Tuesday, December 12, 2017

‘The Shape of Water’ floats new possibilities for consideration

“The Shape of Water” (2017). Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones, Nick Searcy, Stewart Arnott, Nigel Bennett, Lauren Lee Smith, Martin Roach, Allegra Fulton, John Kapelos, Morgan Kelly, Marvin Kaye, Wendy Lyon. Web site. Trailer.

We all think we know what it means to fall in love, but do we really? Sometimes the reality differs markedly from what we expect, perhaps taking us in some highly unconventional directions. But, when we find that true love, no matter what form it takes, we’re generally willing to do whatever it takes to nurture and protect it, regardless of what we’re up against. Such is the case of an unlikely duo in the whimsical new fantasy/fairy tale, “The Shape of Water.”

As a custodial worker in a secret government marine laboratory in Baltimore in 1962, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) quietly goes about her job, performing her everyday chores and trading quips with her colorful, sassy co-worker, Zelda (Octavia Spencer). The banter tends to be somewhat one-sided, though, given that Elisa is mute, but she nonetheless never seems to have any trouble making her feelings known, especially when it comes to dealings with the facility’s intimidating new security chief, Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon).

Despite the relative calm that has long prevailed at the lab, things change dramatically with the arrival of a mysterious new specimen, an amphibian being that looks like a cross between a man and a reptile (Doug Jones). Having been taken from its home in the Amazon, the creature has been brought to the facility for further study under the auspices of scientist Dr. Robert Hostetler (Michael Stuhlbarg). But the new arrival is more than just a scientific curiosity; it’s believed that the aquatic enigma may possess special abilities, some that might even be weaponized (hence the beefed-up security). These potentially significant, highly coveted qualities are much sought after by American military officials, especially now that the country is caught up in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, a threat that’s perceived as lurking everywhere – even in the lab.

When Elisa and Zelda are assigned to work in the area where the creature is housed, they get quite an astonishing eyeful. Not only do they catch a glimpse of the strange new being, but they also witness the unduly cruel treatment to which it’s summarily subjected, behavior that elicits a comparably brutal response from the creature. Elisa is appalled at what she sees and instantly takes pity on the wounded victim. So, when no one is around, she quietly sneaks into the lab to show the new visitor that there’s more to being human than inflicting harm on others. By exhibiting kindness and compassion, she conveys a very different impression of humanity, and the creature responds in kind. An unusual bond is forged, one that grows into an unconventional friendship – and more.

Intimidating security chief Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon, left) questions custodial workers Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins, center) and Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer, right) about their work routine in a secret government marine lab in director Guillermo del Toro’s new romantic fantasy, “The Shape of Water.” Photo courtesy by Kerry Hayes, of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

However, with various factions vying for control of “the asset,” as the creature is often called, its fate is soon up for grabs. And so, with such perilous uncertainty looming, Elisa decides to take action to protect her new friend. With the aid of her somewhat neurotic neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), and a few unexpected allies, Elisa undertakes a risky plan to shepherd the defenseless being out of harm’s way, an initiative that holds the promise to pay more dividends than she ever could have imagined. But will her efforts pan out?

The unusual relationship that develops between Elisa and her Amazonian companion may defy convention, but who’s to say that such an arrangement can’t work, that it’s inherently outside the realm of possibility? Those who push past traditional barriers and challenge the prevailing wisdom might find that the uncharted territory that such involvements occupy is richly rewarding, even if it’s something others would never consider. After all, when the heart is involved, there’s no telling what might arise, and the outcome may prove to be quite revelatory, both in terms of what works for us – and the lengths we’ll go to in protecting it.

Of course, such connections are possible only if properly supported by beliefs that make them happen, a cornerstone principle of the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. And, in the case of Elisa and her unlikely consort, those metaphysical building blocks are obviously in place to make their bond possible.

In forging this relationship, however, the participants obviously must push past conventional limitations and beliefs that would otherwise hold them back. But they apparently understand this and are unconcerned about the potential influence of any impediments that might impinge upon their success. That’s one of conscious creation’s chief aims – one we’d be wise to aspire to – and Elisa and her beau set an inspiring example to follow.

However, if Ms. Esposito and her companion are so taken with the idea of making their association work, one might wonder why they’ve also created so much ancillary strife in their lives. Why burden themselves with such seemingly unnecessary complications?

When a defenseless laboratory creature is threatened, custodial worker Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins, right), along with her neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins, left), concocts a plan to protect it in the inventive new fantasy/fairy tale, “The Shape of Water.” Photo by Kerry Hayes, courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Despite the hardships posed by such challenges, conundrums like those they experience can also serve as a galvanizing force. By putting their bond to the test, the would-be lovers provide themselves an opportunity to determine the viability of their connection, to see if it can withstand the pressures put upon them that could tear them apart. Under circumstances like these, aspiring mates can evaluate just how committed they are to one another and to their proposed undertaking. Such an exercise can be quite revelatory, exposing weaknesses and spotlighting strengths that could potentially remain hidden but that might ultimately prove invaluable to the success of the venture.

These are principles that are transferable to virtually any type of conscious creation initiative, whether undertaken individually or in tandem. They’re equally applicable in creative pursuits, business ventures, vocational undertakings or conceivably any other course of conduct we consider engaging in. This, in turn, opens up an array of new possibilities, many of which may not otherwise garner any consideration or attention. But then that’s what the miracle of conscious creation makes possible. 

Though at times a little predictable, “The Shape of Water” delivers the goods on so many fronts. Director Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy romance serves up an utterly charming tale with superb special effects, gentle humor, heartwarming sincerity, and a host of excellent performances, especially by Hawkins, Spencer and Jenkins. Think “Beauty and the Beast” (1991, 2017)  meets “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982), and you’ve got a good idea what’s going on here. It’s truly satisfying to see a film that genuinely lives up to its pre-release hype.

“The Shape of Water” is also a celebration of the underdog. The most likable – and happiest – characters in the film are those who live their lives outside the mainstream, including characters who are disabled, gay, minorities and even alternate species, all of whom experience ridicule, criticism, harm and ostracism just for being different (and to a much harsher degree than they would typically experience today). This theme is also reflected through upbeat TV and movie clips featuring such famous nonconformists as Carmen Miranda, Mr. Bojangles, Maynard G. Krebs and Mr. Ed. These characters all relish their individuality – and very much in stark contrast to those in the mainstream majority, whose snarly attitudes toward those who are different reveal their inherent insecurities and how threatened they feel by those who aren’t afraid to shed conventional limitations and celebrate their uniqueness.

