Tale of Tales – Film Review

It’s that age old story; woman (Salma Hayek) can’t get pregnant, she and her husband (John C Reilly) get a visit from a magical old man, magical old man tells them to retrieve the heart of a magical underwater dragon and eat it raw.

It’s the sort of thing that makes In vitro fertilisation look like a swim in the lake. In this case it was a swim in the lake, but it was a more difficult swim in the lake because the king had to slaughter the dragon so his wife could eat the heart.

It’s enjoyable how this film taps into the human condition and vulnerabilities, despite its fanciful fairytale setting. Most specifically the story above deals with all the complexities surrounding the desire for parenthood.

Where modern stories would see a barren character head to the fertility clinic, Tale of Tales heads to the magical dragon. Perhaps this is a story as old as time. Both Into the Woods and The Tale of Princess Kaguya, are based on fairy tales dealing with parents who can’t produce offspring.

The themes of youth and childrearing don’t end there. Hayek’s albino son leaves her abandoned in a maze at one point – a mean trick to play on anyone’s mother; another king (Toby Jones) becomes more obsessed doting on his pet flea than his teenage daughter (Bebe Cave); and an old woman (Hayley Carmichael) convinces a witch to turn her into an younger and extremely pretty version of herself (Stacey Martin).

Adults wanting kids to love, kids wanting adults to love them, and adults wanting to be kids so adults love them. It’s a complex playing out of an inherent want for acceptance and purpose.

The film transcends its fairy tale environment to spin some of the oldest fairy tales, in the world (they are from The Pentamerone), into a cinematic masterpiece of fantasy that trumps similar fare like Stardust, Ella Enchanted and dare I say it The Princess Bride.

That Sugar Film – Film Review

The teeth in the picture above belong to teenager Larry from Barbourville, Kentucky. Well they did belong to Larry until they were all pulled out. He drank too much Mountain Dew.

A problem not uncommon, according to dentist Dr Edwin Smith, who appears in Damon Gameau’s documentary That Sugar Film. In the film Dr Smith points out that he’s seen so many teeth rotted by Mountain Dew that he’s coined the term ‘Mountain Dew Mouth’.

Larry’s teeth are not replaced by the end of the documentary though, because his system would not respond properly to the anaesthetic required. In a relieving piece of news, available on Facebook, he has now had all his teeth replaced.

Images like the one above certainly add the shock value to this documentary. Other sugar-free crusaders have been slowly adding to the pile of evidence pointing towards the heinous crimes of this carbohydrate. Jamie Oliver for one recently upped the ante, on Gameau’s ‘Mountain Dew Mouth’ footage, by sitting in on a foot amputation caused by type two diabetes and screening footage of mothers bottle feeding their babies Coca-Cola.

Gameau also goes for the immersive documentarian stunt of subjecting himself to a sugar-filled diet for sixty days. This has direct echoes of the headline grabbing efforts of Morgan Spurlock bingeing on MacDonalds in Super Size Me; or the time that Werner Herzog ate his shoe in Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.

But it is not really the masochistic element of the film that hits home. To the average person it is common knowledge that substituting your children’s drinking water with sugar-loaded beverages will have lasting health effects. But what Gameau uncovers is deeper. He brings to the fore all those products we thought were good for us. Things like zero-per-cent fat milk, one-hundred-per-cent fruit juices, health bars, Nutri-grain, and so forth, are all in the firing line. It turns out all of these products are high in sugar-content also. Perhaps this is even worse than Coca-Cola or McDonalds, because these other items come with a health message.

These are the things filling our children’s cereal bowls, lunch boxes and dinner plates.

But what to do Mr Gameau? What to do? Our children are already addicted. So if we don’t coat our broccoli in chocolate sauce and poach our asparagus in sugar syrup, how will our children eat? They will go hungry and die of starvation (mind you, seeing the speed at which Gameau’s stomach bloats in the first few days of his sugar diet, you’d be loath to feed your child half an Uncle Toby’s muesli bar).

