Emma (2020) Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.” – Jane Austen 

The first line in the novel is also presented at the beginning of the film adaptation of Emma, which was adapted to screen by Eleanor Catton and directed by Autumn de Wilde. Having this quote placed at the beginning of the film, set the tone for the film de Wilde was about to give her audience. The film felt like the embodiment of the character of Emma Woodhouse, like her entire soul was spread into the corners of the frame and we could feel her presence, even if she wasn’t on screen. De Wilde captured Ms. Woodhouse’s entire being and made sure we understood who she was.

Emma Woodhouse is one of my favourite characters in literature and Anya Taylor Joy owned the role. She was just as clever, beautiful, witty and had a knack in playing matchmaker for those around her. The one thing that de Wilde and Catton really did well was introducing the web of characters that Ms. Austen so expertly crafted when telling Emma’s story. There was such a flow between scenes and the tension between characters was very strong. This is probably one of the most perfect films of 2020, everything worked so well together, from the production design to the costuming and the score was perfectly composed to personify Emma herself.

Now I am not a hopeless romantic and I think that’s why I love Emma Woodhouse so much. She just wants to play matchmaker to make others happy and she always wants the best for those around her. It’s hard navigating your own romantic journey and sometimes you’ll find love when you least expect it but for Emma, it just never happened the way she wanted it to or who she wanted it with. Maybe expectations do put a damper on your romantic journey, or who you think you deserve to be with. At the same time those standards or values you carry should never be seen as an issue in hindering a relationship.

The film also made me reminisce about my own relationships with people and how I’ve played a role in each of their lives. It’s hard to process the role you play in someone’s life because you’re just focused on how you present yourself to them. Emma made me look at all those relationships a bit closer and asses the way I was treated, to eventually come to the conclusion, that I was used majority of the time for personal gain. I’ve been acting as a placeholder my entire life. Just once, I was blessed enough to actually feel like I meant something to someone, I didn’t feel like they were using me to make themselves feel better about who they were. It’s hard to come to these conclusions, and by watching Emma, it felt like an emotional support film of feeling understood and seen.

Emma had the perfect balance of tension between possible suitors and a whirlwind of situations that caused Emma to spin out of control. Emma’s chemistry with Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn) was felt from the first time they were on screen together. I’m someone who picks up the subtleties and I definitely appreciate a slow burn. Whenever they were bickering together or near each other, their hidden feelings for each other were felt and I loved how de Wilde chose to unravel their story. Flynn and Taylor Joy complimented each other so well and I think they may be one of my favourite onscreen pairings to date.

Emma is one of the most delightful films of 2020 and if you’re a fan of Victorian Era romance films and love Jane Austen then this will definitely be right up your alley. It’s beautifully shot and adapted so well that Autumn de Wilde will make you fall in love with Austen’s world all over again.

 

The Photograph Movie Review

BY: AMANDA GUARRAGI 

The Photograph is a beautiful film that was written and directed by Stella Meghie. Her direction and vision for this story was executed so fluidly, that both love stories, blended together quite nicely.

I don’t know where to place the film based on my emotions throughout. I was definitely happy to see two black characters, falling in love, in the most natural way possible. I appreciated the way Christina Eames’ letter came into play and the editing allowed for the third act to make a solid impact. Not only is this a film about feeling an unexplainable connection to someone, it also explains the logic behind certain decisions, involving love. Sometimes people make mistakes and use logic when necessary and sometimes love trumps logic and things work out.

After the death of Christina Eames, her daughter Mae, finds a letter addressed to her and as she begins reading it, she understands that her mother, was a woman first and a mother second. Meghie wrote a screenplay that shows the complexities of being a woman and her womanhood is questioned by her daughter Mae, while she reads her letter. Meghie, writes Christina Eames, as this ambitious photographer, who puts her career before anything else because that’s what she truly loves. She also had a beautiful connection, to her first love Isaac, their love was pure. Their love story was put to the test because of Eames’ need to move to New York, in order to pursue her career.