Intimidating security chief Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon, left) often finds himself at odds with marine scientist Dr. Robert Hofstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg, right) in “The Shape of Water.” Photo by Kerry Hayes, courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

The film is attracting considerable awards season buzz, having snagged 14 Critics Choice Award nominations, including best picture, actress (Hawkins), supporting actor (Jenkins), supporting actress (Spencer), director and screenplay, along with an array of technical awards. In addition, the picture earned seven Golden Globe Award nods, including best dramatic picture, dramatic actress (Hawkins), supporting actor (Jenkins), supporting actress (Spencer), director and screenplay. It was also named one of the American Film Institute’s Top 10 films of the year. With a response like this, other accolades are sure to follow.

Even when we believe we know what love is, we can’t really know until we find ourselves wrapped up in it, ensconced in the rapture of emotion that washes over and thoroughly envelops us. It’s an undeniable feeling, one that we never want to let go of, even when that seems destined to occur. But, when faced with such circumstances, something just might come along to sustain it, making it possible to truly live happily ever after.

Copyright © 2017, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

‘Christmas’ release tells a Dickens of a tale

“The Man Who Invented Christmas” (2017). Cast: Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Simon Callow, Miriam Margolyes, Morfydd Clark, Justin Edwards, Miles Jupp, Donald Sumpter, Ely Sloan, Anna Murphy, Ian McNeice, Bill Paterson, Ger Ryan. Director: Bharat Nalluri. Screenplay: Susan Coyne. Book: Les Standiford, The Man Who Invented Christmas. Web site. Trailer.

It’s been said that helping others is the best way to help ourselves. We get back what we put out, and, if that turns out to be goodwill and generosity of spirit, then that’s what will return our way. So it was for a world-class author seeking to get his life and career back on track after a creative slump, as demonstrated in the heartwarming new holiday offering, “The Man Who Invented Christmas.”

Two years following the resounding success of his novel Oliver Twist, author Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) was experiencing a dry spell, having produced three literary failures in a row. With his personal financial situation growing increasingly perilous, he desperately needed to get his career back on track. However, that was easier said than done, given that he was also suffering from a severe case of writer’s block. And, with his publisher breathing down his neck, the situation was growing ever more dire. What to do?

Just when all began to seem lost, however, Dickens came up with an idea for a new work – a Christmas novel with an uplifting message, tinged with elements of spirituality and the supernatural. His publisher was skeptical, unsure about the market for a holiday themed book. What’s more, given that it was already October, the chances of getting the book written, illustrated, printed and marketed in time for the big day seemed highly unlikely. But Dickens was confident that he could pull it off, and, when his publisher raised ever more skepticism, the author decided to go it alone (and who said self-publishing was a recent phenomenon?).

In an attempt to overcome a severe case of writer’s block, author Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens, foreground) consults with an apparition of the protagonist of his emerging new work, Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer, background), in “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” Photo by Kerry Brown, courtesy of Bleecker Street Media.

Drawing upon an array of influences from his everyday life to memories from his past and, perhaps most importantly, his dreams and vivid imagination, Dickens gradually began to piece together his new work. The book would tell the story of a bitter, miserly old business man named Ebenezer Scrooge who would come to learn the meaning of Christmas by changing his ways and becoming eminently charitable when confronted by ghosts from his past, present and future. The writing particularly took off when Dickens began creatively interacting with an apparition of his book’s protagonist (Christopher Plummer), gaining insights into the character and how his story should play out. It was a collaboration that would eventually lead to the publication of one of Dickens’s most beloved and best-selling works, A Christmas Carol.

Dickens’s success in bringing his work to life – especially in such short order – and its remarkable sales performance – both at the time of the book’s release and ever since – shouldn’t come as any surprise, though, given that it was a reflection of the author and his beliefs. And those beliefs, as practitioners of the conscious creation process are well aware, provide the basis for manifesting the reality we experience, which was very much the case here.

To be sure, it’s highly unlikely that Dickens ever heard of conscious creation, yet his actions clearly reflect the philosophy’s principles, which are apparent in the resulting outcomes. For instance, Dickens strongly believed in philanthropy and magnanimity toward one’s fellow man, being charitable toward those less fortunate. This was an idea espoused in a number of his previous writings, drawing attention to the plight of the less fortunate at a time when such matters weren’t as easily publicized as they are today.

Paying attention to influences from his dreams helps author Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens, left) with inspiration for his latest work, especially when guided by an apparition of his book’s protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer, right), in the new holiday release, “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” Photo by Kerry Brown, courtesy of Bleecker Street Media.

What’s more, Dickens personally acted upon these notions, readily providing financial support to those in need, such as his father, John (Jonathan Pryce), for whom Charles purchased a home in the country in which his fiscally irresponsible dad and mother (Ger Ryan) could live. He thus set a personal example for others to follow (especially those who had the most to offer but who also may have been the most reluctant to give of themselves), demonstrating the value of such charitable acts, gestures that ultimately benefitted both the recipients of such generosity as well as to those who bestowed it upon them.

Given these beliefs and the results that flowed from them, then, it’s easy to see how Dickens could write about them so easily and passionately, both in his previous books and, especially, in the work that’s the subject of this film. He thus used his writing and his actions to make the case for a lesson that everyone could learn from, a message that’s just as relevant now as it was in 19th Century England.

Watching the writing process unfold – both in terms of crafting the story and preparing the finished book for public sale – reveals Dickens’s impressive ability to draw upon all of his creative resources to bring his project to life, again, accomplishments attributable to his beliefs. Even in the wake of his literary failures, for example, Dickens knew he could get back on track, especially when faced with a short window to produce his proposed new work. His fervent belief in his ability to marshal all of the necessary resources made it happen, an excellent illustration of how we can bring forth our conceptions from the realm of the intangible into physical existence.

Surrounded by characters from his new work, particularly protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer, with top hat at center left), author Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens, center right) gazes upon a bookstore window announcing the title’s upcoming release in the new holiday offering, “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” Photo by Kerry Brown, courtesy of Bleecker Street Media.

Considering the sources of Dickens’s inspiration, it’s also apparent that he knew how to pay attention to synchronicities, those seemingly perfectly tailored “coincidences” that help to point the way toward our destiny. By drawing from the experiences of his youth and listening to the captivating ghost tales told to his children by a young Irish immigrant housekeeper (Anna Murphy), for instance, Dickens picked up on the significance of these elements and the role they would come to play in the narrative of A Christmas Carol. His awareness of these influences thus fueled and reinforced the beliefs that drove the creative process that brought his finished work into being.