Perhaps Hamish and Andy have the answer. Listening to Hamish Blake talking about his son’s first experience with sugar it became clear that perhaps the perfect answer to a sugar-free future is never having it in the first place. Sarah Wilson’s book could be condensed to a pamphlet that says don’t feed babies sugar. Davina McCall’s five week plan to a sugar free diet could be condensed to a five second plan where you never feed your baby sugar. Kids would be none the wiser. For what they don’t know, they won’t miss. But then again you can never tell what sugary treat may be round the corner when a parent turns their back. My first taste of sugar was delivered in the form of a Tiny Teddy from my grandmother.

The balance of sugar for children is at the front of Gameau’s mind for most of the film, as he explores the effects of his diet in the lead up to the birth of his first child. While he looks at the health of some of his contemporaries. He is most concerned with the children of tomorrow. Another such example being the aims of the filmmaker to action change beyond the film in school canteens and the Aboriginal community of Amata, where government cuts have meant children’s sugar-intake has increased.

And what of other crusaders? What of Jamie Oliver’s proposed sugar-tax? He’s implementing it in his own restaurants. But where will that end? Is that the police state going too far? Soon enough we’ll find bags of sugar being treated like cigarette packets that have been branded with gruesome photos of the health consequences. We’ll be walking into the baking aisle of the supermarket to find images of amputated limbs on our baking goods; photographs of damaged livers on our chocolate bars; or pictures of ‘Mountain Dew Mouth’ on our Mountain Dew bottles.

While That Sugar Film states some obvious outcomes of certain diets, it really provides a wake-up call for the fringe-dwellers of obesity. The people (like myself) who get away with over consumption of processed foods due to lucky metabolisms and predisposed genetic makeup. It gets us to think about the damage we can’t see. Fat and skinny might go to war, but if skinny is sharing fat’s lunchbox, they’re both going to end up with messed up insulin levels.

Having watched this film, I’ve consciously made change. Sure I’m not going to cut it out completely. Hell, we’ve already been told gluten, fat, lactose and salt are bad for us. Now sugar as well. I’d be left eating air before too long. So I’m going to eat all those things in moderation.

I’m not going to throw out my tin of strawberry flavoured Nesquik just yet, because that would be wasteful. However, I am slowly eating down my pantry of such tooth-decaying ingredients to try and have a more basic diet. I’ll still eat cakes and the odd treat, because having had that first Tiny Teddy twenty-eight years ago, I am now sugar dependant. But I do plan to cut out more of the processed sugars and move to a diet of foods made from base ingredients.

And if everything becomes too tasteless I can always add more garlic, chillies or ginger to flavour things up. Until we find out that those foods are bad for us too.

Film Review – Testament of Youth

When Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) received a new piano as a gift, she was unimpressed. Very unimpressed.

Her father had just spent a large sum of money on the baby grand piano, when she was wanting him to save that money for her to go to Oxford. Now she would be left to go to some other subpar educational institution.

Oh, that one of my own students shared similar sentiment. The kids I teach would neither long for the piano nor an Oxbridge education. Instead a child told me on Tuesday that they were hoping to convince their parents to purchase a £500 self-balancing scooter. This same child was probably receiving free school meals from the government.

No, I do not teach children such as Vera Brittain. But then I suppose children like Vera are just constructed by Hollywood film studios to trick us into thinking kids care about their education.

Sorry, I have just remembered Vera Brittain was a real person.

Oh, that I could teach in the bygone era when teenagers refused to accept gifts of musical instruments in preference for their education.

But then again, there’d be all the going to war; getting engaged to Jon Snow – sorry Roland Leighton (Kit Harrington); delaying degrees to become a nurse; and general anguish.

No, I feel that I am lucky to have been born in era where we have the peace that pacifists like Vera Brittain fought for.

The peace to watch this masterful depiction of her life and hardships, set against the romantic backdrops and poetic flow.

