[Review] Hidden Mysteries: Titanic – Secrets of the Fateful Voyage (Nintendo DS)

As mentioned in last week’s post, this Spring I got onto a real Titanic kick. This inspired me to find some Titanic-themed games, including looking at my own collection of games. I happened to find Hidden Mysteries: Titanic – Secrets of the Fateful Voyage for the Nintendo DS some time back and decided it was time to dust it off and give it a go.

I have played a game from the Hidden Mysteries series before – Hidden Mysteries: Buckingham Palace was a decent hidden object standard for the PC, and I seem to remember there not being that much wrong with it. How far removed this game is… Hidden Object: Titanic was originally released on the PC, and ported onto the Nintendo DS. Let me tell you, this port ain’t good.

The game tells the story of Margaret Ashley and her adventure traveling on the Titanic to America. Ashley is a newlywed who boards the ship with her husband, Robert, an egomaniac who is newly wealthy and has some serious concerns around image. Margaret’s mom, Mrs. Brown, was against the union from the start, and is hell-bent on stopping her daughter from leaving England, going so far as to stop her at the boarding gate! After some convincing, Margaret manages to go aboard with her mother satisfied she will see her daughter again. But, not before Margaret and Robert soon discover someone pick-pocketed one of their tickets. Because Robert is no gentleman and needs to board immediately to have a bath and a highball (seriously!), Margaret is left to search the ship for the culprit and ends up shaking down the ship’s ragamuffin, George, a young boy suspected of the theft. She also encounters Mr. Tavalouris, the Titanic’s Shipwright who created a secret hidey hole within the ship where he is living. His sanctum’s entrance just happens to conveniently portal into Margaret’s stateroom (how convenient). Thanks to meeting Tavalouris and George, and having to put up with her selfish husband, Margaret is put on mission after aimless mission, fixing plumbing, running errands and trying to now please all the men on this ship. The story follows the real story line of the Titanic (hits an iceberg, not enough lifeboats…), but seriously veers off-course somewhere around the point Margaret finds a sarcophagus in the cargo hold that is supposedly cursed. Yeah, it’s all random, dumb and unnecessary.

Margaret meets and talks with a handful of people in the game; dialogue choices are given that are supposed to impact the outcome of the story. This impact might have been what happens in the PC version of the game, because I can tell you, it didn’t matter what dialogue you chose, there was little to no consequence when I played the DS version. One example happened when Margaret and her mother were talking before boarding the ship. Margaret had a choice to tell her mother she never wanted to see her again, or tell her she would return to England for Christmas. I played through this part twice (because the game crashed on me…), both times choosing opposing dialogue. The outcome for both was, “I’ll see you at Christmas.” At this point I am concluding the DS version is a very lazy port from PC.

Other port problems persisted with Hidden Mysteries: Titanic, such as vague or confusing puzzle instructions, and often you were left wandering around trying to figure out what you had to do next. The menu system provided a “hint” button that was broken, and not that this was necessarily the game’s fault, but walkthroughs for this game online are scant. There are PC walkthroughs, but following them can be a bit confusing as the DS version is missing several puzzles from the PC version.

Probably the best part about this game was how it looked. The graphics are pretty decent overall, but unfortunately this is counteracted with a crappy menu system, boring story-telling and shoddy game mechanics.

Maybe the PC version of Hidden Mysteries: Titanic is better?

1.5/5

Hidden Mysteries: Titanic – Secrets of the Fateful Voyage (DS)
Gunnar Games
2009

[Review] Titanic: Adventure Out of Time (1996) (PC)

I don’t know what it is about Easter that inspires bingeing on everything of a similar theme. Last year, Spring 2016, I watched most of the Kurt Cobain themed films and documentaries…This past Spring, I found myself on a massive Titanic binge. I suppose the mood struck ever since I rewatched the 1997 James Cameron Titanic movie in March.