Paying attention to synchronicities is important, because it helps bolster our intuitive abilities, one of the chief contributing factors in belief formation. This aspect of the belief formation is often woefully  underutilized, mainly because it’s seen as less trustworthy than our intellect, the other driver of the process, which is generally viewed as more rational and, consequently, more reliable. However, just because our intuition is considered less logical doesn’t mean that it’s any less useful; in fact, as Dickens’s example alone shows, it’s positively essential to achieving our sought-after success. Indeed, think of all those who would not have benefitted from the uplifting message of A Christmas Carol if Dickens had not drawn upon his intuition in bringing his work to life.

In presenting the back story of this holiday classic, “The Man Who Invented Christmas” offers viewers a modestly entertaining look at how this work came into being. The film features fine performances by Stevens and, especially, Plummer, with both bringing their characters to life with convincing credibility and a great deal of wit. However, given the enduring charm of the book on which this film is based, truthfully I was expecting something a bit more “magical” out of this release, which, regrettably, comes across as surprisingly flat, with only periodic smatterings of wonder. To its credit, the picture does an excellent job of showing how we can draw inspiration from our surroundings and experience to produce amazing works of creativity, and it effectively reinforces the message of benevolence of A Christmas Carol. But, overall, the film is somewhat more pedestrian than whimsically serendipitous, which I found a little disappointing. In short, as holiday movies go, this one isn’t bad; it’s just not great.

Surrounded by his parents (Jonathan Pryce, Ger Ryan, left and second from left) and wife (Morfydd Clark, right), author Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens, second from right) celebrates the release of his new work, A Christmas Carol, in “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” Photo by Kerry Brown, courtesy of Bleecker Street Media.

Nevertheless, despite the picture’s shortcomings, it still conveys the message of goodness that Dickens sought to express through his life and work. And, given the state of the world these days, that’s something all of us can probably never be reminded of enough.

Copyright © 2017, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 11, 2017

This Week in Movies with Meaning

Reviews of "The Shape of Water" and "Moving from Emptiness," as well as a holiday book excerpt, are all in the latest Movies with Meaning post on the web site of The Good Radio Network, available by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tune in for The Cinema Scribe

Tune in for the latest Cinema Scribe segment on Bring Me 2 Life Radio, Wednesday, December 6, at 12:45 pm ET, available by clicking here. And, if you don't hear it live, catch it later on the podcast!

Monday, December 4, 2017

This Week in Movies with Meaning

Reviews of "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and "The Man Who Invented Christmas," as well as free book excerpts and social media news, are all in the latest Movies with Meaning post on the web site of The Good Radio Network, available by clicking here.

Join Me on Ello!

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve now launched a profile on the social media site Ello, the network for artists, creators and their fans. Look for my posts, and enjoy the material submitted by my fellow writers, artists and creatives. To visit my profile, click here.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

On the Radio Today!

Join host Frankie Picasso and me for the latest Movies with Meaning segment on Frankiesense & More radio today, November 30, at 1 pm ET. We’ll discuss a number of new movie releases and other film-related news. Tune in for some lively movie talk!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

‘Three Billboards’ explores the lengths to which we’ll go for justice

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017). Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Zeljko Ivanek, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, Amanda Warren, Sandy Martin, Clarke Peters, Malaya Rivera Drew, Kerry Condon, Samara Weaving, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Kathryn Newton. Director: Martin McDonagh. Screenplay: Martin McDonagh. Web site. Trailer.

Seeking justice can be a slow, tedious process that severely tries one’s patience. The frustration that sets in can weigh heavily on those who want their wrongs righted, perhaps pushing them to take desperate measures. But, as understandable as those circumstances are, is the pursuit of such drastic steps truly warranted? Will they get the sought-after results? Or will they only compound matters, making things worse for all involved? Those are the unsettling issues addressed in the new dark comedy, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

Divorced single mother Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) leads a life of quiet desperation. Coping with the brutal death and sexual assault of her daughter, Angela (Kathryn Newton), seven months ago tears at her soul. But what’s more frustrating for Mildred than the loss itself is the lack of apparent progress on the investigation by the local sheriff, Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). So, drawing on the belief that turning up the heat on police officials will spur greater efforts to resolve the case, Mildred takes a dramatic step. She decides to rent three long-abandoned, closely spaced billboards on one of the roads leading into her hometown of Ebbing, Missouri, and on them she posts pointed messages directed at Chief Willoughby, asking why no suspects have been identified, arrested and prosecuted.

Understandably, Mildred’s plan proves quite controversial. The sheriff does his best to remain calm and collected, even going so far as to make assuaging overtures to Mildred to explain the difficult circumstances involved in this investigation. But the backlash doesn’t stop there; although many local residents sympathize with Mildred’s loss, they also believe that her efforts at calling out the sheriff in such a publicly humiliating way won’t solve anything and is patently insensitive toward him, given that he’s wrestling with personal issues of his own. Mildred’s plan draws particular ire from members of the local police force, most notably Deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a hot-headed problem drinker who takes the criticism against the sheriff and his staff personally and resorts to drastic retributive measures of his own. Even members of Mildred’s own family, such as her son, Robbie (Lucas Hedges), and ex-husband, Charlie (John Hawkes), find her actions questionable, leading to a variety of reactions from gentle criticism to vile threats.

But Mildred is steely in her resolve, never backing down when confronted by those who try to intimidate her. In fact, the more the heat gets turned up on her, the more she fights back, be it through her caustic, profanity-laden tirades or through actions that are even more radical than the posting of her billboard messages. In the end, however, one can’t help but wonder whether her actions are justifiable, particularly when it becomes unclear how effective these measures are.

As becomes readily apparent, Mildred is indeed a force to be reckoned with. She knows what she wants to achieve, and she steadfastly sets out to accomplish it. That’s because she has resolute command over her beliefs, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience through the conscious creation process. And, because of this, she’s clearly someone not to be messed with.

Grieving but frustrated mother Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand, left) demands results from Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, right) in the investigation of her daughter’s death in the new dark comedy, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Photo by Merrick Morton, courtesy © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

In managing her conscious creation skills, Mildred has developed a mastery over the elements involved in belief formation, the intellect and intuition. Intellectually, for example, she has a clear handle on what it takes to get results – namely, applying pressure to those in charge, a belief she’s formed through her research of police investigation tactics and statistics. And, intuitionally, she listens to her gut when she spies the abandoned billboards and gets the impulse to make use of them to pursue the outcome she seeks. By effectively drawing upon both sources of inspiration in belief formation, she becomes a proficient conscious creation practitioner.