The peace to reflect upon the strength and tenacity of her character both in reality and on screen in this film.

And the peace to spend time finding the best deal on Amazon for a self-balancing scooter.

It Follows – Film Review

The wonderful thing about It Follows, is the realism for the non-supernatural elements of the film. It is free of the melodramatic over-acting present in many of its predecessors such as I know what you did last summer or Scream.

In fact the opening scenes involving Jay (Maika Monroe) appear to be reminiscent of most independent features about small American towns.

A group of youths, spending their summers together hanging out playing board games, watching movies and swimming in an above-ground pool. The general comradery and jest is present when Jay exits the pool and shakes her wet hair over her sister while her friend lets out a fart. This is all happening while they sit on the couch reading e-books, eating Cheetos and watching Killers from Space.

Then, as with all good horror films, the picture-perfect slice of American pie begins crumbling around the central characters as ‘It’ begins to follow.

I have no intention of spoiling what ‘It’ is; you must see ‘It’ for yourself.

What must briefly be discussed is a sequence that happens during the calm before the storm.

Jay is swimming in her above ground swimming pool. It’s suburban America at its finest. The entire atmosphere is reminiscent of my Australian childhood summers spent playing shark attack games with my cousins in their above ground swimming pool. The difference here is there’s no tomfoolery. Just one lone person floating on her back.

Then all of a sudden you realise she’s being watched. Is it by some evil pervert, a monstrous beast or a masked serial killer? No, it’s a couple of ten year old boys – neither looking like children of the corn, but more like Tom Sayer and Huckleberry Finn.

In this case, it seems Tom and Huck have just discovered girls. But more importantly, I ask, where are their parents?

It Follows 2

Have they not had the birds and bees talk so these two kids hiding in the bushes can realise they’re batting out of their league. This young lady is almost twice their age, and she has a date lined up for the evening. Both those kids should be down the park batting with an actual baseball bat, instead of whatever batting it is they’re trying to do at this moment.

Plus it’s rude to stare. No manners at all.

Poor Jay realises the boys are there and tells them as much. She laughs them off. But she still feels the need to get out of her own swimming pool and head inside, just because these vernal voyeurs couldn’t keep their eye balls to themselves.

Peeping Tom and Huck have proven that objectification of women can start at a young age.

Perhaps I am not unlike these two lads, in that I’ve been watching this film gazing at the female form as she is terrorised by ‘It’ who follows.

While We’re Young – Film Review

Ben Stiller’s character in While We’re Young has been having trouble with his wife Naomi Watts and finds himself on his best mate’s (Adam Horovitz) couch. He’s feeling a bit sheepish about this, having recently shafted his friend (who has a new baby), in preference for hanging out with indie kids Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried.

In a vulnerable moment, unfolding linen for the fold-out couch, Stiller declares to his host that he could have been jealous of his friend having a kid.

His friend responds with the following:

“You know before you have a kid everyone tells you it’s the best thing you’ll ever do. And as soon as you get the baby back from the hospital those same people are like ‘don’t worry it gets better’. Well, like, what the f*** was all that before?”

Indeed.

We are fed this idea from our older relatives, society, friends, Huggies commercials, films, wives and husbands. The idea that birthing a child into our home will be a life-changing experience. One that will wipe away the doubt about our self-worth during our twenties; conceal our worries about ageing in our thirties; or validate us that we weren’t too late in our forties. We always worry that we’re behind the eight ball and all our friends are already married and having kids. We forget people ten years older, even twenty years older are having the same feeling. It happens at different times for different people. Still, there’s this expectation that any concerns we had about our esteem before the baby will be washed clean, because there will be no time left for naval-gazing.

It will be ‘baby-time’ and the only thing that will matter is that little bundle of joy. It will become the soul-focus of our attentions. Nothing else will matter. Everyone will want a piece of baby, and there will no longer be pressure on our own successes or failures, because no one will be looking. They’ll just be drooling and gawking at baby, looking into baby’s big glossy blue eyes.

