Sunday 25 February 2018

Film Review: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

[Spoiler alert: I think my review will give away the ending to anyone who has not yet seen the film.]

Wikipedia page.

The SIGNIS review of this film can be found on this page (you will need to scroll down to near the bottom of the page): SIGNIS Film reviews - January 2018.

I certainly concur with that review in saying that it is a very interesting film, though I am not sure about its use of the word "entertaining". There are several points where others in the cinema laughed - usually where some violent wrongdoing was being blatantly denied - most of which I failed to find in the least bit funny. To identify this film in any way as a comedy is, I think, to miss its point altogether. Take out the reference to having your funny bone repeatedly knocked, and the review at the Guardian captures something of the seriousness of the film.

The Guardian review is also correct to recognise the extent of the violence portrayed in the film, just as the SIGNIS review identifies the extent of the use of expletives (and the expletives used are not the polite ones). As the early parts of the film unfold one gains a sense of violence, both physical and in language, growing and feeding upon the violence that has preceded it. As the Guardian review suggests, one is led to wonder whose violence is really at the centre of the film; and, likewise, whose character is at the centre of the film. Is it the Chief of Police Willoughby, the police officer Dixon or Mildred Hayes?

But there is a point at which the plot of the film reaches a turning point. This is when two key protagonists (Dixon and Mildred), in different ways, have the hatred that is eating up their characters pointed out to them. These scenes are particularly moving, and beautifully shot. And the later parts of the film show how these characters gradually overcome their hatred. The stillness of the cinema audience at this point in the film was quite marked.

In the very last scenes, however, we are left with the possibility that they have not after all finally overcome their hatred, as they set off to track down and kill a culprit. When Mildred asks Dixon "Are you sure about this?", the tension as you wait for his reply - "No. How about you?" - is quite tangible. The characters leave us having agreed to sort it out on the way.

So in the end, the violence born of hatred that is portrayed in the film - and is not completely absent even in its later stages - is redeemed in the portrayal of hatred overcome by precisely the characters who have most clearly manifested their hatred. Seen in this perspective, the film is quite stunning. One can also appreciate in this perspective that the hatred being overcome is not just a hatred directed towards others, but a hatred that has a dimension directed towards one's own behaviour as well.

But the speed at which most of the cinema audience left when the credits started to run made me think that very few of them appreciated this perspective at all ....

It isn't for the faint hearted, but I do think this is a film to see.

Saturday 17 February 2018

The question that is not being asked about the Tom Daley baby news

"Tom and Dustin are thrilled to share that they are expecting their first child in 2018".
No mention of the mother who is expecting to give birth to the child. One might expect, just as a matter of honesty in language, that coverage would report that a mother is expecting a child conceived on behalf of the all male couple.
Agree or disagree, it should be noted that our society accepts without question a world in which women can be used to give birth.... having been airbrushed out of the equation for the sake of promoting in the media a couple whose marriage was described by Daley only in December as "far from perfect".
Daley and Black are not the first high profile couple to do this.... 
But questions should be raised about babies becoming commodities, the result of transactions. 
Do read the full comment at Christian Today.

I have not followed it fully, but The Archers has a story line about a lady acting as a surrogate for a same sex couple. It will be interesting to see how far this story line explores the issues surrounding surrogacy.

Thursday 8 February 2018

“Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24:12)

Pope Francis' Message for Lent 2018: full text here. It is worth reading the whole. It is hard hitting, not only for those who advocate for the "culture of death" outside the confines of the Church, but for those of us within the Church too.

Like Abbey Roads, I think the message reads as being very prophetic  - and I was particularly struck by the way in which Pope Francis refers to creation itself as a witness to the "cooling of charity":
More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, “the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10).  The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; we prefer our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments.  All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own “certainties”: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations.
Creation itself becomes a silent witness to this cooling of charity.  The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest.  The seas, themselves polluted, engulf the remains of countless shipwrecked victims of forced migration.  The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing his praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death.
Pope Francis' remarks about fasting are particularly strong:
Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth.  On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure.  On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God.  Fasting wakes us up.  It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour.  It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.
And, too, his invitation to those who are not Catholics to share with us the venture of the Lenten fast:
I would also like my invitation to extend beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church, and to reach all of you, men and women of good will, who are open to hearing God’s voice.  Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family.  Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need! 
In a year in which the Catholic Church in England and Wales is holding a national Eucharistic Congress, we might pay particular attention the "24 hours for the Lord":
One such moment of grace will be, again this year, the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which invites the entire Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration. In 2018, inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, “With you is forgiveness”, this will take place from Friday, 9 March to Saturday, 10 March.  In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession 

Friday 2 February 2018

Decrees of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints

I was delighted to hear that the Trappist monks of the monastery at Tibhirine have been recognised as martyrs - a step that makes possible their beatification. They are among the "18 companions" of Bishop Claverie.

Also a great delight: the recognition of the heroic virtues of Madeleine Delbrel, included in the same announcement from the Holy See but which only came to my attention today.

Text of notice at the Holy See website.