Mildred enhances these practices by other means as well. For instance, in true conscious creation fashion, she has no hesitation to push past limitations that might otherwise hinder her efforts. By renting the billboards and putting the authorities under the microscope, she draws upon an unconventional, limitation-bursting technique to get results. Of course, this would not happen were it not for her willingness to push past fears, self-imposed obstacles that could otherwise inhibit her effectiveness and dilute her results. This becomes apparent, for example, when she stands her ground in the face of strong local opposition to her plans, something that those less galvanized in their beliefs might not be able to withstand.

After irritating the local police force over alleged ineptitude, grieving mother Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand, right) confronts Deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell, left) when he disputes the criticism in director Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Photo by Merrick Morton, courtesy © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

However, at the risk of playing devil’s advocate, one might also wonder, if Mildred is so effective as a conscious creator, then why hasn’t she realized a more satisfying and definitive conclusion from the police investigation? What’s more, as the story plays out, it seems that her plan to turn up the heat on the authorities does more to create public discord than to get results. This might even lead one to rightfully believe that her billboard scheme was fundamentally ill-conceived in the first place.

That argument certainly has merit. From a conscious creation standpoint, Mildred’s actions could be seen as an example of pushing the Universe, a practice whereby we try to force our divine collaborator in the process to produce results that either weren’t meant to be or were intended to manifest differently, either in terms of time frame or form of outcome. We may think we know the best way to achieve a particular goal, but, given that certain elements may need to be satisfied to arrive at the desired destination, our collaborator might have a better, more effective plan to get us there. And, if we try to push the Universe, it may well push back, thwarting our efforts at realizing the sought-after goal and potentially seriously compounding the frustration we’re already experiencing.

Such circumstances are particularly germane to situations that involve co-creations, as is the case here. Mildred may feel as if she’s in this battle by herself, but, when examined more closely, it’s obvious there are other players in this scenario, including the police force, the perpetrator and residents of the local community. Their “contributions” to the unfolding of this drama must be allowed to play out, which could mean that what Mildred wants may have to be put on hold, at least until those other elements fall into place. That’s not to suggest that her goal won’t eventually be achieved; however, it might take an unanticipated or protracted route to get to the desired outcome, something that Mildred may not like but that she’ll have to live with if she wants to see justice done. But, at the same time, pushing the Universe won’t get us what we want, particularly when other interests are involved and have to be addressed.

Upset at his mother’s plan to spur progress in his sister’s death investigation, teenager Robbie Hayes (Lucas Hedges, left) confronts his grieving but frustrated mother, Mildred (Frances McDormand, right), in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Photo by Merrick Morton, courtesy © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

This is where the power of faith comes into play in conscious creation. If we believe in the process, are clear about what we want and are willing to let our divine collaborator lead us to the sought-after result, we’ll likely see what we want achieved. This is a lesson for Mildred and may well account for why matters pan out as they do. It may not be the most satisfying way to arrive at where we want to be, but it’s often necessary on our way to becoming effective conscious creators.

Director Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy, with its ample, in-your-face gallows humor and unrelenting sailor-inspired vulgarity, takes big chances on its way to easily becoming one of the best releases of 2017. With stellar performances by McDormand, Harrelson and Rockwell, the picture keeps us guessing, even when we think we’ve figured things out, using misdirections to keep viewers captivated throughout. Despite a slight tendency to drag in the second half, the film overall is a flat-out winner, though it’s definitely not something for sensitive or squeamish viewers.

“Three Billboards” is easily a strong contender in this year’s awards competitions. It’s already picked up some notoriety, having earned three Independent Spirit Award nominations for best screenplay and for the impressive performances of McDormand and Rockwell. Look for this film to earn more kudos as awards season progresses.

To get the attention of the local police force over a stalled murder investigation, a grieving mother posts pointedly critical messages on rural billboards, capturing the attention of Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, left) and Deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell, right) in the new dark comedy, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Photo by Merrick Morton, courtesy © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

It’s been said the wheels of justice turn slowly, and that can be true even when the conscious creation process is employed. However, the more we stay focused on realizing an equitable outcome, supported by beliefs to make it possible, the greater the chances of seeing those hoped-for results come to life. After all, it’s only fair, and the Universe has a way of generally leaning in our direction – provided we work with it to see things through.

Copyright © 2017, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

‘The Square’ urges us to live up to our intentions

“The Square” (2017). Cast: Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West, Terry Notary, Christopher Læssø, Lilianne Mardon, Lise Stephenson Engstrom, Director: Ruben Östlund. Screenplay: Ruben Östlund. Web site. Trailer.

What does it mean to truly care for one’s fellow man? Some would contend that it involves more than just paying lip service to the notion or writing a check to a beloved charity; rather, they would say, it entails getting actively involved in bettering the well-being of others. But are we genuinely equipped to engage in such an activity? And, if so, what exactly does it take? Those are among the questions raised in the unusual and provocative new Swedish satire, “The Square.”

Christian (Claes Bang) is the respected curator of a Stockholm contemporary art museum. He prides himself on staging exhibits that make people think – not just about the art on display, but also about the messages it’s attempting to convey. He’s especially excited about his newest exhibit, The Square, a show symbolized by the simple four-sided figure and explained by the following inscription: “The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.” It’s a noble sentiment, one that Christian hopes will inspire the exhibit’s visitors to pursue increased acts of altruism and goodwill toward their fellow man.

Given his position, Christian has been very successful, and he relishes the fruits that have come from his efforts – a comfortable lifestyle with all the trappings of accomplishment. In fact, he’s grown so accustomed to this way of life that sometimes it clouds his vision, causing him to periodically lose sight of other priorities, including the mission behind his work. While Christian generally strives for a balance between his professional and personal life, sometimes things nevertheless get out of kilter – such as when he’s the victim of a pickpocket incident through which he loses his wallet and cell phone, the essential life lines to his lifestyle.

The loss of these items so distresses Christian that he quickly loses all perspective. He becomes so preoccupied with retrieving the lost goods that he resorts to outlandish schemes, such as those suggested by his co-worker Michael (Christopher Læssø), to get them back. As a consequence, he begins shirking his responsibilities in other areas of his life, such as overseeing his obligations for the staging of The Square. What’s more, the divorced father even forgets about the regularly scheduled weekend visitation of his two daughters (Lilianne Mardon, Lise Stephenson Engstrom), who show up on his doorstep surprised that he didn’t remember they were coming. As matters play out, circumstances go from bad to worse as Christian loses his grip on his priorities in the wake of chasing down his material obsessions.