I’ve not got a baby, so I’m not sure how much of this is true or untrue. My ramblings above are mere conjecture. But I’m sure of one thing, and that’s Ben Stiller’s friend was right having a go at all the people saying ‘it’s the best thing you’ll ever do’. He’s right. That’s what people do.

They pressure you into situations they drowned in. They rose-tint glass everything, as much for their own sake as yours. They’ve blocked from their mind the memories of the twenty hour labor, sleepless nights, aching bodies and projectile vomited milk products. Sure now their life may have changed for the better and have direction, but Stiller’s mate is right. One glance at a urine sodden nappy sagging from your own infant’s crutch and their quite happy to remind you ‘it gets better’, while they inch towards the door to return to their own offspring who are can now hold a conversation and an Xbox controller simultaneously.

And what of the existential level of this trickery and life-altering occasion. Should childbirth being ‘the best thing’ be reason enough for putting a bun in the oven. What about all our own unresolved life dilemmas, misspent youth and broken dreams? Shouldn’t we solve, spend and repair some of these, respectively, before shelving them in the top drawer to make emotional space for a child? How can we push the next generation, to live life to the full, when we still feel incomplete? Or is that the answer? Perhaps it is a chicken before the egg scenario, where we’re destined to have children to complete our puzzle. It certainly makes sense in terms of sustaining the human race.

The film doesn’t answer these questions, but we certainly see Watts and Stiller grappling with their childfree lifestyle to find completion in other spaces and places. The situations unfolding in the film, certainly suggest there are times in our lives when a child would probably be better left out of the picture.

As a close friend once told me, “I can barely look after myself, how could I look after a child?”

I didn’t understand at the time, his fear of placing all his own insecurities on another human being. But having taught children now, I can see that there are certainly some states of mind that are more beneficial to the healthy development of a small person. And, I would suggest, some people would be better spent being more cautious like my friend.

Yet I’m also an old romantic (when I’m not being a cynic) and still believe, perhaps ignorantly, there is an innate and instinctual part of our human condition that is maternal or paternal. And so whether or not we are glad to have children or are glad to not have children, it will be the urge towards parenthood that leads us to these decisions. If it wasn’t there, we’d not make a decision either way.

While We’re Young explores all these dilemmas deftly. It follows the complexities of parenting and being childless, from both sides of the fence. It at times treats both states as self-satisfying, while at others points both out to be selfless. It’s a trundle through the lives of baby boomers, generation x and generation y. Each generation self-reflecting their obsessions through different mediums of traditional documentary, social media and then viral video. The older generations turning their nose up at the new; a ‘documentarian’ is more credible than a ‘YouTuber’. But then again maybe not. But then again probably yes. The subplot becomes the main plot. Was this film about babies and youth? Or was it about narcissism and self-worth? I’m confused. You’re confused reading this.

The film appears a jumble of ideas at times, trying to intertwine all these things, raising as many questions as it answers. But all the while we see ourselves in it. These are the decisions we can’t make and the paths we can’t take without consequence While We’re Young.

 

 

 

The Falling – Film Review

Set in an all-girls school in the late 1960s, The Falling is a teacher’s worst nightmare.

In short one of the girls Abbie (Florence Pugh) becomes pregnant; then as if that’s not bad enough she dies before giving birth; and then if both those things aren’t bad enough the majority of the student population begin having fainting spells.

The wondrous element of this film is guessing whether the fainting spells are being caused by a higher magical power that may have killed Abbie, or whether it is a case of mass hysteria. Conversely, there may have been a gas leak in the main cafeteria.

It’s hard enough managing a class of thirty students at the best of times. But when the mob-mentality starts and students beginning mimicking the ‘class fool’, it becomes very difficult to contain. The closest I’ve come to mass hysteria is when a child asks to go to the toilet and then ten other children also want to go. You suspect they’re just avoiding their work and causing trouble, but you can’t take the risk of having twenty or so ten-year-olds sympathetically pooping their pants because you were sceptical it was a run-of-the-mill case of mass hysteria.