As a gamer, it’s easy to wonder if this epic sinking ship ever was the subject of a video game. Well, my search hit the jackpot, and I apologize in advance, gentle reader, as I have played a few of them now, and will be writing about them in future posts…

It was one of my most intriguing search results that carried me down a techie rabbit hole, so to speak. Among the Android hidden object games and Nintendo DS cartridges, I discovered an old-school Titanic-themed point-and-click adventure game from 1996 called Titanic: Adventure Out of Time that exists and is available for free…I said, FREE, yo! Heck yeah! I’ll give free a try! But, judging from its age, I knew the possibility existed there’d be some compatibility issues with my Windows 10 machine. Not to fear, many people managed to get the game playing, so I decided to give it a try.

The first step was to install something called DOSBox in order to run Titanic: Adventure Out of Time. DOSBox, in the simplest of terms, is a program that emulates old-timey PC games. At first I thought I’d be having to code my way through DOSBox’s installation. Thankfully, it wound up being less arduous than that – thorough instructions exist all over the place, and I have little fear navigating the guts of my computer, so I managed to install and get the game running. I giggled with glee when I first started the program, and the Windows 3.1 window popped up. Just then my husband walked in and said, “You’re running DOSBox? What?! You installed DOSBox to PLAY A GAME?? Wow, that’s hardcore!” Uh, thanks! {Psst, it wasn’t that difficult…}

Titanic: Adventure Out of Time sees you as Frank, an old British spy who failed a mission on the original RMS Titanic in April 1912, and who, having escaped its tragedy, is now living in London in 1942. A bomb hits his apartment and knocks him out, propelling him back in time to 1912, on-board the Titanic, on the fateful night it hit an iceberg. This is where you as Frank can “right some wrongs” by completing tasks assigned by your Superior, Agent Penny Pringle. Some of the missions involve speaking with suspicious passengers and retrieving items which would prevent the two World Wars and the Russian Revolution from ever starting. You are to complete your missions before the Titanic sinks, which, if accomplished, ensure a happy ending of waking up from your knockout, at home, and living in peace. There are different endings too, depending on what missions you completed before the ship sinks. A number of side-missions are available that you can complete that really have no bearing on the game’s outcome, but can allow for a full-bodied experience.

The mapping system

What puts this game above a lot of other games during this time period is the graphics. The developers were seeking an authentic Titanic experience, and a lot of care was put into ensuring a complete computer-generated replica of the mighty ship was created. Let me tell you: the graphics are incredible. The gamer is permitted and encouraged to tour the majority of the ship. Every inch, including statues, was represented. Maps are provided of the ship to allow you to port to different areas of the ship without having to walk through the entirety of the ship to figure it out yourself, and you are also welcome to ask around to key ship personnel where certain areas are if you get lost.

Smethells and Penny Pringle: You raannng?

When you first “wake up” from your unconsciousness, you will find yourself on the ship in your sleeping quarters. Your personal assistant, Smethells, is at the ready to instruct you on your first task of the evening. Immediately, you will be introduced to this game’s character animation, which is unexpected. Essentially, the animation consists of multiple photographs of real actors mouthing the dialogue, which has then been strung together in a sort of stop-motion animation. It was quite intricate, and I could imagine by its quality, that it would have taken forever to create! Depending on the character you encounter, you are given dialogue choices which can affect the outcome of your interactions with that character, so you must choose wisely.

Third Officer Morrow

One example where this plays out is when you must gain entry to the ship’s deck so you can access the wireless room and bridge. These areas are heavily guarded by Third Officer Morrow who will tell you to get lost unless you choose the right dialogue and help him out with a tiny side-mission. You’ll figure it out quickly as you cannot move ahead with the game without accessing these areas. The majority of the game is not timed, so you are not rushed through, until a completed key mission triggers the ship to crash into the iceberg, and start the clock. You are then beating the clock to find your way to a lifeboat so you can make your escape.