Christian (Claes Bang), a successful contemporary art museum curator, goes to great lengths to recover his stolen wallet and cell phone when he’s the victim of a pickpocket incident in the unusual new Swedish satire, “The Square.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.[/caption]

Christian’s conundrum over what he actually does versus what he espouses that he (and we) should do soon escalates. Because of this, he’s quickly faced with having to put out more fires than he can possibly handle, with consequences that grow ever more complicated. In his professional life, for example, he must explain his lack of awareness of the release of an ill-advised promotional video for The Square, one that simultaneously raises questions of social propriety and freedom of speech. Personally, meanwhile, he struggles to cope with the histrionics of a would-be romantic interest (Elisabeth Moss) who’s obsessed with turning their casual involvement into a social cause, one that some would say reflects an institutionalized form of sexual exploitation while others would say is simply an interpersonal misunderstanding blown out of proportion.

How will things work out for the beleaguered protagonist? Will circumstances get straightened out, or will they continue to spiral out of control? Will Christian regain his perspective, or will he become irretrievably overwhelmed? Will he grasp the lessons of his own exhibition, or will he remain mired in what some might say is his own hypocrisy? Those are a lot of questions to be answered.

When we claim to be proponents of particular points of view, it’s a safe bet that we’ll be called on our commitment to them at some point. That’s because these contentions are beliefs, the building blocks of our reality according to the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains our existence comes into being as a result of them. And that’s the issue Christian is now wrestling with: Does he really believe in actively furthering the aspirations of his art exhibits, such as the benevolence and egalitarianism advocated by the spirit behind The Square? Or is he content just to talk about these ideas from an ivory tower perspective, placing more attention on the features and functions of his technological toys than engaging in hands-on initiatives designed to help those genuinely in need of assistance?

Christian (Claes Bang, right), a successful contemporary art museum curator, wrestles with the unpredictable rants of Anne (Elisabeth Moss, left), a would-be romantic interest, in director Ruben Östlund’s latest offering, “The Square.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.[/caption]

Given Christian’s dogged pursuit of his lost items, it becomes pretty apparent where his priorities lie, at least initially. But will he be able to maintain that stance? And, if so, for how long? As the beliefs he says he maintains bubble up to the surface from the depths of his consciousness, the discrepancy between his so-called contentions and his overt actions becomes increasingly obvious. His personal belief integrity thus gets put to the test, forcing him to address the question, does he really believe in what he says he believes? And, if so, is he willing to employ those notions as part of his day-to-day activities?

The longer Christian ignores this situation, the more the problem persists, both in his conflicted consciousness and in the externalized expressions of his everyday existence. It simply won’t go away, as unwanted and unforeseen side effects related to the foregoing core questions begin to pile up. Incidents eventually compound one another and spill over into other events and exhibits at the museum, such as a formal banquet for patrons where the antics of a talented but all-too-committed performance artist (Terry Notary) get seriously out of hand. Meanwhile, outside of work, as a result of Christian’s desperate attempts to retrieve his possessions, an innocent young boy is erroneously branded a thief by his parents, an accusation that prompts the youth to then aggressively take out his frustrations on Christian.

So how should Christian respond to eliminate these problems? For starters, he needs to acknowledge his beliefs for what they are, ridding himself of the denial that’s leading to an endless cycle of complications. Then he needs to bring his actions in line with his beliefs, a sure-fire way to dispense with the ever-mounting hurdles amassing in his life. In both of these instances, he needs to live up to his beliefs, taking action to realize them and not just noting them as passing observations.

Perhaps most importantly, though, Christian needs to let go of his penchant for pushing the Universe, ditching his wrong-headed attempts at forcing our divine collaborator in the conscious creation process to bring about results that aren’t meant to be. This is most apparent in his efforts to retrieve his possessions. Maybe they were swiped and are being held at bay in an effort to get him to shift his focus and place it on something other than his smart phone settings, a scenario that he ultimately created as a means to force himself into adopting a new set of priorities – that is, as long as he grasps the message behind why these events have unfolded as they have. But, as long as he fails to acknowledge this, he’s likely to continue incurring the same kinds of problems he’s been experiencing. Given that, being willing to consider new possibilities seems far simpler comparatively speaking.

Performance artist Oleg (Terry Notary, standing) gets carried away with his antics at a banquet for museum patrons in the unusual new Swedish satire, “The Square.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.[/caption]

As with director Ruben Östlund’s other films (such as “Force Majeure” (2014)), “The Square” is a picture with a lot to say. Its attempts at covering so much ground are indeed laudable, especially in the highly innovative ways it addresses its material. Yet, despite such an ambitious approach, the film doesn’t always convey its ideas as well as it could. In its moments of inspired clarity, the director absolutely knocks it out of the park with inventive, riveting humor – big, hilarious satirical episodes that arise organically and pointedly impart significant social insights. However, this strength notwithstanding, sometimes it takes the filmmaker a little too long to get the audience from laugh to laugh, a problem that could have been resolved with some judicious editing. Nevertheless, if you’re able to sift through the flotsam to find the picture’s kernels of wisdom, you’ll be richly rewarded with an unusual and memorable movie experience.

All too often, others say to us “Do as I say, not as I do,” when a simple, genuine “do as I do” would suffice (and be more meaningful). “The Square” makes an impassioned plea for us to do just that. If we and our contentions are to be taken seriously, we’d be wise to get our beliefs in order and act on them accordingly.

Copyright © 2017, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

‘Last Flag Flying’ honors the power and beauty of friendship

“Last Flag Flying” (2017). Cast: Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, Steve Carell, J. Quinton Johnson, Deanna Reed-Foster, Yul Vazquez, Graham Wolfe, Cicely Tyson. Director: Richard Linklater. Screenplay: Richard Linklater and Darryl Ponicsan. Book: Darryl Ponicsan, Last Flag Flying. Web site. Trailer.

Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when a parent is forced to do so for a departed child who’s taken unexpectedly and in the prime of life. Under circumstances like these, we can use all of the support we can muster, and those who often prove most helpful are those who have already been through life-and-death experiences with us. Such is the case of a distraught father burying his deceased son in the highly moving new drama, “Last Flag Flying.”

When Vietnam veteran Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell) loses his only child in Iraq in 2003, he’s saddled with one of the worst tragedies a parent can face. The pain is palpable, and making the right decisions is difficult. Under trying conditions like this, many of us are at least fortunate enough to turn to our spouses for support, but Larry doesn’t even have that option available, having lost his wife earlier the same year. So, to cope with this tragic situation, he turns to those whom he believes can best relate to what he’s going through – a pair of war buddies with whom he served in Vietnam. There’s just one catch – he hasn’t seen these guys in 30 years.