Likewise stern-faced head teacher Miss Alvaro (Monica Dollan) is loath to admit there may be something wrong with schoolgirl Lydia (Maisie Williams) and her entourage of fainting peers. But she’s already got one corpse on her hands and can’t risk having a procession of neatly dressed private school girls being wheeled through the doors of the town morgue for inspection. Instead she does the sensible thing, involving the medical experts and … the rest you’ll have to watch for yourself, as I’ve already said too much.

And while mass hysteria in school children may draw the ire of suspicious people, like myself and the fictional Miss Alvaro, real-life occurrences caused by real-life traumas have unravelled as recently as October 2011, when an outbreak of symptoms, similar to Tourette’s Syndrome, appeared in a number of teenage girls in the town of LeRoy, New York.

Again there were those who thought it was a bunch of attention-seeking teenagers making a secret pact to outwit adults, while others were seriously concerned for the girls’ well-being and had them sectioned off so a remedy could be found. The unfolding of events are documented in the television documentary The Town That Caught Tourrette’s.

So while I won’t be showing The Falling or any other footage concerning mass hysteria to my students, for fear of a revolution; I highly recommend the adult population begin making their way en masse to their DVD player or VOD service to watch an amazing film showing the vulnerabilities and pressures of youth. Just don’t pass out halfway through, or you’ll miss the good bits – Is it really mass hysteria or is it something more sinister?

 

White Bird in a Blizzard – Film Review

While Shaleine Woodley’s soppy performance in Fault in Our Stars made me want to cry; she redeems herself in this twisted coming-of-age piece from Gregg Araki who brought us Kaboom an equally psychedelic and warped slice of cinema, amongst others.

Where White Bird in a Blizzard begins in conventional teenage angst and melodramatic statements and flashbacks, it soon begins revealing layers of darker sub-matter. This is why this film allows Woodley to transcend her performance in the afore mentioned teen-blockbuster.

Kat Connors (Woodley) begins by reflecting on the absence of her mother (the wondrous Eva Green). The playing out of this relationship through flashback, shows her mother to be a suppressed and depressed Stepford-wife-like character. She spends her days going through the motions; seething at the lack of affection shown by her husband; and raging jealously at the attention Kat gains from her pretty young looks.

It’s a messed up world we’re shown. But it appears to be realistic. The narcissism of Kat in concerning herself merely with her own romantic pursuits, show all the usual trademarks of self-absorption that is the emotional sponge of being a teenager. In constant need of validation from her peers, lovers and parents, we see her stumbling aimlessly through her adolescence into adulthood. Overarching these wanderings is the mysterious disappearance of her mother and the relationship she develops with the detective on the case (Thomas Jane).

Most of all Kat lacks strong adults. This is clear from the outset when she finds her mother fully dressed up in an evening dress lying on her daughter’s bed at 5pm in the afternoon. Children look to adults to model behaviour, show an example and provide a yardstick. We struggle to deal with situations when confronted with the humanity of our parents or adult figures. Likewise Kat’s father (Christopher Meloni) provides limited support (despite trying) when she is looking for answers. But then, maybe that’s what all adults are doing – looking for answers.

Kat’s quest for solving the disappearance of her mother, while also finding her place among the human race, is played out beautifully by Woodley. She is savvy and naïve simultaneously. This is not a normal coming-of-age movie and must be watched to the end for the startling twist in the final act.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya – Film Review

Princess Kaguya is found by a bamboo cutter inside the stem of bamboo plant. Assuming it’s a gift from the heavens, he and his wife take the child on as their own. They then plan to organise a wetnurse, which seems like drawing a long bow sing the child magically appeared inside a tree and may not even be human. Walking across a log bridge in the forest, the old man’s wife suddenly pauses and miraculously any vestiges of her post-menopausal state seem to vanish as she removes her own breast from her blouse and begins feeding the baby.