Hit an iceberg, and the ship floods…

When I started playing this game, I realized quickly that this Titanic game, for the most part, is not obviously linear. I could start a mission and then start another mission as I went. As it can be the case when you don’t follow a walkthrough, I wound up having an abundance of tasks to do ALL AT ONCE, completing tasks out-of-order. I started to write stuff down in a notebook, otherwise, I think I would have been completely lost! And not to fear, this game did not penalize you for starting something out-of-order like some games can. The developers obviously thought that this was a possibility. I mean, if you are welcome to tour the entire Titanic, then certainly you are bound to run into tasks to complete out of sequence.

You can use the fists in the forefront to punch this guy out. Interesting game dynamic

If I were to give any critique to Titanic, I’d say the missions were aplenty with: Talk to this person…Talk to that person…Get this and bring it to that person…Talk again to the person. It got a bit confusing at times, keeping all the dialogues and missions straight. Sometimes the activities did surprised me though, for example, I got to play blackjack, spar in a game of fencing, and punch a guy out – good times! But, no doubt, this game is very dialogue heavy, with at least 21 characters and their stories to keep track of. Get your pen and paper ready; you’re gonna need it!

As great as the graphics were in Titanic, there was still a sense of foreboding, aided by a somewhat creepy soundtrack that looped over and over. Further, not every person you see on-screen is an active character that you are meant to have a conversation with. Those “characters” are basically background and stand about static, but turn to face you, say nothing, and turn back around when you click on them. That was a little unsettling, but I think that sense of dread was the point. You are on the Titanic, and it’s only a matter of time before you have to get off the ship!

Overall, I enjoyed Titanic: Adventure Out of Time very much, and am glad I put the effort into installing DOSBox to play it. If you are comfortable with installing emulators, then this one might just be up your alley. It was quite a unique experience I won’t soon forget.

Gameplay 3/5
Graphics 5/5

Titanic: Adventure Out of Time
Cyberflix
1996

[Film] Wonder Woman (2017) #100WordChallenge

Me: “Please don’t suck…please don’t suck!”

Wonder Woman didn’t.

Me: “Please, don’t hypersexualize the women by putting them in skimpy outfits!”

Wonder Woman didn’t.

Sad that as a woman, I think this way, and went in half expecting it. But, I can’t help myself. It’s the world we live in.

Wonder Woman repped women awesomely, showing them strong, kicking ass in battle, and fighting the enemy. I think there will be a ton of WW costumes come Hallowe’en 2017…

Wonder Woman was such a f*cking great film, every girl, boy, woman, man, trans, non-binary individual should see this. Go.

The end.

[For the Love of ‘Fee] (PART 2) If a Percolator Dies in a Kitchen, Does Sarca Make a Sound?

…Not only does she make a sound, Sarca’s whole family makes a sound!

If you’ve been reading this blog and remember the last time my percolator died (Sept. 2014), you’ll understand the struggles I faced finding a replacement.

Its successor was a Hamilton Beach electronic percolator. My household used it lovingly until last Sunday when it stopped drawing power after it brewed a pot, and it never came back. I have to say it was on borrowed time, as it would periodically lose power mid brew, and then repeatedly try to percolate about 3 times before it was satisfied the coffee was hot enough. It’s been doing that behavior for a better part of a year.

Why not just replace it with any old coffee maker? Because, I’m stubborn, and enjoy a perked cup. And honestly, as I have previously opined on the subject, there aren’t much in the way of choices here in Ontario for electronic percolators. My research shows, not much has changed since 2014: people still love their Kuerigs, Starbucks and Timmy Ho-Hos. Few seem to brew at home any more, and percolating is obviously a dead technology, relegated to manual campfire percolators and catering coffee urns. I got the memo, people, loud and clear! No more perc!

But, I still buck that hive-mind mentality. I am forever on the lookout for a decent percolator, even when my perc is working. On Amazon and coffee fan sites, I read reviews like they are the Bible on Sunday. I’ve even taken to Value Village to see if I can find another gently used percolator; my first electronic perc being a Proctor-Silex from VV that introduced me to this way of electronic brewing in the first place.