On the other hand, Mae, who is played by the lovely Issa Rae, not only questions her mother and the way she raised her but how she views herself. Mae believes that she has her mother’s tendencies, to just walk away from a situation but as her story goes on and she reads her mother’s words, she understands the grey area of love and logic. Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield, who plays a journalist, named Michael Block, had wonderful chemistry and without that this film wouldn’t have been the same. They both elevated their love story, while still trying to understand Christina’s love story with Isaac.

As someone who is very logical when making decisions, I understood many of the choices the character’s made while watching this. Trying to use your head, while your heart is beating loudly is one of the hardest things anyone has to do. It’s also the reason why many people stay in a relationship that simply won’t work. There are many factors to weigh and if you overthink (like me) and think of many scenarios, logic trumps love, majority of the time. In the case of a romantic drama, it’s obviously the opposite, so it was nice to see that level of optimism.

The Photograph is a great love story and will break your heart at times. Christina Eames and Isaac’s love story is one for the ages and it will leave you heartbroken. As for Mae and Michael, they wanted their love story to go in a different direction, even if there were some challenges. It’s a lovely romantic drama and I’m very happy that film with this kind of message exists.

 

Valentine’s Day Watchlist

By: Amanda Guarragi


Happy Valentine’s Day to my fellow Lovers out there. Today is a day to spread love, joy, kindness and most importantly POSITIVITY. Valentine’s Day is no longer just for intimate relationships, it’s for everyone in your life that shows you how much they love you, every single day. It’s also a day to take care of yourself and treat yourself because self love is also important.

The best thing about Valentine’s Day isn’t even today, it’s the day after because all the chocolates are half off 😉

In all seriousness, today is a day to spread love and the love language I speak is expressed through my love of films. So, I’ve compiled a list of my favourite romantic films, for whatever mood you’re in today.

If You Want To Laugh…

  1. Just Friends

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    If you haven’t seen Just Friends, then you have missed out on one of Ryan Reynolds’ best performances. This is one of the most underrated romantic comedies and I don’t know how it’s not on more watchlist’s. It has Ryan Reynolds being incredibly sassy, Anna Faris being whacky and a high school romance for the ages.
    **It also has one of the best opening scenes, EVER.**

  2. The Proposal

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    When The Proposal came out 11 years ago (damn, already?) it was on everyone’s radar. It was one of the highest grossing romantic comedies of 2009 and brought us the dynamic duo of Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds. It’s the classic tale of pretending to be in love with the other person for some personal gain. In this case, it went a bit too far, and by far, I mean a whole trip to Alaska. Their chemistry was undeniable and it’s definitely one of the reasons everyone loves this film. Also, Betty White is the best in this film and her connection with Reynolds was amazing. 

  3. Deadpool

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    Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Deadpool is an R rated, comic book film, with plenty of violence and gore BUT many people forget that it all started with Wade and Vanessa’s love story. Deadpool is definitely a romantic, action comedy and it has become a tradition of mine to watch it at midnight. 

    *I’m pretty much saying to have a Ryan Reynolds marathon….*


     

  4. When Harry Met Sally

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    When Harry Met Sally is the ONE film I will always recommend when someone needs a pick me up. Nora Ephron wrote fantastic screenplay about multiple relationships and how they can change over time. Then Rob Reiner’s vision brought it to life, when he called up Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan to play Harry Burns and Sally Albright. The lovely Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby are in this as well, they both bring so much to the table. The cast is great, the structure is different and the Reiner/Ephron dynamic has solidified this as the best romantic comedy of all time. 



    If You Want Teen Drama… 

  5. Sixteen Candles

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    Our “Eighties Queen” Molly Ringwald definitely set the bar high for romantic teen dramas. Pretty in Pink is also a great one but nothing beats a classic like Sixteen Candles. No one will ever forget the moment Samantha walks out of the church on her sister’s wedding day and sees her crush Jake Ryan, leaning against his car, just staring at her. Your heart will definitely flutter and deem Jake Ryan as the official romcom high school hottie. 