Now you don’t get that kind of behaviour in a Disney film! (A young boy also gets punched multiple times in the face later in the film, just for stealing a chicken.)

Then again, this is a Studio Ghibli film directed by Isao Takahata who brought us perhaps one of the most harrowing animated features ever with Grave of the Fireflies – a film following two children in the nuclear fallout of the bombs dropped in Hiroshima during WWII. So, subtlety and quirky woodland creatures is not the order of the day for The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

Whether Kaguya is indeed a princess, is something that is debated constantly throughout the film, through the conviction of the bamboo cutter and his wife, against the sceptics who come to question how a child born in a bamboo shoot could possess regal blood. Nevertheless Kaguya does everything within her means to enchant potential suitors with her koto playing, while presenting her less attractive side for those she does not wish to be pursued by.

She is certainly an industrious and creative bamboo child. She would be a blessing to have as a daughter. She is polite, well-humoured and pretty. But she is an independent modern bamboo child. A rebel even. So for her woodcutter parents, who want nothing more than for her to be married, she looks destined to live a single life tormenting those who desire her affection.

Takahata has cleverly captured the complexities of a rebel who still suffers from her own insecurities about her appearance, while displaying a confident veneer. Kaguya’s desire to remain independent is juxtaposed against her quest to find a place where she fits in. The child, born of a bamboo tree to barren parents in a traditional patriarchal society of Japanese villagers; she is certainly an accurate representation of young adults.

Perhaps if bamboo sticks were involved more in childrearing, the world would be a better place. (Bamboo sticks used for birthing royal babies; i.e. not for beatings.)

Jurassic World – Film Review

The two main child protagonists of Jurassic World feel as though they are torn straight from the screenplay of an early 90’s family film. Subjected to the whims of their work obsessed divorcing parents, they are suffering from emotional neglect. But as an audience, we are not here to see pre-pubescent angst surrounding divorce, otherwise we’d have rented a copy of Mrs Doubtfire or Miracle on 34th Street. Surely this is the new millennium and we’re here to watch blended families, accepting them for who they are.

Additionally, we came here for dinosaurs.

Certainly Jurassic World delivers an array of prehistoric bipedal creatures creating carnage across the island jungle. One only wishes that they would tear the heads of the whiney wannabees from their shoulders. The two boys have the chance of a lifetime to experience firsthand the wonders of the Jurassic Age, and all they do is moan the whole time that their CEO aunt (charged with running the Jurassic World theme park) isn’t spending enough time with them. And if they’re not letting off steam about their absent aunty, they’re flapping on about how herds of velociraptor are about to rip them limb from limb.

For goodness sake, the velociraptors have bigger things to worry about, such as being hunted down by the Indominus Rex. In regards to their aunt’s perpetual workload, I don’t know what they expected. She is charged with the world’s largest and most ambitious fictional theme park, and she hadn’t taken any annual leave to spend time with the boys. So, it is no wonder her plate’s too full to spend quality bonding time with her nephews. She barely has time to leave herself emotionally vulnerable enough to become Chris Pratt’s damsel in distress.

In a separate act of glaring plot flaws, the most ridiculous incident involving these youths occurs when the children stumble upon the abandoned atrium of the original Jurassic Park. Discovering an old rusty jeep, from the original park, they claim to know how to hotwire it because their grandfather had a 1992 model, and had shown them how the engine worked, before he sold it.

Now, if the car was from 1992, why couldn’t the car have belonged to their parents; instead of their grandparents? 1992 is only 23 years ago. Their parents could easily have purchased the car within the lifetime of the children. There is no need for the filmmakers to make anyone over the age of 27 feel like a fossil, just because we remember the release of the original Jurassic Park in 1993. Most people who were teenagers at the time of the first film, would barely have had time to have given birth to a child, let alone have two pre-teen bumbling fools such as the two in this movie.

