers, then this one will be right up your alley and it may even surprise you.

‘The House’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The House is an eccentric dark comedy about a house and the three surreal tales of the individuals who made it their home. The story is structured in three parts, it is an anthology series directed by the leading voices in independent stop motion animation: Emma de Swaef and Mark Roels, Niki Lindroth von Bahr and Paloma Baeza and produced by Nexus Studios. The stop motion animation is so life-like that it was incredible to watch these characters on screen. There was such fluidity from scene to scene and each story was meaningful. The house itself goes through three sets of characters, hence why it is broken down into three parts:

Story 1, directed by Marc James Roelds and Emma de Swaef is set in the 1800s. We meet a family who has been struggling financially: Raymond (Matthew Goode), Penelope (Claudie Blakley), Mabel (Mia Goth) and Isobel. Raymond’s family members who are a part of high society visit Raymond to meet his newborn, Isobel. During their visit, they are condescending and comment on Raymond’s current living situation. These comments make Raymond spiral out of control and he ends up making a poor decision. Without giving much away, the moral of the story is that being materialistic will make you miserable and make you lose sight of the important things.

Courtesy of Netflix Film

Story 2, directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr brings the house into the present day, where we meet a harassed contractor who is trying to make a quick sale from a renovation. This contractor – who is also a mouse – has turned this house into a beautiful, modern-day home, but he has no one to share his success with. The house looks perfect, but if you look closely, through the cracks, there are things that begin to surface. This is similar to The Developer’s facade, when trying to make the sale. There are some questionable guests who come for the open house and The Developer begins to see what truly lies beneath the surface.

Courtesy of Netflix Film

Story 3, directed by Paloma Baeza is set in the near future, where the house survives a hugely changed landscape. We meet Rosa (Susan Wokoma), a young landlady determined to stay in her beloved crumbling house and restore it to its former glory. She has a very strained relationship with her tenants and doesn’t have a friendship really have a friendship with them. The house becomes much more than just four walls and a roof to Rosa, to the point where she loses sight of the important things. For one thing, not having anyone to share those joyous moments within the home that she so desperately wants to build.

Courtesy of Netflix Film

The House has stunning stop-motion animation that has left me quite speechless. Every single setting looked authentic and the animation brought the house to life. Whether it was the exterior of the house, individual rooms, or even the furniture, it looked so realistic. Even the characters; whether they were humans, mice, or cats, they looked so real and even their facial expressions presented such strong emotions. The voice actors also did a wonderful job to present these emotions through their line delivery. Each story had a lesson and beautiful things can come out of dark, obscure stories, especially with the vast amount of creativity that shines through in animated projects.

The House will premiere on Netflix Friday, January 14th.

‘The Lost Daughter’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

In Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut The Lost Daughter we see a college professor named Leda (Olivia Colman) confront her unsettling past. On vacation in Italy, she becomes obsessed with a woman named Nina (Dakota Johnson) and her young daughter. These encounters throughout the film prompt memories of Leda’s early motherhood. Gyllenhaal’s intimate and introspective lens of being a woman first and a mother second allows the viewer to connect with Leda on such a deep, emotional level. Even though the film may overstay its welcome, the story itself is worth exploring with Colman giving a nuanced performance.

Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut was strong because of how she treated her female characters. She pulled out a very complex and layered performance from Colman. Even though the narrative was somewhat disjointed – in order to understand the fragmented pieces of Leda’s mind when remembering her two daughters – the placement of each memory worked for the present day situation. The quick cuts from present day to a flashback, showed how certain conversations trigger an emotional response. Gyllenhaal explored a woman tackling a life she was pressured into and not ready for. The question she poses is this: How does one keep their independence while building a family?

Although Gyllenhaal leans heavily on Colman’s performance, it is Jessie Buckley’s performance of young Leda that forms an interesting, well-rounded character. Without young Leda’s frustration and anxiety with her daughters in her daily life, the interactions between older Leda and Nina wouldn’t have been as effective. We see young Leda struggling with her identity while she goes on this journey of motherhood and not being fully present at home. She still wanted to be an individual without her daughters being an extension of her. Gyllenhaal shows the full spectrum of motherhood in this film and how it can affect women mentally and emotionally.

The Lost Daughter is an impressive directorial debut from Maggie Gyllenhaal. The moments that women fear most when becoming a mother are fully explored in this film by Colman, Buckley, and Johnson. The way that Gyllenhaal framed Johnson when interacting with Colman created a deep level of understanding and connection, that did’t need further explaining. That one moment of understanding, when making eye contact between women can always be more powerful than words. Gyllenhaal paints an interesting portrait of women at different stages of their lives trying to understand the meaning of individuality and being present in their child’s life.