     

  6. A Cinderella Story 

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    A Cinderella Story had EVERYTHING. We had Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray at their peak. We had the wonderful Regina King as a “fairy godmother” and Jennifer Coolidge as the evil, botched step mother. It’s one of the best because it shows that just because you’re “stuck” with certain family members, it doesn’t mean that you deserve that treatment from them. Family can also be the friendships you keep and they are more important than you think. 

  7. Some Kind Of Wonderful 

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    Some Kind of Wonderful ended up on my radar because of another romantic comedy (which will also be on this list), called He’s Just Not That Into You. When I watched this for the first time, I felt the pain Watts went through. If you were always treated as a second option or kept on a shelf whenever someone needed you, then you will definitely see yourself as Watts. There will always be a popular girl like Amanda Jones but never fret, being Watts is just as awesome. It’s your typical teen drama and that’s why I love it so much. 


  8. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before 

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is by far one of the cutest, modern day teen romantic comedies. It definitely pays homage to the classics I’ve mentioned above and puts a spotlight on an Asian American teen, who writes love letters for her crushes. It’s definitely an old fashioned mentality but it’s still refreshing to see that being done in this generation. Somehow, Peter Kavinsky became everyone’s boyfriend and Noah Centineo is definitely riding this wave, BUT he’s no Jake Ryan. 


If You Want To Sob Uncontrollably… 

9. The Notebook 

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The Notebook is the most heartbreaking romance film EVER. Noah and Allie’s love story is so pure and their ending will make you cry for hours. I watched The Notebook for the first time, when my grandmother was suffering from Alzheimer’s and I had no idea that the ending of this film, would have affected me this deeply. I’ve only watched it once because I couldn’t bring myself to go through that again. It’s undeniable that Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams had beautiful chemistry, they made us believe in true love. 


10. Call Me By Your Name
 
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Call Me By Your Name absolutely destroyed me. It’s starts off as this beautiful summer romance in Italy. You could feel the lust, infatuation and the natural pull between Elio and Oliver. It was sensual, seductive, romantic and then heartbreaking. When you’re a teenager, every feeling is amplified and that’s why it’s so incredibly hard to express any feelings. Timothée Chalamet is fantastic in this and the last half hour of this film, will leave you in shambles. The final shot will stay with you for a very long time. 


11. Portrait of a Lady on Fire 

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Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a beautifully shot piece about an artist and her muse. This French Foreign Language Film also explores the relationships of women and the many ways love can be perceived. There are such soft, tender moments between Héloïse and Marianne, their chemistry was beautiful and it made me want to see them together in every scene. 


12. Her 

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Her is written and directed by Spike Jonze. It’s such a fantastic concept about how this generation is dependant on technology. The general form of dating is now through our phones and Jonze takes that to another level. This is also one of my favourite Joaquin Phoenix performances because of how vulnerable he is as Theodore Twombly. It goes through the motions of lost love, forgiveness and the concept of identity. 


If You Want That Warm Fuzzy Feeling… 

13. 13 Going on 30 

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13 Going on 30 has Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo being adorable during the entire film. It also shows what happens when you become an adult… some people lose their inner child and others try to hold onto it as long as they can. This film also has Andy Serkis like we’ve never seen him before and the always lovely Judy Greer. It also has one of the best dance numbers ever! 


14. How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days 

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How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days had another dynamic duo, which made this romantic comedy legendary. Not only was the concept a whole lot of fun, this movie wouldn’t have been the same without Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. The film is hilarious and will leave you feeling so full after watching it. 


15. Crazy Rich Asians

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Crazy Rich Asians brought back the major studio romantic comedy and it broke records at the box office. It also introduced the world to the lovely Gemma Chan and the dapper Henry Golding. It’s a lovely film about the meaning of family, true love and the power of a connection, no matter where you’re from. 