Last winter, I found a DeLonghi percolator that didn’t look like it had ever been used. This model came with an adjustable setting, giving you the ability to perc a light or dark brew! SCORE! I kept it in storage for situations like this week when my Hamilton Beach would bite the big one. I took it out of the cupboard, and got it running. And welllll…..

I can see why the DeLonghi was barely used, and given away to Value Village…franky, it brews a TERRIBLE cup of coffee. I took this week to try to work out the bugs that come with having a new perc – finding the right grind, using the right amount of grounds, etc. But, unfortunately, after trying for five days to get a decent cuppa out of it, it didn’t work out. There was no aroma…there was no taste…the coffee was practically hot water, even after adjusting the settings to perc a dark brew! The hubs didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. And now my visiting in-laws didn’t like it! Time to fix this – FAST!

The solution is, of course, to buy another percolator. But which? Because of a lack of percolator popularity, there are STILL only TWO main electronic percs on the market that are readily available around here at stores accessible to me: Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach. You look online, and the top two 5-starred percs happen to be from Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach (and no surprise why…those are the only ones being made right now! Of course they are highly revered!)

From past experience, I concluded the Cuisinart percolator isn’t great; a little less than a year and it was giving us problems. At least we had more longevity with Hamilton Beach! The hubs encouraged me (out of practicality or caffeine withdrawal) to stop the search, and just buy the next option…the low-hanging fruit…the Hamilton Beach.

What? Buy another one?

Yup, I went to my local Walmart Friday night and bought another Hamilton Beach percolator. There isn’t much choice out there, and for what it’s worth, for all the whining I have done on how cheaply they manufacture these things, the Hamilton Beach percolator does make a good home perked coffee. Who knows, maybe I’ll get another 2.5 years out of this one too. Fingers crossed. I think in terms of coffee makers, this is number 7 in 20 years. Obsolescence is alive and well!

Enjoy your ‘fee today! I know finally I am!

[TV Movie] Dirty Dancing (2017)

Why would a television network ever try to tackle a remake of one of the most beloved movies from the 80s, Dirty Dancing? It’s a question I asked myself last week, and practically discarded, until curiosity got the better of me.

In case you’re not familiar with the movie, the premise of Dirty Dancing is a coming of age story seen through the eyes of Frances “Baby” Houseman, who in the summer of 1963, spends a three-week vacation with her family at Kellerman’s Mountain Lodge, a five-star resort in the Catskills in New York State. Baby is a smart, wholesome girl with plans to go into the Peace Corps out of college. She always does right by her parents and always follows the rules. A secret crush on one of the male dancers at the resort prompted Baby to curiously sneak past the “restricted to staff only” signs one evening. There, she runs into a friendly staff member who needs help carrying watermelons into the staff quarters. She then enters into one of the secret and frequent after-hours parties the working-class employees at Kellerman’s throw to blow off steam. The music is loud, the room is smokey, and the dancing is dirty! It is here that Baby meets the object of her crush, Johnny, and along with his dance partner Penny, a different world opened up to Baby from her sheltered upbringing. Johnny taught her how to dance and soon the two became inseparable…much to Baby’s father’s chagrin, who disapproves of Johnny’s sketchy pedigree… but don’t worry, folks, cue the Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, and there you have your happy ending…Baby had the time of her life…she arrives a girl, but leaves a woman.

The original Dirty Dancing is one of the core movies from my childhood. I saw the film in the movie theatre in August 1987, and later was able to re-watch a taped version off of VHS (and since have bought the DVD and Blu-ray). It was one of those films that was on a constant loop at our house, and I never got tired of it. There was something magical about it. The pairing of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, their dancing, and the love affair that the two emoted on screen was nuclear. Here was a girl who had a crush on someone and was able to actually attract the object of her affections, fall in love with them and live happily ever after; a dream come true for any teenage girl. Not to mention, the dancing and music were a perfect pairing. For a girl on the verge of teenhood, Dirty Dancing was a film that will forever resonate.

