Orphan X By Gregg Hurwitz | Florence G

“Do you need my help?”

It was the first question he asked. They called when they had nowhere else to turn.

The Nowhere Man is a legendary figure spoken about only in whispers. It’s said that when he’s reached by the truly desperate and deserving, the Nowhere Man can and will do anything to protect and save them.

But he’s no legend.

Evan Smoak is a man with skills, resources, and a personal mission to help those with nowhere else to turn. He’s also a man with a dangerous past. Chosen as a child, he was raised and trained as part of the governments Orphan program, designed to create the perfect deniable intelligence assets— assassins. He was Orphan X. Evan broke with the program, using everything he learned to disappear.

Now, however, someone is on his tail. Someone with similar skills and training. Someone who knows Orphan X. Someone who is getting closer and closer. And will exploit Evan’s weakness—his work as The Nowhere Man—to find him and eliminate him.

Evan’s training, unlike that of the other Orphans, left his deep seated moral code intact. He carries guilt and remorse with him everywhere, as well as his conscience. He’s one of the good guys, but don’t get on his bad side. His humanity is evident, but he still strictly adheres to the rules instilled within him by his handler- Jack- a man who was more like a father to him.

Still, Evan’s personality is muted, as he fiercely controls all his emotions. The secondary characters provide the dramatic dialogue, while Evan internalizes and reminds himself of how to respond to complex situations. There is no reliance on gimmicks, no slick polish or shine, the dialogue is sparse, to the point, without a lot of time spent on descriptive text. The story moves at an incredibly swift pace, formatted almost like long form vignettes. It has a unique presentation but that helps to create a tense, suspenseful atmosphere, adding just the right amount of poignancy to the story, allowing one to fall under Evan’s spell. One finds oneself cheering him on, developing a connection to him, caring about what may happen to him as he continues his lonely journey.

Orphan X hits all of the right notes – fantastic action, more than a few twists, some excellent character development, and some pretty cool gadgetry. In lesser hands, Evan could have been turned into a stereotypical assassin-with-a-heart, but Gregg Hurwitz gave him a lot of complexity, which made him all the more fascinating.

It’s a book filled with plot, action, terror, blood and guts.

“I do.” A man’s desperate voice. “Dios mio, I do more than anything. Is it true? Is it true that you can help me?”

Image Link: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/A1Nk2UrPPWL.jpg (16/04/21)

“L’Intouchables” (2011) dir. Olivier Nakache & Éric Toldeano | Ezri M

An irreverent, uplifting comedy about friendship, trust and human possibility, L’Intouchables has broken box office records in its native France and across Europe. Based on a true story of friendship between a handicap millionaire (Francois Cluzet) and his street-smart ex-con caretaker (Omar Sy), L’Intouchables depicts an unlikely camaraderie rooted in honesty and humour between two individuals who, on the surface, would seem to have nothing in common.

‘The movie is overflowing with wonderful moments’

The screenplay cleverly uses the structure of a romantic comedy to frame the (platonic) friendship between the two very different men, fueled by mutual respect, a love of fast cars, and musical diversity.

L’Intouchables is full of little inspirational moments – the kinds of scenes that remind us how much joy can be found on a screen. Whether it’s Driss and Philippe speeding down the highway while “September” is blaring on the stereo, Driss dancing up a storm at Philippe’s stodgy birthday party, Driss acting as Philippe’s barber, or Driss’ reaction to his first opera, the movie is overflowing with wonderful moments. Humour and drama are well-balanced, things never get too maudlin, but, although there are laughs, this is not a straight-forward comedy. It respects the characters and their situations.

A part I really enjoy is that the film also avoids cluttering up the narrative with too many subplots. There are other things going on beyond the development of the central relationship, but they are kept in the background. This was a good choice by the director, Olivier Nakache. Additionally, the use of a flashback was well chosen and gave a very nostalgic feel to the film.

‘This is not a straight forward comedy’

As is always the case with buddy films/romantic comedies, the actors and their chemistry represent the foundation upon which all else is built. In this case, both leads are winners. They “get” their characters, inhabit them fully, and interact with each other with genuine warmth. These actors deserve praise and recognition for what they accomplish: they are the heart, soul, and funny bone of L’Intouchables. L’Intouchables was a huge hit when it opened in France in November 2011. Not only did it do well at the box office, but it was nominated for nine César Awards, winning one: Omar Sy for Best Actor.

Image Link: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/93/The_Intouchables.jpg (20/03/21)

‘A Place Called Winter’ by Patrick Gale | Florence G

A privileged elder son, and stammeringly shy, Harry Cane has followed convention at every step. Even the beginnings of an illicit, dangerous affair do little to shake the foundations of his muted existence – until the shock of discovery and the threat of arrest cost him everything. Forced to abandon his wife and child, Harry signs up for emigration to the newly colonised Canadian prairies. Remote and unforgiving, his allotted homestead in a place called Winter is a world away from the golden suburbs of turn-of-the-century Edwardian England. And yet it is here, isolated in a seemingly harsh landscape, under the threat of war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism that the fight for survival will reveal in Harry an inner strength and capacity for love beyond anything he has ever known before.

In this exquisite journey of self-discovery, loosely based on a real life family mystery, Patrick Gale has created an epic, intimate human drama, both brutal and breathtaking. It is a novel of secrets, sexuality and, ultimately, of great love.

Throughout this novel Harry’s story is told simply, without embellishment, yet with beautifully descriptive writing, detailing the wilderness both surrounding Harry and within him as he searches to belong somewhere and with someone.

‘To find yourself sometimes you must lose everything’

This book is a frank look at sexuality and the battle of self-acceptance in a less enlightened time. It is a story that is both harsh and soft-edged, a bittersweet mixture, a story that doesn’t flinch from the truth.

You really feel like you are there with Harry during all he goes through and with those he meets along the way.

A Place Called Winter was first published in early 2015 by acclaimed author, Patrick Gale. This novel was Patrick’s sixteenth book. The character of Harry Cane is loosely based on Patrick’s grandfather, who, for some unknown reason, fled to Canada. Partick has referenced many books that inspired him to write A Place Called Winter but the book that has always stood out to him when thinking about influences is the classical love story Maurice by E.M.Forster. A Place Called Winter was also shortlisted for the Costa Prize in 2015.

I recommend this book to people that are above the age of fourteen because of some upsetting scenes.

“He was not a scholar – his brain seemed too sluggish or too dreamy to grasp the things demanded of it – but he was never happier than when left alone among books, and would spend hours turning the pages of atlases, novels or tales from history, alive to the alternative versions of himself they seemed to proffer.”

“Bad men you want to kiss are the worst; he had only to use the right tone of voice and you offered your throat to the knife.”

Both taken from A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

Image Link: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71noXpH2KLL.jpg (20/03/21)