If You’re in a Bad Mood… 

16. He’s Just Not That Into You 

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He’s Just Not That Into You has an incredible cast and it also shows you multiple scenarios, about how people treat each other in relationships/dating. It’s brutally honest and anyone who says they don’t overthink about situations, are definitely lying to themselves. The storyline is very intricate and if you don’t pay attention, you could lose track of who is connected to who. It’s a film that anyone can relate to, especially when you’re feeling down. 


17. Gone Girl 

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If you want to release yourself from the VDay woes, then my advice to you, is to watch Gone Girl. You’ll forget about whatever has you troubled and your focus will be on the mystery of Amy Dunne. It’s a film that will leave you feeling a certain way, I can’t even describe it, you’ll somehow feel stronger and free. 


If You’re in a Spicy Mood…

18. Magic Mike XXL 

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Magic Mike XXL is a FANTASTIC sequel. It’s a road trip movie mixed with stripping. The dance routines are choreographed so well and the cast brings it! The film honestly has something for everyone, so grab those singles and enjoy a film that is BIGGER and BETTER than it’s predecessor. 


19. Fifty Shades Darker 

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Yes, the Fifty Shades trilogy is filled with sensual moments but everyone knows the best scenes are in Fifty Shades Darker. The book was also the best in the trilogy, so naturally the adaptation would do it justice. 


These films have gotten me through so many tough moments in my life and have been a staple around Valentine’s Day. So if you’re feeling any type of way today, I wanted to share the films that spoke to me and I hope they speak to you as well.

Sending all the love and positivity out there today! 

To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You Review

Dear Reader,

To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is a wonderful teen romance, that will leave you wanting another sequel. In this story, we have Lara Jean finally going on her first date with her jock boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky. The first half of this film is filled with romantic gestures, cute dates and a blast from the past. Everything was going swimmingly in Lara Jean’s new relationship, until she received a response to her love letter from John Ambrose McClaren.

Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky’s relationship is definitely put to the test when John Ambrose starts working with LJ at the retirement home. A few missteps by the jock Kavinsky and some insecurities from LJ, land her in a questionable position with John Ambrose. Let’s face it, we all enjoy some love triangle drama and this sequel captures the best of it.

The good thing that this series does is modernize the teenage romantic drama. The beginning of this one brought me back to the time, when I watched Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles for the very first time. It’s a film all about LOVE and the many different ways you can love someone. Your soulmate could be your best friend, you could love two people at the same time for different reasons and crushes are more than okay. Love can be anything with anyone, it’s YOU who has to give meaning to the word, with your actions and words.

This film also made me cry. It had nothing to do with the love triangle or Kavinsky’s/Lara Jean’s relationship. Instead the part that got me the most was the friendship between Gen and Lara Jean. There’s a moment in the treehouse that made me shed actual tears and I’m still tearing up as I write this.

“There’s a Korean word my grandma taught me. It’s called jung. It’s the connection between two people that can’t be severed, even when love turns to hate. You still have those old feelings for them; you can’t ever completely shake them loose of you; you will always have tenderness in your heart for them.”

– Jenny Han, P.S. I Still Love You.

Friendships are powerful. You don’t realize how powerful they are until you lose someone because things change. This scene exchanged was such a pure moment between the two of them and it showed how deep connections can run, without either of you realizing it. Even if too much time has passed between friends and things go unsaid, the love and joy of friendship that was once very evident will linger and the wave hits all over again. You never really lose people because they shaped you into the person you are today. I’m just happy that they incorporated that scene, to show how friendships can change but still maintain a level of civility.

This is a very good sequel and Lana Condor was stunning as Lara Jean. They managed to capture her adorable essence and beauty in such a natural way. She owns this film and I could watch her in anything. Also, whether you are #TeamKavinsky or #TeamJohnAmbrose (If you’re not #TeamJohnAmbrose then you should do better) you’ll get the best of Noah Centineo and Jordan Fisher.

So this Valentine’s Day, cozy up with your other half, or your girl squad, or your bros, or your singles crew and argue over who Lara Jean deserves more.

Yours,

Amanda Guarragi xo