While watching the 2017 version of Dirty Dancing, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to the original. I found myself swearing, cringing, guffawing and shaking my head in disbelief. As a matter of fact, the first raw critical thought I wrote down after watching it was:

“This did everything wrong.”

As I was trying to formulate this review, everything came up negative with me – EVERYTHING. I realized after my third attempt to write this blogpost that objectivity would be difficult here; I was too much in love with the original! So I did something I don’t normally do: I re-watched Dirty Dancing 2017 and tried to find some good in this film.

The 2017 version of Dirty Dancing stars Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) as Baby, Colt Prattes (dancer in Broadway productions) as Johnny, Sarah Hyland (Modern Family) as Baby’s older sister Lisa, and Nicole Scherzinger (Pussycat Dolls) as Penny. We also see Debra Messing and Bruce Greenwood in a surprise pairing as Baby’s parents. Other recognizable actors were here too – Tony Roberts, Billy Dee Williams and Katey Sagal also make an appearance. This reboot follows the same plot from the original 1987 version, pretty much scene for scene, including soundtrack. Certain key characters’ plots, though, have been expanded upon here where they were glazed over in the original, particularly Baby’s parents and their marital troubles, as well as Lisa’s attraction to an entertainer.

The one major difference with Dirty Dancing 2017 is that practically every scene has the actors singing and dancing, using this as a plot device to move the film along, unlike the 1987 original. Every character here was made to sing: Johnny, Penny, Baby, her parents…everyone. With so much of its production focused on singing and dance routines I concluded that Dirty Dancing 2017 is actually more of the musical rendition of the original, as opposed to a remake of the original. With this thought in mind, re-watching this film was a lot more palatable for me.

What was a hit for me pretty much came down to casting for this film.

Abigail Breslin as Baby. At first viewing, I thought Breslin was mis-cast as Baby. She is almost too wholesome and fresh-faced to pull off dirty anything, let alone dirty dancing. But, honestly, I think she is a match – a bit clumsy, but purely honest. You can see her feelings in her facial expressions. I also liked the fact she doesn’t look totally polished here like a lot of the actresses we see nowadays.

Lisa, Baby’s sister. I really liked the relationship development between Baby and her sister. The 1987 version saw Lisa as aloof, selfish, and frankly a bit mean to Baby. It wasn’t necessary to expand her story-line, but I am glad there was a bit of breadth to Lisa’s character. The remake had them different from each other, but close sisters, and this is where Hyland and Breslin shone. Cue the scene where Baby reveals she is in love with Johnny – these two light up the screen. It was cute to watch.

Katey Sagal as Vivian Pressman. Vivian is a Bungalow Bunny at Kellerman’s and is a secondary character in the Dirty Dancing franchise. She basically lives at the Lodge during the week while her husband is away working. She takes dance lessons, drinks cocktails and sleeps with the staff. In the 2017 version, she is divorced, and happy about it, but still sleeping with staff. Seeing Sagal play a Bungalow Bunny was a real treat. She basically reprises her Gemma Teller Morrow role from Sons of Anarchy here. We even get to hear her sing “Fever”, and it was pretty decent.

Debra Messing and Bruce Greenwood playing Baby’s parents. Marital problems have come to a head at Kellerman’s. At first, I didn’t think exploring this avenue was necessary at all, and to a certain extent, I still don’t think so, but, I did enjoy seeing Debra Messing and Bruce Greenwood together, even if they were fighting.

Unfortunately, my optimistic lens was slightly askew and there were just some aspects of Dirty Dancing 2017 I couldn’t get past.