Maybe it’s just that dinosaurs lived more than 60 million years ago, as to why 1994 feels relatively recent; or perhaps it has been a while since the first film was released and I’m older than I feel. Either way the state of the atrium where the jeep was found, was not reflective of the period for which it had been abandoned. And on a completely different point, I don’t think grandparents should be encouraging or educating their grandchildren on how to hotwire cars. It will only lead to theft.

Finally, in a world where lessons are rarely learnt (i.e. this is the fourth time some idiot has thought it would be safe to interact with genetically cloned/modified dinosaurs on an island), one lesson is made clear: if you spend too much time fighting with your ex-husband and working too hard to pay attention to your children, eventually everything will end in a blood soaked nightmare involving a Tyrannosaurus Rex and the deaths of numerous characters who are inconsequential to the plot.

The Boy Next Door – Film Review

That moment when you walk into your classroom and find revenge porn pegged up on the display strings. Oh, to walk a day in Jennifer Lopez’s stiletto heeled shoes.

She must have forgot to look at the script the day she signed on to play a middle aged high school literature teacher. Plus she has a teenage son in this film. When did JLo become old enough to have teenage children? I want my Made in Manhattan JLo back.

What The Boy Next Door lacks in logic, it makes up for in stupidity. There is never really a strong explanation given for boy next door Noah’s (Ryan Guzman) psychopathic stalker tendencies. Although I suppose an element of psychopathy is not having an explanation for your actions.

At face value Noah seems like a moral upstanding young chap, looking after his cancer-ridden uncle; taking JLo’s loser son Kevin (Ian Nelson) under his wing; and making clever references to Homer’s The Odyssey. But this is not good enough reason to sleep with a minor when you’re rebounding from your husband cheating on you. Likewise if you’re going to have an affair with an underage neighbour, make sure you’ve checked inside your antique clocks for hidden cameras that might be recording an incriminating sex tape.

Jennifer Lopez did not heed these sensible precautions and hence when she enters her classroom one fateful morning she finds a series of printed screenshots from the video, hanging from the roof of her classroom. Hanging from the strings where children’s artwork or short stories should be.

Lucky for her she enters the classroom before the students. In this regard the film has accurately portrayed sensible classroom management techniques. A teacher should always enter the room first to establish a position of authority within the room – plus they usually have the keys. In a further stroke of luck, she does not swing the door fully open, thus providing her with the opportunity to say “Give me one second”, shut the door discreetly and dash into the classroom to begin gasping and dramatically tearing down the black and white images, of her extra-marital relations, from the ceiling.

Of course there is a lot of paper to dispose of; and as most teachers know, students get restless if you leave them waiting even long enough for you to write the date on the whiteboard. It’s not long before they’ve called the school principal who begins banging on the door yelling “Mrs Peterson! Mrs Peterson, open this door”. Add to the stress the fact the laser jet printer is still pumping out further copies of the incriminating photo, all over the 1980s brown linoleum tiles.

In the time it takes the principal to find his own set of keys and unlock the door, JLo manages to clear in excess of two hundred A4 sheets of paper, which have been strewn across the room, and place them in the recycling bin. Here lies a rather large teaching faux pas, in that the recycling bin is never the most secure place. I’ve had students rifle through the bin before looking for pieces of work I may have thrown away; confiscated chewing gum I’ve placed in the bin; or torn pages of diaries other students have carelessly left behind. So it seems unwise to leave such a major quantity of photocopies depicting sex with a minor, in a disposal bin without even the simplest padlock.

Nevertheless, rationality, intelligence and common sense are not themes of this film.

Finally the students enter the class, and JLo is given a mild reprimand about punctuality from the principal.

This is merely one example of the many high-octane thrills this film has to offer. So for those of you who enjoy sitting on the edge of your seat watching stationery related psycho-suspense dramas, get yourself a copy of The Boy Next Door. For the rest of you, take a quiet moment to ponder what literary classics JLo would read if she actually was a teacher of classic literature.