Nevertheless, thanks to an Internet search, Larry successfully locates his military kindreds, Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne). Having not been in contact with either of them in decades, Larry is not sure what to expect, but he takes a leap of faith and makes the journey from his home in New Hampshire to Virginia to find his long-lost friends.

Upon arriving down south, Larry finds Sal as a hard-partying bar owner, someone who hasn’t changed much since their days in the service together. Richard, however, has left behind the wild man days of his youth, having become a man of the cloth (but one whose old self is never too far beneath the surface, despite his best efforts to keep that persona in check). And, despite the years of separation, the three friends largely pick up where they left off. The circumstances of their reunion may differ somewhat from those of their past, but they nevertheless involve elements with which they’re all too familiar.

Larry explains his situation and asks Sal and Richard to accompany him to Arlington National Cemetery, where his son is to be buried with full military honors. And so, with varying degrees of enthusiasm and commitment, the trio sets off for the solemn task. But, upon retrieving his son’s body, Larry has second thoughts and decides he wants to lay his boy to rest at home back in New Hampshire. He again asks his friends to join him, after which the trio embarks on an odyssey of emotion, revelation and reconciliation on their way north.

Old friends and Vietnam veterans Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston, left) and Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne, right) help their war buddy Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell, center) cope with the loss of his son in Iraq in 2003 in director Richard Linklater’s moving new offering, “Last Flag Flying.” Photo by Wilson Webb, courtesy of Amazon Studios.[/caption]

The train trip from Virginia to New Hampshire, with various stops along the way, gives Larry, Sal and Richard an opportunity to become reacquainted, allowing them to relive certain fond memories and to address long-unresolved issues that have simmered for three decades. It also gives each of them a chance to air their views about their respective circumstances, their service, and the government to which they and their peers have pledged their lives. They discuss how they have come to be who they are and what they want going forward. And it’s a time for healing a lot of wounds, both past and present, all in hopes of creating a future of hope, despite the current circumstances.

The anguish of circumstances like these is nearly impossible to imagine. Because of that, one can hardly fathom how any of us would draw conditions like this into our lives, the cornerstone of the conscious creation process, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. In fact, the most we can probably hope for is trying to understand why they happen by analyzing the means that brought them into being. Doing so may well provide some perspective behind how such scenarios come into existence and what they ultimately might mean.

On one hand, for instance, there’s the tragedy itself, one that occurs as a result of actions that unfold during a highly unpopular military conflict, the Iraq war. The loss of Larry’s son takes place at a time when many Americans began questioning the legitimacy and purpose of the country’s involvement in that melee. And, in light of that, to help keep the controversial loss of life under wraps, the government even went so far as to adopt a policy forbidding press coverage of the return of soldiers’ remains, an attempt to effectively sweep matters under the rug. But, despite officialdom’s efforts at concealing the fallout of this controversial campaign, word of the conflict still needed to get out, and sacrifices like those made by Larry’s son ultimately contributed to informing the public about a dirty little secret that the powers that be would have rather disavowed. It’s truly unfortunate that anyone would have to go to such lengths to create such awareness. But, when circumstances warrant drastic steps to make such unpalatable matters known, we’re often forced into creating limitation-bursting methods to achieve the results we seek.

It’s especially ironic that such a scenario involves the son of a Vietnam veteran, someone who was part of an even more unpopular military conflict decades before. Despite widespread public outcry against that war, Larry and his colleagues served at a time when military-eligible citizens more readily believed in the integrity of the government and its contention that the conflict was a noble pursuit. However, through their wartime experience, they became disillusioned, something that caused them to quietly question their involvement in the years after their service. And now, as Larry is confronted with the loss of his son in an equally questionable conflict, those long-repressed doubts he and others like him have held about the wisdom and legitimacy of such military involvements come rushing forth to the surface, an opportunity to make their beliefs known and available for sharing with others of like mind. In doing so, the consensus-driven, protest-based beliefs of individuals like Larry are given expression, something that might not have occurred were it not for such unfortunate circumstances. This is particularly crucial when it comes to changing the minds and making advocates out of those who may have one time seen the truth but denied their true feelings.

With full military honors in place, Vietnam veterans Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne, left) and Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston, center) help war buddy Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell, right) come to terms with the loss of his son in Iraq in 2003 in “Last Flag Flying.” Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.[/caption]

All of these considerations point to the power of co-creation, the means by which we pool our manifestation resources to accomplish jointly sought goals. This is certainly apparent in the efforts aimed at raising public awareness discussed above. But it’s also present on a more personal level, such as Larry’s attempts at renewing contact with two old friends, individuals well positioned to help him get through his personal crisis. It’s also an opportunity to resolve old issues that have gone unaddressed for years, something that can help bring closure to lingering wounds and, one would hope, put the three friends on a firmer footing for the future, one that can help them renew and strengthen their existing bond – the kind of friendship we all hope to make part of our lives.

The experience of Larry, Sal and Richard indeed embodies the notion of how to look for the silver lining in the proverbial clouds of our lives. It may not be a particularly easy process, but the outcomes can yield tremendous dividends, both personally and on a wider basis. Drawing from the lessons of these circumstances can be life-changing – and life affirming – in so many ways. Despite the difficulty of these situations, we should not fear them, for there’s no telling what they ultimately might yield. The results may well surprise us – and in ways we can hardly imagine. 

This latest offering from director Richard Linklater is a truly moving cinematic experience that’s not to be missed. With a rollercoaster of emotions and an intriguing road trip narrative somewhat reminiscent of “The Last Detail” (1973), “Last Flag Flying” takes viewers through an array of feelings and moods from tremendous hilarity to profound sadness, and nearly always seamlessly. Most of all, however, the film features three of the strongest male lead performances to come along in quite a while (kudos to the casting director for skillfully choosing Carell, Cranston and Fishburne for their remarkable portrayals and their unbelievable chemistry). Admittedly, the picture gets off track a few times, going on several needless tangents, but overall this strong, solid film is well worth one’s time. Just keep the handkerchief within reach.

An emotional catharsis of this order can be difficult to go through, but it’s often necessary to help us get where we want to be. Having good, old friends in our corner – especially those who are familiar with the types of conditions involved here – can prove invaluable for working our way through such experiences. Let us all hope we have companions like them available to us when we need them.

Copyright © 2017, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 27, 2017

This Week in Movies with Meaning

Reviews of "Last Flag Flying" and "The Square," as well as a radio show preview, are all in the latest Movies with Meaning post on the web site of The Good Radio Network, available by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

This Week in Movies with Meaning

A review of "Lady Bird" and news about my blog, ebooks and a podcast are all in the latest installment of Movies with Meaning on the web site of The Good Radio Network, available by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

In the Top 100!