Jazz hands! Yes, I did say this is more of a musical. But, it seemed they shoe-horned singing routines where they should let the music play. In one scene, Baby and Penny practice some dancing, and Penny just starts breaking into song. And there was plenty more where that came from…

Hello iTunes marketing! Um, where is the classic music the original film was famous for? Most songs, with few exceptions, were remakes; even the Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley hit. What’s worse, most of it was autotuned! Can you imagine the Patrick Swayze hit, “She’s Like the Wind” remade…and autotuned? It happened! Prepare for a push of sales of the Dirty Dancing 2017 soundtrack on iTunes…this would have been partly forgivable had Dirty Dancing 2017 just been touted as a musical version…

Changing a famous line. If you are rebooting a franchise, you are allowed to take some creative liberties, and obviously, Dirty Dancing 2017 took many. But, look – never change key lines from the film. There is a famous part from the 1987 film where Baby is approached by Johnny for the first time, asking how she got into the Staff Quarters without permission, to which she says:

In the 2017 version, she says:

This isn’t the end of the world, except it was an unnecessary edit that I don’t understand the reasoning for. It was made even worse by Johnny who, instead of walking away silent like in the original, retorts:

OUCH! Sorry, but that is super lame. Why change it??

Lastly, NO CHEMISTRY between Baby and Johnny. Yes, indeed. The crux of the movie hinged on the love affair between Baby and Johnny, and I am sorry, it was missing in this film, and I blame Prattes for that. Breslin was able to convey a puppy dog crush, and all Prattes rewarded us with was an aloof jerkiness; dancing with Baby because he had to, pretending to love her because the script said so… I just didn’t feel it between Breslin and Prattes. Breslin worked her ass off here, and we got nothing but a leap off the stage and some jetés from Prattes. There was only ONE part of one scene where I actually felt there was “something” between them, but really it was Breslin and soft lighting that won it:

Armchair critics were very harsh with this 2017 remake of Dirty Dancing, and honestly, there are some inexcusable things here that are detrimental, but it isn’t all terrible. The dance numbers for what it’s worth are pretty okay, and I did enjoy the expanded sub-plots. Honestly, if I were 13 and watching this version today, I think I might have liked it a lot…maybe more than the 1987 version? I don’t know. I saw a bit of myself in this version of Baby, likewise seeing myself in 1987 Baby. There were indeed some likeable things with Dirty Dancing 2017. You may not have the time of your life, but there is no need to leave Baby in the corner.

2.75 / 5

Dirty Dancing (2017)
Aired on ABC, May 24, 2017

[Book] Paying For It: a comic strip memoir about being a john/ Chester Brown

It was my experience reading Seth’s graphic novel It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken back in 2015 that introduced me to his best friend and fellow graphic novelist, Chester Brown. I had never read anything of his work before, but am aware he drew a novel based on the real-life story of Louis Riel, which I have always wanted to read. I didn’t realize until a couple of weeks ago that I had access to Chester Brown the whole time by way of the academic library at the college where I work. I walked into the library one day a few weeks ago to meet up with a colleague when I came across a display of graphic novels – front and centre, was Chester Brown’s Paying For It. I immediately checked the book out of the library.

And I checked it out without actually knowing the subject matter, or what I was about to embark on. I read the rest of the title:

A comic strip memoir about being a john“…

Wait, what?

Paying For It is a frank look into one aspect of Brown’s life over the course of 18 years, namely the subject of romantic relationships, or rather the lack thereof. It begins with a conversation he had with his live-in girlfriend, Sook-Yin (yes, that’s Sook-Yin Lee, former Much Music VJ…), who has fallen in love with someone else and asks Brown if she can “see where it goes”. Brown agrees. While she gets on with this other guy, Brown continues to live under the same roof. As time goes on, and as his feelings for Sook-Yin evolve into more of a friendship, he begins to think about the emotional impact of relationships and decides he no longer wants to pursue getting another girlfriend – ever.

He wonders about what not having a girlfriend could mean – no companionship…no sex…he was pretty sure he could do without the former, but the latter? He knew he couldn’t live without sex, and sooner or later, he figures out he can diffuse that argument by using his wallet. Unfamiliar with the law surrounding prostitution in Canada, he stealthily takes to certain neighbourhoods around Toronto that at one time years ago were known to have street-walkers, only to find deserted sidewalks and Toronto’s finest patrolling the streets. Brown, after some research, finds what he is looking for by way of escorts advertised in the paper and online.

