Reviews & More: The Unexpected

Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams in “Get Out”

I knew pretty much nothing about “Get Out” before I saw it, except that Jordan Peele, a gifted satirical comedian and actor, had written and directed it, that it had opened to huge box office receipts and that there was something about introducing the boyfriend or girlfriend to parents who might not approve due to race. Period. And so, I sat in the darkened theater, basically expecting a comedy with some sharp and insightful jabs about being black in America and prepared to be entertained. I was. I recommend you see this film; I highly recommend it. However, if you do plan to go, read no further, but skip down to the next two items I cover today.

Okay? They’ve all left now? Then here’s how wrong I was in my expectations. The first third or so of “Get Out” is entertaining but vaguely disturbing — and, yes, funny to some extent. Black boyfriend Chris (an excellent Daniel Kaluuya) and white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams, so very good) go home to meet her parents. He is warned not to do this by his best friend, Rod (LilRel Howery, the best comic relief — and, boy, do we need it — I’ve seen in a long time), but he goes anyway. All seems fine, with Chris letting casually racist comments slide off his back while Rose becomes angry on his behalf. And then…

Nope, not going to ruin the movie. Suffice it to say there is creeping unease, heart-stopping tension, people who are not as they seem to be and a finale that is violent but which will knock your socks off. Kudos to Peele and his amazing cast, including pitch-perfect performances by Bradley Whitford and Katherine Keaner as Rose’s parents. Go. Now.

I knew almost nothing about the life lived by modern Bedouins until I read a wonderful mystery trilogy last year by Zoe Ferraris, which began with “Finding Nouf.” The books allowed me, an American unfamiliar (and somewhat uncomfortable) with what I knew about Middle East culture, a glimpse into the strict rules of a patriarchal society that is not kind to women if they want to stray from the norm. My education was furthered this week by watching “Sand Storm” (streaming on Netflix), a 2016 film about one such family, enacted by brilliant Middle Eastern actors, in Arabic with subtitles. The father takes a new bride, the mother is embittered, one of the four daughters wants her freedom to become educated and to love a boy from another tribe. The repercussions to a loving family are many and often heartbreaking. None of the characters is evil, they are simply part of a traditional whole and each is assigned his or her role. Fine acting, gorgeous camerawork — I recommend it, especially if you like your worldview expanded.

“The Kettering Incident,” an Australian import, is an eight-part series available on Amazon Prime. It’s a mystery/thriller with a touch of the paranormal, although how that element plays out, I don’t yet know (I’ve seen three of the eight). Dr. Anna Macy, a hematologist practicing in London, suffers from fugue states, where she wakes up in unfamiliar places with no memory of how she got there. When Anna returns home to Tasmania, she is not warmly welcomed: 15 years earlier, when she and her best friend were riding their bikes along a country road, sudden blinding lights and loud noises erupted from the dark forest to their left. Anna stayed back, the best friend investigated and was never heard from again. 

I’m hooked, but I don’t know if the suspense can be sustained. We’ll see.