I'm pleased to announce that my web site's Blog Page has been named a Top 100 Movie Blog by Feedspot.com, a blog aggregation site designed to connect web users with an array of different sites categorized by topic. I'm honored to join the ranks of this fine collection of movie-related web sites, and I promise to do my level-best to live up to this distinction.

By the way, if it seems like my writings have been a bit scarce lately, you're right. I've recently been traveling and tackling a pile of personal and professional matters, so my posts have been a bit more sporadic than I'd like. But, with those issues behind me now, I'm back, and I'm ready to write! As we enter this year's movie awards season, there are plenty of new releases coming to theaters over the next few months, and I plan to be on top of them. I'll also offer my insights on the nominees of this year's awards competitions, including my annual predictions. And, of course, there'll be announcements about all of my upcoming media appearances, including my regular radio segments and my special broadcasts geared toward awards season topics and discussions of my latest book, Third Real: Conscious Creation Goes Back to the Movies. So stay tuned!

Monday, November 20, 2017

'Third Real' Now Available in eBook!

I'm thrilled to announce that my new book, Third Real: Conscious Creation Goes Back to the Movies, is now in ebook format! The title is available for various e-readers from Amazon Kindle, Nook and Kobo Books, with an iTunes release coming soon. For more information, visit this web site's Store Page or the book's official web site, where you can find details about all of the available formats and retailers. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Do You Like What You See?

Do you like what you see? That's an intriguing question -- and the title of an excerpt from my new book, Third Real: Conscious Creation Goes Back to the Movies, available on the web site of The Sync Movie by clicking here. Find out how to get an extended excerpt of the book at the above link, too. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Check out TheCoffeeCast

Get a heaping hot cup of stimulating cinema chat on the latest edition of TheCoffeeCast with host Tom Cheevers, available by clicking here. Join Tom and me as we discuss my new book, Third Real: Conscious Creation Goes Back to the Movies. Tune in!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Check out Wednesday's Cinema Scribe

Tune in for the latest edition of The Cinema Scribe on Bring Me 2 Life Radio, Wednesday, November 1, at 12:45 pm ET, by clicking here. And, if you don't hear it live, catch it later on the podcast! 

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Special Show and a Special Offer

In case you missed last Thursday's special edition of Frankiesense & More radio, which featured the monthly Movies with Meaning segment and a conversation about my new book, Third Real: Conscious Creation Goes Back to the Movies, you can now catch the podcast version by clicking here. And, while you're at it, check out the special offer to get a free PDF excerpt of the book, with details available here. Join me and host Frankie Picasso for some lively movie chat.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

On the Radio Thursday

Join host Frankie Picasso and me this Thursday, October 26, at 1 pm ET for the latest edition of Frankiesense & More radio. In addition to this month's regular Movies with Meaning segment, I'll join Frankie for the entire hour to discuss my new book, Third Real: Conscious Creation Goes Back to the Movies. We'll talk about this engaging new title, as well as a number of thoughtful new movie releases. Click here for some spirited movie chat or catch the podcast on demand thereafter.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

‘Breathe’ inspires us to vanquish our limitations

“Breathe” (2017). Cast: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Hugh Bonneville, Diana Rigg, Penny Downie, David Wilmot, Stephen Mangan, Edward Speleers, Tom Hollander, Amit Shah, Jonathan Hyde, Emily Bevan, Harry Marcus, Dean-Charles Chapman, Sylvester Groth. Director: Andy Serkis. Screenplay: William Nicholson. Web site. Trailer.

Imagine being confronted by a life of bed-ridden confinement, unable to move or even to inhale your own life-sustaining breath. Add to that the frustration and despondency brought on by an unfeeling health care system that insists upon regimented institutionalization as the only way to address your condition. And, to make matters worse, you’re young and just beginning what’s supposed to be a happy and fulfilling time with the love of your life. If you can picture that, you have an idea of what it’s like to be the protagonist of the new, fact-based romantic drama, “Breathe.”

In 1958 England, tea broker Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) had just met the woman of his dreams, the fair and beautiful Diana (Claire Foy). Despite Diana’s reputation for being something of a heartbreaker, Robin knew that she would one day become his wife. And Diana, despite her sometimes-fickle nature, felt the same way about her new beau. It truly was love at first sight.

Tea broker Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield, left) spends time in the company of the love of his life, Diana (Claire Foy, right), in the new fact-based drama, “Breathe.” Photo by Laurie Sparham, courtesy of Bleecker Street Media and Participant Media.

Before long, Robin and Diana were inseparable, even when he would embark on his travels to the wilds of Kenya in search of new tea stocks. Their African adventures together set the tone for the life adventure they envisioned sharing, one that soon included the addition of child on the way. But, just as life seemed to be growing ever more enriched, Robin was suddenly struck down with polio, the crippling effects of which left him paralyzed and unable to breathe without a respirator. And, despite his youthful vigor, his prognosis was not good – perhaps several months at most, and all of it confined to a hospital bed.

Initially unable to speak and embarrassed by his depleted overall condition, Robin quickly fell into a deep depression, wishing to see no one, including Diana and his newborn son, Jonathan. In fact, he sincerely wanted to die rather than live the way he was, especially since his doctors told him that he’d likely be spending the remainder of his waning days in a hospital ward with other afflicted patients. But, Robin’s despondency notwithstanding, Diana would have none of it. Rather than resign herself to the same kinds of circumstances her husband seemed so ready to embrace, she pointedly asked him what it would take to make him happy so that he would be willing to keep on living. To that, he replied, he simply wanted to go home, a wish that Diana began working on making happen.

When Diana and Robin announced their plans to the medical staff, physicians like the condescending Dr. Entwistle (Jonathan Hyde) labeled their plan foolhardy at best. However, the ever-resourceful Mrs. Cavendish set her mind to bringing her husband home, and Robin soon began leading a comparatively comfortable life in a cozy residential setting.

Once relocated, Robin’s spirits improved markedly, and his condition stabilized. He lasted far longer than the several months initially projected, clearly defying the odds and the experts’ diagnoses. He enjoyed a loving relationship with Diana and had the pleasure of watching Jonathan grow up. And, all the while, he was in the company of many friends, such as his lifelong chum Colin (Edward Speleers), the ever-cheerful, ever-colorful Blacker twins, David and Bloggs (Tom Hollander), and his clever, inventive colleague, Dr. Teddy Hall (Hugh Bonneville), all of whom believed that it was possible for Robin to enjoy a life even fuller than the one he was now leading.