Paying For It plays out like a visual diary, bearing witness to every sexual encounter he had with an escort…and there were many. His panels reveal in graphic detail his thoughts, his conversations with each escort, and what occurred. He checks in with his best friends periodically (one of them being Seth) to talk about his experiences, while they take this as an opportunity to grill him and debate the morals and ethics around prostitution laws. Brown, who believes there should be no regulation, makes this clear in conversation with his friends, and later shares a 50-page written thesis at the end of the book stating his position on the matter, in case we had any question.

Chester Brown’s execution in his panels was clean, simplistic and I really liked his penmanship. He did not shy away from nudity, even depicting his skinny self bare-assed. The escorts were drawn with their faces covered by their conversation balloons and their identifying features changed; Brown’s answer for respecting their privacy.

I couldn’t help but feel sad reading Paying for it. I understand that Brown has happily made his choice where relationships are concerned. But, to be perfectly honest, Brown’s story felt a bit too intimate to me, like I should not have been reading it…yet, like a bad car crash, or a tell-all rag I could not look away or put it down. I read the entire novel (minus the essay) in 2 hours. I felt a bit conflicted reading it, and I had my own internal dialogue around the ethics of prostitution versus the treatment of women in the sex industry the whole time. Thanks to Brown, I also wondered what could possibly be the worst thing that could happen if prostitution were legalized (and I’m still pondering)…

Paying For It is not everyone’s cup of tea, and honestly, the jury’s still out whether it was mine, too.

3/5

Paying for it: a comic strip memoir about being a john / Chester Brown
2011
Drawn and Quarterly

[Film] Fire (1996)

Sita is a young woman living in modern-day Mumbai, India, who has just left her childhood home to enter into a traditional Indian marriage to Jitan, a man who succumbed to the union through family pressure. Jitan, however, decides to continue his bachelor ways by keeping his lover, Julie, in his life, much to the chagrin of his older brother, Ashtok.

Sita wants to make the marriage work, so she quickly gives in to Jitan’s habits, and soon discovers even more dysfunction within the family ranks. Ashtok and his wife, Radha, are also in a loveless marriage. Radha was deemed infertile 13 years ago, squashing any hope Ashtok had for a son to pass on the family line. Ashtok has since become disinterested in her. The family lives out their days attempting to find comfort in structure and patriarchal Indian traditions, while looking after their take-out food and video rental store, ignoring their palpable misery.

It seems everyone is accepting of their fate…everyone except Sita, who in her young wide-eyed optimism, can’t fathom a life devoid of happiness. Somehow everything has become a litany of duties. She tries to learn about being a good Indian wife from the senior Radha, who herself questions her lot. Sita and Radha become close as they commiserate over their household duties and collective loveless marriages. Continuously being denied any love by their respective spouses, they eventually find comfort in each other’s embrace… and bed. Their new-found passion breathed new life and optimism to such an extent that Sita and Radha make plans to cut their family ties to start a new life together. The family finds out about their relationship, and tries their damnedest to put a stop to it. How the film ends will indeed stay with you for a long time.

Sita and Radha discuss the future

Fire is written and directed by Indo-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, and is part of Mehta’s Elements series of films (Earth (1998) and Water (2005) succeeded it). The film is over 20 years old, and as one could imagine, a film dipicting a lesbian relationship caused much controversy globally in 1996. But, some critics also considered the film fearless and groundbreaking. I am not familiar with any of the actors, but I felt they were natural and passionate. I was moved by the complexity of the plot and I loved how exotic and different from normal Hollywood fare this well-made Indian film was. I also found it interesting how the family dynamic was as similar in India as it can be in Canada, which to me made Fire a relatable film.

Fire happens to be the first and only Bollywood movie I have ever watched (but not my last!). If you find Fire on one of the various media streams, be sure you check it out. It’s worth the watch.

3.5 / 5

Fire
Dir Deepa Mehta
Starring: Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das