As an amateur inventor and tinkerer, Teddy looked for ways to help make Robin’s life more mobile, an accomplishment he achieved by fashioning a specialized wheelchair fitted with a built-in respirator. With that, Robin was no longer restricted to his bed. He was able to go outside and sit in his garden, as well as take long, leisurely country drives with the family. At one point, he was even able to embark on trips to Spain and Germany. Not bad for someone who once faced permanent confinement.

After being afflicted with polio, Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield, center) is surrounded by his loving wife, Diana (Claire Foy, second from left), his son, Jonathan (Harry Marcus, second from right), and his supportive friends, Dr. Teddy Hall (Hugh Bonneville, left) and David Blacker (Tom Hollander, right), in director Andy Serkis’s debut feature, “Breathe.” Photo by David Bloomer, courtesy of Bleecker Street Media and Participant Media.

Robin’s expanded mobility eventually led him to become the face of a new cause, one aimed at promoting more liberated lifestyles for other patients similarly afflicted. With the backing of an enthusiastic physician, Dr. Clement Aitken (Stephen Mangan), and the philanthropic support of a wealthy benefactress, Lady Neville (Diana Rigg), Robin helped secure similar equipment for other severely paralyzed patients, enabling them to enjoy the same kind of freedom he had now been basking in for years. It gave him a purpose, not just for himself, but for others, something that no doubt contributed to the decades-long longevity he experienced after initially becoming infected.

The story of Robin and Diana Cavendish inspiringly illustrates a number of principles at the core of the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. Their odyssey together in many ways serves as a textbook for how to employ them.

First and foremost, for instance, the film shows what it means to push through barriers and defy limitations. As conscious creation maintains that we’re ever evolving, in a constant state of becoming, we’re continually meant to get past the obstacles before us to create innovative solutions to our challenges and materialize new conceptions of existence. And Mr. and Mrs. Cavendish clearly excel at this, both individually and as a couple, as well as with the support, guidance and assistance of their peers. They truly push the envelope, showing what’s possible in the face of conventional thinking that would otherwise hold them back. In doing so, they set quite an example for all to see.

Of course, given that conscious creation makes it possible for us to manifest virtually anything we want, one might legitimately wonder why Robin and Diana would materialize circumstances such as these. However, as is the case with virtually all adversity-driven stories, such as those depicted in films like “Still Alice” (2014), “The Theory of Everything” (2014), “Freeheld” (2015) and “Gleason” (2016), the characters’ reasons behind these self-imposed hardships are their own and not for outsiders, like us, to question. These kinds of conditions are frequently associated with particular life lessons, the kind that we might not be able to learn through other sorts of scenarios. In the case of this picture’s protagonists, for example, it could be that they drew these circumstances to them as a means of engaging in the kind of aforementioned limitation-busting activities at which they became so proficient. That naturally leads us to rhetorically ask, would that have been possible without the challenges they set for themselves?

By setting such an example, Robin and Diana were able to inspire others in myriad ways. For instance, thanks to Robin’s ardent advocacy for the revolutionary mobile equipment developed by his friend Teddy, he gave new hope to his fellow polio patients, most of whom were being warehoused in institutions that provided virtually no quality of life. This becomes particularly apparent during his visit to a German facility for the paralyzed, where he’s appalled to see immobilized patients stacked up in a morgue-like holding facility, all very clinical but wholly impersonal and unfeeling. It prompts Robin to make an impassioned plea to the facility’s director, Dr. Erik Langdorf (Sylvester Groth), to implement a more humane approach to treatment, one that incorporates the mobile technology he’s benefited from for years.

What begins with the hope of a beautiful life together quickly turns challenging for businessman Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield, right) and his new wife, Diana (Claire Foy, left), in the fact-based romantic drama, “Breathe.” Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street Media and Participant Media.

By engaging in such fervent, heartfelt promotion for this mission, Robin pursued his own signature brand of value fulfillment, the conscious creation concept aimed at being our best, truest selves for the betterment of ourselves and those around us. By giving voice to a concern that previously had none, he was able to successfully draw attention to it to help improve the life of others who faced the same circumstances as he did. But, then, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given that he himself was the beneficiary of others practicing their value fulfillment, namely, the efforts of his family and friends to make a better quality of life for him. His subsequent efforts were simply his way of returning the favor and paying it forward to advance the condition of others.

The efforts of others to aid Robin also demonstrate the power inherent in acts of co-creation. When we pool our resources and ingenuity, we’re often able to generate truly remarkable results, as evidenced here. By working with Robin – and by Robin summoning to him the right mix of willing and committed collaborators – this collective band of co-creators came together to yield outcomes through which everybody won. And, in turn, such efforts led to the work Robin would subsequently tackle, spiraling the co-creative initiative to an entirely new level and to a grateful new constituency.

Most of all, however, “Breathe” adeptly shows what can stem from the power of love, a potent emotion that can significantly fuel the underlying components of the conscious creation process. Were it not for the love Robin and Diana shared for one another, this story might have easily led to a very different outcome. If Robin had continued to believe that he had nothing left to live for, he may have well fulfilled his physicians’ prognostications and passed on not long after being afflicted. But, because the fair Mrs. Cavendish gave her spouse a reason to live, she helped him change his beliefs and prevailing mindset, an adjustment that prompted more than two decades of additional life, not to mention an existence that proved to be immensely fulfilling personally and as a proponent for patient rights and dignity. That’s quite an accomplishment for someone otherwise immobilized.

From the foregoing, it’s apparent the film packs quite an inspirational punch, backed by a wealth of valuable metaphysical insights. However, while “Breathe” is certainly noble and sincere in its intents, this somewhat overlong offering regrettably falls prey to the traps of schmaltz, manipulation and formula (at times bordering on cliché, especially in its soundtrack and cinematography). Admittedly, the film does tend to get better as it goes along (save for its drawn-out concluding segment) and features capable performances by Garfield and Foy, who clearly make this material look better than it really is. However, despite these strengths, much of the film seems rather familiar and plays more like a made-for-TV movie than a theatrical release (and one with precious little back story to boot). You’ll certainly come away from director Andy Serkis’s debut outing feeling inspired and uplifted, but don’t be surprised if you feel just a little cinematically unfulfilled by this one.

Nevertheless, when faced with challenges laden with seemingly insurmountable limitations, a little inspiration can go a long way in helping us get past such barriers. If you doubt that, consider what Robin and Diana were able to achieve with what they had to work with. But, then again, given the vast store of resources available through the realm of possible beliefs, it should naturally follow that we can accomplish great things when we set our minds to the task. In fact, the results just might take your breath away.

Copyright © 2017, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.